Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Impac Award

Emma Donoghue, Lionel Shriver and China Miéville are among the authors longlisted for the 2012 International Impac Dublin Literary Award, which saw 147 titles nominated by libraries around the world.
With 20 nominations, Donoghue’s Room (Picador) was the most popular title longlisted for the €100,000 annual award, the world’s most valuable literary prize for a single work of fiction.
Also nominated was another Galaxy National Book Award winner, Jennifer Egan, for her novel A Visit from the Goon Squad (Corsair) and last year’s Man Booker winner Howard Jacobson’s The Finkler Question (Bloomsbury)
The list also comprises 34 translated works from authors including Isabel Allende, David Grossman, Daniel Kehlmann, Per Petterson and Bernhard Schlink. The full longlist can be viewed here.
Dublinls lord mayor Andrew Montague urged people to borrow the novels from their public library: “You will find books and authors, particularly those novels in translation that you might otherwise never come across and you can pick your own favourites, before I announce the winner on 13th June next year."
The shortlist will be announced on 12th April 2012 and Montague will reveal the winner on 13th June.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


“I’d like to speak to the marshal,” the tall figure stated as he entered the jailhouse. His hat was pulled low, obscuring his face, which was just as well as there was more than likely a bill with that face and a reward printed underneath it hanging somewhere in the building.
“Who’s asking?” the man behind the table asked gruffly.
“A concerned citizen.”
Evan Taylor grunted at hearing this and chewed on his tobacco. He’d had enough of concerned citizens in the two weeks he’d been marshal to last him a lifetime. The job wasn’t proving as enjoyable as he thought it would be. He’d imagined roaming around Baxter Springs, untouchable and unaccountable. The reality was somewhat different. The last thing he wanted that morning, as he nursed a heavy hangover from the night before, was someone coming into his office, asking awkward questions. But, he reasoned to himself, short of shooting this feller dead right there in front of him, he’d have to at the very least listen to what he had to say.
Taylor stood up slowly, giving his head a chance to catch up with his body, hoping that his queasiness eased a little. “Well, citizen,” he asked, “what’re you so concerned about?”
“My name’s Adam Crean,” the stranger said authoritatively as he offered his hand to Taylor. “And I’m a Pinkerton.”
Taylor shook his hand roughly. “A Pinkerton?” he asked, surprised. “What business have you around here?”
“Powers Bank have employed me.”
“Oh,” Taylor muttered. “You’re here about the bank robbery. Well, I don’t know nothing about that.”
This time it was Crean’s turn to show surprise. “What d’you mean, you don’t know nothing about it? You’re the marshal, aren’t you?”
“Sure am.” Taylor paused as he spat out a wedge of chewing tobacco. “But I wasn’t when that happened.”
“But that was only two weeks ago. Did the last feller get shot or something? I hadn’t heard.”
A smile crossed Taylor’s face. “A Pinkerton that don’t know everything? Maybe you’re not such a great detective after all?”
Crean’s face reddened. “My mistake,” he said. “Maybe you’d tell me where I can find someone who does know about the robbery?”
Taylor still wore his stupid grin. “Gee, I’m only a lawman two weeks and already I got a Pinkerton asking for my help,” he said.
There was no one else in the room to hear him. This little performance was purely for his Crean’s benefit.
Crean stared at Taylor. “Afraid so, friend,” he said, seeming to force a smile. “You’ve got the better of me here.”
Taylor chuckled deeply, savoring this small satisfaction. He could feel the pounding in his head returning, however, and decided that it was time to send this feller on his way. “You’re looking for Pete Baker,” he said. “He was marshal when the bank was robbed, killed all the gang except the feller that had the money.” A flash of pain passed through his brain. His hangover was returning fast, and with a vengeance. “You’ll probably find him in the Rancher’s saloon, his wife runs the place.”
“Much obliged,” the detective replied and tipped the brim of his hat, but seemed reluctant to remove it. Taylor never did get a good look at Crean’s face, and then the Pinkerton turned and left him to his hangover.
* * * *
Joe and Pete sat around the kitchen table in the back of the Ranchers’ Saloon, listening to the sound of drunken customers that carried through from the bar
“I thought we’d be able to leave this behind,” Pete said grimly. “Bring Tom up out in the country on a homestead. This isn’t a good place for a child.”
“I don’t know,” Joe said. “Dorothy grew up here and she turned out all right.”
This drew a smile to Pete’s lips. He could always rely on Joe to stay positive, to say something to try and keep his spirits up. But he had had his heart set on a farming life, on leaving the Ranchers’ Saloon behind. Yet that dream seemed to be gradually disappearing. The search for the outlaw wasn’t going well and he’d come to realize that he acted rashly when he pledged to bring him in. In his role as marshal he had spent most of his time locking up drunken cowboys and trying to maintain law and order. Chasing all over the countryside following faint clues wasn’t what he was used to. None of the dead bodies yielded any helpful information, either. They’d been outcasts, known up and down the trails as guns-for-hire; troublemakers who’d do anything for the price of a drink.
Pete and Joe quickly reached a dead end. The bitter truth was that there wasn’t much appetite for helping the law in and around Baxter Springs, particularly when no reward was offered. And since it was known that Pete’s days as a lawman in town were numbered it, it soon became obvious that his authority amongst the townsfolk diminished, making his job that much more difficult, if not almost impossible.
“Maybe working in the saloon won’t be so bad,” Pete mumbled. “I’m sure I’d get used to it, eventually.”
“Sure,” Joe replied.
Pete slipped into a listless silence, absentmindedly listening to the singing and shouting from the saloon. There was nothing more to be said. Even Joe couldn’t fill the void. They both raised their coffees to their lips and the sound of them slurping the drinks drifted into the air.
“Pete,” Dorothy said as she entered the room, “there’s someone here to see you.”
A tall man with his hat low, obscuring his face, came in. He kept his long coat on as he sat in the chair Pete offered. All in all, Pete thought he was a strange looking feller.
“Name’s Pete Baker, and this here’s Joe Flaherty. What can I do for you, stranger?”
