If James Garner is your Clint Eastwood, Jackson Speed might be for you

A few days ago, I wrote a post wherein I describe people who should not bother reading the Jackson Speed novels.

I thought it was only fair that I also put together a list of those readers who might enjoy the Jackson Speed Memoirs and should therefore be reading them.

 

If James Garner is your Clint Eastwood

There was a time when I thought that folks who enjoy a good Western would also make good Speed fans. Though most of the Speed novels published so far take place during or around the time of the American Civil War, I’ve always known that eventually the action would shift to a Western setting.

And, as is true with The Outlaw Josey Wales or The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly, the American Civil War and the traditional Western should never be completely separated. Much of the lawlessness of the “Wild West” was a direct result of the Civil War veterans who sought their fortune to the west in a hard and untamed land.

So knowing that one day Jackson Speed would rub elbows with the likes of Billy the Kid and Buckshot Roberts and would ride with the Pinkertons, I always considered the Speed novels to be akin to Westerns.

But I trip on a specific point.

Most Westerns feature as the protagonists brave and hard men who fear nothing. They are fast with a gun and are modern-day knights, chivalrous and noble.

If you love a good Western, there’s a pretty good chance that you want your heroes to be heroic.

Jackson Speed is not that. He’s a coward who stumbles into his adventures, and rather than putting on the white hat and figuring a way to beat the guy in the black hat, Speed is always trying to figure out how to get out of the trouble he’s in. And the color of the hat he wears is always whatever is most convenient for the moment.

I think about some of James Garner’s movies, particularly “Support Your Local Gunfighter.”

Speed is much more the conman with loose morals, more similar to Latigo, than he is Marshal Jed Cooper, the trail-hardened gunslinger.

Jackson Speed is the classic lovable rogue: Rhett Butler, Maverick, Han Solo. If he wasn’t, then how does he manage to always get the girl?

So if James Garner is your Clint Eastwood, and you like your heroes to be a bit on the cowardly side, you’ll probably enjoy the Jackson Speed Memoirs.

 

If you love history

I am meticulous when it comes to the historical settings of the Jackson Speed books, and I can all but guarantee that even the most avid of armchair historians will learn something in the Jackson Speed books. Some of the books are more heavily footnoted than others – Orange Turnpike, High Tide, and In the Rush all have numerous footnotes to assist in setting the historical context of the books.

In researching the books, I go to as many primary sources as I can. When historical figures make a cameo in the Jackson Speed books, I try very hard to be true and accurate to the character of the man or woman resurrected in the novels.

When describing battles or historical events, I attempt to recreate those as exactly as I can, and I will bend my story to fit the historical record before I will rewrite history to fit my narrative. And when I cannot tell the story I want to tell without altering history, I make a note of it in the footnotes to preserve the historical record.

I do this because I have both a passion and respect for history.

As a result, I also dig deep into my research to find the bizarre and outrageous and forgotten bits of history that you’ll not find in your text books.

Where – other than a Jackson Speed novel – are you going to discover the true and accurate reason why the Georgia volunteers were not taken into battle by Zachary Taylor in the Mexican-American War? Almost nowhere. That true and accurate historical accounting took extensive research, and it’s a moment of history that has almost entirely disappeared from memory.

And that was just a scene from the first book. Similar scenes can be found in any of the Jackson Speed novels.

 

If you’ve gone looking for Historical Fiction and you’re sick of finding this:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nothing against Jasmine Ashford (if that’s your real name!). Her books sell significantly better than mine, and she’s got dozens and dozens more 4- and 5-star reviews than I have.

But if you’ve gone looking for historical fiction, and you found this, and you were horrified, I promise that Jackson Speed is not this.

“Shauna had loved Aaron so much; their eyes locking when they met on the street one day. She wasn’t stupid though; she understood completely that a Lord could never marry a peasant, no matter how much they thought they loved each other. She had accepted that from the beginning, just as she accepted everything about him. His smile, his blue eyes, his laugh; his penchant to dream. She knew everything about him as he did her, and she loved him with all of her heart.”

Jackson Speed is nothing at all like this.

 

You like your humor dry and dark

The Jackson Speed Memoirs are not laugh-out-loud novels, but they are rich in humor. Much of it is a dark humor, as a fair number of the punchlines are centered on some man’s misfortune or death. All of it is a dry humor.

