One hanged man.
Two vanished cowboys.
Three hundred missing cattle.
The Crazy Mountains are devouring everything they see.
Everett Dawson, Montana’s newest Stock Detective, has been sent from Helena down to the Crazy Mountains. Cattle are going missing in the Crazies and Everett is charged with finding these modern-day rustlers and bringing them in.
When he arrives, he finds a hanged cowboy and a heap of questions. Was it suicide or was it murder? Why are cowboys fleeing the Crazies? Far from a simple investigation, Everett’s case plunges deep into the mountains’ dark past.
Lawrence Jackson, the bad boy who runs the Lazy Twenty Two, was the last man to see the dead cowboy alive. There’s a whole forest fire of smoke swirling around Lawrence, and where there’s smoke, there’s flame… and maybe even murder.
But Everett is drawn to Lawrence, and if he takes the risk Lawrence offers, will Everett find what he craves, or will the Crazies claim their next victim?
What was my Inspiration for Hell and Gone?
I love the west, and living out in the country, and with rural/ranch living. I myself live in a rural area between several farms and ranches, and I spend my time as often as I can working with the horse and the stables scattered around the area. I have a particular fondness for horses, and both follow and admire amazing cutting displays in Western-style equestrian shows. (Cutting, for those perhaps not familiar, is a Western equestrian competition where a horse and rider work together before a panel of judges to handle and maneuver cattle in under 2.5 minutes, called a run. It stems from the Old West cowboy practice of “running a cut through a herd” or “running a cutting horse.” No knives or harm to the animal!)
I love classic Westerns and the mythos of the Old West. I always wanted to write a story embracing that love, and I slowly came up with the idea for Hell and Gone. I knew I wanted to write a modern-day Western, a cowboy mystery/thriller with a hefty dose of gay romantic suspense thrown in.
My first objective was to saturate the novel in life, to paint with words the breathless landscape of the West, and in this case, the Crazy Mountains in southwestern Montana. I wanted the reader to feel like they had fallen into the pages, that they were right there, in those mountains and forests, and living alongside the cowboys and lawmen as they pursued their killers and cattle rustlers.
As for characters, you’ve got two strong men, forces of nature unto themselves, who collide headlong in the mountains. You’ve got Lawrence Jackson, the mountain’s Bad Boy and lead cowboy on the Lazy Twenty-Two ranch. Lawrence has a mouth on him that gets him in trouble every time he opens it, and a temper to match, but he’s got his heart on his sleeve, and he’s damned near screaming for someone to come help before the rustling and disappearances get worse.
And you’ve got Everett Dawson, the stock detective sent to the Crazies to investigate these cattle thefts and the disappearances of cowboys that no one, save Lawrence, seems to want to talk about. Everett, fresh out of the Army after a disastrous series of deployments in Afghanistan, wanted to bury himself in Nowheresville and avoid any messy problems or people. The Crazies, however, are shaping up to be as messy as they come.
When Everett arrives, he finds a hanged man and a confusion about how he died: was it suicide or was it murder? Why was he found on Lawrence’s land? Was Lawrence involved? And is his death connected to the cattle rustling throughout the mountains?
Everett pairs up with Lawrence and rides deep into the Crazies to investigate, all the while wondering if he’s riding beside a murderer.
And if he is, why is he pulled toward Lawrence, craving him in a way he hasn’t craved in man in years?
It’s a fast-paced thriller/mystery, saturated in cowboy and Western atmosphere, and hopefully a fun ride for readers.
I had a hell of a time writing this novel and I hope everyone enjoys Hell and Gone.
What do you think of when you picture that genre? Far-away times? Distant generations? Events where there couldn’t possibly be an emotional connection to you at all, other than the intrigue of a historian?
What does it mean to write recent history?
Contemporary fiction is defined, as a genre, as anything written from the 1950s forward. To me, that seems a bit broad. I would personally look at a novel from the 1950s, 1960s, or 1970s and feel it was historical, but maybe that’s because I wasn’t alive during those decades.
