Two years in the making, “In the Rush” is now available

My wife, and first reader, Jean models the Kindle version of “Jackson Speed In the Rush.”

I wrote the first Jackson Speed novel in 28 days. It was a mad dash of late nights, early mornings, writing at the dinner table. My wife Jean thought I had lost my mind, and she worried she had lost her husband.

Over the years I’ve started and never finished a lot of novels. Back in the mid-1990s I was writing a novel I was really excited about. I spent months writing the novel. It was an enormous tome. I don’t know for sure, but if I had to guess, it was probably around 150,000 words (by way of comparison, most of the Jackson Speed novels are fewer than 100,000) and it was not even close to being finished.

Then I lost interest and quit writing.

And I’ve done that a lot with different ideas I had for novels. For many years, I didn’t even try any more.

But when I first had the idea for the Jackson Speed novels, it was like an epiphany. I can’t describe how excited I was about the concept, and I was just desperate to get the story written. And I was worried that if I stopped long enough to take a breath I would lose my momentum, and poor Ol’ Speedy would go the way of all the other novels I’d ever started.

So I wrote feverishly and didn’t stop to take a breath.

It was a weird month.

I’m not saying that writing El Teneria in 28 days made it a better book, but I finished it. And published it.

Five years later, I’m really pleased to announce that I’ve now published the sixth book in the Jackson Speed series.

Jackson Speed In the Rush was two years in the writing.

It was not the feverish, non-stop writing marathon that El Teneria was.

When I first envisioned Jackson Speed – that morning I had the epiphany – there were four very specific books I planned to write about Jackson Speed’s life. I knew there would be (or could be) many others, but I had four specific episodes in mind.

In the Rush is the last of those four.

I knew I wanted to start Speed in the Mexican-American War. I knew I wanted him to be a Pinkerton spy saving Lincoln from the Baltimore plotters. I knew I wanted to put him at the Battle of Gettysburg. And I knew I wanted to send him to California as a Forty-Niner.

I also generally knew the story before I ever started writing it.

It’s hard for me to say, then, why this particular book took so long for me to write. One reason might be that I had to do more research for this novel than I have for the others.

Prior to writing Jackson Speed, my knowledge of the American Civil War was already vast. I’d read countless books on the subject, visited battlefields, watched documentaries. I am, obviously, what they call a “history buff,” and before Jackson Speed was ever an idea in my mind I had already done the bulk of the research for any novels set during the Civil War.

But In the Rush takes up episodes in history that were less familiar to me. My knowledge of the California Gold Rush and the Cherokee’s early days in Oklahoma was only surface knowledge. When I wrote Orange Turnpike and High Tide, ever bit of research material I needed was already on my book shelf in my office. But for In the Rush, I had to buy or borrow several books, and I spent countless hours on the Internet doing research.

In the Rush is slightly longer than High Tide, which up to now was the longest of the Jackson Speed books.

In the Rush is almost like two novels in one, with two distinct and separate stories being told. So readers may come away feeling like they’ve just read two novels.

If you’ve enjoyed the previous Jackson Speed novels, I don’t think you’ll find anything disappointing about Book 6 of the series. If you haven’t enjoyed previous Jackson Speed novels, you’ll like this one even less because it is a little bit longer.

And if you haven’t read the previous Jackson Speed novels, what are you even doing reading this? – Get yourself over to Amazon and start reading them!

So, if you’re ready for Book 6 of the Jackson Speed Memoirs, click here to get the Kindle version.

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Book 6 of the Jackson Speed series is now available

Jackson Speed In the Rush is now available to Kindle and Kindle app users!

The print version of the book should be available in the next couple of days.

I am massively pleased with this book, and very excited for Speed fans to get a look at it.

The Jackson Speed books do not follow the chronological order of his life, and this one – the sixth book in the series – actually takes readers back to where the first book left off. In Jackson Speed In the Rush, readers find Speed returning home from the war in Mexico, but as Bugs Bunny might say, Speed took a wrong turn in Albuquerque (actually, his wrong turn was in Dallas) and instead of returning to Georgia he goes off seeking gold in California.

But for Speed to get from war in Mexico to gold in California, he has to take an adventurous detour that leads him to the Spavinaw River in northeast Oklahoma. There he meets and spends time with the famous Cherokee chief Stand Watie.

Watie is an interesting person to me, and I really enjoyed writing the first half of the novel where Watie plays a role.

