Friday, March 15, 2019


Writing for the Jake Logan Series

You may not be aware of it, but novels of Southern horror weren't the only books I wrote in the early 1990s. I also wrote western novels... albeit under a different name. A very famous name as far as long-running western series were concerned. 

Yes, I wrote two novels for the Jake Logan series. That seemingly un-ending line of adult westerns that featured the adventures of John Slocum, an ex-Confederate soldier turned drifter, gambler, lawman, outlaw, cowboy, and about any other occupation that folks in the Old West took up in those bygone days. It was also one of the first series -- along with Longarm, Lone Star, The Gunsmith, and Edge -- that incorporated a healthy dose of hot, steamy sex into its adventurous storylines. 

And how did a young author, just starting out in the business, net such a writing coup? Well, pour yourself a shot of rotgut, light up a Clint Eastwood cheroot, and I'll give you the lowdown.

In 1992, around the time that Moon of the Werewolf (Undertaker's Moon) was published by Zebra Books, my agent at the time, Joshua Bilmes of the Scott Meredith Agency, called and asked if I would consider filling a lucrative writing spot that had suddenly opened up. When I asked him which one, he said Jake Logan. Now, I had only heard of the series and seen them on about every bookstore rack imaginable, but had never actually read one. I must admit, I was a tad hesitant to answer with a resounding "Hell, yeah!" You see, I was like most young authors back then and one thing I had equal portions of were pride and a bit of an overblown ego. What? I thought, "write a book that won't be published under MY name!" The thought of ghost-writing at the time was almost taboo in the back of my mind. After all, the main reason I wrote under my natural moniker of Ronald Kelly -- and balked at the thought of using a pen name like some of my contemporaries -- was because I felt I had something to prove. A high school creative writing teacher -- upon learning that had no plans to attend college -- shook her head in patronizing pity. "No one becomes a published author without a college education," she said, as if giving a grim and gloomy eulogy at a funeral of my own making. But, coming from a rural family where folks barely graduated high school, let alone even contemplated college, I followed family tradition and got a full-time job in the factories, while attempting to forge a writing career on the side. It took twelve long years of honing my writing skills through trial and error, and submitting endless reams of short stories and articles without success, before I finally began selling horror stories to little small press horror magazines in the mid-80s; publications like Deathrealm, Grue, Noctupla, and, of course, Rich Chizmar's Cemetery Dance.

Anyway, I told my agent that I would consider it and would let him know something within a week or two. He told me not to wait very long. Apparently, Jake Logan had a small stable of ghost writers, four or five at the most, and the one I was to replace had, sadly, kicked the bucket. If I didn't jump into the empty spot soon, it would go to another writer.

I wrestled with the idea for a few days, then decided to call someone who had been in the publishing business a while longer than I had. The someone I called for advice was none other than Joe R. Lansdale, hisownself. Now, I had known Joe for a while; we'd traded correspondence and talked over the phone from time to time (that's what we did back yonder before the internet made things a hell of a lot easier), and a year earlier he had accepted my dark Louisiana Cajun story "Beneath Black Bayou" for Dark at Heart, a crime/suspense/horror anthology that he and his wife, Karen, had put together for Dark Harvest.  So I called him up one evening and caught him just as he was leaving for martial arts training (I seemed to be annoying like that, in an eager puppy-dog kind of way). As usual, Joe was gracious to the max (sounding a lot like a Nacogdoches, Texas version of Charlie Daniels). When I asked him about ghost-writing, he admitted that he had done it before, as well as having written under a pen name, and that it was no big deal. I thanked him and called my agent back the next day. And started my brief (very brief) gig as a genuine western ghost-writer. 

The first thing I received from Berkley Books was a contract and the Jake Logan Bible. The contract stipulated that for each Jake Logan western I wrote, I would earn a flat $5,000 with no royalties to be paid out afterwards. In my mind that was fair trade; five-Gs for a measly 180 page book seemed like a godsend at that time in my writing career. Despite the fact that I was writing regularly for Zebra, times were tough. My wife, Joyce, and I would pick up cans by the side of the road and cash them in for supper money... which usually consisted of a 24 count box of fishsticks and a box of cheap macaroni and cheese (the powdered kind, not the first-class stuff with the real cheese packet). 