If you like slapstick comedy because you don’t get the joke unless someone smacks you with it, you might not laugh much while reading Jackson Speed. But if a subtle joke that makes you crack a smile is how you roll, you’ll probably enjoy the Jackson Speed novels.

 

You’re sick of political correctness

I don’t go out of my way to write non-PC novels, but I am certainly not creating characters who have 21st Century sensibilities and putting them into novels about the 1800s.

Some of my characters are bigots. Jackson Speed is a womanizer. The only thing his wife hates more than an abolitionist is William Tecumseh Sherman.

I don’t seek to write offensive books for the sake of being offensive, but if you feel like everyone is too uptight all the time and you think an off-color joke shouldn’t be a crime, you might find that the Jackson Speed novels are just the right amount of offensive.

If you are easily offended, please see my list of people who should not read my books. It does not (but should have) included people who are easily offended.

 

Nipples and bigamy are cool with you

You think it’s funny that an old man in his 80s and 90s, writing his memoirs, recalls all the women he bedded by the size, color and shape of their nipples.

As noted earlier, Speed is a womanizer. He gets belly-to-belly with as many women as he possibly can in 100,000 words or so, and in writing his memoirs his favorite thing is to reminisce about those women. Often, he recalls them by specific features, in particular their nipples. And he refers to their breasts as “teats.”

The sex is not explicit, but there is a lot of it. Jackson Speed’s arch nemesis throughout each of the novels is the “toothed vagina.” Every escapade and dangerous adventure that Jackson Speed encounters is brought about by his desire to bed some woman, and he is only married to a few of them.

If this isn’t enough to put you off the books, then you are almost surely going to love the Jackson Speed novels.

 

You love a good adventure

The Jackson Speed novels are full of adventure. Some of them read like a spy novel, and some are military adventures.

Speed’s life span takes him from the Mexican-American War, through the 1849 California Gold Rush, into the War of Northern Aggression, and out to the Wild West. In that time he spends time as a Texas Ranger, a Pinkerton, an officer and a spy for both the Union and the Confederacy, an outlaw, a prospector, an Indian and he rides with the 7th Cavalry. He’s a member of the Knights of the Golden Circle, and he helps fugitive slaves flee the South.

You don’t have to know the history to enjoy the adventure.

 

So if James Garner is your Clint Eastwood and you get a kick out of a hero who will do any anti-heroic deed to get himself out of trouble, then I’d recommend the Jackson Speed Memoirs to you.

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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.

Help a brother out, leave a Jackson Speed review

Help a brother out ... please leave a review if you've enjoyed a book.

Help a brother out … please leave a review if you’ve enjoyed a book.

If you have read and enjoyed any of my books, I would really appreciate a short review on Amazon. Reviews help sell books. Even if I handed you a copy and you didn’t buy it from Amazon, you can still go to Amazon and leave a review.

It doesn’t have to be long or thought out or grammatically correct. A word or two: “Fun read!” or “Enjoyed it!” would be very helpful to me. One of the best reviews I’ve received was from someone who said the book was so funny “I cried and almost pee my underwear.” Do I care that her pee is present-tense and her tears are past-tense? Not at all. I’m just glad she’s soaking wet from top to bottom.

Or, if you’re a bit more verbose, a longer review is always very helpful, too. If you can describe the book or what you enjoyed about it – even what could have been improved – all of these things are worthwhile and helpful to other readers who are considering reading the book.

Obviously, if you were ambivalent about the book (3 stars) then that’s not going to help me, and if you absolutely hated it (1 star or 2 stars) then I’d prefer you keep your opinion to yourself. But if you hated the book so much that you feel compelled to leave a one star review, I do hope you’ll be specific about why you hated it and give other potential readers an honest accounting of your opinion.

But I think I’d rather have an honest 1 star review than a fake 5 star review.

I know people are enjoying the Jackson Speed books because sales of all four of the Jackson Speed novels are consistent. Clearly folks are reading a book and coming back for the next book in the series.

I was recently lamenting the lack of reviews to a friend of mine. I told him that I’ve had more people email me through my blog to tell me they enjoyed the books than have posted a review on Amazon – and that’s something I don’t understand. Especially when Kindle readers get a prompt to post a review when they finish the book. For someone to email me through the blog requires at least another step or two.

It might be that people get to the end of a Jackson Speed book but never get the prompt because they don’t reach the last page after the endnotes. It may be that the endnotes are dooming me from getting reviews.

