The Wood of Ephraim On Tales To Terrify

Tales To Terrify recently got Rish Outfield to dramatize my Lovecraftian sword and sorcery story of Biblical proportions, The Wood Of Ephraim, which appeared recently in Swords And Mythos from Innsmouth Free Press. Read about the story RIGHT HERE.

Turn out the lights and give a listen below. Cool way to kick off the Halloween season a bit early. My story starts at the 27:00 mark.


Crocodile In 18 Wheels Of Horror

Eric Miller, Stoker nominated editor of the Hell Comes to Hollywood books has a new trucker-themed horror anthology, 18 Wheels Of Horror through his Big Times Books imprint.

A DARK ROAD by Ray Garton
RISING FAWN by Brad C. Hodson
NEVER LOST AGAIN by Joseph Spencer
BIG WATER by R.B. Payne
DOWNSHIFT by Daniel P. Coughlin
SIREN by Eric Miller
WHISTLIN’ BY by Shane Bitterling
LUCKY by Del Howison
HAPPY JOE’S REST STOP by John Palisano
PURSUIT by Hal Bodner
TAKE THE NIGHT by Janet Joyce Holden
KING SHITS by Charles Austin Muir
CARGO by Tim Chizmar
SLEEPER by Ian Welke
THE IRON BULLDOGGE by Michael Paul Gonzalez
ROAD KILL by Jeff Seeman
Dig the cool distressed early 80’s style paperback cover.
My story, Crocodile, concerns a hapless truck stop Pizza Hut counter girl with big dreams who, one fateful night, encounters a real live dreamy vampire boy.
Except he’s not quite the fairy tale she expected….

She gushed a lot, babbled out to him her whole life story, all her daydreams, her secret surety that some of them were real, her boundless delight in vindication. When she was finished, she begged to know his story.

He told her his name was Brendan, but that he had once had another name back when he’d been mortal, ‘in Bible times.’  He told her he had come from a wealthy family of merchants. He had befriended a young Roman soldier named Messala who one day rose to the position of provincial governor. When the Romans had marched into his city, Brendan and his mother and sister had been standing on a roof and accidentally knocked a loose piece of tile down into the street. The tile had hit Messala and for the offense, Brendan had been sentenced to slavery, chained to an oar on a warship while his family was imprisoned in a Roman dungeon. During a sea battle with Egyptians in which their ship was sunk, he had saved the life of the Roman captain and been freed, then granted Roman citizenship in gratitude.

Soon after he’d learned that his family had died of leprosy while he’d been away. He renounced his newfound citizenship and instigated a revolt, leading an army of gladiators to the palace of his former friend. He ran him down with a chariot.

As he told her this, tears spilled down Gwendolyn’s face. What tribulations he had faced! His life could have been a book itself, maybe even a movie.

8531442650_7448acc7af_b (1)Heartbroken by the death of his mother and sister, Brendan had for a time found love in the arms of a slave girl he had freed from Messala’s house, but the gladiator army was ambushed by the Romans and they were both taken prisoner and crucified. He said the greater suffering had been to watch her die slowly just out of his reach. Then that night as he hung on a cross, a pale traveler had come upon him. Seeing he was still alive, he had taken a ladder from his cart, set it up against his cross and climbed it. Brendan had thought the man intended to cut him down and save him out of pity, but he had been a vampire, looking for an easy meal. A passing cohort of legionnaires had surprised the stranger, and he had run off, but not before his bite had infected Brendan. Using his new supernatural strength, he had agonizingly freed himself from the cross and hid from the rising sun in a cave.

He said he had never been back to Italy since.

“And that’s why to this very day….I still hate wops,” he finished, brushing her hair from her face. “You know, you remind me of her, the slave girl who died. She was a Trojan.”

“What was her name?” she asked.


Then, as it was near dawn, he got up to leave.

She begged to see him again, and he swore that she would, sealing the immortal promise by leaning in and kissing her softly. It was like licking an ice cube, or a patch of snow. His breath smelled metallic, like the groaning pipes beneath the sink. When they parted from that first, wonderful kiss, her breath roiled in a little white cloud in his sad smile, across his deep dark eyes, brimming with a pain and sorrow that seemed to span the ages.

