Rick Jantz just scored a huge Western hit with his first novel “Colson’s Law.” This interview delves into the part of his brain that can’t get enough of the Old West. Enjoy, saddle up, and ride into the big, blue yonder with Rick Jantz.
1. Can you describe your new book “Call of Country” for our readers?
Matt Kemp is a footloose gunfighter when he arrives at the lawless gold-mining town of Bannack, Montana. With no direction in his life, he has arrived with a young partner to make his fortune. They soon find out that the days of scooping gold off the bottom of creeks has past, and they must now get jobs like everyone else.
When Kemp’s young partner is killed, he vows to seek revenge on the road gang that has terrorized the country by robbing and killing anything that moves on the roads out of Bannack. But Kemp is soon up against the powerful local mine owners as well, and now must walk a fine line between the groups or blow them all to hell to exact his revenge.
A U.S. Marshal has also arrived in Bannack in an attempt to arrest the outlaws and anyone else who thinks they are above the law. Seeing the potential in Kemp, he attempts to recruit the gunslinger into the United States Marshal Service and, rather than kill everyone, try to arrest them and let justice have its day. When that doesn’t work, Kemp sets out to destroy both groups even at the risk of losing his badge.
2. You are known for your big country hit “Colson’s Law.” Is “Call of Country” a book that would interest the readers of Western literature?
The story takes place in a real ghost town in Montana. I’ve used some of the original buildings and landscape, which I know will give it that feel of authenticity. Some of the events that are included actually occurred but, of course, were re-written to fit the story.
This is the first book in a series about a U.S. Marshal that is part detective and part undercover cop. On top of those, he is known in the Old West as a gunfighter, possibly one of the fastest.
3. What motivates the protagonist in your story? What is he trying to prove?
Initially, Matt Kemp is looking for his “gold,” his place in the world and the chance to make good money (and don’t we all). That’s why he agreed to go to a gold-mining town to find his fortune. But Kemp also has a strong sense of right and wrong, and when people are wronged by those with money and power, Kemp will fight back, with guns or fists.
He realizes that becoming a lawman allows him to use the skills and abilities that he has to bring order and justice to a lawless land.
4. How would you define the term “Western” and what does it mean to you?
Western means a genre in fiction writing. When you think of that you imagine gunfighters, Indians, and cattle drives. But it also means survival in a new and wild land. Oftentimes, this land has no law and what little there is struggles to keep up to the men and women who choose to rule with power and force.
Western also implies, of course, life in the Old West. And when you think about that you think about mountains, gold strikes, freezing Prairies, unseen country. There is so much richness and opportunity to explore what settling this land really took and the sacrifices people made in harsh conditions.
5. What draws you to writing Westerns?
I like the independence and “living by the seat of your pants” that I think many people of the time had to do. Plus, I like the stories, whether they are true or not, of fast and hard men who are good with a gun and can survive off the land. The independent man that makes his own tracks in the country is something that I think still applies today, although our conditions are not so harsh.
6. Which writers have influenced you the most?
I’m a big fan of Louis L’Amour and Zane Grey for Westerns. Of late, I’ve really come to enjoy William W. Johnstone. For other authors, it’s James Clavell, Robert Ludlum, and Anne Rice.
7. What is your favorite Western, either novel or movie? Why?
The Sacketts by Louis L’Amour; preferably the book. He has a number of Sackett stories and they’re always entertaining and describe strong men in a strong country. They always struggle in the stories, but ultimately their strength and courage helps them to defeat their opponents.
8. If you could go back in time and meet one famous person in the Old West, who would it be and why?
I’ve always been intrigued with “Wild” Bill Hickok. He looks like he’s full of trouble, as a unique way of thinking and viewing the world, and seems to be very capable at facing whatever comes his way. That being said, I think he was flamboyant and interested more in himself. But there is still something that draws me to him.
9. What are you plans for the future? Are working on the sequel yet?
“Call of Country” tells the story of how Matt Kemp became a U.S. Marshal. There will be future books that place him in difficult and interesting situations that challenge his skills as a gunfighter and detective. I am working on the next book which has the working title “A Witness To Murder.” In this story, I’m introducing a protagonist who is evil; he’s big, powerful, and totally uncaring about other people. I want to create a strong character that you want to hate from the moment you meet him. Plus, I’m introducing an interesting character that will set Kemp’s hair on edge. That will be fun.
There’s also going to be an earlier version of the Witness Protection Program that Kemp introduces into the story. I’m really excited about this one.
10. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I’m hopeful that readers find a series about the early U.S. Marshals to be interesting. In researching this topic, I became aware of the rich history of this arm of law and everything that they had accomplished.
They were almost a “jack of all trades” when it came to lawmen. Independent and daring, they had to make their arrests, organize courts and witnesses, and even conduct a census if necessary.
I think they’re an interesting group and hopefully, even though my stories will be fictional, I can still infuse some early facts about the U.S. Marshal Service.