Last August we published the cover story “Erik Storey Could be Colorado’s Next Literary Star,” on the eve of the release of the author’s first thriller, Nothing Short of Dying. Now Erik Storey’s next thriller, A Promise to Kill, is coming from Scribner on August 15. In advance of that, we’re sharing Storey’s essay on “The Still Wild West.”
You walk into a busy and raucous saloon in the Wild West and take a seat in the corner with your back against the wall, for safety’s sake. Inside, miners, ranchers and roughnecks toss back shots of whiskey and shout obscenities while the barmaid hustles to keep pouring for rough men whose thirst seems unquenchable. With the smell of smoke, booze and unwashed bodies entering your nostrils, you watch uncomfortably as a group of cowboys begins harassing some Navajo Indians at the bar.
This goes on for a few uneasy minutes until some new customers push through the door: ten dark-skinned Natives, most with long hair pulled back into ponytails and dressed in the same clothes they’ve worn all week. They belly up to the bar, and as they do the place goes quiet, save for some quiet whispering. That’s when one of the newcomers spots the Navajos. With a yell of “I’ll gut you!,” the newcomer lurches forward and throws a punch at a man who only a minute before was being harassed by cowboys.
That spark lights a fire, and soon both groups of Natives are trading blows in an all-out-brawl. You find out later, after the sheriff comes to break things up, that the new group was Apache, and that what looked like sudden violence was actually the latest chapter in a long-running blood feud.
What I’ve just described isn’t the plot of a…
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