But what about writing recent history? Things that have happened that we ALL remember? Pivot points in history upon which our memories, our identities, and our entire worlds seem to turn?
In Whisper, Kris and David (and other associated characters), live and breathe within the world of our recent past. The novel opens on the morning of September 11, 2001, at 8:46 AM, when American Airlines Flight 11 slams into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in Manhattan, New York.
Kris is in the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, CTC, when the attack happens. He’s a junior CIA officer, two years into his role, and has been relegated to the dregs of the agency—the Afghanistan desk.
For the first part of the novel, we follow Kris and the CIA as they leap into high gear and struggle to respond to the attacks. Who, why, how are questions that must be answered. Kris is instrumental in identifying al-Qaeda as the culprits behind the attack.
This launches the CIA into preparation for an all-out war against al-Qaeda, and their state sponsors, the Taliban, in Afghanistan. In 2001, the US military could not mobilize fast enough for an invasion of Afghanistan. The president called on the CIA to go in first, within two weeks of the attacks, while the ruins still smoldered in New York and in DC, and to begin laying the ground work for the invasion.
Kris struggles with certain truths through the workup to the invasion and once on the ground in Afghanistan. He’s facing a war on three fronts. His teammates don’t care for him, he’s fighting against his self-castigating conscience for choices he could have made differently, and there’s an actual war he’s suddenly in the middle of, thrust into the crux of history by a twist of fate: he, in being relegated to the sidelines on the Afghanistan desk, becomes a singularly indispensable person following September 11, 2001.
While writing the CIA’s invasion of Afghanistan, and their quest to secure the assistance of the Northern Alliance forces arrayed against the Taliban, I went to great pains to write the history as accurately and truthfully as could be portrayed while inserting fictional characters into actual events. The members of the CIA insertion team that I created are all entirely fictional. The real-life men who comprised Operation Jawbreaker are both CIA and American heroes.
I tried to tell Kris and David’s story at the same time I painted the picture of the Afghanistan invasion led by the CIA. Kris and David undertake missions that the actual CIA officers did: mapping the front lines, using laser-guided SOFLAMS to target-designate Taliban and al-Qaeda positions for bombing runs, and following Bin Laden to his mountain hideout in Tora Bora.
Below are photos from the actual mission:
Following the CIA’s invasion and the fall of the Taliban in Kabul, al-Qaeda retreated to their mountain camps around Tora Bora. The hunt for Bin Laden in the mountains lasted through November and into early December. Though the Special Forces team was within feet of Bin Laden at one point, they were unable to capture him. Bin Laden slipped through the Spin Ghar mountains and made his way into the remote tribal regions of Pakistan, where he hid for some time. In the novel, I recount the Battle of Tora Bora through David’s eyes.
After Tora Bora, the novel follows Kris and David onto the CIA’s next priority: capturing and interrogating al-Qaeda’s highest-level commanders. Kris is intimately involved in the capture of the CIA’s first high-value target…
What do you think when you read “historical fiction”?
How soon is too soon, when writing about recent history?
Is there a different feel to reading recent history than there is to history from a more distant time?
"WOW. This is an absolutely amazing book! I was so captivated that I read it that night, all in one sitting!"
- The Blogger Girls -
"I think this might be a MM crossover tale that'll appeal to girls, guys, readers of MM and readers of thriller/suspense tales."
- Divine Magazine -
"The story hooked me from the first page to the last and since then I’ve been back and re-read it. Beautifully written, it has drama, angst, action, men in uniform, fire, bullets, bombs and some oh-so-sweet moments. This is one of my fav books of all time. Enemies Of The State is a literary orgasm."
- Sinfully MM Romance Books -
"Enemies of the State seriously blew me away. I see this being one of my top 10 reads of the year."
- QUEERcentric Books -
"I was blown away by the premise and the pacing of this story. ... The peripheral characters and the various locations used in the book create a full, rich world that is entirely plausible for reality where there is no need to suspend any beliefs about what is or isn't real. This is an astounding book that is absolutely a must read - five stars of thrilling incredibleness!"
- Alpha Book Club -
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