Now Available: On The Far Horizon

ON THE FAR HORIZON

WESTERN, CRIME, THRILLER

CLINT WESTGARD

Cattle rustlers on the run, caught between a storm and someone bent on revenge. Cowboys pursued by the law and their own demons through a long night. A dive bar in the middle of nowhere hosts five criminals for a deal that goes terribly wrong.

These and other stories explore the lives of those who populate the west. Homesteaders with mysterious pasts they’d prefer to keep hidden. Women wronged by the men they love and caught up in events beyond their control. There are killers, thieves, cops on the make, and people just trying to get through their days with their eyes On The Far Horizon.

All of these characters, and many others, meet in this pulse-pounding collection that will keep you at edge of your seat.

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Excerpt: The Dane

In advance of the publication of The Dane on June 22, here is a short excerpt:

Nels bellied up to the bar, pushing past two young bucks. He shouted to Harold for a beer, slapping his hand on the table. “Goddamn Harry. Goddamn.”

“You’re hot as a poker,” Harold said, grinning as he filled a mug with lager. He handed it across the counter to Nels. “What’s got you fired up anyway?”

“Today is a red letter day, my friend. My wallet is full and I am going to drink my fill. That I guarantee.” He spoke with the faintest of Nordic accents, that the few Swedes in the area found unplaceable. They had never met a Dane from Slesvig, as he was quick to say.

“Good for you, Nels,” Harry said, reaching across to give him a slap on the shoulder.

Nels nodded his thanks and took a long pull on his beer, wiping the suds from his mustache. He was well known in Sunnynook, but then everyone was. It was a homesteaders town of about a couple hundred, bigger than most of the others in the area because it was on the railway and had a station house and an elevator. Farmers from thirty miles or more would bring their grain and cattle here to ship and sell.

That was what Nels had been doing as well, selling his cattle, to somebody down near Hanna. For a hell of price, as he kept thinking to himself, while he slapped the counter of the bar in rhythm to a song that only he could hear in his head. If harvest went off half as well as the cattle, well he’d be looking at his first great year here in the five since he’d settled.

He was a latecomer, compared to most everyone else. Most of the families had been settled here fifteen or twenty years. They’d built up their lands—or in the case of a good many, failed and buggered off somewhere else—and turned their sod shacks into sturdy houses. Nels was still working on that.

He was only one man himself, so he only needed one room, as he always said. And the cold of the Canadian prairie wasn’t so bad. No worse than his winters in Denmark. The damp there got into you worse, he told everyone. Went right to the bone and you couldn’t get it out, no matter what you did.

Not that he wouldn’t mind one of those catalog houses, ordered up and the plans and pieces sent in on the train. And if this year went like he thought it might…well, hell, he might be building next summer.

He finished off the last of his beer and waved at Harold for another, just as Wally Lindback tapped him on the shoulder. Nels turned to look him over and shook his hand. “What are you doing here, boy? Aren’t you too young to be in a place like this?”

“Dad would kill me if he found out,” Wally said, with an agreeable shrug.

Nels laughed. “I’ll spot you a beer.”

“Thanks,” Wally said. “Saves me asking. You seem flush tonight.”

“Been a hell of day, Wally. Hell of a day. Sold the cattle. Got a fine, fine price, I don’t mind telling you.”

“That’s great. And you got that crop coming too.”

“Still have ta get it off,” Nels said, though his grin said he thought that would be no problem. He waved the bartender over and ordered a beer for Wally and another for himself.

“Dad’s still broken up about his,” Wally said, a shadow passing across his face.

Nels frowned. “Yeah, that’s a hell of thing. That’s farming though. And he’s not the only one. Hail took a lot of good crops this year. Not mine for once though, not mine.”

Harold brought the two beer over and Nels passed one on to Wally, peeling off some bills to pay the tab. He raised his glass and Wally followed suit.

“Yeah,” Wally said, taking a sip of his beer while he looked past Nels at the others in the bar. “I wouldn’t maybe go telling everybody about your good fortune. They’re liable to get jealous.”

