Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Tuesday's Special is... The Adventurous Deeds of Deadwood Jones

The Adventurous Deeds of Deadwood Jones by Helen Hemphill

When Prometheus Jones wins a horse with a raffle ticket he got from Pernie Boyd and LaRue Dill, he knows things won’t go smoothly. No way are those two rednecks going to let a black man, even a freeman from the day of his birth, keep that horse. So as soon as things get ugly, he jumps on the horse, pulls his cousin Omer up behind him, and heads off. They hook up with a cattle drive out of Texas heading for Deadwood, South Dakota. Prometheus is a fine hand with a horse and not so bad with a gun, and both skills prove useful as the trip north throws every twist and turn imaginable at the young cowpokes. School Library Journal writes, “Hemphill’s convincing vernacular narration and well-researched, hard-bitten details of life in the South and on the western range give this adventure story surprising depth.”

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Excerpt from The Adventurous Deeds of Deadwood Jones

We ain’t paying you any money,” LaRue says. “Didn’t you hear me, slave boy?”

I ain’t their slave boy. I ain’t never been their slave boy. I was born on the day Mr. Lincoln made his Proclamation, and I’ve been free since my first breath. Mr. Lincoln done won that war, and Colonel Dill done lost half his land and most all his gold money. But that don’t matter to me. The Dill boys still owe me four bits.

"He speaking for you?" I say over to Pernie Boyd.

Pernie Boyd looks up at me, uncertain. "Figured Miss Stoney would break your neck. I ain't got no silver," he says, stuffing his hands deep in his britches to hide his lying. "All I got is my lucky rabbit's foot, and I won't part with that."

But Pernie Boyd stares are Omer's rawhide sure enough and starts flapping his pockets, airing out his jitters. Pernie Boyd pulls the rabbit's foot out of his pocket and holds it up for Omer to see. "It's a good rabbit's foot too. Cut off the left hind leg during a full moon. Old man sold it to me said it's full of hoodoo magic. I'm safe as a baby." LaRue’s worrying with Miss Stoney’s bridle and don’t look up. Pernie Boyd hides the rabbit’s foot in his hand, then sneaks it back in his pocket. “Ain’t nothing but good come looking for me.”

He glances over at LaRue, then at the whip, then at me, then at the whip again and bites back his lip. Pernie Boyd was born yellow-dog fearful.

“I know!” His words come out all at once. “I got a jim-dandy idea! I got a raffle ticket you can have. Come from old man Levi. He’s offering a fine horse worth thirty dollars. It’s a beaut—black stallion with two strong hindquarters. Ticket’s not even cold; I bought it this morning for fifty cents.” Pernie Boyd shows me the stub, but he don’t let go of it.

Omer steps up behind me with a wild, colored-boy look on his face, and Pernie throws the raffle ticket into the dirt. “Take it! We don’t want it. We ain’t got no money. You touch us, and our daddy will have you both swinging on a rope.” He looks like he might cry.

The hounds sniff all over the ticket, but I kick them out of the way and take it up and look on the back. “When’s the drawing?” I ask.


***************************************************************************

Howdy, folks! (How's that for convincing vernacular narration?) Please answer the following question for a chance to win a copy of The Adventurous Deeds of Deadwood Jones: If you won a horse from Helen Hemphill, do you think she'd let you keep it? Why or why not? Explain your answer.

And if that's too much pressure, just pop in for an old-fashioned campfire chat with Helen!

48 comments:

Chris Eldin said...

Good Morning everyone! Sorry a few minutes late---The Book Roast team is spread all over the world in different time zones. But hey, it's 5:00 somewhere.

So let the party begin!!
:-)

Diesel said...

Hey, it's a Western-themed book. I assumed we were on Western time. :)

laughingwolf said...

welcome helen... great excerpt, thx chris :)

of course helen'd let me keep the hoss, she looks like the kinda lady'd be nice to ol geezers like da wuffster!

'sides, i'd let her ride it any ol time she wanted to, jest so long's she rubbed it down good and curried it after, put some good oats inna nose bag, and had the farrier check out its dancin' shoes :D

then all i'd need's a good saddle, bridle, some roper boots, a black stetson... n some ridin' lessons... been a long while since i sat astride a cayuse ;) lol

Diesel said...