“Adam Crean,” the man said. “I’m here to ask you a few questions about the bank robbery.”
Pete and Joe looked at him, hard. “What’s your interest in the matter?” Pete asked.
“I’m a Pinkerton.”
“You employed by the bank?”
“Sure am.”
“Well then, let’s all have some more coffee and then you can ask your questions.”
About an hour later, after much questioning and almost as much coffee, Adam Crean said he’d gotten all the information he sought and left the Ranchers’ Saloon.
* * * *
Pete waited until Crean left and then grabbed his hat from the back of the chair. “Come on, Joe,” he said urgently.
Joe jumped to his feet, clearly surprised by this sudden call to action. “Why?”
“We’ve got to follow him.”
“The Pinkerton?”
“That ain’t no Pinkerton, Joe. That’s Dan Bogue, and if he’s interested in our robbery, then he might know something that could help us.”
They left the building as quickly as possible and from a safe distance followed Dan Bogue down the street.
* * * *
Bogue was preoccupied as he walked. He kept to the wooden boardwalk as much as possible, sticking to the shadows where possible. Baxter Springs was busy, the stores and saloons all doing brisk business. Horses snickered as they stood tied to hitching rails all along the street. He wasn’t sure what to make of his meeting with Pete Baker. He’d learned all the details about the robbery, some of which McGraw had already provided. What Bogue discovered was that Weston escaped somewhere on the plain and almost certainly killed one of his own men in the process. That wasn’t good news. He knew that it meant Weston meant to disappear, maybe even retire and hadn’t intended sharing the money. But then something happened, some event provoked his furious killing spree in the saloon in Lawrence, a piece of information the marshal didn’t mention. Something that led to a price being put on his head and drawn Dan Bogue into his story. A story that must end with Weston’s death.
He’d come across Weston before but it was untrue to say that there was a sense of brotherhood or even empathy between the gunmen. They weren’t soldiers. They weren’t fighting for a greater cause. They were working for their own selfish needs. For material gain, and for power. And, no matter what concerns Bat Maxwell might have about Bogue’s willingness to carry out his task, killing Charlie Weston carried no more significance for him than he might attach to squashing a bug underfoot. He slipped into a saloon; he needed a drink to help him think.
As always, he sat at a corner table to ensure that he held the whole saloon in his field of vision. He ordered a beer and when it arrived he took a thirsty mouthful.
He relaxed a little and began to run through the course of events involving Charlie Weston.
Weston had robbed a bank here in Baxter Springs and gotten away, but then turned up just down the road in Lawrence two weeks later, where he killed two men. There, the trail grew cold. As he considered what to do next, Bogue ordered a whisky.
He felt the liquid easing his aching bones after the long ride to get there. He sat, taking stock, debating what to do next.
* * * *
Pete watched as Bogue emerged from the saloon. Evening was creeping in and twilight was descending on the town. After exiting the building, Bogue turned left and made his way along the busy street. Pete set off after him at a brisk pace, Joe just behind.
Bogue walked determinedly, rarely breaking his stride. He kept to the sides of the street and occasionally looked from left to right, surveying the passers-by.
Pete stayed well back, trying to remain as inconspicuous as possible. After about five minutes, Bogue took a sharp turn to his right, leaving the street abruptly. He entered the Hakluyt Hotel. Pete paused, unsure what to do now. Follow him inside or stay? He lingered outside the hotel, trying to see if Bogue lurked inside the doorway, waiting for him to blunder in. He couldn’t see anything but the dull interior of the entrance hallway, however, so he stepped in off the street.
Bogue was nowhere to be seen.
Pete immediately crossed the lobby.
“What can I do for you?” asked the man behind the reception desk. He paused before adding, “Marshal.”
“I need a little help, Benjamin,” Pete said as Joe now joined him.
“Anything you ask, Pete.”
Benjamin Hakluyt had been running his hotel since before Pete came to town, and Pete had few dealings with him. Any time they met, Hakluyt seemed polite and courteous. He valued peace and quiet, but he also valued his guests’ privacy. That meant that he had always complied with Pete, but he was aware of where the law ended and his rights began. This could be difficult, Pete mused. But he needed Benjamin’s help and he was going to have to get it, one way or another.
“That man who just came in. Is he a guest of yours?”
Benjamin paused before answering, obviously thinking over the implications of anything he would say. “Yes, he is. Why do you ask, Pete? Last I heard, you weren’t doing any more law work around the town. Heard you were trying to catch the bandidos that robbed the bank.”
“That’s right.” He could see where this was going. His authority had been eroded and the uncertainty of his position meant that the local townsfolk no longer felt compelled to cooperate with him, not that they ever really welcomed the law into their lives, anyway. Pete took a deep breath before continuing. “It’s like this, Ben. That feller who just walked up your stairs is a murderer. A gun for hire. His picture’s hanging in the jailhouse.”
The color drained from the hotelier’s face.
“Now, either you’re going to keep an eye on him for me, and tell me personally when he’s about to leave, or I’m going to tell Evan Taylor that Dan Bogue’s hiding out in your hotel. And I can only imagine the kind of damage Evan would do to these fine premises of yours if he should come in here to arrest this man.”
Ben nodded and then spoke very softly: “Yes, Marshal.”
“So, I want to know if he looks like he’s going to leave town. Is that clear?” He didn’t wait for a reply. “You’re a good man Benjamin; I know you’ll do the right thing.”
He gestured to Joe and they exited the premises and returned to the street, leaving a troubled Ben Hakluyt behind.
“Gee, Pete. Weren’t you a bit harsh with him?” Joe asked.
“I didn’t enjoy that. He’s a good man; too good. He’d think the best of all his customers and wouldn’t tell us a thing without a little persuasion. Evan Taylor certainly helped us out there, even if he don’t know it.”
“It’s the only way he’d ever help us,” Joe replied, laughter in his voice.
They headed down the street, back toward the Ranchers’ Saloon with a spring in their steps. Progress, at last, Pete thought. He wasn’t sure what kind of progress, but at least things were moving forward.