She knew right away that she loved him. Who else could she ever love?

That night she dreamed of him in green tights and a red feathered cap, circling the ceiling of her bedroom and smiling down at her.

She went right back to work because she knew he would be there at the end of her shift. She knew because of the kiss.

And he was. Every night afterwards he met her in the parking lot. Sometimes they drove, mostly they walked, and talked, and kissed. He told her all about the long life he had lived all over the world, about all the people he had known through history, Genghis Khan, Abraham Lincoln, even Sherlock Holmes.

He held her till she shivered in his cold arms (but he was always a perfect gentleman, even though sometimes she sort of wished he wasn’t), and he answered every question she had about vampires.

All but one.

“When will you take me to your lair?”

“Soon,” was all he said, and drew her closer, taking in her scent with a flare of his nostrils, then kissing her deeply.

She always knew the time would come.

And tonight it had.

She had somehow woken in the morning knowing this would be the night they would be together at last. She had packed an outfit in the car and changed before she clocked out. A sexy black top with lace trim and her best jeans, her Victoria’s Secret panties, the red ones with the matching bra. She had worn perfume for him too, something with a name she didn’t dare try to pronounce in front of him for fear he’d laugh at her.

She’d brought condoms. She wasn’t sure if she could get pregnant, but it was best to be safe. Did vampires cum? She didn’t honestly care if he did get her pregnant. She would gladly have his child, but she didn’t know how he felt and thought it best to wait until another time to bring it up. She thought she might like to bear his child before he made her a vampire, just in case vampire women couldn’t have babies.

She wondered if Brendan’s baby would be a half vampire, like Blade.

If he was, would other vampires hate him? She would teach him or her to be good, to love both halves of him or herself, to accept him or herself first.

She had never thought to ask him about other vampires. Had he met any in his travels? There would be time enough to ask later. All the time in the world.

Brendan would turn her, and they could travel the world together, all three of them, see the things she never thought she’d see.

Well, everything except Italy maybe.


Saturday, October 3rd, I’ll be signing copies of 18 Wheels Of Horror along with several other authors at Dark Delicacies on Magnolia in Burbank, from 2-4pm.,_Oct_3rd_@_2_pm:_18_Wheels_of_Horror.html

Hope you’ll swing by and say hey.


Pick up 18 Wheels here –

Thorne & Cross Take Two

As some of you may know there was a technical glitch last Thursday that booted everybody from the Thorne & Cross show. We’re trying it again tonight at 5pm Pacific/8pm Eastern, so tune in below.

Published in: on September 14, 2015 at 10:29 am  Leave a Comment  

Up And Down The Dial: Interview On Thorne & Cross Haunted Nights LIVE

EDIT: Whoops! Due to a technical glitch, I’ll be recording that interview this Monday instead.

In just a bit I’ll be on Thorne & Cross Haunted Nights LIVE talking about Andersonville, With Sword And Pistol, and whatever else I can get in. Come give a listen.  If you miss it, no worries. I’m told the show will remain up at the link below.

The Unrepeatables Appearing in Tales Of Cthulhu Invictus


Long before ivy grew on the walls of Miskatonic University or the Deep Ones first came to Innsmouth, centuries before the mad Arab penned the dreaded Necronomicon, the malevolent powers of the Cthulhu Mythos plagued mankind. During the Age of the Antonines (96 AD–192 AD), when the Roman Empire was at the peak of its power, dark and unknowable forces were at work. Ancient wizards sought ways to cheat death, explorers stumbled on the remnants of alien civilizations, foul cults practiced unholy rites, and inhuman creatures sought to mix their blood with ours.

Across Rome’s vast empire, a few brave men and women rose up to meet these threats for the greater good of mankind. They carried light into the darkness, dispelling a poisonous taint which grows best in the shadows. With steel and spell and burning torch, these heroic investigators of the ancient world defended their civilization from the fearsome powers of the Cthulhu Mythos. Golden Goblin Press is proud to offer up nine tales of their horrific struggles and sacrifices.

