Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Jude Johnson: Dragon's Legacy #western

Dragon’s Legacy
by Jude Johnson

Romancing The West welcomes Jude Johnson, who has been a history enthusiast since childhood and has lectured about her historical research at the Sierra Vista Historical Society, the Welsh League of Arizona, and the West Coast Eisteddfod in Los Angeles. She's a chiropractic physician and the author of the Dragon and Hawk series, set in historic Arizona Territory, following three brothers from Wales to the gambling halls of Tombstone and on to Tuscon.

RTW: Thanks for joining us today, Jude! We'd love to hear about your featured book, Dragon's Legacy.

JJ: Dragon’s Legacy is the third of a series set in the Southern Arizona Territory. Jamie Jones--half Welsh, half Mexican—struggles to find his place in 1904 Tucson. He’s determined win the affections of newcomer Iris Crawford to prove his worth, unaware she has her own agenda.

Percy Kindall is a privileged rogue in San Diego—until the day of his father’s suicide. He learns his father sent a letter sent to a mysterious Mrs. Reyna Jones in Tucson.

Jamie and Percy’s lives collide and intertwine in a web of secrets that could destroy the entire Jones family.

See details at the end of this post

RTW: Why do you write Westerns? What aspect of life in the Old West intrigues you the most? Did you work that into Dragon’s Legacy?

JJ: I didn’t intend to write a Western. It snuck up like a rattler and bit me! My son’s class had a field trip to Bisbee and Tombstone back in 2001 and I went along as “Mom Help.” As we were touring the Queen copper mine, the guide told us how the mine manager went to Wales and actively recruited about 300 miners back in 1878 to get things going. I had a sudden vision of men from a lush, green, rainy land arriving in the arid, dusty, broiling Arizona desert and knew I wanted to tell that story. My first novel, Dragon & Hawk, introduced Evan Jones and Reyna Montoya Svensen, the widowed Mexican mystic healer he reluctantly falls for. So far, the saga of their struggles to survive and start horse ranching has spilled into two more books.

Jude Johnson, author
The detail of life in those days fascinates me. Not merely how people did things without modern conveniences but how they perceived what was going on around them. For instance, I was surprised at how accepting many folks were of interracial marriage in the nineteenth century—at least until more Anglo (white) women arrived from the East with their Victorian notions of what was “proper.” My third and latest book, Dragon’s Legacy, addresses what children of “mixed” unions had to face as more Easterners moved West at the start of the twentieth century.

RTW: If you lived in 1904 what would you visit first? Is there something you’ve been curious about that you can’t find in your research sources?

JJ: First thing I’d do in 1904 Tucson is attend a Club Filarmonico concert, led by Federico José María Ronstadt. Fred Ronstadt was Linda Ronstadt’s grandfather and founded what eventually developed into the Tucson Symphony Orchestra as well as a number of other bands. In fact, his daughter (Linda’s aunt) became quite famous as a singer at the time and was immensely popular in Europe. The entire Ronstadt clan is musically talented; quite a few play in bands around town and have toured with musicians such as Neil Young.

As far as research, I haven’t had time yet to delve into the specifics of the naturalization process at the turn of the twentieth century and how attitudes in Southern Arizona might have been different from other places. After all, this was part of Mexico until the Gadsden Purchase and two Native American reservations straddle the border, so people have come and gone fairly freely until recent years. As World War I approached, suspicion and distrust of immigrants from everywhere grew into near panic; I’d like to dig into how that led to one of the ugliest episodes in Arizona history—the Deportation of Bisbee in 1917—which will probably conclude the series.

RTW: If a person who had never read a Western (any sub-genre) asked you for a recommendation, what novel or movie would you recommend and why? What did the author do to bring the story alive for you?

JJ: Lonesome Dove is hands-down the epic Western book/mini-series. Characters are well-developed and fascinating, setting is descriptive and vibrant, and the action breaks your heart. Larry McMurtry created fully-dimensioned characters with humor and flaws that burned each one into lasting memory. It’s the absolutely perfect sweeping saga that transports the reader across the Western landscape and every human emotion. That movie still chokes me up at the end… But I also have to say my go-to movie when I’m down is Blazing Saddles. Mel Brooks took every stereotype, exaggerated it, and showed how ridiculous racial prejudice could be.

RTW: Why must Jamie Jones take this particular story journey? What does he have to prove? How does {2nd character or setting} affect his journey?

JJ: In Dragon’s Legacy, Jamie Jones is the eldest son of Evan and Reyna, and all he wants is to be treated as an equal in an increasingly prejudiced Arizona Territory. Though his last name is Jones, he looks like his Mexican mother with dark skin, dark hair, and unique eyes. When a beautiful newcomer looks right through him as though he does not exist, Jamie is determined to win her hand and prove he is just as good as anyone else. But Iris Crawford is not who he assumes she is, eventually leading him into a maze of lies, deception, and consequences that affect his entire family. And who the hell is this dude who shows up and seems to be rather friendly with Iris?

RTW: We'd love a little sneak peek. Could you please intro your excerpt?

JJ: In this scene, Jamie Jones has managed to talk his way into a return trip to downtown Tucson after tumultuous news cut the previous day’s shopping plans short. He’s hoping to run into the beautiful blonde newcomer as he enters the town’s grand department store...