* * * *
As the two lawmen walked past an alleyway, they didn’t take any notice of the cowboy lighting a match off of the sole of his boot. But the cowboy noticed them; he’d been waiting for them, and kept a safe distance from them until they had entered the saloon.
Confident that they were more than likely in there for the night, he returned to the alleyway near the Hakluyt Hotel and watched the doorway, waiting for any sign of Dan Bogue.
* * * *
Joe and Pete sat heavily at the kitchen table once more. Dorothy was with them, holding baby Tom in her arms. Pete gestured to her and she passed the baby across and watched as her husband stared lovingly into the eyes of his son. Something was amiss, she could tell. Pete wasn’t much of a one for deception and he could never keep his true feelings from her. She held her tongue, however, and allowed father and son time together. He’d tell her when the time was right.
She bustled about and poured coffee for herself and the two men. They looked weary, she thought. Inwardly, she’d reconciled herself to the fact that Pete would lose his job when the two months were up. He didn’t seem to have made any inroads into the solving of the case, despite an enthusiastic start, and both he and Joe now seemed to spend their whole time sitting at her kitchen table, drinking coffee and staring into space.
But something was different today. A light had returned to Pete’s eyes. Something had happened, but what? She couldn’t hold back any longer, it wasn’t in her nature. She was a woman who called a spade a spade and said things as they were. Time to get everything out in the open. Pete often thought that he was protecting her, she knew, by sparing her details of his work but she always got them out of him. And, she was sure, he was always glad she did.
“Spit it out, you two,” she whispered, trying not to wake the sleeping baby. “Something’s after happening and I won’t be left out.”
Pete looked up at her with a wry smile, while Joe just concentrated on his coffee.
“I was just about to tell you, darling,” he said. His voice was lighter, as if some of the lethargy that smothered him in the previous weeks had dissipated.
“Well then, get on with the telling.”
Pete explained to her about Dan Bogue, a hired gun, not a Pinkerton detective, and told her of their conversation with Benjamin Hakluyt.
“I hope you didn’t scare Ben too bad,” she scolded. “I hear Jane talking about his heart all the time.”
“He knows the right thing to do. That’s all that matters.”
“Well, what are you fixing to do?” She couldn’t keep the worry from her voice. On the one hand, she was happy to see her husband regaining his sense of purpose while, on the other, she was worried where it might lead him. She could already feel that it might take him away from her for a time; she could only pray that it would allow him to return.
* * * *
Pete took a deep breath. He looked down on the sleeping figure of Tom, all swaddled up in his blanket, just his soft face uncovered. Dorothy beckoned for him to pass the baby over but he shook his head and held his son even closer, feeling the warmth of his body. Everything was here in Baxter Springs: Dorothy, Tom, even Cal, his father-in-law, and of course Joe, his friend. All the family he had in the world. Was he foolish, was he being stupid or rash or reckless in what he planned to do?
Then he thought about the man Dorothy married. Thought of what life had been like when he’d been marshal, doing something he loved until the politics of the position interfered. In truth, the last few weeks were a blur of depression, indolence and general dissatisfaction. He hadn’t been himself, something he hadn’t even really realized or acknowledged until Dan Bogue walked into their kitchen and energized him like a bolt of lightning. He must continue; he had to see it through. It wasn’t just for him, it was for all of them. If he was successful, he was sure he could make a better life for his family. He must find the bank robber.
“When Bogue leaves town, Joe and I will be going after him,” Pete said eventually. His voice was steady as he desperately fought back the emotions that welled inside. “He knows something about the robbery and I intend finding out what it is. He might lead us right to the culprit.”
“Or he might kill you,” Dorothy said quickly.
“I’ll be careful. You know that. I can look after myself.”
“I know,” she said softly. “I know.” Tears brimmed her eyes and slid slowly down her cheeks.
Joe pushed his chair back from the table. “I better go home and get my things. I might not have time later.” He left, hurriedly.
After they placed Tom in his crib, Dorothy and Pete headed for their bedroom. When they got there, Dorothy clasped her arms around Pete and kissed him hard on the lips. “I’m sure Dan Bogue won’t leave town tonight,” she whispered softly.
* * * *
The knock on the door came early the next morning. Joe and Pete were ready and waiting.
“He’s checking out,” Benjamin’s son, Amos, said breathlessly.
Pete kissed baby Tom and Dorothy goodbye, his hand lingering on her shoulder as he pulled her to him. “See you soon,” he said and let go of her.
The pair left the saloon.
Dorothy couldn’t muster any words. Tears ran down her face.

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Dan Bogue sat quietly in the corner, sipping his whisky, and could see all of the saloon, as well as the comings and goings. It was early evening and beginning to fill with the usual flow of cattle drovers, soiled doves and locals. Bogue finished his drink and was about to rise to leave when a man entered. He wasn’t the usual sort who frequented the saloon: his clothes were too well cut, his bearing superior to that of the average drunken cowboy. Bogue knew immediately that this man had come looking for him.
His hand slipped to the ornately engraved Colt in its holster. The well-dressed man crossed the floor quickly. Bogue glared at him as he approached, all the while searching for any signs of aggression or danger. As the man drew closer, Bogue noticed that the man was older than he first thought, maybe in his sixties. Even though his clothes were well made and refined in appearance, his face bore the signs of a life well lived. He stood directly across the table from Bogue, his broad frame dominating his line of vision. “Dan Bogue?” he asked, his voice a deep bass.
“Maybe,” Bogue replied. “Depends who’s asking.”
This brought a smile to the other man’s lips. “Name’s Maxwell,” he replied. “Bat Maxwell. And I know that you are Dan Bogue.”
Bogue eyed him. There was a spare stool at the other side of the table and he used his boot to shove it out. “I think you’d better sit down, Bat.”
Maxwell lowered himself onto the stool.
A waitress drifted over and Maxwell barked gruffly at her for a whisky. The two men sat in silence until the drink arrived, sizing each other up. Maxwell downed his drink in one swig and beckoned for another. “You want one?” he asked Bogue.