“Oh folks here are good,” Nels said, unconcerned. “Most are good farmers like your dad. They understand that some years will be good, some bad. You learn to roll with what life gives you. Can’t do otherwise.”

“Yeah,” Wally said, taking another drink. “Yeah.” But he did not appear to believe it.

The Dane is now available for preorder:
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Now Available: Border Crossing

BORDER CROSSING

A THRILLER

CLINT WESTGARD

It all seemed routine, until it wasn’t…

George O’Bannon is just minding his own business, trying to get through the Sapurzo border crossing. When he gets pulled in for an interrogation by the border guards, it seems a nuisance. But it will soon prove to be much more than that.

As the questions about his past mount and his answers grow more and more evasive, George will have to decide just what he is willing to risk to get across the border, and if it is worth his life.

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Excerpt: Border Crossing

In advance of the publication of Border Crossing on May 18, here is a short excerpt:

The moneychangers surround the bus as it comes to a halt next to the concrete platform that leads to the border post, their arms uplifted as though to welcome a returning hero. There are shouts of dolares and pesos as passengers begin to descend to arrange their exit papers. Some huddle with the moneychangers to negotiate, but most force their way through the crowd and go to the long line that leads into the border post.

George descends with the rest, squinting and looking about, somewhat confused. There are two lines, one snaking into the post, and the other, more formless, leading to some counters lined by glass outside the building. Like ticket booths at a stadium. As he looks at the various signs, trying to ascertain which line he needs, a wiry man sidles up to him.

You need to go there first, señor,” the man says, speaking in accented English. “Get the paper. Then you go inside.”

Gracias,” George says, glancing at the man.

You need a bus?” Here the man points at a bus parked in front of the one George arrived on. “Our bus goes on to Liberia. Still space for you. Twenty neuvo pesos.”

That’s all right,” George says. “Thank you.”

Your bus ends here,” the man says.

I know,” George says, with a nod, already moving to the first line the man gestured to.

On the surface, chaos reigns. The line is disjointed and shifting, with people forcing their way forward and others drifting away before they reach the windows, for no apparent reason. The moneychangers, bus touts, and other sellers ebb and flow around the line, along with others whose purpose George cannot identify. One of these approaches him, a tiny man, who looks as though he can’t be older than sixteen, wearing a faded blue uniform and cap.

Tendría usted que venir conmigo,” the man says.

George frowns. It seems unlikely this boy is here in any official capacity. “Necesito mis papeles,” he says, in his halting Spanish, gesturing to the windows. The man repeats his demand and George shakes his head, turning away, making clear his intention to remain where he is.

The man is waiting for him after he receives his exit papers and moves toward the second line within the building. “Tendría usted que venir conmigo,” he says, sternly.

George frowns in irritation, preparing to dismiss him once and for all. “You better go with him,” the bus tout says, materializing from somewhere within the crowd. He nods in the direction of the youth and George looks at him closely for the first time. Though there is no insignia on his cap, or badge on his uniform, he does have a handgun clipped into a holster on his hip. Somehow George did not notice it before. He swears to himself.

Tendría usted que venir conmigo. Continue reading

Now Available: The Apostate

THE APOSTATE

SCIENCE FICTION

CLINT WESTGARD

With her self restored but not her body, Laila has only one goal in mind. To have her revenge upon the Grand Regent for all he has done to her. First, though, she needs to find her way home across the universes.

That is easier said than done. The Grand Regent’s agents in the Watchers’ Order are still pursuing her. As is the Society of Travelers. And the Seeker lurks somewhere, waiting for his moment to strike.

Laila has a plan, though, and a few tricks of her own. But she will soon discover that not everything is at seems and there is no one she can trust.

Spanning multiple universes and the complexities of the human mind, The Apostate, continues the incredible journey begun in The Forgotten. The second volume of The Sojourners Cycle is an unforgettable science fiction epic that encompasses the fates of universes and humanity itself.