As I have noted previously, this book required a good bit more in-depth research than I usually have to do, and for about a month I was studying up on Watie quite a bit. I got caught up reading a great deal of his correspondence, and it was truly fascinating to me. I knew I was going to like the guy, though, when I discovered early on that he was the last Confederate general to surrender. I have big respect for anyone who is willing to stand his ground even when everyone else has thrown in the towel.

All of the books in The Jackson Speed Memoirs have a cast of characters of real people who really did some or all of the things depicted in the books.

Included in previous novels have been people like Devil Dan Sickles, Jefferson Davis, Ben McCulloch, Allan Pinkerton, Stonewall Jackson, Fitzhugh Lee and even Abraham Lincoln. I thoroughly enjoy writing about these historical people in the Jackson Speed novels. Pinkerton is probably my favorite historical person to write into a novel, but I really enjoy the process of discovering more about these individuals and trying to resurrect them on my pages.

In the Rush has another wonderful cast of characters joining Stand Watie.

Jesse Chisholm makes an appearance or two in the book. Chisholm, of course, lent his name to the famous cattle trail. Most interesting to me about Chisholm, though, was that he routinely adopted children who had been kidnapped by Plains Indians. The Comanche even purposefully kidnapped kids just so they could sell them to Chisholm. Jesse tried to find the families of the children he rescued, but when he could not, he just took them as his own.

John Rollin Ridge, a tragic character if ever there was one, also appears in the novel. I felt a deep connection to Ridge because he, too, was a journalist and novelist. I’m convinced the novel does not do justice to Ridge as a person, but I needed him to play a specific role in my novel and then I needed to leave him in Fayetteville, but it was always a nagging shame to me that I could not incorporate Ridge into the novel in a bigger way.

My own seventh great-grandfather shows up in the novel, though I’m afraid he isn’t cast in the best light. Great Grandpa Nathan Boone was about 70-years-old in 1848 and by then his health wasn’t great and he was in the habit of drinking heavily and reminiscing even more heavily. I think my portrayal of Boone is fair, but he’d have acquitted himself much better if we’d have caught him at a younger age.

Obadiah Bush, an ancestor to two U.S. Presidents, also makes a convenient cameo in the novel. I was able to find very little factual information about Obadiah Bush that would allow me to draw him out as an accurate character, and so the Obadiah Bush in the Jackson Speed novels is mostly fantasy. Sometimes when I incorporate historical people into my novels, the novel bends around the historical character. Sometimes when I incorporate historical people into my novels, the person bends around the plot of the novel. Obadiah Bush does all the bending here.

And finally, Joaquin Murrieta and Three-Finger Jack (Manuel Garcia) provide Speed with the antagonists he needs so that he can do that thing he does second best: Run like hell!

This isn’t the first time that Murrieta has appeared in fiction, so he’s pretty darn good at it. He’s quite a bit more of a villain for Robert Peecher than he was for John Rollin Ridge, but I think you’ll like him anyway.

I’ll note, too, that Slim and Brother were a couple of guys I knew in college. They were roommates in Beeson Hall at Georgia College, and I used to hang out some with Slim and Brother. They provided inspiration and nicknames for a couple of the characters in the novel.

So, with a cast full of fascinating historical people, I hope In the Rush is as fun and entertaining as it is informative.

To get the Kindle version, click here: Jackson Speed In the Rush.

Follow me on Facebook for video updates

I have shot a few videos in the past where I talk about Jackson Speed (such as the one posted above), and I expect I’ll continue to do some longer ones like that in the future. However, I decided recently to start doing some short (2-3 minute) videos on a somewhat regular basis, and I’m going to post directly to the Jackson Speed Facebook page.

Mostly in these videos I’ll talk about the Jackson Speed books or the research I’m doing for the current novel. If you find the history contained in the novels interesting, I’d really encourage you to follow the Jackson Speed page on Facebook to see these videos.

As I research the Jackson Speed Memoirs, I end up learning so much information that never gets into the books. But I love being able to share that information with other people. So Facebook seems like a good place to do that.

I don’t intend to post all of these videos on Youtube or on my website, so the Facebook page is going to be the best place to find them.

