Raw Deal at
by Clay More
Romancing The West welcomes Clay More, the alter-ego of Dr. Keith Souter, a multi-talented author who's also an expert on Arthurian legend, gambling games, and oh, by the way, he's a medical doctor. His fiction career started with the children's stories he sold while still in college, but gave way to non-fiction when he took up writing prescriptions and articles for medical journals. Now he writes fiction in four genres and The Western Fictioneers Library is reissuing some of his backlist, starting with the book he's telling us about today. You can find out lots more about Clay More (Keith) at his bio page.
RTW: I'm happy that some of us who missed your books the first time around will get another chance with your reissues through Western Fictioneers Library. WF just released Raw Deal At Pasco Springs a week or so ago. What's it about? I'd love to read the cover copy.
CM: Lady Luck smiled down on ex-lawman Tom Mallory when he won the Diamond T ranch in a poker game. Tom begins to wonder if it was actually bad fortune when he is ambushed and then rides into a gunfight where a hooded man in a long duster coat shoots a man pinned under his horse. Furious at this bushwhacking, Tom takes cards in this deadly game, and soon it starts to look like this gamble is going to be his last hand . . .
In a nutshell, it is a traditional western adventure complete with twists and a romance.
RTW: You’re a doctor, you live in England and have written everything from A Classic Guide to King Arthur to children’s stories, and along the way have some cozy mysteries and more, so I’m curious—why do you write Westerns? What aspect of life in the Old West intrigues you the most? Did you work that into Raw Deal at Pasco Springs?
CM: First of all, thank you for inviting me along.
When I was a kid westerns were everywhere. On TV, at the movies and on every bookstall. The TV shows were good wholesome entertainment. The whole family sat down and watched The Lone Ranger, Have Gun Will Travel, The Cisco Kid, and all of those classics. I never lost that fascination for the Old West and when I first thought of writing a novel, after having written a stack of medical and non-fiction books, it just seemed inevitable that it should be a western.
My pen name, as you may have guessed, reflects that early enthusiasm. It is a homage to Clayton T Moore, the Lone Ranger.
It is the whole idea of the frontier that intrigues me. It was a place that all sorts of folk drifted to, bringing their skills. Journalists, photographers, doctors and gunmen, they could just drift into a remote town and set themselves up. There was something romantic about that. As a doctor I am interested in the history of medicine and surgery and in all of my fiction I use that and drip it into my stories.
RTW: How did you come to picture Tom Mallory? Did he step into your mind fully formed, or was he based on an historical character, or on one of those TV heroes from your youth?
CM: Tom Mallory is based on an historical character, a fifteenth century knight – Sir Thomas Malory, the author of Le Morte D’Arthur, the first English novel to come off William Caxton’s printing press in 1485. I have always been fascinated by Sir Thomas (my editor suggested that his name should become Mallory in the novel), because he was a complex character. He was a soldier, scholar, gambler and adventurer. He was also a ladies man, which landed him in trouble.
But I loved the fact that he was a swashbuckler in the grand tradition. He wrote Le Morte D’Arthur, the great epic about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, during various periods of incarceration. He was a man of martial prowess, for he broke out of prison on two occasions. Once, on 27th July 1451 he escaped and swam across the moat at Coleshill prison. On another occasion in October 1454 he broke out of Colchester by using great skill with a variety of weapons, including sword, daggers and langues-de-boeuf, a type of halberd with a spiked head the shape of an ox-tongue.
That is Tom Mallory, transported to the old West.
RTW: What a fascinating character he is, and I'm glad you brought him to life again in a western. Many in your neck of the woods might not have read a Western. If someone who's new to the 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?
CM: I would suggest watching the movie Little Big Man, starring Dustin Hoffman and Faye Dunaway. Its is about Jack Crab, a 121 year old man recounting his life in the Old West. He sees and interacts with just about everyone in the history of the time, from Wild Bill Hickok to General George Armstrong Custer. He meets snake oil salesmen, gunfighters, and gamblers. He sees life from all aspects. He is raised by Indians, becomes a mountain man, a scout and a gunfighter. We see fights, love affairs, peccadilloes and the whole panoply of life in the Old West.
I think that movie is fun and the numerous adventures, told in an almost Baron von Munchausen manner, show you the rich tapestry that was the frontier.
