Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Darrell James

“It was Saturday, February 21, 1925 and in Tucson, Arizona, excitement was everywhere. This community of 34 thousand souls was getting ready for a thing called La Fiesta de los Vaqueros, the Celebration of the Cowboys. Thousands of visitors had arrived for the festivities and rooms were as scarce as snowdrifts. Cowpokes drifted in to pay their entrance fees, parade contestants turned up to register, and long lines of prospective spectators waited to buy tickets for the western show. The sun had just begun to peek through gray skies raising the mercury to a comfortable 68 degrees. An eager crowd lined the route and 300 persons waited to fall into procession. Gear was checked, horses calmed, hats adjusted, drumheads tightened. The signal was given promptly at 10:30 and the La Fiesta de los Vaqueros parade moved out onto Congress Street and headed east…”

Thus reads history.

It’s rodeo time in the Old Pueblo this week. La Fiesta de los Vaqueros. While modern Tucson is a city of close to one million inhabitants, it still celebrates, with honor, its grand tradition of rodeo. More than 200,000 fans will attend this week’s wild west eshow and rodeo.

Bull riding, barrel racing, steer wrestling, calf roping--it’s rough and tough doings-- that mirrors the past, exemplifying the rugged nature of the men and women who first settled the territory.

I look forward to rodeo week each year. A chance to step back into the old west for a short time and relive the cowboy past. It’s a tradition that defines the area and, as in the past, defines the people who choose to live here.

As authors, we look for settings for our fiction that are rich in history and tradition, and that can serve to define the fictional characters that populate the stories. It was for this reason I made the decision to place my series protagonist, Del Shannon, in Tucson.

Coming this fall, book two in the series, SONORA CROSSING, will draw on setting in a big way, taking my female protagonist, Del Shannon, on a quest into the dangerous drug corridors along the Arizona/Mexico border near Tucson. An area that, in many ways, is as lawless, today, as the territory of old.

Great story settings define the characters that populate them. And Tucson, rich with a tough and rugged history, serves to define Del Shannon.

There will be more forthcoming on the book. But for now, I’m going to don my cowboy hat and head for the rodeo.

In what way, does setting work to define your character? What traditions work to define your setting?

Nazareth Child, the first novel in the Del Shannon series, has been nominated for the Left Coast Crime Eureka Award for Best First Novel. It is available at bookstores and online retailers in print and for all popular electronic reading devices.


Robin Allen said...

Howdy from Texas, Darrell, where it's rodeo time here, too. I chose Austin for my Poppy Markham: Culinary Cop series, in part, because of its history and backdrop--the Longhorns, the Bat Bridge, the haunted buildings, the colorful governors--but I don't use it as much as I should. Thanks for reminding me that I have a whole 'nother character to play with.

Kathleen Ernst said...

Great post! And what a rich and textured setting for your books. I love books with a strong sense of place, and I try hard to instill that in my own. The cultural, historical, and environmental landscape has a lot to do with who my protagonist is--how she sees herself, how others see her.

Enjoy the rodeo!

Darrell James said...

Thanks for the comments, Robin and Kathleen. I'll take pictures.

Beth Groundwater said...

Sounds like you've chosen a rich, colorful setting for your series, Darrell. I, too, love Western settings, particularly those where man-against-nature conflicts can be mixed up with man-against-man. That's why I enjoy setting my RM Outdoor Adventures series on the wild whitewater rivers of the Rocky Mountains. Ride on, Darrell!

Jessica Lourey said...

What I want to know, Darrell, is when are you going to ride the bronco?


p.s. Um, I have to type "tIfman gertionv" to post my comment. Seems sort of excessive. Just sayin...


Darrell James said...

Jess, I might run with my grocery cart, but you're not getting me on one of those broncs.