Tales of Cthulhu Invictus – Edited by Brian Sammons

  • Vulcan’s Forge by William Meikle
  • Fecunditati Augustae by Christine Morgan
  • A Plague of Wounds by Konstantine Paradias
  • Tempus Edax Rerum by Pete Rawlik
  • The Unrepeatables by Edward M. Erdelac
  • Magnum Innominandum by Penelope Love
  • Lines in the Sand by Tom Lynch
  • The Temple of Iald-T’qurhoth by Lee Clark Zumpe
  • The Seven Thunders by Robert M. Price      

My story, The Unrepeatables follows Damis of Nineveh, the former companion of the famed miracle worker Apollonius of Tyana, and ex-Centurion Modus Macula as they investigate the summer home of a famous charioteer under suspicion of profaning the Eleusinian Mysteries.

Here’s an excerpt.

roman-feast-1“Ah, you are an initiate then?” Atomus asked.

“Yes,” said Damis. “I have been trying to convince Macula to attend in the coming year.”

“Fat chance,” Calidas piped up. “If I remember Macula, he does not believe in the gods. Isn’t that right?”

“I believe in what I can put between my hands,” said Macula.

“Ah! A brimming wine goblet! A fat woman!” Bibaculus laughed, squeezing the girl at his side until she squealed and slapped his hairy arm.

“Or a sword,” finished Macula.

“But wasn’t Apollonius a devotee of Pythagoras?” Atomus asked. “How does one reconcile initiation in a Greek rite with monotheism?”

“By Jove!” Calidas spat into his cup. “You’re not a Christian are you?”

The room shook with laughter.

Damis smiled thinly.

In no other manner can one exhibit a fitting respect for the Divine being than by refusing to offer any victim at all; to Him we must not kindle fire or make promise unto Him of any sensible object whatsoever. For He needs nothing even from beings higher than ourselves. Nor is there any plant or animal which earth sends up or nourishes, to which some pollution is not incident. We should make use in relation to Him solely of that which issues not by the lips, but from the noblest faculty we possess, and that faculty is intelligence, which needs no organ. That is what my master taught.”

“Even Jews sacrifice,” said Calidas. “How else can that which is worth attaining be attained, save through offering and hardship?” he went on, squeezing Brehane’s hand. “Without the race there is no victory.”

“Is that what you believe, Atomus?” Damis asked.

“What makes you think I am a Jew?” Atomus countered.

“What are you then? A Simonian? One of these Valentinians?” He leaned closer. “Something else?”

“My father was a priest in the Temple when Titus burned it and carried off the Menorah for the Colosseum. What I knew of the glory of the holy city I knew from stories. I grew up in its ruins. I was there when Hadrian burnt the Torah atop the Mount, breaking his promise to rebuild the Temple and renaming Jerusalem Aelia Capitolina.”

The atmosphere around the table had plummeted into a silent coldness, and Damis and Atomus glared at each other with naked but inscrutable dislike.

“This is too heated a discussion for the dinner table,” Calidas said, finding his victorious smile again. “Don’t be boring, Atomus. Macula? What say you, Damis?”

Soleas poscere,” said Damis, signaling that the dinner had ended for him.

Dutifully, two of the slaves emerged with their sandals.

Macula, mouth full of dormouse, blinked surprise. Something had roused the ire of the old mystic, but he had no idea what.

They got up from the table. Damis took him by the elbow and guided him to the lararium on the wall to pay their respects to the household gods depicted in miniature statuary in the recessed little niche.

As Macula began to bow, Damis gripped him tightly, causing him to straighten, and steered him out into the atrium, where two burly slaves standing in the vestibulum pulled open the doors for them.

Soon they were on the dim, torch lit road winding down the hill, the lights of town below, the moonlight playing on the rippling bay.

“I take it you’ve found something,” Macula said.

“I’m not sure. Take this, for I fear we shall know in a moment.”

042From under his voluminous philosopher’s robes, Damis produced a short, glittering pugio in a silver frame scabbard which had been fashioned into a fanciful depiction of a man sinking a sword into the breast of some dragon-like monstrosity.

“Where did you get that?”

