October, 2023

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Issue #169

Welcome, Western Fans!

Looking for free, tantalizing Tales of the Old West?
You're at the right place.


Read this month's Tales and vote for your favorite.
They'll appear in upcoming print volumes of The Best of Frontier Tales Anthologies!

Defining a Man
by James Reynolds
When you're only fourteen but living in a man's world, people tend not to take you seriously. Especially when youre dealing with bullies, bank robbers, and horse thieves.

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A Twist of Pedigree
by Robert Perron
Lydia thought she knew all she wanted to about her dark skin and the shifting of her upbringing from Ma and Pa to Aunt Sally. She thought her greatest challenge was surviving one of the last Indian raids on the Upper Connecticut. But then she heard from a cousin, also of dubious paternity.

* * *

He Was No Hero
by Phillip R. Eaton
A young southern girl is the lone survivor of a senseless attack on her home by Union Soldiers. Years later, seekingetribution against the captain, she follows him to Kansas to make him pay for his sins.

* * *

Riding the Shadows
by Chris McAuley
Jesse James was one of the world's most successful bank robbers. He always managed to keep one step ahead of the law. A daring train robbery sends marshals and deputies thundering after the James gang. Can Jesse get away again or will he finally face some frontier justice?

* * *

The Longhunter
by Cole Burgett
As a storm brews over the Ohio River Valley in 1781, a cunning longhunter tracks down a band of renegade Shawnee warriors led by the fearsome Black Eagle.

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Horse Killer's Injun
by Tom Sheehan
Merging a cowboy, a dead horse, and an Indian breaks barriers, reconsiders conditions, and draws the possible from infinite situations, The human element is tested, fraught with ideas, lingers for solution before revelation is revealed.

* * *

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All the Tales

Riding the Shadows
by Chris McAuley

Jesse rode hell for leather his eyes scanning the rolling hills of the Missouri countryside. He had just pulled off the train ride of the century and as he pushed his black stallion forward a feral grin escaped his weathered lips. They were taking a chance by riding through the open fields in the middle of the day but it was the fastest way back to their hideout. As he traveled, Jesse's mind raced with thoughts charged by the adrenaline rushing though his body. His gang had successfully intercepted a train from the Union Pacific Express. Blasting open the doors they had secured a fortune in gold and bank bonds. He was especially pleased that no folks had got hurt in the process. It was usually the way. Once he announced his name no one ever reached for their guns against him. The Jesse James gang was well known and their leader's name was whispered with fear and awe across the western plains.

Glancing behind him he made sure that none of his gang had strayed. 'Windy Jim' Cummings's horse tended to go slow on account of its rider's weight. On more than one occasion Jesse swore he would do something about that. Maybe enforce a little separation between that man and his food for a while. Windy was there alright but so was a cloud of dust rising in the distance. It was growing larger with each moment. A sure sign that the lawmen were on their trail. Jesse knew that their escape was never assured and as much as his famous name sometimes benefited him it ensured that the relentless pursuit of the law was never far behind.

With a yell the outlaw spurred his horse forward and urged his gang to keep up the pace. The azure blue of the sky began to darken as day turned to night and despite the tricks that Jesse attempted to employ, the lawmen continued to gain ground. The sound of thunderous hooves echoed through the countryside but all Jesse could hear was his heart beating in his chest. It was forming a rhythm that came from a mixture of exhilaration and fear which was coursing through his veins. By God he loved a high stakes game and he knew that the odds were fairly stacked against him. Only Jesse's wits and skill could save his gang now.

Bullets started to whiz around the James gang as the tin stars got within range. It was then that Jesse spotted a narrow ravine which snaked its way through the landscape. Shouting an alert to his crew he veered off the main path and led them further into the treacherous terrain. With a mixture of agility and determination the horses sped through the causeway, their riders clinging to the saddles for dear life.

The ravine grew narrower and Jesse could feel the walls of rock closing in around him. He continued to urge his frightened steed forward, knowing that this was the only course to salvation. With a quick turn of his head Jesse saw that the lawmen had been caught out by his audacity. They were struggling to follow suit. Their well-fed and ill trained horses stumbled and skidded, unable to match the skill and familiarity with the rugged landscape that Jesse and his gang possessed.

With a final burst of speed, Jesse emerged from the ravine, his gang hot on his heels. They raced towards their sanctuary, a secluded hideout which was nestled deep within the forest. This is where they could regroup and plan their next move. Their horses breathed heavily and their muscles quivered from exhaustion. The gang had pushed their mounts to the limit but they had once again outwitted the law. In the darkness of the early night Jesse dismounted. Once again, a triumphant smile tugged open his lips. He wasn't smiling at his men crowded around the stolen loot which glinted in the fading light. Riches didn't drive him. It was the thrill of the chase which gave his escapades meaning. The exhilaration of outsmarting those lawmen who tried to bring him down.

In the safety of their hideout, Jesse's gang counted their spoils. It was deemed to be another successful venture and another chapter to the legend of Jesse James. If there were trains to rob and lawmen to elude, Jesse's name would continue to echo throughout history, forever intertwined with the wild, untamed spirit of the American west.

The End


This story is set after the infamous Blue Cut Train Robbery which occurred near Glendale Missouri on September 7th, 1881. Not one shot was fired during the holdup and at the end of the robbery Jesse exclaimed to the express agent that the James gang would ruin the Chicago & Alton Railroad. This was a different James gang to the one in the James-Younger days. The James gang were no longer violent pro-Confederate holdouts and the Younger brothers were in jail for shootings in Northfield Minnesota. Nonetheless, the law was after Jesse during this time like never before. Blue Cut is acknowledged to be a second turning point in Jesse James criminal career.

A writer who specializes in the Horror, Science Fiction, fantasy, western and crime genre. Chris has been the lead writer in novels, comics, audio dramas, and games. He is the co-creator of the popular StokerVerse, along with Bram Stoker's great-grandnephew Dacre Stoker. He has also created a science fiction and fantasy franchise with Babylon 5's Claudia Christian called Dark Legacies. Chris has worked on The Terminator series, is the lead writer for the Astroboy animated show, and also works on franchises such as Doctor Who.

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