Based on my sales reports from 2015, it looks like I picked up somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 new readers in the United Kingdom and another 30 new readers in the United States who read all four of the Jackson Speed novels just in 2015. There were others, too, who read some but not all of the books. That doesn’t include the folks who bought books in 2014 (and we won’t talk about 2012 and 2013 when my sales were so poor I thought about never writing another novel again).

If half of those people who bought all four books in 2015 (and presumably did so because they enjoyed them) would leave a review, it would help me out so much. Instead, I only received one review on a Jackson Speed book in all of 2015.

All the conventional wisdom on novel writing tells me that reviews will improve my sales. Someone recently told me that Amazon has an algorithm that kicks in when a book reaches 50 reviews, and writers find it difficult to get traction before they have those 50 reviews. At the rate I’m going, I’ll be dead and gone before my books start getting traction.

I am deeply grateful to everyone who has read a Jackson Speed book and come back for a second one. Those people who have read all four of the books are the people who keep me writing. I love you folks more than I love my dogs (and you come in very close behind my children, and on some days you’ve got them beat, too). You can’t understand the feeling I get when I see a copy of El Teneria sell and a few days later I see a Blood Tubs sell and then an Orange Turnpike and then a High Tide. It’s like I can watch someone enjoying the Speed books (and yes, I realize, it may not necessarily be the same person, but I like to imagine it is).

So please don’t misunderstand me begging for reviews to think I’m not grateful. Every time I look at a sales report and see that people are reading my books, I am humbled and so very thankful.

But I really need some reviews, too.

Seriously, me begging for reviews is so much better than me begging for spare change on the side of the road. Help a brother out.

Exciting stuff in the Jackson Speed universe

The cover for Jackson Speed and the Fugitive Slaves.

The cover for Jackson Speed and the Fugitive Slaves.

I’ve got some exciting stuff going on in the Jackson Speed universe.

Speed fans will be glad to know their favorite 19th Century rascal will soon be making a new appearance. Jackson Speed and the Fugitive Slaves, a novella, will be released April 22, and it will be followed closely by a second novella in which Speed meets for the first time famed detective Allan Pinkerton. Speed fans will know that Pinkerton is a recurrent (and favorite) character in the Speed universe, but I’ve not yet explored how the two came to be friends.

More noticeably, to followers on Facebook and readers of my blog, I’m also re-branding the books. As part of the re-brand, I’ve designed new covers for most of the books (I’m keeping the Alex McArdell cover of High Tide, but changing the rest of them). I wanted a more consistent look to the book covers and something that would allow me to more quickly publish Jackson Speed stories.

In the past, I’ve been frustrated by the rate at which I released novels. I’m getting about one novel written each year, and I’d like to publish Speed stories faster than that.

To improve my novel publishing rate, I’ve decided to release shorter novellas – stories that hit somewhere around the 30,000 word mark that I can write and publish every four to six months. My plan is to release two or three or four novellas a year. I will release the novellas only as Kindle e-books, and when I have three or four I will combine them together for a full novel to be released as both e-books and paperbacks.

I may not have a thousands of fans out there, but I know what it’s like to be engaged in a series of books and eager for the next one to be published and waiting on an author who is too, too slow. All the evidence is that I’m picking up more readers every month, and I’d like to be more accommodating to the folks who enjoy these stories.

So in between the full-length novels, I’ll publish novellas, and that should mean three to five new Speed stories will be out every year so long as I can keep coming up with historical events from the 19th Century that deserve to have a scoundrel inserted among them.

Hopefully, too, the novellas can serve as an entry-point for new readers who don’t necessarily want to invest in a novel-length book but want to see if Speed is the sort of character they’ll love to hate.

As readers know, I jump from point to point in Speed’s life, so the books and stories do not have to be read in chronological order or even in the order I released them. About the only ones that should be read back-to-back are Orange Turnpike followed by High Tide because one leads directly into the other.

If you’re among those people who enjoy a Jackson Speed novel, thank you so much! I’m grateful to everyone who buys a book or reads a book through Kindle Unlimited. If you enjoy the books, please give a thought to leaving a review at amazon.com. Reviews are especially helpful to readers who are trying to decide whether or not to give a new indie-author a try.

And let me know what you think of the new covers! Leave a comment or shoot me a message through the blog.