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Friday, 10 October 2014

FFB – Blind Justice at Wedlock

This was my fourth western novel, published under the penname Ross Morton in 2011. I’d toyed with the idea ever since seeing Rutger Hauer’s film Blind Fury; though it had probably been gestating as a concept even earlier, since about 1970 when I read Dan Galouye’s Dark Universe (1961).  Galouye was praised for creating ‘the country of the blind’ – two underground races have been marooned in darkness for generations; one sees by using sound and echoes while the other has learned to recognise outlines through infra-red sensitivity. To write a story without visual cues is no mean feat.

I was up for that challenge. I’d create a protagonist who was blinded but didn’t allow that to deter him on his quest to rescue his wife. The hard part was writing Clint’s POV with only reference to sounds and smells.

Here’s the prologue: Brutally disrupted life.

When Clint Brennan came to, he felt Mutt’s tongue licking his temple and cheek. Maybe the dog had brought him back to consciousness. He opened his eyes and realized that the world had changed. It was forbidding and dark. In more ways than one, light had gone out of his life. He raised his left arm and stroked the animal’s matted hair where the bullet had entered Mutt’s flank; it had bled some, but the fur was now just slightly tacky. He heard the dog’s steady panting and smelled his breath, but he couldn’t see him. The brutal truth was that he couldn’t see anything. He was blind.

            His memory was hazy at best, so he attempted to take stock. The sun was up and burning the left side of his face, its position and intensity telling him it was about noon. He guessed that he’d been out of it a good two hours or so. He was lying on his belly and something was digging into him. Ignoring the pounding in his head that wouldn’t go away, he rolled over and then felt the pain in his left leg. Scattered shards of memory started to pierce his thoughts, flickering like a lantern show, but they didn’t present a coherent picture.

            The sun – or perhaps fear – made him sweat. Fear for himself, thrust into this unwelcome darkness, an unknown territory. Fear for Belle, his wife. Where was she? Why wasn’t she here to help him now, when he needed her? As much as he wanted to worry about Belle, some hidden knowledge or instinct shied his thoughts away from his wife.

He felt his forehead crease with the confusion of his mind, and he raised a hand to the dried blood around his eyes and the bridge of his nose. God Almighty, but his head pounded.

            Heaving a great sigh, Clint pushed away the dark foreboding that threatened to envelop him and eased himself up onto his knees. That hurt some. His hand touched the wound: he’d been shot in the thigh. When or how, he wasn’t quite sure. Crippled and blind, with Belle unaccountably absent from his life, an all-consuming despair soaked into his bones and made his shoulders slump.

Slowly, methodically, he scrabbled in the dirt and found what he’d been lying on – his Winchester rifle. He gripped its stock. Perhaps it would be for the best. He didn’t believe he could exist in this condition and it wouldn’t be fair to abandon his wounded dog. With a heavy heart he levered a .44 rimfire cartridge into the barrel. ‘Well, Mutt, I guess this is the end of the road for both of us.’ His voice croaked and his mouth was terribly dry. ‘You first, old boy, then I’ll join you.’

            Mutt seemed to sense his fate and shuffled closer on his forelegs, rubbing his wet nose against his master’s knees. Trusting to the end.

            An almighty surge of humility and grief overwhelmed Clint Brennan. He closed tight his unseeing eyes and swore. He couldn’t do this: it was against everything he and Belle believed. In the three years they’d been married, they’d buried two babies out back. The heartbreak and the tears were testimony enough that they cherished life, and mourned its loss. Life was precious, to be savoured, despite the aches and pains. As his father used to say, ‘If we never had any storms, we’d never appreciate the sunshine.’

Lowering the weapon, he stroked his dog. ‘Let’s have a look at that wound, eh?’ Then he laughed bitterly at his choice of words.

Gently, he ran his hands over the faithful animal’s body; Mutt yelped just the once – only the single wound, then. He experienced another flashing image from his recent past. It was all coming back now.

Painful though it was, the returning memory helped to impart some kind of sense to his present predicament. The irony was not lost on him, that in his mind’s eye he could see what happened. Terrible though it was, it seemed that it was going to be the last thing he would see in this life. If he was destined to lose his sight, and it looked that way, then it would have been more bearable if his last view of the world had been a pleasant one.


I chose the name Clint as a nod to my childhood idol, Clint Walker. As he remembers what happened, Clint recalls his wife being kidnapped by three desperadoes. Despite his new blindness, he resolved to track them, using his dog. Astride his donkey Beatrice, he followed their scent…

On the way, Clint encounters two men who rob him, and also an ex-soldier who befriends him.  Belle believes Clint is dead – she saw him shot as her abductors dragged her off. When she is rescued by Gamlin, a rich gent, and taken to his opulent home in Wedlock, the man’s housekeeper and others are convinced she will make a good match for Mr Gamlin. The housekeeper, Mrs Kilbride, is a creepy creation; slowly, her motivation is revealed.

Ultimately, this is a psychological suspense quest novel with a smattering of the gothic. I enjoyed writing it.

This hardback book can still be purchased from the book depository post-free worldwide:

People who viewed this bought The $300 Man, Wyoming Strong, The Son, Blood Meridian, Lonesome Dove and Treasure Mountain, so it is in good company.


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