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Now Available: Drifting

DRIFTING

A THRILLER

CLINT WESTGARD

The rodeo is over and Dane and Colton are on the run.

They flee down back country roads in the dead of night with the law in hot pursuit. All over a woman lost and a dream beginning to sour.

Neither the past nor the law can be escaped though, as they will both soon discover. And the consequences will be fatal.

A story of two modern day cowboys gone astray on a long night.

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Excerpt: Drifting

In advance of the publication of Drifting on April 20, here is a short excerpt:

The Bull-a-Rama was over; the stock already loaded into trailers and on their way back to the Hertel Brothers Ranch, while the tented area behind the stands was in the process of being cleared out for the dance. Dane finished the beer he was drinking, crushing the can underneath his boot heel and throwing it away, while waving at the other cowboys who were gathered behind the corrals drinking and waiting for the dance to start. He headed off across the rodeo grounds, around the stands and towards the RV Park filled with trucks and campers.

Hey babe,” he said when he found her trailer, tucked in with several others around a small stand of trees. She squinted at him without responding as he plopped himself down on the picnic table beside the trailer.

You reek,” she said, “How many you had so far?”

Emma,” he said.

You gotta drive to Maple Creek tonight.”

He shook his head and took out his can of Copenhagen. “Nah,” he said, “We’re going first thing tomorrow. Colton thinks he’s got a line on some girl.”

Emma rolled her eyes. “You both better not get too out of hand then. You’re gonna have to get up pretty early to make it for the draw.”

Only five thirty,” he said. “Besides, don’t you want to spend a night with your man?”

She squinted at him again, but sat on the knee he offered and put her arms around his neck.

Only if you behave,” she said, kissing him quickly and then standing up to go into the trailer.

When have I ever not?”

Every time,” she called from inside the trailer and he smiled and went off to find Colton.

The dance started a little after nine, the deejay putting on a steady rotation of country music with brief digressions into AC/DC and Led Zeppelin among others. The tent, which roughly formed the dance floor, was open at all sides so that people could come and go. It had been set up in the event of rain, but there was not a cloud in the sky as the sun began its descent, ribbons of red and gold streaking the western horizon. The bar was at the opposite end of the tent from the deejay’s setup and in the first hour of the dance it was surrounded by a milling crowd while the rest of dance floor area was more or less empty. As drinks were finished the center of gravity of the place began to shift away from the bar, with couples pairing off and heading out to two-step. Even those not dancing turned their attention to those who were, nodding their heads to the rhythm as they sipped their drinks.

Dane lost track of Emma when he ducked out of the dance to smoke a joint with a few of the other cowboys. This was after he had nearly started something with Gord Steckley, another guy on the circuit who had been talking with her at the edge of the dance floor. She had stormed away while his buddies had grabbed him and taken him away to cool off and get high. She was still gone when he returned, but he didn’t worry about it and went and got himself another beer. Likely she was just going to the bathroom or complaining to some of her girlfriends about him. It was a beer or two later before he realized that she had not returned and bleary thought took hold in his mind that he should go after her, though he knew he was in no state to calm any waters.

It was after eleven by then and the darkness away from the dance was near absolute with only the dim stars and moon above and the blinking lights of the nearby town offering any guidance. How the hell had people gotten around before electricity, he wondered to himself as he stumbled his way through the RV park by feel and hazy memory. He managed to avoid nearly every obstacle, but for a bush growing on the side of the trail that he wandered into, and found Emma’s trailer.

Emma, you there,” he called out as he came to the door. He waited a moment for her to answer. When none came he swore under his breath and heaved a sigh before pulling open the door and climbing within. For a moment he was too occupied with finding the light switch to listen, but after he failed in that endeavor he stopped his fumbling and in the moment that he was standing still in the darkness he heard it. There was a man’s whisper and a woman’s soft laughter and then the rhythmic sound of their weight against the mattress.