“Master Damis! Master Macula!”

Macula half-turned, to see the two well-built door slaves trotting down the road after them.

They had napkins bundled in their hands.

“Our master begs you not to forget your napkins.”

Macula narrowed his eyes. It was customary for the host of a party to wrap his guest’s personal napkins about some token gift before returning them.

Except they had taken their napkins with them.

As the first of the two big slaves reached them, Macula whipped the dagger free of its scabbard with a ring and thrust the point in his heart to the hilt.

He had to kick the body off the blade as the second slave lunged at him, something flashing in his fist.

Macula ducked under the swing and jabbed upwards, catching the second man under the chin, the point popping out of the crown of his skull.

He retrieved one of the napkins and wiped the blood from the blade.

The napkin of the first man had a dagger hidden in the folds.

“So I was right,” Damis breathed.

“What’s going on? Why did you bring a pugio to the party if you didn’t suspect anything?”

“Traveling with Apollonius I learned to take precautions. The star Sothis is ascendant. It is an ill-omen.”

“I thought you hated astrology.”

“I hate astrologers,” Damis corrected.  “I thought very little of this errand of yours, true, when the night began.”

“Till you saw that Iacchus in the mosaic?”

“It raised my suspicions.  You may not believe in the gods, Macula, and the guise in which you know them may indeed be a lie, but just as Jove is Zeus, once they had other names and other faces, terrible to behold.”

As he spoke, Damis removed a pouch from his robes and spilled its contents into his hand. There were six rings, each with a different colored intaglio gem, like the one he already wore, engraved with a symbol representing each of the seven stars.

He slipped them on one at a time.

maenads-silenus“Iacchus,” he said, “the son of Hades and Demeter, who was later known as Bacchus and Dionysus, whose maenad cult was driven to terrible ecstasies, ripping apart goats with their bare hands. And yet the nameless cult of Iacchus, or Icthiacchilius as he is known, sacrificed a goat without horns beneath the moon and the Star of Sothia, and tore their victim apart with their teeth. And behind him, behind Demeter and Mithras, behind Nuada, Ashur, Neptune and Cthulhu, the great whirling chaos, the Womb of Darkness from which the gods spawned, as far outside our knowing as is dread Tartarus. Chaos. Tiamat. Azathoth.”

Macula shook his head, staring down at the moonlight on the blade of the dagger, which was engraved with seals and unreadable voces mysticae.

“So what do we tell Marcius Turbo?”

“I fear there is no time to return to Rome,” said Damis. “This night, foul things are afoot in that house, and must be stopped.”

At that moment, a shrill scream rang out from high on the hill, a woman’s scream, prolonged in agony, which dwindled till it was lost on the sea breeze.

Macula was already running back up the road with Damis huffing behind.


On sale now at the Golden Goblin Press website.!/Fiction-Products/c/14026709/offset=0&sort=normal

Andersonville On Tour

andersonvilleReviews for my new Random House-Hydra novel Andersonville are coming from Lit Reactor, Publishers Weekly, and Examiner as well as Goodreads and so far they’re pretty positive across the board.

Gef Fox interviewed me about the book at his blog and the always friendly folks at Fantasy Book Review lent me some space there to talk about the development of the novel, so please check those out.

Andersonville is doing the rounds of a slew of blogs across the ether, so please take a look at these fine sites. They’ll be featuring reviews at the appointed times or thereabouts.


Monday, August 17th: Stephanie’s Book Reviews….100 Pages a Day

Tuesday, August 18th: Fourth Street Review

Tuesday, August 18th: Bibliotica

Wednesday, August 19th: The Reader’s Hollow

Wednesday, August 19th: Tynga’s Reviews

Thursday, August 20th: A Book Geek

Monday, August 24th: Bewitched Bookworms

Tuesday, August 25th: Kissin’ Blue Karen

Wednesday, August 26th: Kari J. Wolfe

Thursday, August 27th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Friday, August 28th: Vic’s Media Room

Monday, August 31st: It’s a Mad Mad World

Tuesday, September 1st: SJ2B House of Books

Wednesday, September 2nd: Historical Fiction Obsession

Thursday, September 3rd: Kimberly’s Bookshelf

Friday, September 4th: Jenn’s Bookshelves

Monday, September 7th: From the TBR Pile

An Excerpt From Andersonville

My historical horror novel Andersonville is due out August 18th from Random House/Hydra.


