A waist-deep wade into “The Two Revolvers Saga”, a Post-Apocalyptic Western Series

The Two Revolvers Saga is not something I intended from the beginning, although the response from readers has been the primary source of fuel when deciding to expand upon the lore and the man that is Rancid Mahoney, a character who is quickly becoming my favorite literary child. In this article, I’ll be offering a little insight into the so-called “creative” process of this world, and revealing a bit about future books of the series. This won’t be spoiler heavy at all, but if you don’t want to know anything at all about the future of the series, here’s your warning. I’d like to thank everyone who’s expressed to me their feelings of these books so far, via messages, writing reviews, comments, etc, and I want you all to know that your love means the absolute fucking world. I used to write only for myself, literally without a care at all about the thoughts and opinions of the reader. But recently, with this series evolving into the state that it is, and even further to what it could eventually become, I’ve come to terms with the idea that writing for someone else, specifically the reader, is a goddamn thrill. So thank you all for that.

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Thus far, the exact age of Rancid Mahoney has never been revealed; he is only ever introduced as being old, feeling old, or having once been young, but not young enough to be disqualified from feeling tired in the way someone old might feel: tired, exhausted, and just done with existence. Even during scenes depicting his younger self, such as in Leave My Ashes on Blackheart Mountain or in the upcoming Legend of the Horizon Vengeance, it is not explicitly stated what his age is, there is only ever a roundabout range of ageness he is existing in at the time we are reading about him. This is true for several characters, and in a way is one of the central themes of these books. That’s because in the world of The Two Revolvers Saga, age is not an important matter anymore, being the exact number of years someone has been alive, or even keeping track of the exact amount of time something has been around for. In Mahoney’s world, the only thing that’s widely considered to be the most important is learning how to survive, and learning how to keep on surviving by any means necessary. That’s what he’s taught from the very beginning, and those are the lessons that are constantly being challenged by the static, but also constantly evolving world around him.

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When I started writing these books, it was only ever supposed to be Mercy. Mercy was only ever going to be one standalone novella, starring a man somewhat near the end of his years, saddened by the lack of purpose his life has turned into, but not entirely angered by it either. When Mercy opens, Mahoney is at a middle ground of existence, a point in which he is neither falling behind, or moving forward. He is at the top of a long-climbed mountain, looking at the ravaged land all around him, with neither the desire nor the motivation to descend back down the mountainside. At this point in his life he has fallen into the sell sword way of life, taking any job he can just so he can afford to continue drinking, although I’m fairly certain if the flow of income ceased for long enough a time, he’d simply use his other talents to acquire the drink. Which is why when a nine-year old boy comes up to him, asking for his help and he sees that the boy is strangely well-financed, the drinker in him agrees without too much consideration for what really may be at play. His relationship with the boy throughout the course of the novella changes, of course, from a man who doesn’t entirely care what happens to his client, to almost that of a protective parent and by the end, that becomes agonizingly apparent for all parties involved. Along the way, we’re introduced to the character Til Drange, someone from Mahoney’s past whose motivations we can’t rightfully conclude other than from the few musings and reactionary behaviorisms Mahoney exhibits. It’s not until the flashback chapter Train that we really get a sense of what their relationship is at this point, and why it is the way it is. And because this novella was originally intended to simply be a one-shot deal, I wanted to give the sense that there was this mysterious, but very involved past they shared without revealing everything. I liked that about certain characters in other books of epic scale. In Lord of the Rings, it’s very clear from the start of his introduction that Aragorn has a very complicated past, and the fact that it’s not all revealed at once, or even fully during the course of the main narrative, unless you read the appendices was very appealing to me. This of course, would somewhat change when I decided I wanted to write a prequel, taking place twenty or so years prior to the events of Mercy, centering around how Mahoney and Til Drange met, with the backdrop of an impending war as the magnetism bringing them together.

