A few years ago I made mention that I was working on a new book titled The Trial of Fletcher Finnegan, and that it would be ready for public consumption in around 5 years. That is still a goal I am working toward. However, changes to the publishing industry and the general market place dictate a more entrepreneurial approach. My publisher for Tail of the Dragon went out of business last year leaving me without a means of distribution in a traditional sense and I had so many requests for an uploaded version which my publisher didn’t offer that it caused me to re-evaluate the situation. I have been and will always be a physical book type of person—however, the industry certainly has moved away from that supply model. So while I work on the various means of distribution for my past works and pave the way for the future endeavors I have found a much-needed bridge to test out the market and give fans what they really want. For me right now, and filled in my email box from most of the people who know me as either friends, family, or acquaintances they will be delighted to know that this new endeavor will be essentially book two of the Cliffhanger series titled, The Curse of Fort Seven Mile.
For several years—nearly a decade now I have had frequent requests to return to the events of Fort Seven Mile and the vigilante antics of Cliffhanger—which is what the Trial of Fletcher Finnegan is to be about. However, as I’ve outlined the story there is a very ripe period that can fill volumes of material all on its own. I have said for quite some time that this blog site are my personal notes for these future stories. I share them with the public because there are things today that people can learn from and help navigate their lives. However, putting those ideals into a story context is another matter and is what I am going to do with these new Cliffhanger stories.
The plan is to publish a chapter each week of these further Cliffhanger stories and make them available for digital upload. For readers here they will essentially get the material of this blog site integrated into a narrative that is exciting and fun. For instance the first chapter consists of a labor union president for the Fort Seven Mile police who after the tragic events from my first novel, The Symposium of Justice is seeking to increase the police budget for his members to the city council. Misty Finnegan is now the mayor after former Mayor Goodman was killed during his encounter with the vigilante Cliffhanger. Misty on the other hand had been working to place on city council a more conservative presence so that she can gain legislative control of the governing body away from the progressive liberals who had made enticing deals with the local labor unions. The union president despondent with Misty Finnagan’s resistance to throw money at the police union so that they can go out and capture Cliffhanger decides that the new mayor needs to be removed from office and plans her assassination. The rest of the story evolves from there and will feature the type of material I write about often with the pulpy antics I tend to elaborate on with great enthusiasm. I love to write action, so each of these chapters will of course end with a great climax of an action sequence that is the norm of my style of writing.
This ideal came from two sources. First it was a recent visit to the Apple Store in Kenwood, Ohio. I was quite impressed with the high level of interest people had for Apple Products. I realized what many other people within publishing had been telling me for years, that the traditional way of publishing was moving to digital uploads. But these new Apple type customers don’t necessarily want a huge 1,000,0000 word novel to upload onto their devices—which is what the Trial of Fletcher Finnegan is slated to be. It could possibly dwarf Atlas Shrugged as far as size and scope. Many of the Apple users want things quickly so they can move on to the next thing—essentially because they want to be able to use all the features of their device. They want to do a little reading of something that inspires them, they want to listen to some music, text friends, update their online accounts and check out current events. To carry Cliffhanger into the 21st century, all these considerations have to be taken seriously. The other source actually came from a favorite writer of mine, Johnston McCulley who wrote the original Zorro story The Curse of Capistrano. The original Zorro stories were published in newspapers as separate chapters nearly 100 years ago to the day. Douglas Fairbanks would take those stories and make them into a motion picture called the Mark of Zorro. Then there were the various Republic serials shown in chapters for the Saturday matinee editions. All this led to the Disney television show which was what I grew up with. I loved that show and still do. Like many people who have not been consumed by progressivism and yearn for these traditional American stories, it quickly becomes evident that nobody else in the industry will do them, so the task falls on the present to find a way to create a new market where there is no other path. This is no different from the type of path Johnston McCulley faced in 1919 when all his individual chapters of Zorro provided to All-Story Weekly a novel.
These types of things usually take time to work through and only in hind-sight does a pattern emerge. McCulley’s first Zorro novel emerged in 1919, his second in 1922, the third in 1931, and the fourth in 1941. We tend to think of all this work happening at the same time, but essentially they took place over a twenty year span. The style of writing I enjoy most is a pulp brand popularized by McCulley and Lovecraft from this time period. However, my subject matter tends to lean in a conservative direction making modern-day publishers weary of my work. It’s not a conspiracy, if they thought they would make a lot of money, they’d jump on board in a minute. But they don’t often have patience to allow a story like Cliffhanger to develop as the story goes against the grain of the progressive types who currently run most of the entertainment industry for many of the reasons described in great detail at this site.
A third influence is actually two-fold which has driven me to attempt something new with the Cliffhanger character. A dinner I had over the summer with Gery Deer, then a few discussions I had with one of my son-in-laws indicated what an extreme hunger a public who generally has traditional values that used to be realized in American westerns, desired material that they could relate to. I would tell them the story about how publishers are going belly up left and right—specifically thinking of my experiences with Tail of the Dragon and they’d just sort of listen patiently hoping that I’d come up with something. Well, now I have and I intend to have some fun with it.
Readers of this new series will instantly recognize the type of themes I write about in this blog. As I have said, I use this forum as a kind of note pad. So it should come as no surprise. Chapter two for the new Cliffhanger series is already in process and features a chapter on homeschooling as a teacher’s union is the villain in that particular story. It is one thing to tell literal news stories like I do every day on this blog site. It is quite another to put that subject into the context of a story, which often has more communicative power than a literal translation. It is that kind of contextual ability that made Zorro so popular, but for the complicated times that we currently live in, a more updated hero needs to help flesh out the anxieties that we all live with each day. For that, Cliffhanger is a character that can take many of these traditional American concepts and let them play out in story form in the kind of doses that a modern audience can enjoy.
There will be more news on this endeavor over the next couple of weeks, but I am already writing the chapters and having fun with the characters. For my readers, it should be a lot of fun. And it will be an inventive way to reach new fans in ways that have not been done before. It’s fun to revisit the Cliffhanger character and I’m sure it will bring a smile to the many faces who for a decade have coaxed me to write book two of a story that touched their lives as a throwback to the kind of character that started all of modern entertainment—Zorro. It is only appropriate in these current times that a new character emerge to convey our modern concerns articulated with great fanfare in the upcoming Curse of Fort Seven Mile.