“My throat’s burned enough already,” Bogue replied.
Maxwell smirked. “I hear you’re a feller who can find people,” he said, peering across the table.
“For a price, of course.”
Bogue nodded. “Depends on the person and depends on the price.”
“This feller doesn’t want to be found,” Maxwell said.
“They rarely do. What kind of a feller are we talking about? Anyone I might know?”
Maxwell drained the rest of his whisky. “Charlie Weston.”
Bogue lowered his glass, slowly, trying to hide his surprise. “Charlie Weston?” he asked, just to make sure he had heard correctly.
Maxwell nodded.
“Are you sure?”
Maxwell nodded again.
“It’s going to cost you, that’s all I’m going to say.”
“Do you know him?” Maxwell looked directly at Bogue.
“Know Charlie Weston? Of course I know of him.”
“No,” Maxwell interrupted. “I asked, do you know him?”
This time Bogue paused before replying and met Maxwell’s glare dead on. At last, weighing his words carefully, he said, “Yes, I know him.”
“Can you do it?” Maxwell said. “I need to know now if I’m wasting my time. I know you’re both…”
“…outlaws,” Bogue finished the sentence for him.
“That doesn’t mean we’re brothers,” Bogue said. “How much are we talking about?”
Maxwell held his gaze. “You’re really willing to do this?”
Bogue nodded.
“Without even asking me why I want him killed?”
“You have the money, I’ll pull the trigger.”
“Fine. Two thousand dollars.”
Bogue fought to hide his shock.
“I’ve heard that you’re the best,” Maxwell said, “that’s why I’ve made you such a generous offer. It’s a lot of money, but if you want the best you have to pay for it, that’s what I believe.”
“I get half the money now, and the other half after the job’s done.”
“That’s what I thought you might say.” From inside his coat Maxwell pulled out a leather satchel and passed it across the table.
Bogue opened it and looked inside. The satchel was stuffed full of dollars.
“You can count it, if you want,” Maxwell offered.
“No need. Where can I get you?”
“My ranch is about five miles out of town. Anyone will tell you where it is.” Maxwell rose from the table and extended his hand toward Bogue. “Good doing business with you.”
Bogue rose also and felt his hand almost crushed in Maxwell’s grip.
He watched Maxwell’s back as he walked toward the door, all the while keeping one hand on his gun and the other on the leather satchel of money.
Bogue had one more drink after Maxwell left. The offer was a good one. Two thousand dollars was the most he’d ever been offered to kill a man. He could probably give up his gun if he succeeded in tracking down and killing Charlie Weston. But that was a big “if.” Charlie Weston was a killer, just like him, and if Weston didn’t want to be found, then things could get complicated.
Bogue left the saloon. His first objective was to try and find some information that could help him track down Weston. With his insides warmed by the whisky, he strolled along the boardwalk bordering Main Street. He kept under the awnings of the buildings. Being a hired gunman meant he had his enemies and staying in the shadows was always the safest course of action. It was impossible to tell when a relative of someone he’d killed would try and even up the score and restore some family pride.
He entered another saloon; a run-down, dingy establishment. Up on the raised stage danced two women, trying their best to attract the attention of customers who were steadily getting more and more drunk. Two men on a piano and a fiddle provided music and a feller swayed erratically around the floor, out of time with the tune. That feller was Chris McGraw.
Bogue grabbed McGraw by both shoulders and manouvered him toward a free table. A waitress came over but he waved her away. “Hey, I want a whisky!” McGraw whined as he tried to catch the skirt of the waitress as she flounced off. “In a minute,” Bogue barked. “After you answer a few questions.”
McGraw’s eyes were bloodshot and he smelled of stale sweat and smoke yet, Bogue knew, this drunk was just the man he needed to talk to if he were to have any chance of collecting the second half of his bounty. McGraw spent his whole life drinking his way up and down the trails and knew every saloon and every personality that frequented them. He was generally regarded by all and sundry as a harmless drunkard; to be tolerated like a stray dog. But McGraw heard everything and remembered almost everything, despite his drinking. He was a long time acquaintance of Bogue’s and his pocket provided the money for a lot of McGraw’s liquor. In return for a little information, of course.
“What you doing here, Bogue? You’re a long way from home. Business? This a social call or are you here to kill me?”
“Just some information,” Bogue replied.
“I don’t want your blood money,” McGraw spat. He got up to leave but fell to the floor, too drunk to walk.
Bogue picked him up and placed him back on his stool. “I know,” Bogue said. “But you need money and I need to hear what you know about Charlie Weston.”
McGraw cocked an eyebrow as best he could. “Charlie Weston?” he slurred. “You thinking of asking him to be your partner?” He smiled ruefully at his own joke. “Or you just trying to take out your competition?”
“Something like that,” Bogue muttered. He dropped some notes on the table and this time called the waitress over. “Two whiskies,” he told her and when they arrived he passed them both to McGraw, who drank them eagerly in case Bogue changed his mind and took them off of him.
“You must want this guy badly,” McGraw said, his voice hoarse from the harsh burn of the whisky. He eyed the notes on the table. Bogue still had his hand on them, both to make sure they weren’t snatched and also to make sure that McGraw’s drunken eyes couldn’t miss them.
“All yours if you tell me what I want to know. We both know the routine and, to tell the truth, I don’t have much time so let’s make this quick.”
McGraw knew he was only delaying the inevitable, that he was only barely hanging onto his last sliver of pride before giving up what he knew. “Fine,” he said. “Last I heard he was up in Baxter Springs. Bank job.”
“Same old Weston,” Bogue muttered.
“Nope,” McGraw replied, “not this time. Something happened, I heard. Shortly after the bank job, he shows up in Lawrence and shoots up a couple of men.”
“Where?” Bogue asked.
“In a saloon. The Kansas Belle, something like that.”
“Anything else?”
“Don’t think so. Hadn’t heard about him for a long time before that.”