If you’re wondering why I’m not going to post them anywhere other than Facebook, the reason is simple enough: We live just far enough out in the country that my internet is pretty poor. It’s not dial-up poor, but uploading video is a time consuming challenge. I start hogging all the internet bandwidth, and suddenly my sons are complaining to me that they can’t watch the latest Ozzy Man video, and my wife is yelling at me because she’s trying to watch videos of dogs doing tricks.

So if you want to keep up with where I am writing the next novel or you want to pick up some interesting tidbits of history, click the link here and like the page. And, of course, please feel free to share it with your friends.

‘Fugitive Slaves’ now in print

First released only as an ebook, "Jackson Speed and the Fugitive Slaves" is now available in print as well.

First released only as an ebook, “Jackson Speed and the Fugitive Slaves” is now available in print as well.

I published the Kindle ebook version of Jackson Speed and the Fugitive Slaves a couple of months ago, and debated back and forth with myself on whether to release a print version now or later.

Because “Fugitive Slaves” is a shorter novella, initially my thought had been to write a couple more shorter stories and include three stories in one printed book but release each of the novellas separately as ebooks.

Then a couple of weeks ago I got a letter from Ketchikan, Alaska. The man who wrote the letter said he had enjoyed the first three Jackson Speed books but was having difficulty getting the fifth book (I’m assuming that’s because he reads the printed books rather than the ebooks).

Getting that letter was a big deal to me. I’ve gotten several emails from Speed fans and some Facebook messages and messages through my website, but I’ve never before gotten a real, old-fashioned, hand-written letter from a reader before.

I was thrilled! A letter in the mail! I thought only bills came in the mail. What an awesome thing that someone I’ve never met would read some of my books and feel compelled to write me a letter. Maybe it seems silly that I would be so excited about it, but it felt like a big deal to me.

Any time I get an email, I respond to it, so of course I was going to respond to the letter. But I didn’t want to send my friend in Ketchikan a letter trying to explain how “Fugitive Slaves” will be available as a printed book when I have two more short stories finished. So I decided to go ahead and format the story for a printed book, finish out the cover and publish it.

This week I got the first copies of the printed book in the mail, and today I sent a letter to Ketchikan along with a signed copy of “Fugitive Slaves.”

This is the long way around to announce that “Jackson Speed and the Fugitive Slaves” is now available in paperback.

It’s the first printed book to have the new cover design (I still intend to change out the covers on most of the other books, but haven’t done it yet) and I’m really happy with the way it looks. I’ve opted for the matte finish (which wasn’t available when I started publishing Jackson Speed novels), and I far prefer that texture and look.

I’ll also add that I learned something new today.

I sometimes mail off signed books to readers for book giveaways or folks who contact me and want a signed copy. In addition to the book headed to Alaska, I was mailing some other books today, too. The Postmaster (or is she a Postmistress?) asked if the packages contained books. When I told her they were books, she told me that the Post Office has a rate specific for books. I had no idea! It cut the price of postage in half, and that’s not a bad thing at all.

And finally, let me encourage you to watch this space, especially if you’re a fan of the Speed books and are curious about some of the historical context. In the next few weeks I’m going to be shooting some video where I talk about some of the events that are depicted in the books.

So many of the Speed fans are in the United Kingdom or spread out across the United States, and all of the author talks I have done so far have been pretty close to home, so most of the fans of the books don’t have an opportunity to hear me talk about this stuff. So what I thought I’d do is shoot video of me saying the things I say in author talks and post it online. I would expect the first one to be up by the end of the month or the first of October.

Jackson Speed: The Movie

In my ongoing effort to introduce more readers to Jackson Speed, I decided some time ago to shoot a video to promote the Jackson Speed novels.

I enlisted the help of my children who were all kind enough to assist me with the project. We had a pretty good time shooting the video, and I feel like Nathan and Robert have futures in acting if they so desire. My youngest, Robert, portrays Jackson Speed and my middle son, Nathan, portrays Mexican General Santa Anna.

My oldest son, Harrison, directed and produced the video for me.

I wrote the script and portray “the author” in the movie.

It’s campy and silly and funny – all things that I think appropriately reflect the Jackson Speed novels. When Harrison showed me the completed video, I had tears streaming down my face I was laughing so hard.

If you enjoy the video, please feel free to share it with your friends and enemies. If you read the books, please leave a review at Amazon.com. If the video compels you to read the novels, you can find them here: The Jackson Speed Memoirs.

Enjoy!

