Hyde's Honour

After four years, Patrick Cullen Williams finally recovered his father's Texas silver mine. He expected trouble, but felt safe in the knowledge that Hyde would help him out. Hyde is a Southern gentleman who always honours his promises - or so it seems. However, trouble is brewing in the horizon with their neighbours, Don Pedro de la Valle and his impetuous son, Marco. Filled with hatred for Hyde, Marco is determined to get his hands on the silver mine, even to the extent of using Comanches who have a score of their own to settle with both Williams and Hyde.
And, so, Williams is caught in a whirlwind where loyalties are strained and trust becomes a matter of life and death.
For the deadliest forces on the range are greed and honour, and so death is casting its shadow over the mine.

As soon as I read Cullen's Quest in print, I knew that there was more material in Pat Cullen and Hyde. Cullen had got the deeds to his silver mine, but it was out in Comanche country, and of course there would be someone who wanted to take it off him. I was also interested in the subsequent relationship between Cullen, now using his real name of Williams, and Hyde. They had become friends, but I had made it clear that Hyde had very little money. As Hyde had lost his fortune, how could he not envy Williams ? Hyde's moral conflict was clearly a source for a storyline.

Gone With The Research

I needed to know about Hyde's background to understand what his life had been like before and during the Civil War. I had already read and seen Gone With The Wind, so I used that as a starting point for the ideals and codes of honour of the South. Margeret Mitchell did her research by talking to people who had lived through the Civil War. She knew their beliefs and heard first-hand accounts of life in Georgia and Atlanta. I did research on the internet to find other accounts of plantation life. This included reading accounts of slavery, although it wasn't an issue I intended to develop too far in the book.

Picture of Private & Sergeant, 1st Texas Infantry

The miner that Williams hires, taunts Hyde for having been a slave owner. I included a visit to the mine by Jefferson, the freed slave who had travelled on the coach in Cullen's Quest. O'Malley, the miner, can't believe that Jefferson could be a friend to Hyde, but Jefferson ridicules the dirty miner and tells Hyde that he will always be a gentleman, no matter what he wears. Later, when Hyde is planning to steal from his partner, he remembers the former slave's faith in him, and that is what keeps him to his honour.
When I decided to research the American Civil War, my first thought was to turn to my friend, Hugh Robinson, who played one of the leading roles in Cullen's Quest. Hugh is a devotee of military history, and the Civil War is one of his favourite fields. Hugh kindly loaned me two enormous hardbacks, full of information and photographs. Reading them enabled me to build up War histories for Williams and Hyde. I hadn't known that officers were usually elected, rather than appointed, but I used that detail during a conversation between Hyde and Marco.

Hi Ho, Silver

So, Williams has inherited a mine. Better find out about mines in the West then. I started researching silver mining on the internet and within half an hour, I was wishing bitterly that Williams had inherited a gold mine. I went back and checked Cullen's Quest, but I had stated quite clearly that it was a silver mine. I found pages and pages on mining for gold. I knew where to find gold ore and how to extract the metal at three different technology levels. I could have bought any number of books on panning for gold, and had information on the best kind of pans and where to buy them. I could even book a gold panning holiday.
I did manage to find a site that listed the value of silver in America for every year from about 1850 to the present day. By this time, I was giving serious consideration to settling for the discontinuity of giving Williams a gold mine, no matter what I'd put in the first book.
I tried Sheffield University library and had more luck. I certainly found out all I needed to know about pre-Roman silver mining and medieval techniques. I also found an illustration of a pre-Roman miner that had had entertaining captions added by some bored archaeology student many years before. (One of my favourite pieces of graffiti lurks in the bowels of Sheffield University library - 'Archaeologists do it by trowel and era'). Once I discovered that the Comstock Lode had been a silver strike, I had no problems. I could look up something specific and I finally got the information I needed.
I learned that by 1869, silver was being processed by the Washoe Pan process, a mechanized development of the patio process used in Mexico. I had all sorts of details of the process and the chemistry but I couldn't find a single decent picture of the actual equipment. I wrote the best description I could from what I had read, and comforted myself with the thought that not many people know what a Washoe Pan silver processing machine looks like, so I was unlikely to get letters of complaint. ( Not that I ever get any letters anyway).
Doing the research for a novel can be time-consuming and frustrating, especially for historical novels set on another continent. On the other hand, I have come across all kinds of weird and wonderful information on the internet. The time spent researching my novels has paid off more than once in the pub quiz !