Excerpt of Dragon's Legacy
by Jude Johnson

Jamie reached into his pocket for Mam’s list—and froze when he saw the blonde girl from yesterday. She embodied Eastern sophistication in a red traveling suit with a black hat perched on the left side of her head. Red-dyed pheasant feathers danced slightly in the air stirred by overhead ceiling fans. One scarlet-gloved hand lifted a vase shaped like a calla lily. Her golden hair was swept up beneath her hat, leaving sashes of curling tendrils to frame her face. Flawless pink cheeks and white skin showed no blemish, scar, or mark. Eyes the color of polished maple wood seemed to glow with shades of rich brown and warm tan. Rosy lips pursed into a bow as she looked at the vase in her hands and set it down again.

“Good morning, Mr. Jones. May I be of assistance?”

He blinked, startled from his reverie. “Oh, good morning, Mrs. Anderson,” he said to the smiling, middle-aged saleswoman. “Yes, ma’am. My mother prepared a list.” He offered the piece of paper…

“Mrs. Anderson, do you know that young woman in the red suit?”

Her smile faltered. “New to town from Pennsylvania, I believe. She’s been in quite a few times. I’m afraid I don’t know her name.” She cleared her throat. “Shall we get started?” She gestured toward the wide, elegant staircase.

“Excuse me! You there, missy!”

Jamie and Mrs. Anderson both turned as the young lady in question approached with a faceted crystal vase. “I’ll take this.”

Her voice was higher pitched than he’d imagined, a little strident and nasal in fact, but he thrilled to be this close to such a beauty.

Mrs. Anderson nodded. “Of course, miss. If you’ll take it to the register, Mr. Meyer will be happy to ring your purchase.”

“You do work here?” Red gloves thrust the vase toward the saleswoman.

“Pardon me, miss, but I am already assisting this gentleman.”

He shifted his weight from foot to foot and tried to smile. He’d worn his usual work clothes—brown trousers, tan vest, and white cotton shirt—to run errands. They were clean, “certain sure” as Dad said, but not likely to impress anyone. Any nicer attire would have aroused his parents’ suspicions about his reason for coming to town—and drawn relentless ribbing from Will and the twins.

The blonde raked her lovely eyes from Jamie’s boots to his head. “A hired hand passes for a gentleman in this town?” She dismissed him with a sniff and lifted her chin. “Perhaps I should complain to Mr. Steinfeld about the service in his store?”

Humiliation scorched his cheeks. “I’ll wait, Mrs. Anderson.” Jamie inclined his head and stepped back. “Ladies first.”

“Thank you. You are indeed a gentleman, Mr. Jones,” the saleswoman whispered. “I’ll return as quickly as possible.”

He nodded and watched the movement of the blonde’s red skirt sway on the long walk to the counter.

“Don’t stare, mijo.”

He turned to see his parents standing not far away. He blushed again…

I’m just a ‘hired hand’ in her eyes. He brooded as he trudged up the stairs after them. But at least this time she’d actually seen him. He daydreamed as his mam sized dress shirts against his back.

Next time we meet, I’ll look grand. She’ll choose me instead of all the others and maybe kiss my cheek as we stroll down Congress Street.

He stood a little straighter and smiled.

RTW: Thanks so much!  What’s next? Is Dragon’s Legacy a part of a series?

JJ: Yes indeed! It’s Book Three of my Dragon & Hawk series. Book One is Dragon & Hawk. The Dragon, specifically a Red Dragon, is the symbol of Wales. As our mystic healer Reyna tells it, everyone has a totem, an animal spirit guide, and the Red Dragon is the totem of Evan Jones. Hers is the Red-Tailed Hawk of the desert. Book Two is called Out of Forgotten Ashes, following Evan and Reyna beyond their HEA as they deal with all the joys and frustrations of marriage while struggling to survive the economic crash of Tombstone’s mining collapse amid blasts from Evan’s rather unsavory past. And of course, Book Three visits the next generation in Dragon’s Legacy. I’m working now on following the Joneses as the Mexican Revolution gains momentum, spilling over the border into Southern Arizona. I’m researching not only facts but talking with families whose members were caught up in the chaos on both sides.

RTW: Sounds wonderful, a fascinating group of characters. Here's a look at the book video for Dragon's Legacy:

RTW: Anything else you’d like to add?

JJ: Thank you so much for inviting me to share with your readers. I had so much fun researching and writing these novels; then again, I’ll do anything to avoid housework!

Comment with the title of your favorite Western book or movie (no later than 11:59 pm Pacific Time on November 16th) and I’ll have my deranged cat, Fritz, choose a name at random to win a PDF copy of your choice of my novels PLUS a $10 Gift Certificate to Champagne Books (So you can purchase the others in the series if you like!).

Drawing will be held at High Noon, Tucson time on Saturday, November 17, 2012. Please leave your email address so I can contact you if you’re the winner. (If you type it in this manner: myemail AT whatever DOT com, it won’t be picked up by spammers.)

Thanks, Jude!  We'll be looking forward to reading your article, Tools of the Trade, on Thursday!


  1. Lonesome Dove. And, Nov. 17 is my 60th birthday! :) tell the cat! Mona Everett

  2. I'm reading Six-guns and Sleigh Bells right now. It's an anthology of short stories by some spectacular authors, all members of Western Fictioneers. For a holiday treat, give it a try!

  3. LOL Mona, I'll tell the cat but like all males, he doesn't listen very well!
    And Jacquie, that sounds like a good read; I'll check it out.

    Thanks again for a fun interview!


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