Friday, April 26, 2013

Peacemaker Nominee: Last Stand at Bitter Creek by @TomRizzoWrites #western

Last Stand at Bitter Creek

2013 Peacemaker Nominee for 
Best First Book

Romancing The West welcomes author Tom Rizzo, who spent most of his career writing non-fiction, but has now made the transition to the story world.  What a splash he's made, too--nominated for Best First Book!  So let's see what he has to say about this unique and compelling book. 

The Story
A patrol of soldiers massacred...
A hidden gold shipment missing...
An irreplaceable historical document stolen...
An undercover agent betrayed, and on the run...

When a routine undercover mission gets compromised, a burned out Union spy finds himself in the crosshairs of a cunning and diabolical army commander. Grant Bonner becomes the hunted and the hunter, trapped in an intricate conspiracy that will test his courage and sense of justice.

Facing unrelenting odds, he struggles whether to put the past behind him for good, or risk going undercover once more to pursue the battle-hardened, rogue officer intent on destroying him. For some soldiers, the war isn't over, and won't end until Bonner makes his Last Stand at Bitter Creek.

About Tom
Tom Rizzo is the author of Last Stand at Bitter Creek a historical action-adventure novel set in the mid- to late-1800s. A passion for 19th century American history, Tom's novel includes several elements of historical fact. His writing journey has taken him from radio and television news reporting to The Associated Press, where he worked as a correspondent, followed by several years in advertising and public relations. He grew up in central Ohio, lived in Great Britain for several years, and now calls Houston, Texas home. Visit Tom at his website, Twitter, or Facebook

Origin of the Story Idea
Years ago, I wrote an article for Wild West magazine about the first peacetime train robbery in the United States, which took place a North Bend, Ohio, just outside Cincinnati. If you Google "first train robbery in US history," most results will reference the Reno gang boarding an Ohio & Mississippi passenger train on Oct. 6, 1866, at Seymour, Indiana, and robbing it of $13,000. The Reno Brothers would eventually be caught.

More than a year earlier—May 5th, 1865—the Ohio & Mississippi was robbed on its express run from Cincinnati to St. Louis. Outlaws derailed the train about 12 miles outside the city and made off with at least thirty US Treasury bonds valued at $1,000 each from the Adams Express car, along with whatever valuables they took from a hundred passengers. The robbers escaped in skiffs across the Ohio River into Kentucky, never to be heard from again.

The crime was never solved. From various newspaper accounts, I've concluded the robbery was staged by a band of both Union and Confederate soldiers. Union troops were in the area awaiting discharge, but with little money since pay-periods were so infrequent. Also in the area were Confederate soldiers who had been paroled, but still in uniform. Several passengers reported hearing one of the robbers referred to as "captain," and another as "lieutenant."

Up to then, most of my writing had been focused on news and magazine articles, but the idea of writing a novel persisted. Since the train robbery was never solved, it triggered a lot of "What if" scenarios, which boiled down to handful of questions: What if something was on that train so valuable that less than four or five individuals knew of its existence? To what diabolical means would someone go to protect, and even kill, for this secret treasure?

I've read comments by other authors who have said that once they got an idea for a novel, it sort of wrote itself. In my case, the story did not write itself—otherwise I would have gotten a whole lot more hours of sleep that I did!

Last Stand At Bitter Creek
by Tom Rizzo

Will Denton stood waiting at the railroad siding. By habit, he usually kept his badge pinned on his shirt, beneath the vest. This time, he wore it in a more conspicuous place so there would be no mistake about him being the one in charge. The train carried one passenger. A short, stocky man stepped onto the platform, wearing a gun on his hip, and some kind of leather contraption under his arm. He spotted the sheriff and walked toward him, a saddlebag draped over his left shoulder.

"Sheriff Denton. I'm Frank Mecklin. That killer Bonner still in town?"

Ever since approaching the man who called himself Brady Adams, the sheriff had suspicions. Nothing specific, of course, but over the years he came to rely more and more on his intuition. His exchange with Adams on the night he arrived left him less than satisfied. The stranger seemed to dance around the questions that were asked. Denton didn't quite buy the tale Adams spun about the doctor he telegraphed.

Soon after he contacted the railroad office in Cincinnati and mentioned a drifter who sent a telegram to Doctor Caleb Wright, he received a return wire advising him to expect Detective Frank Mecklin on the next train.

"He's been laid up with a fever for a couple of days now. I doubt he's going anywhere soon. At least voluntarily," he told the visitor.