RTW: Back to Raw Deal in Pasco Springs, why must Tom Mallory take this particular story journey? What does he have to prove? How does Lucinda affect his journey?
CM: I partly explained that earlier, since Tom is a bit like Sir Thomas. He was a lawman, but after Annabelle, an outlaw intending to kill Tom killed his fiancée, he had eschewed the law and became a roving gambler. On his way to Pasco Springs he comes upon an ambush and a man is killed. He feels obliged to pin on a badge and see that justice is done. There is a mystery that he has to solve.
Lucinda and Tom connect straight away and they fall in love. But Tom is scared that something could happen to her, the way that it did with Annabelle. She wants them both to run away and start a new life together, but he has a duty to the town and a hand to play in the trouble that is building up.
RTW: You've brought us an excerpt (thank you!), so please set it up for us.
CM: Tom’s arrival in Pasco Springs with the wounded sheriff causes something of a ruckus, not the least being the fact that he can claim ownership of the Diamond T ranch. He had won it in a card game, much to the surprise of the beautiful widow, Nell Trent, the stepmother of the wastrel who had lost it to Tom.
A local cattle baron immediately offers to buy it from him, to the even greater horror of the beautiful Mrs. Trent. The gambler in Tom suggests a solution.
Raw Deal in Pasco Springs
by Clay More
A crowd gathered round the table as the clientele of the Longbow sensed that the drama was not yet played out.
‘Aces High – three way cut,’ Tom announced. ‘If Mr Wheeler wins he gets to buy the ranch from me. Mrs Trent wins and she gets to keep the Diamond T, but gives me a steak a day until I decide to hoist leather.’
‘And if you win?’ Nell Trent demanded, her brow beetling in consternation. ‘Don’t you think for one minute that I’m part of the ranch furnishings.’
Tom laughed. ‘No ma’am. If I win I keep the ranch, but you and your stepson stay on to help me run it. No strings attached.’ He took the cards, executed a waterfall shuffle, and then pushed the deck towards Nell Trent.
She pursed her lips, hesitated for a few moments, then cut the deck. She smiled, ‘Queen of Hearts.’
Tom nodded to Sam Wheeler, who cut the Four of Clubs. The rancher scowled. ‘I don’t know what your game is, Mallory…’
‘Gambling!’ replied Tom with a grin. ‘I let Lady Luck decide what’s going to happen.’ And with apparent disinterest he leaned forward and cut the deck to reveal the King of Diamonds. ‘Well now, my favourite one-eyed King. Looks like I win and have myself a lady ranch manager.’
Raw Deal at Pasco Springs is available at
RTW: What’s next? Is Raw Deal at Pasco Springs a part of a series? We want to know about your upcoming reissues as well as new books out.
CM: Actually, The Western Fictioneers Library has another four of my westerns stacked up to come out in the future. Two of them are stand alones and the last two are the first two in a series about another character, Jake Scudder.
The next one to come out, I believe, will be Judge on The Run, followed by Double-Dealing at Dirtville. Like Raw Deal they are all mysteries, and things are not at all as they seem. Oh, and they all have love interest in them.
Dr. Logan Munro, my character in the Wolf Creek series is back in Book 4 The Taylor County War, and will also be back in Book 6.
Apart from that I have a couple of medical books coming out in the summer, and a crime novel, the fifth in my West Uist series about Inspector Torquil McKinnon.
And next year I have The Tea Cyclopedia coming out.
RTW: I adored Dr. Munro in Wolf Creek: Bloody Trail, and I'm looking forward to his next appearance. Thanks for taking time with the RTW readers today. Anything else you’d like to add?
CM: Yes, you asked about my interests in the Old West, well I am fascinated by Snake Oil salesmen and nineteenth century medicine in general. One of my particular favorite topics is phrenology, which I just happen to be talking about on Thursday.
Win a Signed Hardback Book!
We will be tossing the names of all commenters into Keith’s medical bag, from which one name will be pulled out. The winner will receive an original signed copy of the hardback book Raw Deal at Pasco Springs. The drawing will be held Saturday, March 1, at 9pm Pacific Time. The winner will have to be patient because the book will be mailed from England.
Be sure to check out Clay More/Keith Souter's article on phrenology this Thursday. You'll learn a lot and Keith's style is always entertaining.