Jackson Speed novels are irreverent historical fiction

I love American history. A quick glance through my bookshelves at home and even my Kindle bookshelf, will reveal volume after volume about American history. Most of my personal study of American history has been directed at martial history – the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and World War II, mostly.

I can’t begin to guess how many books I’ve read about the War Between the States – books written by primary sources and books written a century or more after the war. I’ve read books that were nothing more than letters from soldiers and biographies and essays written by the battlefield commanders.

I suppose it would have been easy for me to write a novel or a series of novels set during the American Civil War that took an appropriately reverent attitude toward the subjects of my novels. Lee and Grant and Lincoln and Davis writ about properly with due respect. I could have turned these enormous statues of history into humans, I suppose, but still suitably solemn.

But what would be the point of that? After all, Killer Angels is already a book, ain’t it?

While I have respect for all these giants of history, it’s never lost on me that they are just men who did what they did during extraordinary times, and often as not they were neither extraordinary nor great. Some were bumbling morons with low morals and lower IQs. I present Dan Sickles as exhibit A. He may have won a Congressional Medal of Honor, but politics has always been politics.

No, when I decided to write a series of tomes about 19th Century America, my mission was to entertain with humor.

Thus was born Jackson Speed, a cowardly, lustful rascal who is driven only by his sense of self preservation and his lust for the fairer sex.

I patterned Jackson Speed after the uproariously hilarious Harry Flashman, the invention of George MacDonald Fraser because no series of books has ever so entertained me as the Flashman books (with the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy series taking a close second).

It didn’t hurt, either, that the idea for Jackson Speed came to me while I was simultaneously reading Shelby Foote’s The Civil War: A Narrative Volume I and re-reading Flashman.

Literally, when I had an epiphany the morning Jackson Speed was born, I had both Foote’s book and Fraser’s book in my hands.

Five books into the series, Jackson Speed has developed his own personality and is less Flashman and more Speed, though certainly he retains the characteristics of his lineage.

While Jeff and Michael Shaara have certainly done yeomen’s work in capturing the War Between the States with proper reverence, not many (or any?) authors have treated the subject with improper irreverence. So I figured there was a niche for my character.

Along the way, I’ve thoroughly researched my novels, and if you keep up with the footnotes at the back of the books, you stand a pretty good chance of learning something along the way.

None of this is to say that I will never write an appropriately hallowed novel about the men who fought in that war. While Jackson Speed’s adventures amuse me, I think they unrealistically jab at those terrible years when our country was torn apart. I am moved from time to time to write seriously about that war, and I’ve made notes and written bits and pieces here and there that may one day find themselves in a more serious novel.

But in the meantime, Ol’ Speedy is still entertaining me as I tell his irreverent tales.

Excerpt from High Tide: Early passes through Gettysburg

A view of the town of Gettysburg from Cemetery Hill.

A view of the town of Gettysburg from Cemetery Hill.

As long as I can remember, one of the many things about the War Between the States that fascinates me is the story of the civilians who lived through the battles.

Imagine sitting safe at home one day and the next day two armies with a combined 100,000 men descend upon your town of 3,000. And then they commence to killing each other, and when they leave, all your homes and public buildings are hospitals and there are more dead people on the hills around your town than there are townsfolk.

As I said, as long as I can remember I’ve been obsessed with this aspect of the American Civil War.

So as I prepared to write Jackson Speed at the High Tide, I knew that I wanted to place Speed in Gettysburg prior to the battle.

If you’ve read the book, you know that Speed arrives in Gettysburg in June, 1863, just a few weeks before the two armies.

What you may not know is that both the Confederate and Union army had large units pass through Gettysburg prior to the battle. In both instances, the citizens of Gettysburg interacted with the passing soldiers.

One of my favorite scenes from the book takes place as the Confederates are passing through Gettysburg prior to the battle. Jackson Speed is playing the role of a wounded Union officer on leave to recuperate from his wounds.

As unlikely as it seems, I believe the scene is consistent with actual events in terms of the friendly banter that took place between the Confederate invaders and the townspeople. The scene takes place on June 26, 1863 when Confederate General Jubal Early’s division passed through Gettysburg on its way to York, Pennsylvania. This is about five days prior to the battle. As Lee advanced north into Pennsylvania, very strict orders were in place to prevent looting and thievery and other bad behavior toward the citizens. In lieu of looting, Confederate soldiers sometimes took what they wanted and paid for it with Confederate cash which, of course, was worthless in Gettysburg (and pretty well worthless everywhere). So, maybe it’s splitting hairs to say they didn’t loot and steal.

