Friday, January 24, 2014

Deadwood Dead Men

Bill Markley lives with his wife, Liz, in Pierre, South Dakota, and has had an interest in the West and Western history as long as he can remember. He started writing about the West in 2001, with his first book, Dakota Epic, Experiences of a Reenactor 
During the Filming of Dances With Wolves. You can read more about Bill, his experiences, and his writing by accessing Writers of the West’s Blog Archive, August 27, 2011, and September 3, 2011. Since then Bill has continued to write nonfiction stories and, most recently, has delved in historical fiction.

“I’ve always been intrigued by history, the human personal accounts of people caught up in grand events and how they cope and emerge from them.” James Crutchfield, editor of The Settlement of America, Encyclopedia of Westward Expansion from Jamestown to the Closing of the Frontier, assigned Bill to write an essay for the encyclopedia on “The Military Establishment” and over twenty entries. “Working on the encyclopedia made me realize that there is so much more to learn about the West. No one person can learn it all in one lifetime.”

Bill writes stories for True West and Wild West magazines. “There are so many good untold stories out there yet. It’s exciting to find an obscure story and bring it to the readership’s attention. I recently wrote a story for True West Magazine about a guidon flag that the South Dakota Cultural Heritage Center is preserving. The Lakota likely captured this guidon during the Battle of the Little Big Horn. It was a pleasure to research its provenance, present the facts to Little Big Horn experts, and have them agree that it likely came from the battlefield. Jerry Bryant, a Deadwood historian and I researched the unsolved murder of Di Lee, Deadwood’s China Doll, for Wild West Magazine. It was fun to delve into a real cold case and speculate on who done it.”

Bill has been a member of Western Writers of America for many years and is currently serving on WWA’s board of directors. “I love Western Writers of America. It is the friendliest, helpful group of folks. If it wasn’t for WWA, I am sure my writing career would not have advanced to where it is today.”

He's a staff writer for WWA’s Roundup Magazine. His column,  "Techno-Savvy," covers the latest developments in writing and social media technology. “When Johnny Boggs, editor of Roundup Magazine, asked me to write the column, I told him I know next to nothing about computers and social media. Johnny answered ‘Good! You can learn about it and explain it to the rest of us.’”

Following a new angle, Bill has entered the realm of historical fiction. His new book, Deadwood Dead Men, released by Goldminds Publishing in September 2013, is a fictional account of events that occurred in Deadwood Dakota Territory in August 1876. “Writing nonfiction can be difficult when there is more than one version of an event, or when a key piece of information may be hazy or missing. So, I wanted to try my hand at telling real stories, but in a fictional manner and that’s what I have attempted with Deadwood Dead Men.

“I picked Deadwood to write about because it’s always been one of my favorite towns. I experienced it for the first time as a kid when I was on a family trip. I still remember walking into the Old Style Saloon Number 10 and seeing the chair that Wild Bill Hickok was allegedly shot in, thinking that was really neat. Although I now know, today that it couldn’t have been the chair since Wild Bill was actually sitting on a low stool. Deadwood has so much interesting history and so many great characters beyond the more famous ones such as Wild Bill, Calamity Jane, and Seth Bullock. As an example, there was Old Frenchy who had been a slave in French Guiana and had tried to escape multiple times only to be recaptured and whipped. He was one of the first pioneers in Deadwood and was loved by everyone. I also wanted to debunk the way Deadwood was portrayed in the HBO TV series. They played fast and loose with history. Even though my book is fiction, I wanted to make sure that it was as historically accurate as possible. I read journals, and memoirs. I read the newspapers of the time period I wrote about and tried to make sure I followed the events in the papers as close as possible.

“I think one of the surprising things that I found was that Deadwood in August 1876 was such an international town. There were people there from all over the world, including Canada, Bavaria, and other parts of Europe and of course the most exotic to Americans at that time—China. The Chinese were some of the first pioneers in Deadwood and one individual in particular, Fee Lee Wong, endeared himself to the white community and became a bridge between the whites and the Chinese community.

“I hope readers will enjoy how I have portrayed the people of Deadwood. There are no superheroes, only ordinary people who at times have to rise to extraordinary levels. My hope is that readers will enjoy the characters who I have populated the book with. It was a fun story to write and who knows, it just might be true. Okay, that was written as I winked.”

Bill’s advice to new writers is “Write what you enjoy; life is short!” You can learn more about Bill at his website or Facebook Writer Page!/Bill.Markley.Writer

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