So June 28 marks the debut of my ‘new’ Western historical novel Buff Tea from Texas Review Press.
This one’s a straight up no-ghoulies coming of age tale set in 1874, telling the story of an unnamed young man who leaves an upper class home in Chicago to travel west, in the hopes of finding adventure and new experiences enough to fill the Great American Novel.
He attempts to work his way westward on the fledgeling Atchison-Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad as a track layer, but quickly finds the work ill-suited to his demeanor and leaves his fellow laborers to sign on with a buffalo hunting outfit that’s just lost a skinner out on the plains to an attack of Cheyenne Dog Soldiers.
The outfit is led by a grizzled, near legendary old ex-Indian fighter named Ephron ‘War Bag’ Tyler, and includes Roam Welty, a Negro ex-cavalry scout, chief skinner Fat Jack McDade, lanky braggart and expert rifle shot Fuke Latouche, and unusually pious muleskinner Monday Loman.
As the season progresses, these disparate characters change the narrator from a naive young dreamer to a reliable man, and he cuts his teeth among the blood and sweat of the Texas killing fields. Then an enemy from War Bag’s past reappears, pursuing a very old vendetta, and draws blood. War Bag rallies the men to a new cause, and a new hunt, one born of a blind and terrible vengeance that threatens to consume the whole outfit. In the end, the narrator must choose between pursuing a course of sanity by way of murder, or surrender himself to the old man’s madness and death.
The title, ‘Buff Tea’ refers to a term from the buffalo hunter’s lingo, ‘buffalo tea’ – the stagnant, hair-strewn water that’s left over in a shallow buffalo wallow, here a metaphor for that one strong and bitter sip of reality all boys must one day taste before they become men.
It’s been a long road getting Buff Tea out there, going on eleven years. I’m very pleased to see it finally in print and hope you’ll take a look, and enjoy it if you do. I realize it definitely seems like a departure from my usual fare, though in reality this is the sort of book I first set out to write. There’s a lot of me in this one.
Look for an excerpt here sometime soon.
In the meantime, it’s up for preorder on Amazon.com. Here’s a link –