The following is an excerpt from High Tide in which Jackson Speed, a spy for the Confederacy, encounters Jubal Early’s division of the Army of Northern Virginia in Gettysburg on June 26, 1863.

 

I won’t say that here and there they didn’t do some rotten things – vandalism and theft was the worst of it – but on the whole I thought Bobby Lee’s army behaved themselves very well. Those who might have been inclined to do worse to the women had fellow Confederates keeping a pretty sharp eye on them.

Mostly the soldiers walked through the town. I think they were intent on putting up a good show for the citizenry – as the cavalry had done – because soon enough Jube Early would be riding into town making demands for cash. In groups or sometimes in ones and twos, the Rebels engaged the women and men who were now almost universally coming out of their homes. Some shopped in stores. Many stopped by one of the city’s hotels or restaurants for a drink or two or three of whiskey. I saw for myself a small group of Southern privates bust into a sweets shop, roust out the owner and then pay him in Confederate bills for all they took.

I witnessed one rebel private who had clearly got hold of some liquor stumble into a yard where another private was sitting on the front steps. The boy on the steps had asked for food, and the woman of the house had gone inside to get him some. Having seen the woman moments ago, before she’d turned to go back into the house, the drunken private said something pretty rough about what he intended to do to the “Yankee bitch.”

The private on the steps had a pretty calm air about him. As I recall, he was picking at his fingernails with a knife, or maybe he was whittling a stick. Either way, he didn’t look up from his business. But he said pretty clear and loudly, “You do it, and I’ll report you.”

Whatever warnings were issued among the men to behave themselves must have carried with them the promise of swift and merciless punishment, for the threat of being reported was all it took for the drunken private. He did an about-face and fell back in with the rest of the marchers, muttering to himself but making no real objection.

I was at my ease walking among them in civilian clothes, and not a one of them paid me any mind. Nevertheless, with an invading army in the streets and whiskey available on every block, I decided I didn’t need to linger too long in the streets, so I returned to Jenny’s house where I found her on the front porch giving bread and butter to a group of soldiers.

“Cavorting with the enemy now?” I asked her as they wandered off.

Jenny shrugged. “They looked hungry,” she said, “and they’re causing no harm. It’s not as if they’re stealing or burning or killing. Most of them are just boys, anyway.”

Well, those who were boys were not much younger than Jenny herself, but her work as a spy had turned her into an old soul. Of course, these boys in the infantry had souls old enough, too.

It should say something of how Johnny Reb behaved that as Early’s army passed through Gettysburg, some searching houses and others demanding bread and butter, that I felt at ease enough to lounge on Jenny’s front porch with her, rocking in a chair. Lee’s army was in high spirits, and the worst I saw from any of them was gentle teasing.

“How come you ain’t fighting fer the Yankees?” one of them asked me, stopping at the white fence in front of Jenny’s house while Jenny and I watched the soldiers pass from her rocking chairs. He was a young man, probably around twenty years old, and he wore a hat with no crown, a pair of pants with a hole in one knee and a white shirt so grimy with road dirt you’d have thought it was butternut brown. A couple of his buddies – one of them wearing a hat with no brim, a thing I will not forget for between them they had one good hat for two heads – stopped with him, grinning like buffoons as he questioned me.

“Wounded at Antietam,” I told him.

“Antietam, eh?” he called back, thoughtful like. “I was at Antietam. May be I’m the one that did it?”

I grinned back at him. “Could be,” I said, adopting his thoughtful attitude. “I was wounded when a jack ass kicked me and broke my leg. You look very much like the fellow.”

His buffoon friends guffawed all the louder now, slapping my inquisitor on the back. “Haha! You do look like a jack ass, Mose,” one of them said.

Young Moses, without a quick enough wit to find retort, accepted his besting pretty well and laughed along with his friends. He stood at the fence for a moment longer, searching for some sort of response. In the end, he grinned widely, shook his head and said, “Well don’t ye get behind me or I’ll kick ye again.” And with that Moses and his friends continued on their way.

Those boys were in high spirits. I do not think that any of them even realized it was possible that they would not have Philadelphia or Washington D.C. within the week. I think they all just accepted as fact that wherever Bobby Lee wanted them to go they would win another victory.