Dear readers, tonight with us is an ex Pinkerton Agent turned detective and gun for hire. He’s here to tell us about the 1870’s Wild West, and of how a gunslinger used to open plains and prairies can deal with the criminal underworld of a crowded metropolis.
Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?
I grew up on the prairies of Nevada. It’s a dry, dusty sort of place. My family moved to Virginia City where my father got a job in the mines during the Comstock silver strike. As soon as I was old enough to hold a rifle, I honed my tracking and shooting skills killing varmints around Virginia City. People in those days didn’t care about the pest control, so whatever I bagged went into the pot.
My father was killed in a mine accident. He’d gotten us into debt, and mother and I still needed to eat and a place to rent, so I took a job as a wagon guard for the silver shipments. People who’d fallen on tough times or slid face first into the bottle were everywhere in a mining town. I got more practice with my gun than I care to admit before I left that town behind.
What made you leave Virginia City?
Mother caught the fever and after she died, I had to leave town to avoid payin’ off the rest of my father’s debt and caught the first train out of town. I ended up in Springfield, Illinois and since I needed to keep body and soul together, I lied about my age and I enlisted in the Army.
I looked as green as grass but shooting skills were in demand due to the start of the Civil War. So when I told them I was 18 they believed me. I ended up 6th Illinois Cavalry under General Nathaniel Banks. I saw combat, I saw ‘the elephant’ as we then called it. Dreadful, just dreadful. I don’t want to talk about what I saw during the war right now.
All right, then. So what brought you to the current place in your life?
After the Civil war I joined the Pinkerton Detective Agency. First job I really liked, so I spent several years becoming the best agent there could be. Until my last assignment, where I was assigned to track two young women heading along the Oregon Trail to San Francisco.
Turned out that Samantha Williams and Charlotte Hart were two tough young ladies, gave me a hell of time finding them. Hell of a job – I had to bring Samantha back to an abusive father. Idiot only wanted to marry her off like a damned cow.
Wild Bill Hickok was travelin’ with the two. He told me flat out what a lousy job I had. And when a legend of the West tells you that you’re in the wrong, you plain just listen. A year or two later, I quit Pinkerton and decided to head to San Francisco, where I am now.
What can you tell us about your latest adventure?
Couldn’t have been more than a minute after I got off the train in San Francisco, this young Chinese girl literally collapsed in front on my horse, Blue. She was being pursued by a couple of thugs. After I pulled my gun and sent those two packin’, I couldn’t just leave her there. So I took her with me.
I soon found out that the girl – her name was Mai Lee – was the ‘property’ of a Chinese Tong Leader. I don’t cotton to slavery of any sort, so they want her back – and me dead.
Tell us a little about your friends.
The only people I knew in the city were Sam and Char – the two ladies I’d originally supposed to track down! Since we’d parted ways, they had done well for themselves with what used to be called a ‘bawdy house’, though they also had a high-class restaurant and poker tables. Those two women know how to take care of themselves, and they don’t stand for the tongs throwing their weight around either.
I also met my newest and fastest friend, Captain Amos Harding, at Sam and Char’s supper club. He’s an old clipper ship Captain who made his pile, bought a mansion up on Russian Hill, and had retired. Truth is though – some men ain’t meant to stand still, and if they do, they die. Harding figured this out and decided to help me and Mai Lee. He’s a generous man, as I’m currently living rent-free in a room of his house.
What was the scariest thing in your adventures?
I don’t scare easy. I’m not scared of anything that I can force my way through with my gun or my fists. I do worry a lot, though. I can’t protect everyone around me. Some things in life are bigger than a gaslight gunslinger, though I plan to face ‘em what may.
Any romantic involvement?
There’s a woman who works at the millenary store I’m sweet on. Her name’s Molly. She’s got hair the color of ravens’ feathers and a face with as fresh clover honey. She don’t know it yet, but if I have any say in things, I want her as my wife and the mother of our children.
Whom (or what) do you really hate?
I don’t hate people, or at least I try not to. Killin’ is part of a job and not supposed to be personal. I don’t normally do that even, unless in self-defense. But I don’t like it when the downtrodden are picked on, or treated as less than human. That gets my ire up.
What does the future hold for you?
One ride down the trail at a time, I say. The leader of this tong’s not going to give up until he’s got Mai Lee back, and my dead body would only be bonus to him. If it comes down to a final showdown between me and him, don’t bet on him unless you like losin’ the innards of your wallet!
Sugar Lee Ryder was born to a pair of Wild West rodeo show performers where she spent her formative years around old time (1950’s) western actors and rodeo performers. She mainly writes Historical fiction, Western Adventure and Contemporary romance.
You can find Mathew Slade on the pages of the 12-book Gunslinger Matthew Slade series, starting with Gaslight Gunslinger.
Join us next week to read the psych evaluation of a customs officer hunting ancient relics. Please follow the site by email (bottom-right) to be notified when the next interview is posted.
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