Fine example of convincing vernacular narration, laughingwolf!

(By the way, if you're ever warming up for a speech, I suggest repeating 'convincing vernacular narration' ten times.)

Sarah Laurenson said...

Well Howdy, Helen. Mighty fine excerpt you've got there. I'd stick around a chat some but I gotta hop on ol' Bessie and mosey on into work.

Have a good roast y'all.

Helen Hemphill said...

Howdy, y'all. It's great to be here on the Book Roast. So here's my question: Why don't kids know much about the western genre these days? Has it lost it's appeal to today's tech savvy kids? I'd love to know your thoughts, so join in the conversation. HH

Kelly B said...

Good question, Helen.I think in general, westerns have been pushed aside in favor of Sci-fi, save the world type books.... mysteries...and of course vampire, vampire, vampire matters! Same applies to movies as well. And TV shows.

It's a shame because the western setting is rife with adventure and danger and action, all things that appeal to most readers.

Your excerpt is fantastic and I can't wait to read Deadwood Jones!

Stephanie Greene said...

Probably because the poor tykes weren't raised on The Lone Ranger and Gunsmoke and John Wayne. It's a shame, too, because it was a very exciting segment in our history. Westerns these days are too brutal and people seem more interested in outer space and fantasy. Maybe your wonderful book will do something to spark a new interest among children, Helen. Hey! A movie, even. Why not?

Diesel said...

I blame the Will Smith remake of the Wild Wild West.

Seriously though (and setting aside the obvious fact that kids don't know much about anything these days), I think it's just a timing thing. For whatever reason, vampires are huge right now. Maybe Westerns are due for a resurgence. There was a bit of a resurgence in the late 80s/early with Young Guns, Wyatt Earp, Unforgiven, Tombstone, Lonesome Dove, etc.

Helen Hemphill said...

Gees, I wouldn't hate that! I have talked to a couple of authors for middle grade readers who have forthcoming westerns. Not saying that the genre will take over fantasy, but maybe it will have a little bit of a resurgence. That would be good. Westerns are part of America's literary canon, and I would hate to see them fade away. Of course, I would also like to see them portrayed more authentically too.

Jessica said...

Hi Helen,

Whenever I take my kids somewhere with an Old West theme, they get pretty excited, but there's nothing really big in children's movies or television that features the old west. Sci fi/fantasy, pirates, graphic art... these seem to be what's popular right now, but I think the old west is due for a comeback, and it can start with your book :)

carriejones said...

Hi, I'm new to your site, but I'm addicted now. I hope you don't mind my comment.

I actually think westerns and fantasy have so much in common. Historically, the western genre has made the anti-hero into this absolutely glorious creature and shows just how unjust and brutal our society was back then. At least that's what westerns created in the 60s and 70s seemed to do.

Before that the themes often had to do with honor, with sacrificing yourself for the betterment of your family, your town, your society.

Those themes are often reflective of what authors/artists/creators/people like Helen see in our present-day society. In fantasy and westerns and science fiction those themes are played out on settings, which seem to make it a little less painful to those of us stuck dealing with those issues in the right-now.

This was a great interview! I hope you didn't mind my super long comment.

Chris said...

I miss the Lone Ranger!
And Bonanza. I loved that show.

THere are horse books for girls out there, so I'm happy to see a more boy-oriented one!!
:-)

Brian said...

It's hard to make the old west relevent to today's tech-obsessed kids. Joss Whedon's TV series Firefly did a great job of melding sci-fi and western, and maybe an angle like that could be successful with kids.

Or you could just give away a free horse with every book. As far as I know that's never been tried.

Sarah Laurenson said...

A free horse with every book?

I'm so there...

Alison said...

Most of what my kids know about westerns is from skewered versions of western in cartoons like The Fairly Oddparents, or a tiny bit from book series like The Magic Tree House. We really haven't come across much western stuff for kids. So, kudos to Helen for helping to revive the genre for kids.

And yes, if I won a horse from Helen, I think she'd let me keep it...I assume she wouldn't be giving away a horse she wasn't willing to part with. But I'd let her ride it again if she wanted!

Alison said...

P.S. But a better question might be, if I won a book from Helen, would my kids let me keep it, instead of taking it for themselves? Don't count on it! ;-)

Shana said...

The vernacular is dead on like School Library Journal said. Can't wait to read the whole thing!

