Outrage at Blanco has an interesting history. What I set out to do was to write a western novel like the kind I admired so much by people like Harry Whittington, Donald Hamilton, Clifton Adams, Marvin H. Albert, and many others who wrote what were essentially crime novels with a western setting. The books were fast-paced fiction, lean and tough. I loved reading them, and I wanted to write something similar.
When I began the book, I didn’t know that Ellie Taine was the main character. What I had in mind was something else entirely. By the end of the first chapter, however, Ellie had pretty much taken over. I couldn’t think of any westerns with a woman like her in the lead, so I tried to shut her down. Didn’t work. She was a strong woman, and if she was going to take over, I figured I’d better just get out of her way. The resulting book wasn’t what I’d thought it would be, exactly. It was even better, or so I thought.
My agent thought so, too, and she sold it to the first editor who saw it. It was going to appear as part of the long-running Double D series of westerns published by Doubleday, and I couldn’t have been happier. The series had been around for many years. Louis L’Amour had written Hopalong Cassidy novels for it as Tex Burns. Elmer Kelton had written for it. So had just about every other western writer you can name.
But not me. Before the book appeared, the line was killed. I like to think that the decision to publish my book had nothing to do with that. I as disappointed, but I was paid the full advance, and the rights to the book reverted to me.
A couple of years later I had a new agent, and he asked me if I had any unsold manuscripts. I told him about Outrage at Blanco, and he asked to see it. The next thing I knew, he’d sold it to Dell Books, a Doubleday imprint, for more than the original advance. I liked the irony. Not only that, but the editor wanted to do a two-book contract with the second book being a sequel featuring Ellie Taine. I was more than happy to take the deal, and so Texas Vigilante came to be. The editor was pleased with that one, too, and talked to me about a third book with Ellie. I worked on an outline, but before I turned it in, the editor had moved on and the deal was off. So the world was spared a trilogy.
Lee Goldberg, one of the publishers of Brash Books, liked the novels, too. He thought they’d make a great western movie and asked about writing a screenplay based on them. We came to an agreement, and he did a terrific job. There were a couple of times when I even thought the movie might get made. It came very close to becoming a four-part TV miniseries for a cable network until some key financing fell through. It would have been great, but it didn’t happen. As Maxwell Smart would say while holding his thumb and forefinger a millimeter apart, “Missed it by that much.” That doesn’t mean you can’t read the screenplay, however. If all goes well, Brash Books will eventually publish a special edition of both Ellie Taine novels that includes the screenplay. I’m really looking forward to that.