Bogue nodded. He didn’t know why Weston had suddenly resurfaced. Maybe he was broke? Maybe he liked the taste of stealing and shooting too much to give it up? It was in some people’s blood. A fact he knew from personal experience. He rose to leave but stopped to ask one final question of McGraw. “You know anything about a Bat Maxwell?”
“Bat Maxwell? I know the name. He owns a lot of land around here. And cattle, too. His sons run most of it for him and he just collects the money. I’ve met his two sons, all right. Josiah and Robert. Didn’t like them much, Josiah especially. Sneaky. You’d want to be careful if you’re involved with Bat Maxwell. That much I do know. The only law he believes in is one that you carry in your holster. That’s about it, I’m afraid.”
Baxter Springs, Bogue thought as he left the saloon. I haven’t been there in a long time.

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Two weeks later. Lawrence, Kansas
Blood spattered the wooden walls and floor of the room. Two bodies lay on the ground, their life seeping through the floorboards and onto the dry ground below. The door to the saloon hung open, the gunman having just disappeared through it, quickly followed by the two men pursuing him. This had been more than just another job for the gunman. More than the usual order that involved killing a couple of men. This time he did it for himself.
His breath rasped in his throat, as if barbed wire were being forced down his gullet. His feet pounded the hard dirt as he ran into the night. He ached all over, his body was stretched to breaking point, but still he kept on going. He stole a glance over his shoulder but all he saw were the lights of the town behind him.
He had a head start on his hunters but he didn’t’t know by how much in precise minutes. At least the darkness hid his tracks. His Colt .44 slapped against his thigh as he ran, its barrel still warm from just minutes ago. Even though he sweated profusely, a cold chill passed through him. Voices. He heard them coming. Behind. Carrying the sounds of the chase on the wind. The sound of death. He changed direction, angling to his left, like a hunted rabbit. Sweat ran into his eyes, obscuring his vision. He felt lightheaded, running blind.
He stumbled once, falling in a heap in the dust. He smashed his right knee into the hard ground but the pain didn’t even register. Almost instantly, he was back on his feet, though weaker, his body responding more slowly. He stubbed his foot on a rock and fell forward, his hands cart-wheeling as he tried to keep his balance. This time, he fell heavily and his head crashed against a stone. A bearded face stared at him down the barrel of a Winchester: the last thing he saw before a black veil of unconsciousness enveloped him.
* * * *
He was alive. He opened his eyes slowly, gradually allowing the daylight to seep into his aching head. His whole body jolted and his head rebounded off of something hard. This time he was fully awoken and cursed loudly, the impact reverberating in his skull as if a mule had kicked him. He lay down, clutching his head in his hands.
“Looks like our guest is awake. Give him some water, Betty.”
He heard sounds of scrambling and within moments a canteen was pressed to his lips. He drank thirstily, washing away the dust and pain and fear. Slowly, his head cleared and he felt a little of his strength returning. He pushed the canteen away and propped himself up on his elbows, face to face with a woman wearing a gingham dress and a Poke bonnet. She smiled benignly on him and he was just about to ask who she was when there was another great jolt and he was slammed down once more. That’s when he realized that they were moving.
When he gathered his senses enough, he pulled up into a seating position. He looked about and discovered that he was in a wagon, lying on its flat wooden floor. The bearer of the canteen had left. Maybe he’d imagined her? He wondered who these people were and why they’d saved him. They couldn’t be Maxwell’s men; he’d be dead by now, if they were.
He wasn’t’t wearing his coat and he frantically scoured the wagon until he realized that he’d been using it as a pillow. He unfolded it and reached to an inside pocket. What he felt there reassured him and he allowed himself a smile. However, when he put his hand to his hip he discovered that his Colt was missing. He rose unsteadily to his feet, his back hunched over, as the wagon roof was too low to allow him to stand upright. “Time to figure out what the hell is going on,” he whispered to no one in particular.
The covered wagon was not designed for comfort and he found himself dodging various household items as he tried to gain his feet. He staggered toward the daylight that streamed through the open end of the wagon. Sitting up there was Betty, the woman who gave him the water, and what looked like the strong square back of a man. His boots banged on the floor as he moved so that the man must have heard his approach and turned to face him. He recognized the wagoner’s bearded face immediately: the last thing he’d seen before he passed out.
“Come up and join us,” the bearded man said, his voice booming in the confines of the wagon. “Bit of a tight squeeze, I’m afraid.”
Betty moved over and he sat next to her. Pulling the wagon were two yoke of oxen, plodding along slowly and deliberately. Ahead, four more wagons, similar to this one. As well as the wagons and the oxen pulling them, many more steers and cows wandered along the prairie, as well as some saddle horses and mules. From time to time, they all grazed lazily at the grass.
“Welcome to our Prairie Schooner,” said Betty.
The fact that this was an emigrant train slowly dawned on his aching mind. He just nodded in reply.
“Name’s Chet Harrington,” said the broad shouldered man, “and this here is my wife, Betty, whom you’ve already met.”
“Howdy,” he growled in reply.
“I guess you’re not much of a feller for talking,” Chet said. “That’s fine with me, but if you’re going to stay with us, you’ll have to speak to Bolster, the head man. He’ll decide what’s to become of you.”
* * * *
He said little for the rest of the day as they crossed the prairie, trying to get things straight in his head. As evening fell, he helped the wagoners get the cattle settled. The other emigrants hadn’t paid much attention to him during the day, besides a few curious glances cast in his direction.
He prepared himself for the interrogation that he was sure would come. What would he say to them? Chet had saved his life but he was wary of telling him what he was running from. Chet might just as quickly shoot him or leave him hanging from a branch if he learned of what he’d done and who he was… He resolved to play it by ear. If the worst came to the worst, he could steal a horse and make his escape. Even without his Colt, he was sure that he could fight his way out.
They settled to eat in a clearing formed by the circled wagons. A fire burned in the middle and the families ate by their own wagons, in silence, weary from the day’s traveling. He ate his meal with Chet and Betty and as they finished eating the folks from the other wagons drew near and they all mingled and talked as they drank their watery coffee. There were four wagons in all, a small train, he learned, waiting to join with a bigger group as they made their way west.
