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"I WANTED TO GO ALL IN: INTERVIEW WITH THE REVENGER'S TERRENCE MCCAULEY

The Revengers is that latest book in Terrence McCauley's Deputy Marshal Jedidiah Halstead series. Halstead's war with recurring antagonist Ed Zimmerman comes to a head when the outlaw becomes protected by the law when it reaches statehood and gets the run of his own town. He sends gunman after Halstead. The young lawman

and his sidekick Deputy Sanborne decide to put it to an end with the help of his mentor Aaron Mackey and his deputy Billy Sunday. If you're up for westerns where the good guys strap on their guns, saddle up, and ride out for justice to an Elmer Bernstein score on the screen or in your imagination, this is the book for you. I caught up with Terrence to talk about The Revengers and his western world.


SCOTT MONTGOMERY : Were you planning to spin Halstead off from the Mackey series when you wrote him?


TERRENCE MCCAULEY : Not at all. The Halstead Series was something of a happy accident for me. As I was writing about Aaron Mackey and Billy Sunday, Halstead showed up with this interesting backstory. He's half-Anglo and half-Mexican but constantly gets mistaken for a Native American and faces a certain amount of discrimination because of it. But the more I wrote about him in subsequent books, the more I paid attention to him. That's when I knew he was a strong enough character to carry a story and I'm glad the folks over at Kensington agreed with me. Writing him has been a real thrill as he's unlike any other character I've created to date. S.M. : You more less have them team up in The Revengers. What was the best thing about that?

T.M. : Each of the Halstead books links back to the core Mackey/Sunday characters because I want readers to remember that there's a much bigger story at play here than the book they're currently reading. Each novel can be read on its own, of course, but no matter where you pick up the tale, you realize there are other characters and plots in the background. I've heard from readers who've read the second Halstead novel (DISTURBING THE PEACE) and were inspired to go back and read more about Mackey and Sunday. In THE REVENGERS, we see the psychological toll Halstead's pursuit has taken on him and he's close to the breaking point. Mackey and Sunday come to reunite with him to save him from himself and bring him home where he belongs. I wanted this to be the kind of story that my long-time readers and my first-time readers could enjoy equally. S.M. : What do you see as the main differences between the two series?



T.M. : I write the Mackey/Sunday books with a heavy emphasis on setting and story. Their friendship drives most of the action in the books because it allows me to show their humanity. They're not like the TV law men of the 1950s, not that there's anything wrong with those shows. The plot of a Mackey/Sunday book tends to be more complex with more drama added to the mix. The Halstead Series is written with more action in mind. Plot doesn't suffer as a result of this focus, but I tend to set them in one place. I delve deeper into what makes Halstead tick, which is why the reader can see him evolve over several books. He's not insane or an angry, mad-dog killer, but he has some problems he needs to navigate in order to get the job done. I've been told my westerns are more complex than readers expect, which is what keeps them coming back to my work. The input of my readership has always been vital to my creative process. S.M. : These first three Halstead books make up a trilogy with Halstead after Ed Zimmerman. How did you go about constructing that villain?


T.M. : Earlier I said my westerns are different than people expect from the genre. But there still have to be relatable elements that established and new readers of the genre can find so they're not completely at sea when they pick up one of my books. Zimmerman was an interesting villain to write about. He's big and mean and brutal, just like you'd expect a bad guy in a western to be. But I knew I'd get bored with him if I made him like all the other bad guys in such stories. Like Halstead, he evolves over the span of the series. He's never just a cold-blooded killer, but a crafty one. He has skills that go beyond just gunplay and has a certain ruthlessness to him and cunning that the reader comes to appreciate. He goes from a member of a gang in the first book (BLOOD ON THE TRAIL) to controlling his own town in the third book (THE REVENGERS). It's been great writing about him and building such a character has made me a better writer across the board. S.M. : How did you choose Montana at that particular time for setting both series in?


T.M. : I'm from the Bronx, so if I was going to write a western, I wanted to go all in. I had grown up watching westerns and nature documentaries on PBS and always marvelled about how beautiful Montana was. I did a lot of research on its history in preparation for my first western and intentionally created the fictional town of Dover Station because I didn't want to be tied down to an actual town in my first stab at the genre. I hadn't gotten around to visiting the state until I was already in my forties after WHERE THE BULLETS FLY was nominated for a Silver Spur Award, and I was taken with the place. Once I was there, I knew I had picked the right setting for my work. It's a truly majestic place that I plan on visiting often. S.M. : You've worked in several different genres. What does the western allow you to do that you can't with the others?

T.M. : To this point, I've done modern day technothrillers (THE UNIVERSITY SERIES), crime fiction set in Roaring Twenties New York (THE CHARLIE DOHERTY SERIES) and various western series. Most have my name on the cover. Many do not. I'm fortunate that all of them have been well received by critics and readers alike. Writing westerns has allowed me to change perceptions of that rich part of our nation's history. It wasn't just a bunch of square-jawed white guys quick-drawing on Main Street at high noon. It was a harsh and brutal time that attracted haunted veterans of the Civil War, vaqueros from Mexico and California, men and women of color like Bass Reeves and Stagecoach Mary (who inspired a character in my novel STAGECOACH TO HELL) and Native Americans who, like everyone else throughout history, were sometimes heroic and sometimes villains. Through my westerns, I've shown people that there was more to that era than they may have thought and I've enjoyed introducing them to a fascinating era of America's past. I hope to continue writing such stories for a long time to come.



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