In 1864, 30,000 half-starved men pray for a way out of the disease ridden confines of Andersonville prison, unaware that they are about to become part of a dark ritual enacted by a madman to swing the course of the Civil War.

One man fights his way in to stop him.

Here’s an excerpt.


The exhausted tunnelers were rotated out to disposal and lookout duty.  Enderlein went first into the passage with the shovel, then Bill, then Barclay, taking over the relay duty. It was two hours of painful crawling back and forth in the cramped tunnel with buckets of earth. One of the Irishmen, O’Bannon, manned the bellows, and though it did provide a gush of fresh air whenever Barclay neared it to pass the bucket up, he couldn’t imagine the meager air Bill and Enderlein were getting further down the tunnel, if any.

fig28The work was taxing, and the thought of the tons of shifting sand waiting to come down through the crumbling clay ceiling of the passage caused Barclay’s heart to hammer in his chest.  He kept his breaths shallow and quick, but the blood pounded in his ears. They worked mainly in darkness, it being too close and the air too precious to burn away with candlelight. The only sign that they were not in the grave itself was the pinprick of light from the flickering candle O’Bannon kept on the dug out shelf in the vertical shaft that was their umbilical to the surface.

They did not speak as they worked, but the huffing of their breath let each man know the others still lived.

Then, when Barclay felt he couldn’t stand the dark closeness any longer, Bill whispered to him.

“Enderlein figures another couple feet and he’s past the outer wall.”

Barclay inched laboriously back to O’Bannon and watched the Irishman smile through his feet when he passed him the word.

Then there was a strange sound from up ahead, and Enderlein shrieked once in alarm. It was the sound of rushing water.

God, thought Barclay. Had they misjudged their direction and double backed to the creek? Had they struck some underground spring they hadn’t anticipated?

O’Bannon reacted quickly, and gripping Barclay by the ankles, yanked him out of the tunnel into the shaft.

They had three ropes made from braided cloth tied around the leg of each man in the tunnel proper.

O’Bannon grabbed one and began to furiously pull.

Barclay sat up and pulled the other.

High above, Skinny’s face appeared over the hole.

“What’s the matter?” he called down in as loud a whisper as he could manage.

“I don’t know! Trouble! Underground spring maybe or….”

At that moment the water gushed from the tunnel and spread across the floor of the shaft.

Except it wasn’t water.

It was blood.

Not some dark mud as Limber had suggested the night he’d pulled the red tipped root from the ground. As before, Barclay could smell the copper taint, feel the consistency as it swiftly rose to his ankles. It was blood, and it was filling the tunnel like a giant capillary.

“My God!” O’Bannon exclaimed, pausing in his work at the sight of the stuff pooling around his ankles.

“Keep pulling, goddammit!” Barclay yelled over the rushing blood, now threatening their calves.

Barclay pulled for all he was worth, and in a few moments he was rewarded as Bill Mixinisaw came kicking and splashing out of the tunnel, entirely painted red.

So O’Bannon had a hold of Enderlein.

“What happened?” Barclay asked, pulling the spluttering Indian up out of the stuff.

“I don’t know, I don’t know,” said Bill. “Enderlein was digging and he stopped and stuck the spade in the ground. It all just started rushing in. There’s something in there.”


“I felt something claw at me.”

“Here he comes!” O’Bannon bellowed triumphantly.

The left foot of Enderlein broke the surface of the well of blood as O’Bannon dragged it from the tunnel with effort.

Enderlein’s leg was not attached.

thedescentcrawlerInstead, a terrifying face breached the surface of the frothing blood. It was thin and skull-like, devoid of hair, yet not entirely fleshless, for it had flabby, overlarge ears and a bat-like nose that flared and inflated twin bubbles of blood at the first taste of air. Its jaw was clamped down on the ragged end of Enderlein’s disembodied foot, at the ankle, where the torn flesh exposed a piece of crushed bone to which it had affixed its double rows of triangular, serrated, bloodstained teeth. The brow was downturned in the extreme, the red painted flesh of the forehead wrinkled in astounding, almost mesmerizing patterns, amid a blanket of ugly, tumorous growths so large they flapped independently with every movement of the grotesque head.