Cynthia Leitich Smith said...

I want a horse! Can I have a horse? I will also need a stable. And horse friends for the horse. And someone to help me take care of it.

That said, Helen, you're someone who has tremendous range (home, home on the...) in your writing.

At a time when authors are being pressured (often to their creative detriment) to embrace a narrow brand, what inspires you to embark--and so successfully--on such a wide variety of stories?

Jean Ann Williams said...

A course she'd let me keep the horse. Sure enough she looks honest (her photo done showed me that, she cleans up real nice too), but everyone knowed that children's writers be ever kind folk, honest (like our Helen), and helpful to us dudes and dudesses in the ways of our writen com-mun-ity. Thank ya, for allowen me to express myself. Maybelle Ella

Diesel said...

BTW, since Helen's question is so much more interesting than mine, I give her free reign (ha!) to award the prize to the best answer to her question instead of mine.

laughingwolf said...

thx diesel :D lol

part of the prob of so few youngsters into 'westerns' is likely due to none on tv... not even 'deputy dawg', or 'quicksdraw mcgraw' :(

i love my louis l'amour, larry mcmurtry, zane gray, and other 'authentic' westerns, but know of few these days... in my area, can't even find them on bookstore shelves :(

charles gramlich posted on his blog publishers now make explicit sex as part of their guidelines, and if you exclude that, they reject your tale, no matter how good it is otherwise :(

Julie said...

I can answer whether your kids will let you keep the book if you get it -- NO! I have the book and my daughter grabbed it away from me several times and I found it on the side of her bed in the mornings after she left for school. She's a big Helen Hemphill fan:) It's a great book!

Helen how much taffy have eaten since you started promoting this book?

Helen Hemphill said...

Julie: I've given away more taffy than I"ve eaten (thank god!)...but I hadn't thought of giving away a horse. Now that's an idea...

So here's one more question...and it's kind of a spoiler so watch out!

Do you think it's fair to kill off characters that readers love? I've had lots of email and comments from readers who don't like that part of Deadwood Jones one bit! What do you think?

Liz in Ink said...

I think the horses ran off with the westerns and Helen's wranglin' 'em back here for all of our exceeding enjoyment...

Evelyn said...

Sounds like a fun book, Helen! Thanks for sharing the excerpt. As for the question, of course, Helen would let me keep the horse. I'm from Kentucky, the horse capital of the world. Besides Helen's part of the Midsouth Kidbooks listserv and that automatically means she's dependable. :)

Tami said...

Hi Helen! You better let me keep the horse, especially if it's a palomino.

And of course it's okay to kill off characters readers love... kill your darlings. Still when I read or see Romeo and Juliet I'm sure things will work out this time and they'll end up living happily ever after.

Deadwood Jones is AMAZING!

Julie said...

Yep, sometimes a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do...and it might include killing somebody off in a book. Lit happens!

laughingwolf said...

as for killing off characters readers love... sure

happens in real life all the time

in a series, killing off the mc is likely not a good idea....

carmenoliver said...

Bring on the westerns! I used to play dress-up all the time with my brother and friends as our band tore through the neighborhood on our horses (I mean mops). Kids need diversity of characters. Thanks, Helen for enriching us with yours. I'm with Alison, my daughter would never let me keep the horse for myself. She'd adopt it. I'd be lucky to get an occasional ride!

Diesel said...

The horse dies, doesn't it? Don't tell me, don't tell me!

Helen Hemphill said...

I'll never tell!

But maybe I should give away a horse when the sequel comes out. Do you think any librarians out there would want a horse for the children's section of the library? It would certainly be a crowd pleaser. Maybe they could teach it to talk, a la Mr. Ed, and the horse could give book talks. Yippeee! HH.

P.S. Hey, readers out there, do you like seeing online video book talks and book trailers? I did one of each for Deadwood, and it offered up some fun comments. Alas, my book talk was done by a dog, not a horse. It takes a lot of patience to teach a horse to talk.

gene said...

Helen,

I love book trailers. Remember the talking horse Mr. Ed? I think he should narrate it and do an audio book version of your story.

Congrats Helen!

Debbie said...

I LOVE the active authority of Helen's literary voice. Yes! Each page spills over with energetic vitality. To that I shout a resounding YEE HAW!!!!