“These are all nice people,” Betty told him, “but they can be suspicious of outsiders – especially those they know nothing about.”
He nodded. He didn’t know if Chet had told the others how he found him. He was sure he’d find out soon enough, though. Chet patted him on the shoulder as he got up. He walked away, leaving him behind with Betty. They would come for him soon, he knew.
The men gathered in a group. They stole glances at him out of the corner of their eyes as they talked amongst themselves. In the twilight, he found it difficult to make out how many there were in this group. He guessed that they were all families. Four wagons meant at least four men, and probably accompanying wives and children too. He assessed the situation as he had many over the years and thought the odds were in his favor; if it should come to it.
A figure emerged out of the gloom, the tip of his cigarette glowing in the darkness. “My name’s Bolster, Emmet Bolster. How’re ya doing, feller?”
He sized Bolster up. Maybe fifty years old, maybe a few less. Flecks of gray showed in his beard but he was still in impressive physical condition, no doubt honed by years of working the land.
“I’m in charge of this company and Chet’s told me all he knows about you, which ain’t much.” He received no reply, just a steely glare. “Says he left camp last night to go into Lawrence to buy some supplies and ended up with a stray. You…” He stared. “My only responsibility is to the folks in this wagon train. You could be a murderer as far as I know, waiting to slit everyone’s throat.”
Three more shapes loomed behind Bolster. He recognized one as Chet but not the other two. They didn’t’t offer their names. They were wearing their gun-belts and all but Chet had their hands on their shooters. They moved closer and stood over him, trying to intimidate him. He stayed sitting, sipping his coffee.
Chet spoke first: “Seeing as it was me that found you, and the bad state you were in, I think I’m entitled to a few answers at least.”
“Fair enough,” he replied. He looked Chet straight in the eyes and ignored the others. Chet was right, he knew that. At the very least he owed him some explanation, even if it wasn’t’t an entirely truthful one. If Chet hadn’t found him… The alternative didn’t bear thinking about.
“Ask away,” he said.
“What’s your name? And why were you running away from those fellers like they were the hounds of hell?”
He drained the last of his coffee and rose slowly to his feet. His interrogators took a step back as he stood, all except Chet. He looked at each of them in turn. “Name’s Charlie Weston,” he said, “and the first thing you should know is that I don’t want no trouble. The reason I was running out of town last night when Chet found me was because I’d danced with the wrong lady in the dancehall. Her husband didn’t’t take too kindly to that and decided to teach me a lesson. Had to go out through the window, couldn’t get to my horse. That’s the beginning and the end of it.” He met each of their gazes in turn until the men looked away. They weren’t going to get any more out of him, at least not for the moment.
“What d’ya think?” one of the men asked Bolster. Weston sized him up. Smaller than the others, but wiry. Strong-looking. These were probably all family men, with children most likely, as well. They wouldn’t’t take easily to him if they thought he might cause danger to their group. Maybe he shouldn’t have said that he’d danced with another man’s wife. Maybe he should have told the truth.
“I don’t know, Walt,” Bolster replied.
“Well, I don’t like the look of him,” the fourth man said. “I don’t believe a word he says. I can find out easily enough about him, Emmet. I’ve a brother living in Lawrence, remember? He’ll let us know who this feller really is.”
“I’m not from Lawrence,” Weston replied. “Just passing through when I got mixed up in that bother last night. Don’t know anybody there.”
“Now, take it easy,” Chet soothed. “Let’s go back to your wagon, Frank, and talk about this.”
Weston now knew the names of the four men. Chet: broad, bearded, reasonable; Emmet: in charge, imposing; Walt: small and wiry. And Frank, staring at him with thinly disguised distaste in his eyes.
The four men went away while Weston sat back on the ground and lit a cigarette. He could hear them discussing in hushed voices which were occasionally raised in exclamation. He couldn’t’t tell if things were going in his favor and neither did he care.
They returned after a few minutes. He rose to his feet and walked in their direction in his long purposeful stride.
“Where are ye headed?” he asked. “California? Oregon?”
“California,” Bolster replied warily.
“Through Fort Laramie, right?”
Bolster nodded.
“Any of you crossed the Platte before?”
He could tell by their silence that they hadn’t.
“The question here is whether I should stick with you and not the other way around,” Weston said. “I know this country like the back of my hand, every fording point, the best places to camp and I know what to do if Indians start harassing you.” He paused for a moment.
The wagoners remained quiet.
“So,” he said at last, “I’ve decided. I’ll stay. Today is your lucky day.”
He turned on his heel and headed back to his resting place, leaving the four men standing stunned.
“Welcome aboard,” Chet murmured eventually.

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Pete and Joe sat around Dorothy’s kitchen table in the back of the Ranchers’ Saloon. Pete’s hands shook as he raised a mug of coffee to his lips. Dorothy stood by the table, too restless to sit. Pete listened to Joe as yet again he related the events of the day.
“So you got the money back?” she asked.
Pete didn’t answer. At last, Joe shook his head. “Afraid not. One of the jiggers got away. Saw his tracks heading cross-country. He was long gone by the time the shooting finished. Might even have been gone before the shooting started.”
“And he had all the money from the bank?”
“Guess so.”
There was silence around the table.
“This is the end,” Pete said wearily.
“What d’you mean?” she asked.
“Dell. He’ll definitely get rid of us now.”
“What?” she said, surprise evident in her voice. “Banks get robbed all the time and marshals don’t lose their jobs over it. Surely he can’t fire you just for this.”
Pete didn’t reply. He couldn’t be sure what he might say. He left it to Joe to tell her about the meeting they’d had with the mayor this morning.
“So what if he fires you?” Dorothy said defiantly after Joe finished.
“So what?” A little fire returned to Pete’s voice. “What about our plans?” he asked, the cadence of his voice rising. “What about the homestead we were going to buy? What about the life we planned? We can’t do all that if I lose my job. It’s just not possible.”
The sound of boots on the wooden floor of the kitchen interrupted him.
