A sample from the biggest single novel I've ever written
Work on Titanic Panic and The Son of Man vol 2 continues to progress nicely. I’ll have something from one of those posted Monday. In the meantime is a story that couldn’t wait. I had to make time for it. It’s an idea that came to me so quickly and so totally I couldn’t possibly put it off to next year when my novel-writing schedule only has one book on the docket.
More details will come later, but in the meantime here’s a sample from the prologue. All I’ll say for context is that it’s set in the south in the time leading up to and during the Civil War…
“I will say that we enjoyed a game within the game, wondering aloud what we would do if we found oil on our lands.”
“Oh, well then.” she said, almost scoffing.
“None of them had very ambitious plans. Truth be told they seemed more interested in exchanging silent glances while we discussed the issue.”
“What do you mean?” she sounded suddenly worried, as though I had given away some secret. In truth I hadn’t, so far as I knew.
“Nothing. I suspect they were just trying to figure out who had the better hand; the talk of oil was just a distraction. The pot in the middle of the table was considerable. Not that it mattered who was distracted or not.” I said, smiling.
“Why didn’t it matter?”
“Because I had the winning hand, darling.” I chuckled, adding: “You should have seen the look on Roger’s face when he finally revealed his full house. Again, it was a splendid hand, but you can’t beat a royal flush.”
“I’ll say goodnight now.” she said, ignoring my boasting.
“Shamus bring her horse.” I shouted to the darkened stables. We heard a rustle a moment later, knowing the servant had stirred from his hammock.
“He sleeps in there?”
“What does it matter? The air is cool. I’ll bring him in if it gets too cold.”
A few quiet seconds passed with both of us examining the stars above. Finally the black man approached, holding Mary’s horse, Daffodil, by the reins. “Thank you Shamus” I said without a second’s thought.
“Such a silly name.” Mary said as she mounted. “It’s Irish, yes? Hardly an Irishman is he?”
Shamus was already halfway to the stables, knowing better than to speak on his own behalf. We said our goodbyes and I returned to the house. The bed was ready for me; Marigold never failed to do that. I slipped under the sheet and my mind drifted back to the card game.
Truth be told there were details I did not confide in her. There was talk amongst the four of us about what we would do if we ever discovered oil on our lands. That led quickly to talk of those who might do us harm in an attempt to get a cut of the money we would surely reap.
“You’d have a target on your back that a blind oriental could hit.” Andrew remarked crudely.
“I have a cousin, well it’s Shelly’s cousin,” Roger said, “lives in California. Said when the rush happened in ’49, there was as much crimson as there was gold to be found. Not two days would pass without another story of some digger getting shot in the back after finding a yellow rock.”
“I’d prefer to keep that away from El Dorado.” I said in response.
“Here here.” came the mutual agreement around the table.
Henry spoke last, ever the contemplative type: “The kind of money we’re talking about… it changes a man.”
“Makes him paranoid.” Roger said, thinking he was being agreeable, but that wasn’t Henry’s point. He kept talking as though he didn’t even here the interruption.
“It’s enough to make all your dreams come true.” Henry concluded, his eyes unfocused as his mind drifted far from the game.
I kept mostly silent other than offering token comments of agreement and geniality. The game ended with me a richer man than I started, though I could have lost a dozen games in a row and I’d still be richer than I was a month ago.
My head turned on the pillow, staring out the darkened window. I couldn’t see the field stretched out across the landscape, but I’ve lived here all my life; I know what’s out there.
My grandfather immigrated here, settled here, built this farm house here. He put his roots into this soil before there ever was an Arkansas town called El Dorado. The town grew around him. My father outclassed him, turning the struggling farm into a prosperous one, manned by servants on the field and in the house.
And I outclassed my father, not by digging into the ground and planting seeds, by pulling up what was already there; enough oil to retire on…maybe enough for ten retirements, as Henry said. I just need to lay low until the election next year. Once the dust settles and everything is back to normal, then I’ll marry my Mary, and build my oil empire.
I closed my eyes and allowed myself to have fancy dreams. El Dorado barely had four-hundred people living in its borders in 1859; most of them knew my name.
Soon, the whole south would know it.
It’s the best idea I’ve ever had and I can’t wait to write it.