Love at First Fright

I own several volumes of the Time-Life Old West series. The Spanish West was invaluable for researching Don de Valle's lifestyle. It also provided a lovely story that I stole shamelessly for Hyde's Honour. Juan Bandini was a California grandee of the early nineteenth century. He had five daughters, four of whom married Yankees. Three of the marriages were arranged to suitably wealthy men. The fourth daughter, Ysidora, was admiring a column of cavalrymen from the roof of her home when the railing gave way. She fell into the arms of Lieutenant Cave Johnson Couts and later married her hero.

Typical Hacienda Owners

A story like that is far too good to waste. As I thought about it, I realized how a potential romance between Williams and the Don's daughter could be useful. It would give Marco, the Don's son, an additional reason to hate Williams and Hyde: Marco has a great deal of pride and wouldn't stand for the idea of his beautiful sister being married to a common gringo. I'd got rather fond of Don Valle, who was based on Sydney Greenstreet as the Fat Man in The Maltese Falcoln. If Don Valle was going to actively wage war against Williams, I couldn't have the romance. Therefore, the focus of the villiany shifted to Marco. I built up his resentment against Hyde, who was as tough as Marco wanted to be. Having his sister and father side with Williams, and openly admire him, was too much for Marco's pride.
The romance also gave opportunities for the two sides to keep meeting, and lead to further developements. As a result of the luxurious dinner party, Hyde becomes more aware of what he has lost and takes the first step towards losing his honour. At the dinner party, Marco becomes increasingly jealous of Hyde's skills as soldier and fighter. Marco's storyline provides plenty of action and a villian to kill. Hyde's storyline has a moral conflict he must resolve, giving emotional drama to the novel.

Injuns !

Hyde's Honour was accepted by my publishers with no problems, much to my relief. When I submitted Cullen's Quest, I was told that they don't accept stories about the Indian Wars. I'd been careful to represent the Comanches honestly, and their attacks had been encouraged by a white man, so Black Dog's attacks on the stagecoach were passed. I was apprehensive about including them in the sequel but I had stated that they were a potential menace, and that Hyde had been hired to protect Williams' mine. Having come to the conclusion that Don Valle wasn't going to send his men directly after Williams, I needed someone else to provide the fight scenes.

I used the Comanches again, but made it clear that it was only a few, with personal grudges, who were attacking the heroes, and again had them encouraged by an outsider. I also showed that not all Comanches were necessarily hostile. By including the visit to the camp, I could show Comanche honour and hospitality. I was lucky enough to get a copy of The Comanches - Lords of the Southern Plains by Ernest Wallace and E. Adamson Hoebel. some years ago. It has been invaluable in allowing me to understand the beliefs and values of the Comanches, as well as providing a wealth of detail about their daily lives. I could portray the Comanche characters as fully as the white ones.
As the first draft of Hyde's Honour progressed, I began to have problems linking the Comanches with the storyline about the Don Valle's wanting the mine. I had given Marco a good grudge against Hyde, but I couldn't realistically have him commandeering the vaqueros against his father's orders, in order to provide a good shoot-out. I'd already mentioned a man from the hacienda tracking Williams and Hyde back to the mine after the fiesta. I decided that he should be a half-breed, which would allow Marco to contact the Comanches and take action without his father's knowledge. This gave me the opportunity for an extra action scene, and for Hyde to betray his honour, by not helping Williams when he could have. The presence of the half-breed vaqueroin the final Comanche attack on the mine, also provided proof that the hacienda was involved. This in turn led to the climax, where Marco's jealousy of Hyde finally gets the better of him, and Hyde gets to redeem his honour.