Then, from that scarlet mask, the vertical lids covering its two bulbous eyes slid open.

The shaft was filled with blinding yellow light, as if from a theater spot, blazing from the eyes of this horror paddling into the shaft.

“Don’t look in its eyes!” Barclay warned, throwing his back to the well and shielding the glare with his hand.

The blood was up to his thighs now.

The thing screeched shrilly, dropping Enderlein’s foot, and leapt from the tunnel, spreading out impossibly long, thin arms that ended in dramatically curved red talons, like the claws of a digging mole.

It bore down on O’Bannon and dragged him beneath the surface of the ever-rising pool of blood.

Bill screamed and started to climb the shaft, throwing his feet against one wall and his back against the opposite, hopping nimbly up.

The blood covering Bill now drizzled in a red rain down on Barclay, who groped in the pool for O’Bannon, trying to snag hold of his thrashing arms and legs. He gripped a limb and pulled, but found he had gotten hold of the thing’s arm. Its hard flesh was scorching to the touch, and burned his fingers red before he let go with a yelp.

He straightened and looked up. Bill was halfway up the shaft. Suddenly the sandy wall against which his back was braced collapsed inward. Two sharp clawed red hands burst out and wrapped themselves around his torso, pulling the Indian in.

The blood was up to Barclay’s waist, and O’Bannon had stopped fighting.

Now the thing surfaced and stood in the shaft, popping its jaws, rending some unidentifiable hunk of O’Bannon to stringy sinew.

Behind it, the tunnel opening, nearly submerged, expelled a third blood covered thing into the pit with him.


Published in: on August 9, 2015 at 3:39 am  Comments (1)  
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With Sword And Pistol from Ragnarok Publications

Hot on the heels of my Random House novel Andersonville is With Sword And Pistol from Ragnarok Publications, my first book with them and my first fiction collection.

With Sword And Pistol assembles four dark adventure novellas.

First up is the long out of print Red Sails, a horror themed pirate adventure in which a British marine and a Dominican Blackfriar are captured by a cruel vampire captain and marooned on a cannibal isle to be hunted under the full moon by his crew of savage werewolves.

Second is Night of The Jikininki, which originally appeared in Comet Press’ DEADCORE anthology. Three disparate men, a casteless bandit, a sadistic samurai sword tester, and a vile, mad child killer band together to fight their way out of a feudal Japanese prison as it fills with the walking dead.

Next is Sinbad And The Sword Of Solomon, a high fantasy Arabian Nights style sword and soul adventure in which the titular sailor and his motley crew undertake a mission from the Caliph of Baghdad to retrieve a magic sword from a demon on an enchanted island. This one first appeared in Sinbad: The New Voyages Volume 2 from Airship 27.

Finally, my dark urban horror novella Gully Gods, first printed in Four In The Morning, about a young South Houston gangster who joins up with a seemingly unstoppable clique of Liberian ex-child soldiers to take over a Chicago neighborhood from their Latino rivals, and learns the malicious source of their terrible power.

Here’s a peek at the killer cover from Joe Martin and Shawn King. With Sword And Pistol goes on sale August 17th.


In Thunder’s Shadow Now Appearing In Edge Of Sundown

My story In Thunder’s Shadow is now appearing in Edge of Sundown, a new weird western anthology from Chaosium and editors Brian Sammons and Kevin Ross.

