Grainger’s e-Western Short Stories | Old Fashioned Genre in New-Fangled Form

Grainger’s Western noir short stories are only available on Kindle.

It all started with a tweet. A retweet, to be entirely accurate. My friend John Kenyon, editor of the Corridor Business Journal, gifted arts and entertainment writer, and a fine fiction writer in his own right, retweeted @CashLaramie promising a free e-copy of his self-published e-book to those who headed to his website and asked for one. The combination of John’s imprimatur and the word “free” was good enough for me. I followed the instructions without paying too much attention to the details. I was dimly aware that the names Cash Laramie, Gideon Miles, and Edward A. Grainger were involved.

As a result, I was a little surprised when I got an email from David Cranmer, whose name hadn’t registered with me at all, that included the promised copy of The Adventures of Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles, by Edward A. Grainger. Grainger, it turned out is the pseudonym Cranmer, who writes crime fiction under his own name, uses when he’s writing noir Westerns. Included with the e-book was a low-pressure request for an Amazon review.

Refusing to cede ground to Amazon reviewers (St. Jude must be so proud), I wrote Cranmer back and told him I would be pleased to review the book for The Iowa Source. So here goes.

The Adventures of Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles is a strong collection of linked Western short stories set in the 1880s and featuring two deputy U.S. marshals who sometimes stray from the letter of the law in their pursuit of a higher justice. Laramie, charismatic, fierce, and resourceful, is a passionate defender of those who can’t defend themselves. This noble impulse can lead him to take questionable, if decisive, action. Miles, an African American, faces dangers from both criminals and the law-abiding, if bigoted, people he serves. Nevertheless, he is resolute in his quest to right wrongs, and he is armed with unique skills that serve him well.

The stories would be quite successful even if they were nothing more than exciting adventure stories, but Cranmer (as Grainger—a pseudonym he chose to honor his grandfather, who bore the name and wrote two books in the 1930s) accomplishes more, addressing social issues in a way that flows naturally from his stories and the characters who inhabit them. For example, “Melanie,” one of the collection’s strongest stories, deals with child abuse and the limits of the law’s ability to address it. While the story is fairly predictable, Cranmer ensures that it is character driven, which ensures that the ending is also moving.

Those aforementioned Amazon reviewers also think highly of Cranmer’s efforts. In fact, in early September, the book climbed to the top spot in Amazon’s Western category. That same week, I interviewed Cranmer via email. I was interested in both his marketing strategies and  his thoughts about his writing.

We started with the Twitter giveaway.

“My original idea with the giveaway was dual purpose: introduce readers to Cash and Miles and spread the word. I know that was a success because many of the good folks who received a free copy blogged about it on their individual sites and left five-star reviews on Amazon. Those reviews propelled my e-book into the top 100 sales chart and to number one on the Top Rated Westerns.”

Among those who tweeted about the book was mystery superstar Lawrence Block.

“Lawrence Block was an immediate spike in sales, and I’m very appreciative of his generous words. What an honor! But I also have to include all the other people on Twitter. Each time I tweet a little advertisement for my book, I sell a few copies. Whether it’s direct or from the kind folks who re-tweet, sending the ad all over the Twitterverse, they’ve all helped to get my book out there.”

I also asked him about the social issues in his book, including issues of race. Cranmer’s black marshal is grounded in fascinating, if forgotten, history:

“Two people who fascinate me from this period are Wyatt Earp and Bass Reeves. Of course, Earp is very well documented with scores of films and books. But Bass Reeves has largely been forgotten by Hollywood and pulp fiction writers. How is this possible?! His feats as an African-American marshal are extraordinary. He was given some of the nastiest criminals to hunt down, because, quite honestly, no one else would. His law enforcement career lasted so long that he worked the streets of 20th century Oklahoma. So Gideon Miles is partially based on Bass.”

A second volume on Cash and Miles may well be out by the time this column is printed. The quality of the first book, combined with Cranmer’s social media savvy, suggests that it, too, will be a success.