Paul Henry, one of the lawmen who worked with Pete and Joe, entered.
“Sorry to disturb you, Ma’am,” Paul said, nodding toward Dorothy. “But the mayor wants to see you fellers,” he said, looking at Pete and Joe.
“Thanks, Paul,” Pete said.
Paul hastily withdrew.
“This is it,” Pete said. He rose slowly and picked his hat up from the table. “We’d better–” The words died in his throat as he felt the sharp sting of a slap across his cheek. He staggered back a step, stunned by the sudden blow. He hadn’t seen it coming: Dorothy had lashed out like a rattlesnake.
“I’ll…” Joe stammered as he made for the door.
“You stay right there, Joe Flaherty,” Dorothy shouted, “unless you want some as well.”
“No, Ma’am, I mean, yes, Ma’am. I mean…” He collapsed into his chair.
Dorothy stood, her cheeks flushed. “I don’t know what’s happening to you today, Pete Baker, but I do know for sure that the man I married wouldn’t give up so easily.”
Pete opened his mouth to reply but her glare quieted him in no uncertain terms. “I’m here in the saloon, minding little Tom and helping my father. What would you say if I told you I was giving it all up just because some drunk made my life difficult? You wouldn’t let me, that’s what, because you know I love it here. Heck, even when we do move out to our farm, I’ll be back here helping out. I know you love being the marshal here, Pete, and if Mayor Dell is going to take that away from you, then he will. But you’re certainly not going to roll over to have your belly kicked. You’re not going to say ‘thank you very much’ when he takes the badge from your shirt. I know a good wife would tell her husband to do whatever he feels is right, that if he wanted to leave his job that she’d support him, no matter what. Well, that’s a load of bull! If you go in there and fight for what you love doing, then I’ll support you, if not…”
She left the sentence unfinished.
Pete exhaled slowly. He realized he’d been holding his breath. Dorothy’s words hung in the air like smoke after a gunshot. He stared up at her. He didn’t feel embarrassment at being castigated in front of Joe; all he could feel was love for the beautiful woman before him, the mother of his child. She was right, of course, like she always was; even when she wasn’t. Something had happened to him out on the plain, he’d felt his own mortality like never before. Discovered that he had more to lose than he ever realized. Baby Tom’s arrival had changed something within him which he only realized today. And the extra responsibility weighed on his shoulders.
His family.
That phrase rang around his head. That’s what he was scared of losing. Scared of leaving little Tom without a father; scared of not having those years ahead with his son that he hoped to enjoy.
But he couldn’t hide from reality. For the present, at least, he was still the marshal of Baxter Springs, and he had to act like it. He had to fight for his job and for his own self-respect, if not for any other reason. So he could hold his head high when he came back to his wife and child and call himself the head of his family.
He rose from his seat without saying a word and pulled Dorothy close to him.
She resisted for a moment but when she felt the force of his kiss, she relaxed gladly.
* * * *
Once more they sat in Dell’s office. This time, however, there was someone else in the room: Evan Taylor, standing over Dell.
“What happened this morning?” Dell asked. He smiled as a hungry cat might at a lame mouse.
“You know well what happened, Mayor,” Pete replied. “The money was stolen from the bank and I all but got blasted to kingdom come for trying to get it back. But for Joe, here, I’d be worm food by now.”
“I understand your anger, Marshal, and I thank you for your efforts, but you didn’t get the money back, did you? Any of it? Not one cent?”
He imagined the satisfying feeling of his knuckles connecting with Dell’s fatty mouth, permanently knocking the sneer from his face. Dell didn’t care that Pete had nearly lost everything that morning. He fought to contain his anger. “We never had a chance of recovering that money,” he said. “And the men we killed would never have seen any of it either. Whoever was behind this job wasn’t going to share the cash. The others were just tools to be used to get what he wanted and then to be thrown away when he was finished with them. It just happened that we saved him from doing the worst of the dirty work.”
Perversely, Pete had a grudging respect for the outlaw. He wasn’t beholden to anybody, had taken what he wanted and gotten away scot-free. Not like him, an upstanding citizen dependent on the whims of a mayor who made him feel physically nauseous with distaste.
“We’ll get the money back, or at least catch the thieves,” Pete said suddenly. Out of the corner of his eye he noticed Joe’s head turn, his eyes open wide, questioning. Pete kept staring at the mayor.
Dell’s face also registered surprise but he quickly hid it with the same insincere smile. “Will you, now?” he asked archly. “I take it, then, that you must have some idea who committed the crime, is that correct? Or maybe you know where they’re hiding out?”
Pete just shook his head. “Not a clue.”
Dell stared at him for a full ten seconds before bursting into laughter. “You hear that, Evan?” he asked Taylor. “Our marshal can smell stolen money. Sniff it out like a dog.”
Taylor just grunted. He hadn’t moved from his position beside Dell’s chair. He was like a silent sentry surveying all that was going on.
“You want to fire us, Dell,” Pete said, his voice even, but with a hard edge. He was going to fight, as Dorothy had implored him. He was going to turn this to his advantage, somehow. He just hoped he was going the right way about it. “But I’m going to make you another offer.”
“You’re going to make me an offer?” Dell said incredulously. “I’m not sure you’re in any position to do such a thing. Do you know what damage a bank robbery will do to this town? The bank may pull out altogether. I expect someone from their headquarters in Leavenworth today to come here and discuss the matter, and I’m not sure the outcome will be good for Baxter Springs.”
“That may be true, but what if me and Joe succeeded in finding that money or bringing in the robber? I’m pretty sure that would please the fellers from Leavenworth. And it would be a warning to anybody else planning to rob a bank here that they wouldn’t get away with it.”
“I’m sure it would,” Dell replied, “but, as I said earlier, how is that going to happen? We seem to be going round and round in circles here, Pete, without you making any sense.”