I began writing the prequel to Mercy, which was originally titled Sovereignty, in late 2019, with the main story thread revolving around the descendants of native Americans rallying together to take back the lands that were stolen from their ancestors centuries ago, using the cataclysmic event that ended civilization as an anchor and sign that their time for justified revenge has finally come. I very quickly came up with a main plot, the circumstances of Mahoney’s and Drange’s first meeting, and various other aspects, culminating in a novel detailing the first battles of a new war that forces Mahoney to choose a side, or no side at all. There were even inklings of writing a third book, taking place after Mercy to round out a trilogy. But I became distracted by life, as anyone can relate to, and I began working on other literary projects that to date still are nowhere near completion. I wouldn’t return to the world of Mahoney until February/March of 2020, in which I finished the remainder of the first draft in a few unexpectedly intensive weeks. Sovereignty, at that point, became an entirely different beast from what I originally planned. The title changed drastically to Leave My Ashes on Blackheart Mountain, which was inspired by the book Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. I included a Prologue and an Epilogue, bookends to show Mahoney at a very, very early age to sort of mirror the events of the main narrative, with hopes of conveying a sort of constant, unavoidable truth of life. The wolf scenes are very symbolic, having to do with a direct link to the unpredictability of nature, both of the world and of the deep human nature we all feel whether it’s subconscious or literally in the palm of our hand. For me, I think the main theme of Blackheart Mountain, if it has one, has a lot to do with that unpredictability, that no matter how hard we try to, or hope that we can control something or prevent something awful from happening, in the end, we may not be able to, and if that something happens to spiral out of that hopeful control, there is a certain level of acceptance we have to appreciate, or be destroyed by it. From a very early point in the story, it’s obvious that Mahoney has already put into motion events that while ignorant to him but foreseeable to us, the readers, he will not be able to control once the proverbial (and literal) shit hits the fan. He’s young, impressionable, and prone to making mistakes without seeing the ramifications of those consequences or understanding the lessons that could be taken advantage of to his benefit. His relationship with Til Drange evolves from that chaos and throughout the years will echo from this very violent beginning.

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Once I finished Blackheart Mountain, I decided I couldn’t limit the world of Mahoney to a simple trilogy. There had to be more, and there was more, so much more to expand upon. I had kept the circumstances of how the world came to be a mystery for a reason. I’d already come up with what actually happened while writing Mercy, and threw in a few vague hints to what the the most popular rumors were, but I never went too deep into it in the two books thus far because in this world, the general population really doesn’t care what happened, other than knowing that whatever did happen it was a few hundred years ago. The truth, in this world, much like our own, is not a hot commodity, so much as is having the means for survival. This will all be revealed and greatly expanded upon in what will eventually be Book 4 in the timeline: The City and the Veil. I have a basic plot written for the book… it’ll encompass more of a thriller/conspiracy type feel while still maintaining the western genre of the rest of the series, and it’ll more than likely take place a few years after Mercy. I can’t say much more about the plot without spoiling anything other than one of many challenges Mahoney will be tasked with is the emotional toll the events of Mercy has befallen him with. Book 5, One More Grave to Dig, is the planned final book in the series and will serve as the culmination of everything Mahoney has experienced up to that point. Most of the story is written, including the ending, but I don’t intend on the story taking on a grand, epic scale like some of its predecessors. As the final book in the series, I want it to be the most personal, Rancid-Mahoney-central story possible.