Denton spotted the double barrels of a 12-gauge sawed-off shotgun cradled in a leather sling under Mecklin's arm. Denton used a scattergun at one time, a big advantage in a shootout, but not much of one at long range.

"You aimin' to shoot someone or blow him into little pieces?"

"Whatever hurts the most," he said, delivering the words without a trace of humor.

For a second, Denton questioned whether he did the right thing contacting Mecklin.

"Sounds like you got something personal at stake."

"Yep. Real personal."

The sheriff looked up at the sky, hoping to discourage further explanation. Sometimes, the less he knew about a man's motives, the better.

"Had the son-of-a-bitch in my hands once," Mecklin said, almost to himself. "But he got the drop on us, hogtied us, took our horses and hats, and left us in the hot sun to bake to death."


"Me and a couple of witnesses to the train robbery I deputized. He roughed one of 'em up pretty bad. Kicked him so hard, the man's brains are still scrambled. He threw a shot my way when he left, and almost hit me in the head. So, what's our first move? Where's he at now?"

Denton took a bandana from his back pocket and mopped sweat from his tanned face. Not yet mid-morning, and already the air began to thicken with humidity.

"I don't want to get the town all riled up with a lot of shooting. We need to be smart about this. It's just the two of us. Keep in mind, he already dealt with three of you, if he is the man you're hunting."

Brady Adams—or whatever his name—didn't strike him as an experienced gun hand. But Denton learned long ago, appearances were sometimes deceptive. No telling what a man can do when his survival's at stake.

"It's him all right. I knew the killer made it this far when you mentioned Doctor Wright in your telegram. Son-of-a-bitch got lucky last time we met. But it won't happen again. Let's just get this over and done, and I'll be on my way."

"He can't leave town without his horse. And it's at the livery," said the sheriff, worried about Mecklin's impatience. "But, he's close by, staying at a tavern a few doors down."

"How do you know he hasn't lit out already?"

"I got a man who would tell me," said Denton, as he returned the bandana to his back pocket.

Mecklin looked away for a few seconds, and then slipped the scattergun from under his arm.

"I can take the tavern, and you cover the livery. I suspect between those two, there ain't a lot of places the son-of-a-bitch can run."
# # #
Last Stand at Bitter Creek
is available at

Congratulations for your nomination, Tom!

The Lifetime Achievement Peacemaker will be presented to Robert Vaughan
  • City of Rocks (Five Star Publishing — Cengage) by Michael Zimmer
  • Unbroke Horses (Goldminds Publishing, LLC) by D.B. Jackson
  • Apache Lawman (AmazonEncore) by Phil Dunlap
  • Wide Open (Berkley Publishing Group) by Larry Bjornson
  • Christmas Comes to Freedom Hill” (Christmas Campfire Companion — Port Yonder Press) by Troy Smith
  • Christmas For Evangeline” (Six-guns and Slay Bells — WF ) by C. Courtney Joyner
  • Keepers of Camelot” (Six-guns and Slay Bells — WF) by Cheryl Pierson
  • The Toys” (Six-guns and Slay Bells — WF) by James J. Griffin
  • Adeline” (Protectors: Stories to Benefit PROTECT — Goombah Gumbo Press ) by Wayne Dundee
  • High Stakes (Musa Publishing) by Chad Strong
  • Wide Open (Berkley Publishing Group) by Larry Bjornson
  • Red Lands Outlaw, the Ballad of Henry Starr ( Publishing) by Phil Truman
  • Last Stand At Bitter Creek (Western Trail Blazer) by Tom Rizzo
  • Sipping Whiskey in a Shallow Grave (Sunbury Press) by Mark Mitten
Winners will be announced on June 1, 2013 


  1. Congratulations on a well-deserved nomination, Tom!
    This was a great read and it took a while on edits as we would forget what we were doing and got absorbed in the story.
    A big thanks to RTW (and Jacquie) for hosting the Peacemaker nominees.

  2. Tom, I have this book and can't wait to read it. I have a TBR list a mile long! LOL Love this cover, too! Congratulations on your nomination!

  3. Tom, your book sounds intriguing. You article also gave me the extra tidbit of research for my WIP. Hope you don't mind if I also use your research facts.

  4. I love the background for your story, Tom. Of course it was the excerpt that put me over the top--gotta buy it. :)

  5. Looks like a well deserved nomination. Congratulations.

  6. Thanks so much everyone. Your comments are appreciated. I had great fun writing it.


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