The Jake Logan Bible consisted of fifty double-spaced pages stapled together and told you everything you wanted to know about writing for the series. It gave the background and history of the hero, John Slocum, as well as popular plot examples and writing tips. It also gave, in great and steamy detail, the particulars of writing the customary three to four sex scenes that were required for each novel. Lordy Mercy, it was almost as good as a copy of Penthouse! It gave various sexual positions and places where Slocum and that novel's western hottie could perform the dirty deed. At the side of the trail, in a saloon's upstairs room, in the rocking chair on the front porch of a lonely widows farmhouse... the choices were endless. It also told you what Slocum was allowed -- and not allowed -- to do, during his sexual escapades. Ol' John was open to any position imaginable, but there was some things he wouldn't engage in. Oral sex (as foreplay) was okay, but under no circumstances would there be any type of anal sex. Slocum didn't plow the mudhole, no matter how horny he might be. And there would be no taboo stuff, like bestiality (which happened with sheep and such a lot back then). Slocum could dally around with the heroine-of-the-month, but his horse stayed in the barn, safe and unmolested, where it belonged.

So, in 1993 and 1994, I wrote and published two Jake Logan westerns. Slocum and the Nightriders (#174) was about the hero getting caught in the middle of a range war between a poor rancher and a dastardly cattle baron. Slocum and the Gold Slaves (#187) took a departure from the usual western setting, having Slocum drugged and abducted during a whorehouse tryst and ending up in a glory-hole in Alaska, digging for gold with a team of similarly shanghaied prisoners. I must admit, figuring out the three sex scenes for Gold Slaves was a bit tricky. Slocum is abducted immediately after a whore-hopping scene and ends up slinging a pick in the frigid depths of the gold mind. So how in the world is he going to get lucky, in a mine full of men, with nary a frolicsome harlot in a five hundred mile radius? That's where Blake Duboise entered the picture; a  stage actress who masqueraded as a man to locate her father, a prospector that owned the Glory Hole, but had mysteriously disappeared. After being captured, she was subjected to manual labor, before her true gender was discovered by Slocum. Believe you me... it took some nimble acrobatics on their part to get it on amongst ice cold boulders with their ankles chained securely together. But where there's a will, there's a way, I reckon. 

One other thing that I included in both Jake Logan novels, was my last name somewhere in the storyline (that youthful pride rearing it's ugly head again). In Nightriders it was rancher George Kelly and his voluptuous nymphomaniac of a daughter, Prissy. While in Gold Slaves the one who abducted John Slocum and spirited him away to the Glory Hole was none other than the legendary slave-trader Shanghai Kelly himself.

So, I wrote the two Jake Logans. It took me a mere two weeks to complete each novel and, afterward, I collected a cool five-grand for each. I began brainstorming further Slocum adventures, figuring I was going to turn that gig into a lucrative side career... and, in the process, start eating sirloin steak instead of Raman noodles. Then, suddenly and most unexpectedly, it all came to a halt. Berkley decided to end the Jake Logan series for an indefinite period of time. Discouraged, I went back to my horror writing and left the adult-western genre behind. Six months later, they decided to bring Jake Logan back, but despite my intentions to return to the series they had already hired another writer to fill the vacant spot, leaving me out of the picture.

I reckon I can't complain. I got ten-grand out of the gig, as well some much-need writing experience and some valuable lessons in big name mid-list publishing and contract clauses and stipulations. Wikipedia has me listed as one of the Jake Logan writers and you can find Nightriders and Gold Slaves in used bookstores and listed on eBay every now and then.

So, if you like your western adventures with a little raunchy action peppered throughout the cliff-hanger chapters, you might want to search out the two I had the opportunity... and, yes, pleasure.. to pen. And if you want to sit, naked, in your armchair late at night, wearing only boots, chaps, and a Stetson, flipping feverishly to the naughty parts... well, more power to you, partner. 

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