Rachel said...

Great excerpt! The kind that makes me want to go right out and get the book so that I can see what comes next!

Hmmm, would I get to keep the horse? I think probably! And besides, as you can see from the photo, I've already got a friend lined up to welcome a new horse. :)

Regarding westerns; I really enjoyed them when I was younger but then I got very tired of the same story told over and over. Reluctant hero engages in violence to save the town, women hardly seen hardly used... I stopped reading and never tried them out again. It appears that the genre is widening to include a diversity of characters and that I need to get out there and try it again.

Jane Peddicord said...

If I won a horse from Helen she'd sure as shootin' let me keep it, by jingy, cause Helen's a stand-up, true-blue, pencil packin, texas gal if there ever was one, an' there ain't none better than that!

Meredith said...

Hi Helen, I'm sorry I couldn't chime in sooner but now I get the benefit of all the chatter! While I know some kids read for genre, there are plenty who are just looking for a good read. If you asked them if they read westerns, they'd probably reply "nope". But if you asked if they like books about adventure, many would say "yep". So, a western is just an adventure wearing chaps to a kid!

As for killing off a darling, I just asked my thirteen year old daughter and she said she doesn't like it. My husband says "if nobody ever killed off a favorite character, literature wouldn't be very interesting, you'd always know the ending would be a happy ending, taking away tension."

What do I think? I just read Tender Morsels, careful everyone, spoiler coming so don't read this next bit if you care . . . the ending was so sad for the main character. She doesn't die, but her dreams do. But it was right. It was the right ending. So if killing the character feels right, it's okay even if it's disappointing.

Diesel said...

Ok, everybody - anybody else want to take a stab at answering any of today's questions?
(1) If Helen gave you a horse, would she let you keep it?
(2) Why aren't today's youngsters up on the Western genre?
(3) Is it okay for Helen to kill her horse?

I may have not gotten all those exactly right. Anyway, submit a comment and Helen will pick one of you, using criteria known only to her, to win a free copy of her book!

Barbara Martin said...

Of course Helen would let me have the horse and I can just see that ornry critter now: flea-bitten grey with a wild blue eye. She'd want to see me ride it first, just to make sure I knew what I was about. Skittish horses take a bit of handlin'; to git their attention you need to reach up, grab the closest ear and give it a twist...and get on quick before it has a chance to think what you're doin'. Once I'm on release that ear and I'm ridin' around Helen showin' her the horse's paces and hopin' the beast isna goin' to pitch me.

I loved the excerpt so much I'm going out to find and buy your book.

Chris Eldin said...

Wow! This has been a lively discussion!!

Diesel won't be around for a few hours, so he asked if I could close.

I want to thank *everyone* for dropping by!!! Helen will announce the winner of a free copy of her book at any time....

And special thanks to Helen for spending time with us at the grill!!! Who doesn't love horses? I won't be lying if I said I love them more than my own kids.
;-)


Thanks again, all!!!!!!!
:-)

Chris Eldin said...

Oh, and everyone here gets a free horse.

laughingwolf said...

ooooooeeeeeeee thankees, chris :D

but, since i'm born in the year of the horse, did someone win me? :O lol

patricia Harman said...

Ok, I'm trying this out. This is your gynecologist/mid-wife, mother, grandma,author of The Blue Cotton Gown talking to see if you can get the hang of this before tomorrow when she has to do it for real. Have a good night you all. Patsy Harman

Charles Gramlich said...

I've been on a western reading kick lately. This sounds pretty interesting.

Helen Hemphill said...

Jane Peddicord, you are our winner! But you get a book, not a horse. (Sorry.) Thanks for calling me a true-blue, pencil packin Texas gal. I think that's how I'll introduce myself from now on. Thanks to everyone who chimed in yesterday! You are terrific. Have a great day, Patricia.

Are you really a midwife? Cool! HH.

laughingwolf said...

grats jane, and thx helen :)

Diesel said...

You heard the lady, Jane. Please contact Helen to claim your horse! Er, book.

Her email address is on her website (click About and scroll down).

Congratulations!

April Afloat said...

My twelve-year-old daughter (who is totally into vampire romance) absolutely loved Deadwood. She read it in two nights. So, Helen, you've captured the hearts of Twilight fans, and that's an accomplishment.