Sunday, May 29, 2011


Throw The Devil Off The Train
Stephen Bly

Every hero or heroine needs a side-kick to bounce off thoughts and ideas.
Sidekicks in Throw The Devil Off The Train provoke humor and provide balance.

Frances Garrity, an obese woman with two very small children, fills the seat behind Catherine Draper and Race Hillyard. As she becomes enmeshed in their lives, she seems oblivious to her massive size. Part comic relief, she also enriches the story with her depth of experience, hurts and show of loyalty.

When Francine auditioned for a part in Throw The Devil Off The Train, I was skeptical of her size. However, her natural, in-your-face personality convinced me of her importance.

The second quirky character is Mr. Walker, Race Hillyard’s saddle. His name comes from the stamp of the maker, D. L. Walker of Visalia, California, on the back of the cantle. Catherine anthropomorphizes him by her various conversations during central scenes.

Then, six teenage daughters of a Mormon passenger who dress alike, act quite different. Yet their focus on this trip unites them as they’re concerned about the fate of Catherine and Race.

None of the sidekick characters showed up on my list when I started the book. They just appeared, one by one, in various scenes. If they did well, I allowed them larger parts later in the story. Who ends up in my novels surprises me. But I’ve noticed one thing. . .seldom do normal people qualify.

Just when I think I know the plot, the characters up and change everything.

Creede of Old Montana
You see, Avery John Creede needed a sidekick. In a western movie, theme music can move the story along. In a western novel, without a partner for your protagonist, you’re forced to use a lot of interior monologue…or he or she talks to a horse. I’ve even included a burro and a moose…as a sort of sidekick to converse with in my novels. Each of these was for the heroines.
I decided in Creede of Old Montana on a young compadre. But Avery’s such a loner, he wouldn’t accept just any kid. So I provided a nephew who was named after him: Avery Creede Emerson…or Ace.

In order not to stereotype Ace, I didn’t want him to be a rank tenderfoot at everything. I wanted him to be of help to his Uncle Avery, but keep his independent personality. So, I needed a dramatic event or two to reveal his character.
I like Ace. He’s kind of like a young Matt Damon…or for Bly fans, think of him as a young Brady Stoner. He hasn’t been out west very long, but he’s a quick learner. And he recalls a few words from the dime novels he’s read, such as “light a shuck,” which means to get out there in a hurry. Much needed concept when he hangs around his Uncle Avery.

Ace soon starts using the phrase, “What would Uncle Avery do?” to get him through his troubles. This reminds Avery of his important role in Ace’s life, a duty suddenly thrust on him, to be sure.
I figure Avery needs a long talk with someone…to explain some things, to figure out others. Maybe he’ll unload to the mystery dark-haired lady…or the gal in yellow. Maybe he’ll confide in his nephew, Ace. Or maybe he’ll let me in on it. Me and Avery go way back.


Who's your favorite novel sidekick?

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Throw The Devil Off The Train

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