The table of contents includes –

John Shirley, “The Claw Spurs”

Silvia Moreno-Garcia, “Cemetery Man”

Kelda Crich, “Jiang Shi in Chinatown”

Don Webb, “Innocents Abroad”

Cody Goodfellow, “Forked Tongue”

Christine Morgan, “The Buzzard Women”

Bruce L. Priddy, “The Flute Players”

Andrew Kelly, “Silver Wolf”

Mark Onspaugh, “Whisper”

Jeffrey Thomas, “The Dark Cell”

John F.D. Taff, “The Two of Guns”

Lawrence Berry, “Red Shadows in Terror Canyon”

Brian M. Sammons, “Feast of Famine”

Michael G. Szymanski, “Son of the Wild Moon”

Pete Rawlik, “Drake Takes a Hand”

Sam Stone, “The Puppet Master”

C.L. Werner, “Uncle Gunnysack”

Eric Red, “The Buzzard”

The cover is by the ridiculously talented Daniele Sera, who did the cover to my western novel Coyote’s Trail.


jun07_tombstonesflying_250My story, In Thunder’s Shadow was inspired by a supposed 1880’s newspaper article printed in the Tombstone Epitaph describing the discovery of a pteranadon corpse by Arizona cowboys.

Cope and Marsh

Cope and Marsh

I had also read a bit about the fascinating 1880’s Bone Wars waged by prominent American paleontologists Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel Charles Marsh. Marsh and Cope waged total war against each other’s careers, racing across the American West to claim the latest and greatest fossil discovery, resorting to bribery and outright sabotage in their personal bids for supremacy.

My story follows an intrepid but inexperienced Yale University student traveling to the Arizona mining town of Delirium Tremens in search of bones for OC Marsh. My readers will recognize Delirium Tremens of course. This is a couple years before the Rider and company descend on the town. The student soon takes up with a wild-eyed old game hunter named Neb, who swears he can lead the student to something much more exciting than mere bones….


AsF6s“Hell, Mr. Pabodie,” Neb said, passing the fossil back (it swiftly disappeared into its swaddling in the cushioned depths of Pabodie’s knapsack), “that thing’s older’n I am.  I figured it was fresh bones you was out after.”

“Well,” Pabodie said, allowing himself a snicker, “we’d be hard pressed to find fresh bones. I’m afraid this species died almost eighty million years ago.”

“Naw,” Neb said, waving his weathered hand and sipping his potion. “I seen one, ‘couple ‘o months back.”

Pabodie smiled slowly.

“I hardly think…”

“I said I seen one,” Neb said, plainly challenging him to voice his doubt again.

Pabodie shook his head, but said nothing.

Neb set aside his cup and took out his tobacco and makings.

“Dan Spector down at the Moderado promised me fifty dollars gold if I could catch him a live bear for a bear garden he wanted to build out back of his place, on account of the Thursday night cockfights over at the Mexicans’ down the street was cuttin’ into his business. I’d heard tell of black bears high up in the Huachucas where the conifers grow, so I got me a cage and a string of goats. ‘Spent a couple weeks up there till I got one.”

Neb finished rolling a cigarette and lit it. The match glow shined in the hollow of his eye socket, but did not penetrate its depths.  Pabodie’s attention was drawn to it. It was like peering into the end of a gun. The wide black iris of his intact eye hardly looked any different. Pabodie knew then that he was sharing his fortunes with a madman, for this was no greening session; what the hunter told next, he sincerely believed.

“I’m hitchin’ the bear cage up to my mules, when of a sudden, this big shadow comes up in front of the sun, cools everything down.  Even the bear looks up. And the noise! Sounded like a hunnerd widows screamin’ all at once in the belly of a lion.”

He planted the cigarette in the corner of his lips and held out his arms for emphasis.

“Swooped down and picked up that bear, cage and all, just about ripped my mules out of their traces.”  He pantomimed a rifle shooting.  “I cut loose on it with old Mazeppa, but it took a high grain load like a buffalo cow takes note of a mosquito’s peter. Flew way up, off over the mountains.”

He threw up his hands and blew smoke.

pterodactylus (1)“Cost me my gold and the price of the cage. ‘Had to sell off my mules. Been lookin’ for a way to get back up there and go after it. Then along you came, all providential like. What I figured was, it was a thunderbird like the ‘Paches talk about. You call it a terra-whatsit, whatever you want, but,” he shrugged, “same thing. You’re welcome to all the bones we can carry back, Mister Pabodie. I want somethin’ else…”

Pabodie’s smirk had spread wider throughout the story. Neb presently noticed it and frowned deeply beneath his bushy mustache.

