Saturday, August 18, 2012

Wolf Creek: Bloody Trail

Wolf Creek: Bloody Trail is the first in a series of 'collaborative novels' by a host of Western writers, all members of the group Western Fictioneers. Sort of a cross between the old Thieves' World books and an ensemble TV show, the book features a host of protagonists, each written by a different writer. It's a nifty idea and if upcoming books are as high quality as Bloody Trail, then sign me up for the long haul.
   To again use the Thieves' World series as a comparison, each of the contributors has created a character to be his or her own and all of the protagonists exist in a shared universe, with the town of Wolf Creek, Kansas circa 1871 as the setting.  However unlike the Thieves' World books, which were collections of loosely connected short stories, the Wolf Creek books are novels, with the different writers doing one or two chapters, using their signature character's point of view. I have to say it works very well. Though I can spot differences in prose styles, the whole thing meshes admirably.
   The book starts off nice and easy as the setting and various characters are introduced. But just when you've been lulled into a false sense of security there's a brutal, violent assault on Wolf Creek by a ruthless outlaw gang. Characterization and exposition are dropped in seamlessly as the various members of the cast react to the attack. After the smoke has cleared, the surviving town lawmen round up a posse featuring some of the other protagonists and take off after the bad guys. The pursuit turns ugly fast and their are ambushes and gunfights of all sorts. The posse knows that they have limited time to catch up to the outlaws before they can lose themselves in the Indian Nations.
   This is the stuff of the traditional Western and the assorted writers know their subject. You'll hate the outlaws and cheer for the heroes, just like you're supposed to in a good Western.  And you'll learn some stuff too. I've already picked up some facts about the old west that I didn't know.
   The writers for Bloody Trail are Clay More, James J. Griffin, Troy D. Smith, James Reasoner, L.J. Martin, and Cheryl Pierson. The whole crew work under the collective house name of Ford Fargo. These aren't all the writers (or characters) though who will appear in upcoming books. The whole list reads like a who's who of current Western fiction, including some personal favorites like Robert J. Randisi, L.J. Washburn (creator of Hallam), and the aforementioned James Reasoner.
   Anyway, I really like the idea of the Wolf's Creek ensemble books and I very much enjoyed the first novel. For more information check out the Wolf Creek website.

And while you're at it, check out the Western Fictioneers blog too. I highly recommend their recent collection The Traditional West.


Sarah J. McNeal said...

What a unique concept. I won't even pretend that I understand how all of ya'll worked this thing out but it sure is interesting how you're doing it. It sounds hard to do to me. I'd love to read it. I love the cover, too, by the by. Cheryl, are you the only lady in the group?
I wish you all great success with this very unusual project. Shoot, who doesn't love a good cowboy story.

Charles R. Rutledge said...

Hey Sarah. This isn't actually the blog of the Western Fictioneeers. I was just reviewing the book. It is a cool idea though, isn't it? One of the other female members of WF is L.J. (Livia) Washburn.


Cheryl Pierson said...

Charles, thank you so much for the lovely review! I appreciate it so much, and I'm so happy to hear that you enjoyed the book so much.

Charles R. Rutledge said...

Cheryl, I really did have fun with it. Looking forward to the next one.

Troy D. Smith said...

Charles, I am very glad you liked the book and hope the next volumes meet the same standard! Sarah- as the series editor, and I think Cheryl will back me up on this, I was quite frankly amazed at how well this whole thing came together and how little friction/misunderstandings/fragile egos there were between the contributing writers. We are about to start writing volume 4, and each one so far has come together really well.

Charles R. Rutledge said...

Troy, I find the whole concept fascinating and well executed. I'll definitely be checking out future volumes.