I’ve been writing since I could write, which is quite a long time now. I grew up and live in Northern California, close to the roots of the people and action of three of my historical thrillers, The Maxwell Vendetta, and its sequel, The Second Vendetta, both of which take place in 1908-10 San Francisco and the high Sierra. The third of the trilogy, Bonita, is set in pre-gold-rush San Francisco. A fourth in the series is on the way.
For The Yellow Rose I made a literary jump from California to Texas, where my co-author, the late Bob Stewart, dwelled. It’s a tale of the Texas revolution and an imagined affair between Sam Houston and a legendary mulatto woman, Emily West, who is best remembered in
Texas legend as The Yellow Rose of Texas.
If you look carefully, you can find me living with his wife in Oakland, California, where he enjoys the blessings of nearby children and grandchildren.
1843. Bonita Kelly is twelve, and her future looks idyllic: A privileged life in an hacienda overlooking San Francisco Bay just across the water from Pre-Gold Rush San Francisco. Then her feisty willfulness destroys it all. She learns she’s the foundling daughter of a pair of rustlers killed by the “uncle” who “rescued” her. She refuses to accept the story that her parents were outlaws and runs off to find the truth. Her quest plunges her into a world of peril. She’s kidnapped. Beaten. Raped. Bears a daughter who is robbed from her. Amid a swirl of historic events—war, the gold rush, and the founding of California—Bonita transforms herself from a rebellious adolescent into a successful entrepreneur. Always she remains focused on answering two questions: Where is her stolen daughter? Were her parents criminals or not? Her discoveries create challenges surpassing all her previous conflicts, but she meets them with the originality and boldness of the extraordinary woman she’s become.
Not again. It’s taken Andy Maxwell two years—1908-1910—to recover from the vendetta that nearly killed his mother, burned their Sierra Nevada ranch house, and exhumed some family secrets—including that his father was black. At last Andy thinks he can return to the University of California to finish his PhD. Not so. First, the PhD. program doesn’t want a miscegenated mongrel like him. Eminent San Francisco journalist, Ambrose Bierce agrees to help with that problem, but Michael Yellow Squirrel, who started all the trouble, is back and still wants eliminate every Maxwell on earth. No time for school now. Oh, and there’s the election. Gubernatorial candidate Hiram Johnson wants Andy to run for the legislature to help foil the railroad barons. Last, but far from least, there are the women—the debutant beauty and the Arapaho princess. Readers looking for adventure, suspense, and romance (and which readers aren’t?) will find their search is over in The Second Vendetta.
To Andrew Maxwell and his family, it seems everyone in their tiny frontier town of Sawtooth Wells is out to get him, his wife, Theresa Many Clouds, and their two adopted mixed-race children. Andy is a prominent citizen whose mother owns the biggest ranch for miles around, but he is part Negro. Many Clouds is full-blooded Arapaho, and their two children adopted are mixed-race Caucasian and native American. The family makes convenient targets for those hostile to the notion that people of non-European descent would live among them at all.
No wonder the little family has a tough time living a peaceful existence on the small plot of land they’ve carved out for themselves. Like mosquitoes love blood, those hungry for money, power, and swarm toward anything that smells of riches. Enter an unscrupulous corporation, a gang of plutocrats, and a clique of politicians and you have the SWINDLE IN SAWTOOTH VALLEY.
This western thriller, set in 1914 Northern California, is rich in suspense, history, and romance. Andrew and Many Clouds struggle against the avaricious forces that seek to destroy their love and the homestead they’ve struggled so hard to establish. It is a tale that will keep you spellbound and leave you wishing there were more pages to turn once you’ve finished.
Early California, 1908. Andy Maxwell sets out to solve the mystery surrounding the stabbing death of his younger brother outside a San Francisco bar. He’s certain the murder is part of a vendetta against his family, but frustration and suspense mount as he fails to convince authorities that the killing is anything more than the sad consequence of a brawl between a pair of drunks. The police, the U.S. Army, even his mother refuse to entertain the possibility that the killer, Michael Yellow Squirrel, is one of a clan who intends to wipe out the Maxwells and their California Sierra Nevada ranch. Andy’s quest for the motives and perpetrators behind the scheme carries him from California to Wyoming and deep into his family’s pioneer past and psyche, where he unearths disturbing secrets about, among other matters, his own racial heritage. It also plunges him into a romantic dilemma involving a blonde debutante and an Arapaho princess. Although Andy’s initial purpose is to foil a conspiracy against his family, his journey eventually leads him to question not only his own values, but also those of the frontier that spawned and nourished them. This historical thriller, the prequel to another gripping historical novel, The Second Vendetta, is set nearly one hundred years in the past, yet The Maxwell Vendetta embodies themes as contemporary as racism, political corruption, and sexual exploitation. In short, contemporary America mirrored in a novel of early California.