Today I have a very special guest with me on Emotional Journeys. Author John McKenna, who sometimes goes by the name Garritt O’Dwaine, writes nonfiction, crime fiction, and is also the mastermind behind the review website, Mysterious Book Report.
John, along with my husband, Clark, grew up in the small town of Grahamsville, N.Y. He is here today to share some personal insight about his writing process, et al. Take it away, John!
It was an almost perfect early spring morning . . . the thermometer was still in the mid-eighties, a slight breeze rustled the leaves in the live oaks lining the thoroughfare, and the sun stood low in a cloudless, cerulean blue sky that looked as fragile as Chinese porcelain and spread to the farthest edges of the world. That’s when a man came up East Second Street in Cleburne, Texas. He was driving a black doctor’s buggy with red wheels and seat, and pulled by a small Appaloosa mare. He was looking for Featherston Lane, and a certain gray house with a green tin roof and white gingerbread trim. When he found it, he nosed the mare to the curb, half-hitched the reins to the dash rail and backed out on the short step. Once down, he checked his surroundings, opened the picket gate and strode up the flagstone walk like he owned the place.
The woman who lived there saw him come to her front door. She was watching from the parlor, where she’d just placed a bowl of pink and yellow roses, fresh-cut from the bushes at the corner of her porch. The man, who was tall and thin, had on a white shirt, black wool suit, black tie and gray waistcoat, and moved with the insouciance, grace and confidence of a feral cat on the prowl. She noted the cant of his curled brim Stetson, the scuffed, dusty boots and tied-down Colt pistol at his right hip. She shivered at the sight of his drooping, heavy black mustache. Then he was at the door knocking.
She smoothed her apron and tucked a wisp of hair behind her ear before she went to answer it. “Yes,” she said, “may I help you?”
The stranger took off his hat, held it in his left hand and said, “Mornin’ ma’am. My name is Boyd Pirtle. I’m a Texas Ranger. Are you the Mrs. Stringfellow who’s been runnin’ the advertisement in the newspaper, lookin’ for her brother?”
“It’s Miss, not Mrs., and yes, I am she. Do you know of his whereabouts?” She saw the creases in his sun-baked face, the gray creeping into his hair, and all the sadness and steel in a pair of pale blue eyes that looked as faded as old denim. Gun-fighters eyes, her father would’ve said . . . the eyes of a long and hard campaigner. She added, “I’m willing to pay for information if you can help me find him.” And Please God, she thought at the same time, don’t let this one be another crackpot, full of lies and a spinner of tall tales.
The stranger in the rumpled suit with the worn cuffs looked off to his left before turning back and gazing straight into her eyes. “No ma’am. I don’t. I haven’t any news for yuh, but I do have a proposal that I believe can help both of us . . . if y’all’d care to listen.”
“You say you’re a Ranger. Do you have any proof? There’s been many who’ve come around looking for the reward money, but none of them had any validity. No disrespect, but why should I believe you?”
“That’s a fair enough question,” he said as he pulled back his lapel with his left hand to display a five-pointed star, convex in shape, hand-hammered and filed from a single silver dollar with the words TEXAS RANGER etched into it. “Here’s my badge, and you can wire Captain Wiley Newton at Division Headquarters down in Austin. He’ll provide my bona fides for you. And, as you can see, he’s the one who signed this here letter of introduction,” Pirtle added, and pulled an envelope with the Texas Ranger insignia on it from his inside coat pocket. He removed the enclosed document and handed it to her.
She unlatched the door and took the missive, scanned it with care and handed it back to its owner. She said, “Special Agent. I’m impressed. But what’s that got to do with finding my twin brother?”
“I’ll get to that. It’s part of my proposal to you.”
She thought for a moment about asking him to leave. But after a second or two of hesitation, she said instead, “When’s the last time you ate anything Mr. Pirtle?”
He looked down and said, “Yesterday mornin’, I guess. Some jerky and a couple of corn dodgers.”
“Corn dodgers, huh. Haven’t heard that expression for a while. Were you in the war?”
“Yes’m. I was. Signed up with John Bell Hood and the Texas Brigade right after Shiloh.”
“Oh my . . . you must be brave.”
More about John McKenna, aka Garritt O’Dwaine:
John Dwaine McKenna is an award-winning author, reviewer, commentator, publisher and lecturer living in southern Colorado. His weekly column: The Mysterious Book Report, appears in the Tri-Valley Townsman, a tabloid-sized regional newspaper published 49 times per year in Sullivan County, New York; online at: Mysteriousbookreport.com, and Johndwainemckenna.com, as well as on Amazon, Facebook, Goodreads, Instagram, and Twitter. He has three prize-winning crime-fiction works to his credit: The Neversink Chronicles, The Whim-Wham Man, and Colorado Noir. Currently, he’s working on his latest, a historical fiction crime novel entitled Unforsaken set in the year 1901 which features a woman named Ella Stringfellow, who’s searching for her missing brother and a determined, but conflicted Texas Ranger. He’s 20 years older than her, widowed, and fatally attracted. He is also working, at the same time, on a crime-fiction thriller featuring serial character Jake McKern, a hard-boiled CSPD detective born and raised working in Colorado Springs.