Currently, I am writing Legend of the Horizon Vengeance, chronologically, the second book in the series. It takes place barely a year after the events of Blackheart Mountain. Very briefly in Mercy, Mahoney mentions a man named Frank Delmont, who according to him, was “destroyed by the world, beaten down, and defeated”, etc. In Blackheart Mountain, this Frank Delmont has a bit of a cameo scene, it’s quick and he’s not meant to have any real hold over the plot of this particular story, but during the conversation he has with Mahoney, he imparts upon him a little bit of “retirement wisdom”, which will come into play much later on. Writing that scene, I always wondered myself about this Frank Delmont character. Why was he so bitter and just done with his way of life? Why was he retiring from servitude to his and Mahoney’s mutual employer, Gunther Ostrander? There are certain people you meet in real life who you can just tell by the immeasurable presence they command, that there’s so more to them, that the real wealth of their existence comes from a very complicated past. There’s much more there to be told even if they aren’t open to talking about it. And in Legend of the Horizon Vengeance, I go deep into Frank Delmont’s retirement “plan”. Without revealing too much of the plot, at the very beginning of Book 2, it’s revealed the Frank Delmont actually served as Mahoney’s surrogate father. He was the one who literally raised him and taught him the mantras of the wasteland, the tactics of survival, and is basically the reason why Mahoney has survived this long in this world. Delmont, as we will see further on, while working for Gunther Ostrander, one of the central characters of Blackheart Mountain, for so many years, decided that if he ever got the chance to retire, he would spend his remaining years seeking out the remaining members of his own family, tracking down whoever is still alive, and would attempt making amends with them, after having neglected them for so long while working for Ostrander. And because he essentially adopted Mahoney while he was still a pretty young boy, he first reaches out to him, to join him and to help him seek out the other members of his family, if there are any still alive. This element of the story brings up the argument of what really makes a father a father, how thick really is blood, and can forgiveness for negligence really be attainable among family members if that negligence is shadowed by greed and betrayal? The setting for this book is very different because I wanted Mahoney to feel completely uncomfortable, completely alienated while being confronted by these ideas. Taking place mostly in a post-apocalyptic Caribbean Islands, Mahoney and Frank Delmont travel via galleon-style ship to what is currently known as Old Havana, the capital city of the Woodstar Triangle, a chain of islands held together by the business of trade. Mahoney is introduced to swordplay, and is quite horrible at it, he finds. He is taught how to care for a ship, and the crew members aboard, and by extension, is taught a new lesson in isolation brought on by being out to sea. There is no war going on like there is to the north, but supplies for wars are supplied to highest bidders via ocean trade routes, there’s a lot of shadowy goings-on that parallels the age of piracy so many centuries prior. Mahoney and Delmont become swept up in these matters in their search to unite the members of the Delmont Family. Among the new cast of characters that play a heavy role in the story are Val Remo, the seemingly kind, but shrewd queen of Old Havana, who holds complete and supposedly unchallenged sway over the oceanic trade routes of the Woodstar Triangle. There is Sebastian “The Anvil” Longbar, captain of the Igneous Reef, who is feared by hundreds across the sea mainly due to him keeping a bear as a demonic “pet”, caged in a lower deck of his ship and used for executing unruly crew members, or anyone else he deems need to be made an example of. And Wyatt Delmont, Frank’s estranged biological son, who has been the most elusive member of the Delmont clan to date, but for a very specific reason that will surely shake the moral compasses of all those involved. Legend of the Horizon Vengeance is shaping up to be a far more elaborate story structure-wise than Blackheart Mountain, and I’m hoping to challenge Mahoney in a way that will eventually turn him into the man he is in Mercy. Legend of the Horizon Vengeance will release sometime in 2021, probably the third or fourth quarter, if all goes well.

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Thanks again to everyone who’s patted me on the back, offered me words of encouragement to continue, and everything in between. You’re all the reason I keep on keepin’ on.

Now, for a bit of commercialization… if you’re interested in taking the dive, you can find both Leave My Ashes on Blackheart Mountain and Mercy on Amazon in paperback and for the kindle. The links to each book are below.               

Leave My Ashes on Blackheart Mountain:

Mercy:

About Dave Matthes

Writer and author of poetry and prose. Award-winning author of over twenty books of varying genres, with poetry appearing in Paper and Ink Zine, Analog Submission Press, and Hickathrift Press.
This entry was posted in Blood and Whiskey, mental processing, post-apocalypse, projects, Uncategorized, writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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