Skip to main content

Chris Leek talks GOSPEL OF THE BULLET

Mitchel McCann may have lost a war, but he never lost his belief. The preacher kept his faith throughout all the blood and the dying; trading his pulpit for a saddle and delivering his sermons with a brace of Walker Colts. McCann still believes in God, but he is no longer sure that God believes in him. Now fate has given him a chance at redemption; the opportunity to save a life instead of taking one.

Justice Simpson was only seven years old when she lost father. She has been losing steadily ever since. The Yankee ball that did for Dan Simpson also killed his wife, Rosalee, although it took another nine years to do it. Alone and destitute on the unforgiving streets of Saint Joseph, Missouri, Justice knows that the sooner or later the bullet will find her too.

In the winter of 1872 the war is long over, but on the Kansas—Missouri border old wounds are slow to heal and they leave ugly scars. The past is something that neither the preacher nor the girl can escape.


I interviewed Chris Leek, author of Gospel of the Bullet, available September 30 from One Eye Press:

Gerald So: What led you to write Gospel of the Bullet?

Chris Leek: I have been a fan of Westerns for as long as I can remember, although it wasn’t until fairly recently that I tried my hand at writing them. Gospel really came about as a result of a short story I penned for Zelmer Pulp's Five Broken Winchesters anthology. It featured a slightly older version of my female lead, Justice McCann. The Justice in that story was a real tough cookie. She was also a lot of fun to write. But what really began to intrigue me was how this girl ended up hunting bounty and kicking ass in the cow towns and copper camps of the Old West. Gospel of the Bullet tells the first part of that story.

Gerald: What appeals to you about Westerns in general and Gospel's characters in particular?

Chris: The Western is the classic story of good against evil. I think it was that simple premise that attracted me to the genre as a kid, that and the gunfights. Good might not always triumph, but you can be pretty sure there will be a healthy does of revenge coming if it doesn’t.

In the old pulp western novels the bad guy always wore black and the hero always got the girl. That certainly doesn't happen in Gospel, but the story still has a strong sense of right and wrong. That's not to say my heroes always find themselves on the right side of that line. And while heroes may be ten a penny in western fiction, real heroines are much harder to come by. With the notable exception of Charles Portis' wonderful, Mattie Ross finding a female lead that doesn't turn into a hot mess at the first sign of trouble is a tough ask. That's why I dig Justice McCann; she’s my attempt at redressing the balance.

Gerald: What's the best book or story you've read lately?

Galveston by Nic "True Detective" Pizzolatto really blew me away. It's a beautifully doomed piece of noir with finale feels like a knife twisting in your guts. But the best thing I've read in a coon's age is Brian Panowich's debut novel Bull Mountain. This multi-generational tale of betrayal and blood letting is going to turn a lot of heads when it's released next year. Remember, you heard it here first!

Gerald: What's next for you?

Chris: I have a fast paced little crime novella called Nevada Thunder that should be out real soon. I'm also working on the follow up to Gospel, which will take Justice McCann further west in her search for revenge and redemption. Then there is the much anticipated release of Zelmer Pulp's Trouble in the Heartland. This anthology of Bruce Springsteen-inspired crime stories features some of the best in the business, including one Dennis Lehane.

Gerald: Thank you, Chris.


Chris Leek is the author of Gospel of the Bullet and the short story collection Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em. He is part of the team behind genre fiction imprint Zelmer Pulp and an editor at western fiction magazine, The Big Adios. He can be contacted via: www.zelmerpulp.com or at his blog: www.nevadaroadkill.blogspot.com.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Night of the Flood: A Novel in Stories

The Night of the Flood: A Novel in Stories goes on sale March 5. I invited the editors, E.A. Aymar and Sarah M. Chen, to tell us more about it:

It happened the night Maggie Wilbourne was to be put to death, the first woman executed by the state of Pennsylvania in modern times. That was when a group of women passionately protesting Maggie’s imprisonment struck. They blew up a local dam, flooding the town of Everton and indirectly inspiring a hellish night of crime and chaos.

Fourteen of today’s most exciting contemporary crime writers will take you to the fictional town of Everton, with stories from criminals, cops, and civilians that explore the thin line between the rich and the poor, the insider and the outsider, the innocent and the guilty. Whether it’s a store owner grimly protecting his property from looters, an opportunistic servant who sees her time to strike, or two misguided youths taking their anger out against any available victim, The Night of the Flood is an intricate and…

2018 Derringer Finalist William Burton McCormick

I'm a member of the Short Mystery Fiction Society, an informal association of writers, publishers, and fans that has kept mystery & crime short stories in the public eye since 1996. On April 15, the Society announced the finalists for its 2018 Derringer Awards. Members are voting to determine the winners, to be announced May 15.

In the meantime, as I did last year, I'm inviting the finalists for interviews. If you'd like to participate, email me your answers to the same following questions.

Published widely and worldwide, Bill McCormick is up for the Best Long Story Derringer (4,001—8,000 words) with the chilling "Matricide and Ice Cream" from The CWA Anthology of Short Stories: Mystery Tour (November 2017).

Describe your story in up to 20 words.

An American man bumps off his mother on a Ukrainian train. It seems the perfect crime until another passenger starts snooping-around.

What were the most difficult and most enjoyable parts of writing the story?

The story…

Robert B. Parker's Old Black Magic by Ace Atkins

Twenty-five years after the brazen theft of three of its paintings, Boston's Winthrop Museum receives fresh leads in the unsolved case. Succumbing to cancer, art crimes investigator Locke trusts Spenser to pick up the trail.

Spenser rose to fame as a man in the mold of Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe in the time and place Robert B. Parker lived, fighting its crime. The series grew to thirty-nine books in Parker's lifetime, but Spenser stopped aging in his forties, the later books no longer reflecting the changing times but drawn mostly from Parker's imagination.

Rather than keep things timeless in his continuations, Ace Atkins takes Parker's original approach, setting Spenser in the present day, somewhat older, still ably plying his trade. This has allowed Atkins to put his own stamp on the series, basing the new cases on compelling true crimes like the unsolved 1990 Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum theft.

Atkins' earlier continuations proved how well he know…