Pride and Prejudice

The blurbs I write for the back of my books are always re-written by my publisher in a more exaggerated version, with more words than I'm allowed. I cringe occasionally, but I've always accepted the alterations. When I saw the new version of the blurb for Hyde's Honour with the page proofs, I was horrified. Hyde had largely vanished from the story, in spite of being the title character. The last two lines now read :

And so Williams is plunged into a maelstrom where loyalties are strained and nothing is quite what it seems. But whatever the outcome, the black shadow of hot lead and quick death overshadows everyone

The first sentence consists of three cliches in a row. As for the second sentence, of course a black shadow is going to overshadow everyone, and 'hot lead and quick death' is more suited to a cheap, yellow, dime novel, than my book. Hyde's Honour may not be high art but it's better written than other books I've come across, in many genres.
Whatever appeared as the blurb for this book, would also be used on any subsequent large-print edition. The idea of having this proposed blurb on the back of my book for the rest of its print run, and any possible future versions, was unbearable. I know that the blurb is part of a book's marketing campaign, and I was reluctant to interfere with the work of a professional team, but I had to object. I suggested two new last sentences, which brought back the issues of loyalty and honour, which are at the heart of the book. I felt honoured to recieve a letter in return, apologising for my disappointment at the unsuitable blurb. It is too easy for an author to percieve "THE PUBLISHER" as a distant business, concerned mostly with sales and marketing, who might feel that they don't need to be told their own business by an ungrateful author. I feel far more valued, and confident about my relationship with Robert Hale.

Wish I could paint this well

Hyde's Honour was published eight months after acceptance. I was delighted when I finally managed to get into the package containing my complimentary copies (whoever does the packing at Robert Hale's wharehouse doesn't take any chances about their parcels coming open in transit - me neither). I loved the cover. It almost matches the description in my books. The man on the cover has two Colts, a Winchester and even a yellow neckerchief, like Hyde. The horse in the background is even the right colour, although the blaze isn't correct. Other details don't match, but overall, it's a close a match as I'm likely to get for any cover.

Cover of Hyde's Honour

More pleasing is the quality of the painting. The colours are dramatic and the work is very high quality. The painter has really done their research, and included details that add to the realism of the scene. The log cabin has a wonderful, frontier roughness, with its uneven logs and the lumber piled untidily outside. The horse wears a breastplate with its saddle, and the white marking on its face turns to pink at the muzzle, as it should.

I've seen any number of fantasy books with cover art painted by someone who's clearly never looked at a saddle and bridle. The most common mistake is to have the noseband connect directly to the cheeckpieces and/or the bit. The actual noseband is not connected to any other part of the bridle, but hangs from straps buckled on further up the cheeckpieces. In some illustrations, the reins might be connected to the cheeckpieces instead of the bit, or bit and reins not connected to the bridle at all.

Example of a real bridle Example of bad fantasy bridle

The most ludicrous mistake I ever saw in a piece of cover art, was a bridle without an earpiece. This is the part that goes behind the ears and stops the bridle from falling off ! This book got passed around a roleplaying group and we spotted about 17 mistakes in the cover art, from cacti with spines growing separately, instead of in clumps, to flying reptiles with the wings on backwards !

I bought a book titled Painting with pastels from a local art shop/gallery. It was printed in 1981 and is an English translation of a Spanish book by J M Parramon. The pastel and gouache sections have conventional subjects of flowers and fruit. I was somewhat surprised when the tempera subject was a black and white painting of a cowboy's head. I assumed that the book had been written some years before, when TV shows like Bonanza were more common, and cowboys were more in the public imagination.
Imagine my surprise and amusement when exercise number 2 is "Black and white painting for the cover of a novel. Figure of a cowboy firing a rifle". The writer tells how he found a photo from the film The Comanches and adapted it to make a cover picture. He explains how to adapt the figure to make it nore dramatic.
The next exercise is to turn the black and white tempera painting into a full colour cover of a wild west novel.

You have submitted the previous draft in black and white and the publisher tells you to go ahead, and to sort out the composition, position and size of the heading forming the title, the type of lettering and so on. Lastly, as he hands you a note, he says "There's the title, the author's name and the logo. All three things must appear of course, with the name of the author being the smallest."
Charming !
Robert Hale aren't so ungrateful, anyway. My name is almost as large as the title, and bigger than the Black Horse Western banner. Three colour covers by the writer of Painting with pastels are included by way of example, the first being for Como Dinamita by Lewis B. Patten. A nom de plume, one suspects. Whoever heard of a western novelist called Luigi ? Or Gillian, for that matter. Perhaps I would do better if I became Colt Taylor. It seems a bit late to change now, but perhaps I should try, just to see if I get more library loans. And what a great title that is: 'With Dynamite'. Now there's a slogan for a business card, 'Have dynamite, will travel'. Must be a novel in there somewhere...

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