“You still disbelieve me.”

“Well…,” said Pabodie, not wanting to give offense and thinking swiftly of a placation. “What you saw was most likely some sort of condor.  For instance, the California gymnogyps has a thirteen foot wingspan…”

“Its wings stretched fifty feet if they were an inch. You think I’m talkin’ about some goddamned buzzard?” he exclaimed, the whiskey on his breath beating upon Pabodie like heat from an open furnace. “I ain’t touched in the head, though by that smarmy goddamned look, you think so.  Dan Spector gimme that look too.  Him and all them goddamned drunkards in the Moderado, when I told ’em what happened. I been huntin’ up and down this land for goin’ on twenty years, Mister Pabodie. If I say I seen a goddamned thunderbird, who in the hell are you to…”

Neb’s tirade was cut short by the sound of thunder like the reverberant crashing of a gargantuan washtub tumbling across the sky. Outside, Pabodie’s horse and the mules screamed.

“They’re afraid of the thunder?” Pabodie asked anxiously as Neb drew up his rifle case from the corner of the tent.

Neb threw open the case and bought out the big Sharps rifle he affectionately called Mazeppa.

“They’re afraid of somethin.'”

He pushed a long bullet into the breech of his rifle as lightning turned the tent walls blue. Another avalanche of thunder exploded over the empty land.

The rain jarringly ceased its incessant pattering on the canvas, as if someone had dammed up the flow in heaven. The animals outside whinnied their anxiety. One of the cries abruptly altered in pitch and rose above the rest.  It was one of the mules, braying like Pabodie had never heard an animal do before.  It was a prolonged, harsh sound, as of a woman being murdered slowly.

“One side!” shouted Neb.

Pabodie stared as Neb jammed his battered hat on his head and went out into the silver flecked darkness. The lantern threw a shaft of light on the bucking animals. Pabodie’s horse and the remaining pack mule strained against their tethers on the tall saguaro cactus to which they’d been tied, tripping in their hobbles to get away.

Of the second mule, there was no sign.

11-800Then Pabodie narrowed his bespectacled eyes and perceived the missing mule’s braided tether still fastened around the trunk of the saguaro, pulled taut under its curved arms, trailing mysteriously into the dark sky like a Hindu rope trick.

The wind was tremendous, threatening to buckle their shelter. The rain was still driving all around. Yet it did not strike their tent, or the horses, or the ground encompassing their small camp, as if a great umbrella hung overhead.

Then there was a second tremulous flicker of lightning. The camp lit up like a photographer’s studio.

Pabodie caught a glimpse of a massive shape suspended overhead, a huge, black shadow whose bulk shielded them from the rain like a tarpaulin.  For a minute Pabodie thought that was just what it was –a large revival tent canvas uprooted by the tempest, hovering overhead by some unlikely trick of the converging winds. Dangling from the middle of the gigantic shadow was the missing pack mule, bugging out its eyes in terror.

Something clutched it by the spine. It hung limp as a kitten in its mother’s mouth.

Even as the sky went dark again, Pabodie knew what it was. The Kingsport boy in him who had waded hip deep into the churning ocean imagining legendary beasts and cities beneath the waves with all the desperate faith of one born out of time let out an exultant scream that rang in his book and data scarred brain. Though that mature part of him that had attended two universities and sobered through the years as a teetotaler of wonder curled up in fear and bewilderment, the wide eyed boy in him gripped what he all too briefly beheld above the camp in both hands and guzzled the sight until drunk. This was something neither Marsh, nor Cope, nor any stodgy old ditch digging professor had ever seen.

This was his alone.


Edge of Sundown is on sale now!

The Writer’s Block with Jim Christina

On Thursday July 23rd from 8-8:50pm I’ll be on The Writers Block for LA Talk Radio, talking westerns weird and otherwise (and probably my new novel Andersonville) with friend and fellow author Jim Christina (Taggert, Still Waters, and more), so head over here and check it out –

Be warned though – I’m a better writer than I am a speaker.

Published in: on July 22, 2015 at 2:09 am  Leave a Comment  

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