He did not stay to hear any more, the door crashing shut behind him as he fled from the trailer, going headlong into the iron fire pit at the center of the campsite. It sent him sprawling to the ground, but he sprung back to his feet almost as soon as he had fallen, not even pausing to see if he was hurt. No sound followed in his wake, but he still kept turning back to see if Emma was rushing after him to stop his flight. No one was there but for he and the shadows.

Returning to the dance he found Colton and pulled him aside. His friend looked at him curiously an odd smile on his face. Dane’s own face felt hot, as though all the turbulent feeling within him was erupting on his cheeks and forehead. For a moment he was worried that he would start to cry, but the emotion turned to anger in an instant and he grabbed Colton by the shoulder.

Come on,” he said, “We’re going to Rimbey.”

What the hell man? Tonight?”

Fuck yes.”

Colton studied him a moment attempting to judge the level of his seriousness. At last he shook his head, “Come on man. I’m having a good time here. Let’s just stick around till morning.”

Dane felt the flush growing deeper on his face. “No, I’m going now.”

What the hell happened?” Dane didn’t answer and Colton shook his head. “How much you had to drink? Neither of us is good to drive.”

I’m good,” Dane said, not even convincing himself. “Look, I’m going right now. You can come or you can try to catch a ride with someone else tomorrow. It’s my truck.”

Colton considered this a moment, a wave of thoughts illuminating his face. At last he relented and they left the dance, Colton taking their last tickets to get some beer, which he smuggled out in his jacket. Dane was already at the truck, the engine idling. Dane took the beer Colton passed him, draining half of it in a single pull and then set it in the cup holder. He gripped the steering wheel tight but made no move to shift it into gear, a pensive look crossing his face. Colton was staring at him, a concerned look on his face, but he did not notice. At last, a decision made, he reached out and put the truck into gear and pulled out of the rodeo ground and onto the road.

Drifting is now available for preorder:
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Now Available: Riders on the Storm

RIDERS ON THE STORM

A WESTERN

CLINT WESTGARD

The plan is simple, the reward large. It should go off without a hitch. But nothing is ever easy in the Rockies.

The MacAllisters gone for Calgary, their ranch hands in town drinking, and their cattle unattended seems the perfect opportunity for Amos, Wright and H.S. to seize. Just round up the cattle and make a quick run for the border before anyone is the wiser.

Instead they encounter trouble at every turn and now a vicious thunderstorm comes riding in, just as night begins to fall. Worse, it seems the ranch was not quite so abandoned as they believed…

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Now Available: All Down The Line

ALL DOWN THE LINE

A THRILLER

CLINT WESTGARD

Five men arrive to bargain in the dead of night at a bar in a small town on the edge of nowhere.

Each man has his own agenda. And each thinks he is in control, playing the others for his own gain. But when one of them is killed, all bets are off.

For the killer is among them and he is playing for keeps. In the end, everyone will pay, all down the line.

The story of a deal gone terribly wrong.

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Excerpt: Riders On The Storm

In advance of the publication of Riders On The Storm on March 30, here is a short excerpt:

1

THEY HAD JUST entered the long and narrow draw past Sounding Creek when the storm hit. It had been threatening from the moment they left MacAllister’s, the sky filled with brooding clouds that seemed even more ominous in the last light of the day. Seeing them, they hurried to reach the valley, in the hopes that it would provide some cover for both them and the cattle they were trailing.

At the very least, Amos thought, as the rain began to spatter his duster, it would keep them from scattering everywhere once the winds and the rain truly hit. Nothing had gone as expected to this point though, and the encroaching darkness and the storm promised only more misery.

If he were a superstitious man, Amos might have thought the omens were against them from the start. Coming down to MacAllister’s from the north, where the three of them holed up for two days in Davenport’s old sod shack, getting in each others’ way and on each others’ nerves, they came across a dead cow lying abandoned in the scrub. The coyotes and crows had already been at it for at least a day, the smell of it so putrid the horses shied away. Amos stopped to study it for a moment, out of curiosity more than anything, while Wright and H.S. continued on. There was no evident signs as to the cause of the animal’s death, which was not out of ordinary in any way, but he still found it disconcerting for some reason.

