The Book: Scott Phillips, COTTONWOOD. Dennis McMillan Publications, 2004; limited first edition in slipcase, inscribed by the author under a doodle of a half-skull: "2/28/04 -- To Clair, without whom this book would be a much lesser work -- Love, Scott P." Fine condition.
First read: 2003
Owned since: 2004
All of this week's posts will be books I worked on, or books written by authors I've done work for. I did a late line edit on COTTONWOOD, checking for continuity and time lines; COTTONWOOD's events span more than 60 years, and the book has more than 80 named characters.
Cottonwood is a Kansas frontier town that booms and (inevitably) busts as the railroad moves through. The book's narrator is Bill Ogden, cuckold, failed farmer, mediocre saloon-keeper, and would-be photographer. Bill makes friends with the railroad developer, Marc Leval, and his wife, Maggie; then he falls in love with Maggie. COTTONWOOD blends that love triangle with the true story of the Bloody Benders, a family that preyed on travelers and might have killed hundreds during the great Western migration.
It's a modern twist on the classic Western. Bill Ogden is great company, and the book is as entertaining as a day at the movies. Loyal readers will recognize links to his earlier books, THE ICE HARVEST (set in Wichita in 1979) and THE WALKAWAY (set in the same area, between 1952 and 1980).
This was a limited first edition -- a gift to me from the author -- but the book was published in trade hardcover and trade paperback by Ballantine, and is still in print.
Although Scott's published a few short stories since COTTONWOOD, I'm impatient for the next novel. Scott, if you check in, leave a comment and do a little self-promotion. Sorry I missed you at NoirCon.