“Warriors of the Wildlands: True Tales of the Frontier Partisans”
The Seeds of the Story
I guess you could say I’ve been working on this project all my life, since I was just a pup fascinated with Apaches, Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett. The first time I ever saw a movie in a theater was when my brother took me to see “Jeremiah Johnson.”
Though I was born and raised in the suburbs of L.A., my family had a little cabin in a small community called Wrightwood in the Angeles National Forest — so I grew up roaming the woods and mountains with a pellet gun and a head full of stories. Stories put there by books that were supposedly beyond my reading level and “too intense” for a young reader — but I had to know more, more, more about frontiersmen, Indians and Mountain Men.
Again, my brother was a major contributor: He gave me Allen W. Eckert’s “The Frontiersmen” when I was 13 or 14 years old and I discovered the story of the 18th Century Ohio Valley scout and ranger Simon Kenton. I was a goner.
Eventually, my scope widened to include African hunters-turned-scouts and Mexican bandits-turned-revolutionaries and all the other assorted characters you find here. I’ve never been able to articulate this to my own satisfaction, but for me this past was alive. As Faulkner had it, the past wasn’t dead, it wasn’t even past. I’ve been accused (and that’s the right word) of wanting to “live in the past,” but that was never true: I wanted to make the past present. A “palaver with a community of ghosts.” I’ve been engaged in that palaver for nigh on 50 years.
The seeds of the Frontier Partisans project go back to my honors thesis in college. To write what I wanted to write, I had to find some sort of historical way to “justify” these old stories of men of the wilderness, fighting small actions that determined the fates of peoples and nations. Y’know, make them relevant.
My thesis drew a historical and cultural line from the frontiersmen of old (Simon Kenton in particular) to the American Special Forces “Green Berets” of Vietnam, the then-young elite anti-terrorist Delta Force, and the storied British SAS (in the ’80s, the SAS was THE hot special forces unit — as hot-n-sexy as SEALs are now). Just as I do here, I explored history, literature and film in drawing that line of resonance and relevance.
Why THIS book?
Over many years, I’ve started and stopped historical fiction projects related to this history. Nothing “took.” Much as I love good historical fiction, I’ve never felt comfortable writing it. As soon as I start tweaking the history to fit the story, it stops working for me. I get inhibited.
One day, while hiking in the woods, I recalled how much I loved Win Blevins’ non-fiction Mountain Man tribute “Give Your Heart To the Hawks.” It was a genuine epiphany — that moment when everything becomes crystal clear. I was not succeeding with historical fiction because I should be writing history. I wanted to do what “Hawks” had done, but on an international stage and across a wider swath of time. And I could use that old thesis, tracing the line from Simon Kenton to Frederick Russell Burnham and P.J. Pretorius to Delta Force.
I started with a blog — www.frontierpartisans.com, which has built a gratifying following of folks who are interested in this history, told this way. The blog is proof-of-concept — and has become an electronic campfire for many compadres to gather around to talk story.
Why “Frontier Partisans”?
Well, “Frontier” is obvious. The term “Partisan” evokes small, irregular bands of men fighting in woods, mountains and deserts. While it’s most often associated with World War II resistance movements (the Soviet Partisans and the Yugoslav Partisans gave the German Wehrmacht fits) when you attach “frontier” to it, it accurately evokes that “ranging way of war.” Carved down to its most fundamental level, frontier partisan warfare amounts contending gangs of armed men, each representing their “tribe” and fighting it out for control of the land — from North America to Africa and beyond.
A key aspect of the men I profile is that they were warriors, but not soldiers. Simon Kenton formed his own, unsanctioned Ranger band. Jack Hays’ and Ben McCulloch’s Texas Rangers were volunteers, even in the Mexican War (and U.S. Army General Zachary Taylor despised their indiscipline and murderous tendencies and would never have considered them soldiers). Al Sieber of Apache Wars fame was a professional scout — but always as a civilian contractor. Frederick Russell Burnham may have been “the greatest scout America ever produced,” but his day job was prospecting. Frederick Courteney Selous and P.J. Pretorius both held rank in the British Army during World War I, but they were really professional hunters bringing their skills to bear in a military setting.
"Warriors of the Wild Lands" was always in the cards — though it is by no means an end point. I knew I was going to self-publish, so that I could create exactly the book I wanted to create. The publishing world being what it is (and isn’t) I believe it’s the right choice.
Risks and challenges
The book is completely written and has been through a manuscript edit, so there is no risk associated with completion of the project. The music that is included as a reward is also recorded and ready for download. We've allowed an appropriate amount of time for design, formatting and printing, as well as production of the rewards so the delivery date is realistic.
The only significant foreseeable challenge is packaging and shipping the book and rewards, and if demand is sufficient I am prepared to get more hands on that end of the project.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)