The next problem came when they arrived at MacAllister’s ranch. The cattle were not around Gillespie’s Lake, as H.S. had said they would be, but spread out in the surrounding hills. It would take hours to round them up with just the three of them, though the hills would offer them some cover from anyone who happened to be passing by. H.S. had assured them that was extremely unlikely, with MacAllisters gone to Calgary and their hands all in Lethbridge for a day of drinking and whoring.

There was nothing else for it, other than abandoning the job entirely, but to set to work at rounding the herd up as best they could. They split up and went into the hills, thick with brush and trees. Both horses and men were soon in a lather as the cattle ran them across the countryside. Their swears echoed through the air, which might have been a concern, but they saw no sign of anyone.

It was well into the afternoon by the time they had the herd mostly together and heading out of hills toward the ranch. There they encountered their next challenge, for both the cattle and the horses wanted to stop at the lake to drink.

Just let them,” Amos said as Wright whipped at the cattle, who ignored him, plunging their heads into the water. “They’ll go better if we just let them.”

Reluctantly the others agreed and they had lunch by the lake in full view of the ranch house and the shacks where the hands lived. It was disconcerting to say the least, and Amos found himself unable to look away from the yard, expecting at any moment to see someone coming toward them, rifle in tow.

Ain’t nobody there man,” H.S. said, following his gaze. “I told you. They’re all off in town. Nothing to worry about.”

Amos nodded, though he did not feel reassured. Wouldn’t they leave somebody behind just to keep an eye on things? To stop the very thing they were attempting to do. Evidently not for, except for the cattle and birds circling and crying around the lake, the day was quiet and nothing stirred at the ranch.

When they were through with lunch they got back on their horses and got the cattle moving again, past the lake and south beyond the ranch. After their rest and water the animals moved easily, settling into a comfortable walk. The three riders all relaxed in their saddles, enjoying the warmth of the afternoon sun.

Amos, though, could not resist a final look back at the ranch. As he stared into the distance he was certain he saw movement beside the ranch house. There and then gone. He stopped his horse to watch for a moment, waiting to see if whatever he had seen would reappear. All was quiet and at a call from Wright he turned his horse around and returned to the herd.

2

WHAT REMAINED of the day passed without event, but because of the problems they had encountered in the morning they were well behind schedule if they wanted to be across the border before morning. That would be impossible now. Worse, the most difficult portion of their journey remained and they would have to complete it in darkness, for the sun was setting quickly now, the light going from the day even faster with the storm gathering overhead.

The draw was hard to navigate in daylight and with the added complications of trailing the cattle and the night, it would be even more perilous. Amos did not think about that now, pressing his hat down more firmly upon his head as the drops began to spatter on them. The wind began to gust as well, almost knocking the horses sideways as they picked their way down into the draw.

Amos felt the urge to hurry the horses and cattle ahead of them on into the draw where they might find a bit of shelter, but he knew it would foolish to go faster than they already were. A flash of lightning sparked to the south and west, illuminating the cattle in spectral colors, followed a short time later by the low rumble of the thunder. That seemed to be a signal of some sort, for the rain began to come in torrents only moments and the wind howled as though possessed by spirits.

The air itself felt charged and wild, as though the storm clouds above were about to spill below and engulf them. The animals were disconcerted by it, Amos’ horse jumping about as though there were rattlesnakes at his feet.

God damn,” he said and spurred the horse up to join H.S. who was staring up into the rain at the clouds.

I hope to hell there’s no hail in this,” H.S. said to him.

You think we should stay here in the draw?” Amos said, turning his horse about so that he was looking back the way they had come. “Wait out the storm.”

H.S. shrugged, “Could be an idea. Cattle might be easier to handle if we keep them down here. Don’t know if we can though.”

