The rider rounded his back, hunching himself forward against the cold. His woollen coat was buttoned tight to the neck; a strip of blanket from his bed-roll tied about his head, holding the brim of his hat tight down over his ears. His face was smeared with dirt and prickly with several days’ growth of beard. Here and there stubble hung with beads of frost.
He pushed his knees into his horse’s sides, moving him sideways and up along the slope. Anxious for distance yet careful. If the animal slipped badly or caught his hoof against a piece of rock and stumbled …
He stopped the thought, turned heavily in the saddle and looked back to where his partner rocked unsteadily as he rode; the white smoke of his breath showing clearly on the air as he whistled a tune the man did not recognise.
If one horse went they could ride double – for a time. Then they would be on foot in that expanse of country. Moving so slow the cold would cut through to their skin, the snow would rot their boots, ice frost over their eyelashes.
When the other man drew level, he turned once more and looked back at something he could barely see.
A black speck moving right to left like a fly across the contours of a map. Sometimes closer, sometimes further off.
He cursed and spat, wiping the sleeve of his coat back and forth across his face.
‘Best move on.’
Midway down to the level of the plain, the snow began to fall more heavily; a white bead curtain the men were tempted to push aside with their hands. If it continued like this, he might no longer be able to watch them from above; he would have to descend and seek them out.
Face to face.
The man opened his mouth and caught a snowflake on his tongue. For the first time in days his face cracked into something approaching a smile.
If that happened, they might do it. They might just.
The above is a newly (yesterday!) edited (trimmed) version of the opening pages of Evil Breed, the first of the Lawmen series of westerns, which were written between 1977 and 1980, by myself and Angus Wells alternately, and originally published by Coronet Books. All six in the series are due to be republished as e-books by Piccadilly Publishing, beginning this March with Evil Breed. Yours, as far as I understand it, for roughly the price of one and a half flat whites.
4 thoughts on ““The Lawmen” Book 1 : ‘Evil Breed’”
I hope a new generation discovers these!!
Well, maybe. Though I suspect the average age of any potential readers will not accurately be described as ‘new’. What was interesting for me – and as a writer you might find this interesting – was the impossibility of copying what I had written close on 50 years ago without editing it – mostly, trimming & tightening, without, hopefully, making it something too different from the rest of the text.
It would be impossible not to edit, even if the original was acceptable at the time. We mature as writers and readers’ expectations change. Styles change, and we probably question ourselves more than once we did, with the need to be more sensitive about political correctness.
Nothing like a good old Western.