Why I wrote this book.
Originally, ten years ago, it was a kind of homage to where I first became enthralled with writing (at the college I attended in Minot, North Dakota). I went there to play football first; learning was fifth or sixth on my priority list until I met Dave Gresham. Dave was a graduate of Iowa’s MFA program and was taught by two of my favorite writers, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. and Richard Yates (Yates apparently signed Dave’s thesis).
Being a fan of the bitter cold weather ND often features, I thought it essential to write that into Rough Riders (there’s a lot of frigid weather in the novel). There is a stasis bitter cold can bring about and that helped in dealing with some of the subplots (there are several); there’s only so much a person can do in the cold, so fast one might respond, etc.
Ten years ago I was still fairly new as a published author and probably afraid of creating new characters. I’d always wanted to keep some of my characters alive for future works (kind of grifting off Mr. Leonard) and Rough Riders was my chance to have some fun with old characters in a new environment. Alex Pavlick and Dexter Greene are back, as is the bad guy from Eddie’s World, James Singleton (except he has a new witness protection name). Even Eddie Senta makes a couple of brief appearances in Rough Riders. Some of the newer characters (there’s a former Miss North Dakota, a Minot Detective and his wife and a Native American lawyer) sparked some interest from at least one reviewer (Men Reading Books) and I may find something for these new characters to do in the future.
Ultimately I had fun building the book a scene at a time and jumping from one location to another. It originally started in Montana, then swung back to New York, but I changed the final version during the last of the 10-year updates. I had to rewrite much of the book because of the long gap and all that has happened since 2001; the twin towers, the Gulf Wars, Bush, Obama, etc.
I originally finished writing Rough Riders immediately after my fourth published book (Cheapskates) went to press. Carroll & Graf originally made an offer on it but I was unhappy with some of the turmoil going on there (they were being swallowed at the time) and I turned the offer down.
Updating it wasn’t as easy as I thought, but it was fun. I had some very kind help in doing so as well. Ward Churchill (by way of Ben Whitmer) gave it a read and provided input on both the novel itself and the native American stuff. I did something I don’t usually do with my crime fiction and went a bit political in Rough Riders, making sure to take swipes at both sides of the political fence but always being clear about whose land this originally was and how “taking one’s country back” should be viewed with a little more clarity. It is one of the right wing slogans that makes me upchuck my sfogliatelle every time I hear it. Bottom line: it was never ours to take.
My maestro, Peter Skutches, was the original editor. As I said, Ward Churchill was another editor and then I employed the help of an author I discovered in the MFA program (one of about 25 new discoveries for me) at SNHU. I asked if I could hire Merle Drown outside the scope of the program (since my crime writing has nothing at all to do with the work I’m doing within the program) and once it was okayed, Merle added his guidance. He’s an author first and foremost and his book, The Suburbs of Heaven, is absolutely masterful. I’ve read it twice and will read it again as soon as I have the time.
That’s about it on Rough Riders. I’ve been completely distracted with school work and Momma Stella’s hospital stay ... she continues to keep us on our toes and remains the toughest broad I know. I love my Mommy!
— Charlie Stella