“Pay me and Joe our wages for the next two months; give us that time to find the money.” Pete saw that Dell was about to object, so he raised his hand. “Hear me out, Mayor, give me a moment.” Dell nodded, his eyes screwed up, wary. “Make Taylor the marshal while we’re chasing the money. I know that’s what you want to do anyway and this will give you the ideal opportunity. You can see if he’s the right man for the job. If Joe and I don’t succeed, then we’ll go quietly, without a fight. And when the feller from Leavenworth calls, you can tell him you even have the marshal and his deputy on the job. He’ll like the sound of that, and it might even buy you some time. That’s my offer, Mayor.” Pete sat back in his chair and folded his arms.
Silence filled the room. All eyes were now turned expectantly toward Dell. He looked up at Taylor, as if seeking a sign from the big man.
Taylor shrugged his shoulders. “Seems fine by me,” he mumbled. “Way I see it, I become marshal and these jokers will be out of here after two months. It’s a no-lose deal.”
Dell looked across at Pete. “You’ve got a deal.”
As they walked away from the town hall, Joe said, “I hope you know what you’re doing.”
“So do I, Joe. So do I…”
* * * *
Weston woke early, the dawn just breaking over the prairie as he slid out from under his blanket. He was in the ruined remains of an old homestead that he presumed was burned during the war. Owner probably lying in a grave somewhere, his family too, like his own parents. He’d tried long enough to forget about what happened to them. These matters didn’t concern him now, however. He saw the ruins as to escape detection. He couldn’t care less what happened to the previous inhabitants, despite the similarities to the fate of his own family. Until now, he’d banished all thoughts of that time from his memory; it was as if it never happened. All he could think of now was how to avoid capture.
He thought of the previous day’s debacle. He’d been lucky to escape. It was the closest he’d ever been to getting caught. It was fitting that this was his last job. It was as if fate was giving him a warning. He had the money beside him, close to his body. It was everything. It was his future, everything that he’d planned. He rose to his feet and breathed in the morning air. It was important to keep moving. They were more than likely after him, searching for his tracks. He’d been careful, though. Left no evidence; well, as far as he could tell. There were no loose ends. Nothing to trip him up.
He tied the grain sacks either side of the saddle, making sure they were closed tight. There was no breakfast; food wasn’t important to him this morning. He had things to do and, all going well, everything would be sorted by the end of the day. No, everything would definitely be in place by the end of the day. It must be. The rest of his life was about to begin. He mounted up, the early morning sun beginning to wash the land with its soft light. He rode briskly away. Time to put his money to work.

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DeWitt scoops Rogers Trust Fiction Prize

02.11.11 Graeme Neill
Patrick deWitt has put his Man Booker disappointment behind him after he clinched the $25,000 (£15,365) Rogers Trust Fiction Prize for The Sisters Brothers in Canada.
The prize is one of the most lucrative in Canada. The judges said of the title, which was also shortlisted for the Man Booker prize: "The Sisters Brothers is a book unlike any you may read during this or the coming years. Unforgettable.”
DeWitt beat other Man Booker shortlistee Esi Edugyan to clinch the prize. The Sisters Brothers author said: "The experience just flip flops in such a radical way. It's hard to ingest it. Hard to take it in."

Jobs biography tops bestseller lists

02.11.11 Philip Stone
Walter Isaacson’s biography of the late Steve Jobs has become one of the fastest-selling hardback non-fiction books since records began.
Brought forward from its original publication date of 24th November following the Apple co-founder’s death on 5th October, Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography (Little, Brown) sold 37,645 copies in its first week on bookshop shelves. Only four hardback biographies/memoirs have sold more in their opening week since Nielsen BookScan records began in 1998.
The biography comfortably tops this week’s Official UK Top 50, ahead of Guinness World Records and James Patterson and Howard Roughan's Don't Blink (Arrow), which sold 21,643 copies and 20,242 copies respectively. More than 50 hardback novels officially hit bookshop shelves last week, with five of them earning a place in this week's Official UK Top 50 on part-week sales alone. John Grisham’s latest thriller, The Litigators, was the pick of the bunch. The book, his first adult novel published by Hodder following his switch from Cornerstone earlier this year, sold 12,962 copies in its first five days on sale last week, and takes eighth place in this week's Official UK Top 50.
Victoria Hislop’s The Thread (Headline Review); Michael Connelly’s 17th Harry Bosch thriller The Drop (Orion); Haruki Murakami’s Orwellian 1Q84: Book Three (Harvill Secker); and Conn Iggulden's Conqueror (HarperCollins) also all début in the Official UK Top 50.
Helped by the popularity of these enticing new releases, sales of hardback novels through BookScan’s top 5,000 bestseller lists were up 6% week-on-week and up 7% on the same week last year. Terry Pratchett's Snuff (Doubleday) was once again the bestselling hardback novel of the week, outselling Martina Cole's The Faithless (Headline) by 19,567 copies to 17,466.
Helped by the autumn half-term break, sales of children’s titles soared 20% week-on-week. David Walliams’ Gangsta Granny (HarperCollins) was the bestselling children’s title of the week, scoring sales of 11,248 copies—up 3,908 on his previous weekly sales personal best of 7,340 set by Billionaire Boy last year.
However, the non-fiction market remains weak in comparison to last year, with sales through the top 5,000 down 20% year-on-year. Just five hardback non-fiction books sold more than 10,000 copies last week, down from 12 in the same week last year.
Lee Evans retains his crown as the author of the bestselling celebrity memoir in the UK, but his The Life of Lee (Michael Joseph) was the only celebrity memoir to sell more than 10,000 copies. Nine, led by Keith Richards’ Life (Weidenfeld) with a sale of 28,200 copies, achieved the feat in the comparative week last year.
Even Jamie Oliver’s new TV series, which began on Channel Four last week, did little to invigorate a weak non-fiction market. Sales of his Jamie’s Great Britain (Michael Joseph) were up just 2% week-on-week, to 10,740 copies sold—well below the 78,606 figure scored by his 30-minute Meals in the same week last year.
In total, £32.5m was spent on printed books at UK booksellers last week, up 2.9% week-on-week but down 9.5% (£3.4m) on the same week last year.