Amos was about to reply when a bolt of lightning illuminated the sky around them. He waited a moment for the thunder that was to follow, so that he would not have to shout over it along with the rain and wind. As he did so, he glanced from H.S. up the trail to where they had entered the draw and was certain he could see the form of a man in amidst the shadows there. In the instant that he saw the form there was another lightning strike, blindingly bright and nearby, the thunder following atop it almost instantaneously. By the time he opened his eyes again, blinking furiously against the sting from the flash, nothing was visible but the coalescing shadows.

What is it?” H.S. shouted at him.

Amos shook his head and slapped his horse on the haunch, starting back up the draw. The trail they were on was already a muddy, slippery mess and the horse had to pick its way carefully up the, now precarious, incline. The wind blew the rain directly into his face so that it was impossible to see more than a few feet in front of the horse. When he arrived at the spot where he was certain he had seen the man standing there was no one there, nor was there anyone that he could see in amongst the shrub and trees that dotted the trail. He leaned down from the horse to inspect the ground and could make out a variety of hoof prints, no doubt from their own passage, but nothing else.

He shook his head and returned down the trail, muttering to himself under his breath.

Seeing things?” H.S. shouted at him when he grew near.

I guess so,” Amos said, telling himself it had just been the play of the shadows in the heavy dusk which, with the hour and the clouds swallowing the sky entire, had now turned to utter darkness. The black was leavened only by the flashes of lightning, which illuminated the valley for the briefest of instants as they flickered across the clouds or to the ground. He pushed it from his thoughts, dwelling now on the growing heaviness of his duster and the spreading damp he could feel beneath. It was going to be a long night after a hard day, but if they could get the cattle across the border it would be well worth it.

The cattle, he could see, had reached the bottom of the draw, where it opened up allowing them to spread out off the trail, which they did immediately, heading for the sparse groupings of trees that littered the valley floor. It was the only shelter available to them and they clung to it as the storm continued to intensify. The three cowboys hunched together under few nearby trees as well, though it only provided meager cover from the rain and wind. They leaned in close to each other so they could hear the others as they yelled over the rumble of the storm.

I think we gotta keep pushing them on,” Wright said. “If not we could spend hours trying to get them out of these trees in the dark.”

They won’t wanna go,”Amos said.

They won’t wanna go no matter what in this weather. But if we don’t go now we might still be here come morning. Don’t want that.”

Reluctantly, both Amos and H.S. agreed and, after a few more stolen moments of respite beneath the trees, they split up and went to start the cattle out of the draw. Amos went to the eastern end of the valley, letting the horse pick his way around the buckbrush, as he headed to where a group of five cows with their calves was huddled against the slender trunks of the trees there. The animals were even more reluctant to stray from cover than he had been, so he nearly yelled himself hoarse by the time he had the group started south again.

He slowly picked his way back to the trail as he found where some of the other cows had gathered and forced them on their way. He could see Wright just to the west doing the same each time the storm lit up the sky, but H.S. was too far off into the darkness for the lightning to pierce. The storm was almost directly overhead, the thunder now announcing the lightning bursts, which were so close they felt as though they were scalding his eyes.

Wright stayed to trail the cattle they had started back along the path, while Amos went to help H.S. with those that remained. There had to be another twenty cows with calves left to gather and he had seen no sign of them or of H.S., which was strange, given how narrow the draw was and how bright it became with each blast of lightning. The cattle he found easily enough. They were all huddled together in the largest stand of trees to the west of the trail and they refused to move when he came at them with the horse. He tried yelling, clapping and waving his hands and snapping the reins of the horse, but all his sound and fury was easily drowned out by the surrounding storm.

Giving up at last he descended from his horse and plunged into the trees on foot, waving and slapping at the cattle, sending them out scattering to the south. He nearly lost his horse as the cattle leapt from his path, some combination of the storm, the darting cattle and his own flailing startling the nervous creature. When he had calmed it and climbed back on, he rode around the trees to ensure that there were no cattle left and then turned to see what had become of H.S.

Riders On The Storm is now available for preorder:
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