by Laura Crum
As a Valentine’s gift, my mystery novel, Cutter, is available for free today and tomorrow (Kindle edition). Any reader who would like to try my mystery series featuring equine veterinarian Gail McCarthy, now is the time. The first book in the twelve book series, Cutter, is free Feb 13th and 14th as a Kindle edition. Here is the link.
My first mystery novel, Cutter, came about for a variety of reasons. At the time I wrote it I was roughly thirty years old, and had spent the last five years of my life immersed in cowhorse and cutting horse training and competition. I worked as an assistant to trainers, I took lessons from other trainers, and I trained my own horses and competed on the weekends. I also loved the novels of Dick Francis, and one day a light bulb went off in my head. Maybe I could use my background training western cowhorses in the same way he had used his background as a steeple chase jockey—to create entertaining horse-themed mysteries. And so Cutter was born.
I will freely admit that I modeled the book on my much-loved Dick Francis novels. Whenever I got stuck, wondering what to do next, I would open a book by the master and try to see how he did it. Then I would go back to writing. So, yes, Cutter has a strong flavor of Dick Francis. But I fail to see anything bad about that (!)
The plotting may have borrowed from Francis, but the details of Cutter all came from my own life. The people and horses of the cutting horse world in California-- the world that I had absorbed first hand for many years—are the basis for the characters in this book, described just as I knew them. Oh, I didn’t name any names, and I mixed up one trainer’s face with another trainer’s style, but these people are the real deal.
The horses are the real deal, too. Gail’s horse in the story, Gunner, is modeled on my own Gunner—who is still with me and doing well at thirty-three years of age. I bought Gunner when I was 25 and working as an assistant to some very well-regarded cowhorse and cutting horse trainers. Gunner was in my riding string, and when a buyer came for this sweet colt I couldn’t stand it, and offered the owner his full price (and then I had to take out a loan to come up with the money). Here we are shortly after I bought Gunner—he is three years old and I am pretty proud to own him. He was by far the most expensive horse I’d ever bought, and royally bred to be a cowhorse.
Gunner was bred to be a cowhorse, all right, but I soon tired of the abusive practices I saw in that sport and veered toward cutting, which was overall (at least what I saw of it) easier on the horses. The trouble was that Gunner wasn’t as well suited to be a cutting horse as he was to be a cowhorse. Gunner was 15.3 and had plenty of bone. He was not the typical, little, catty-looking cutting horse. The first cutting horse trainer I worked with took one look at Gunner and said, “Sell him and get another one. A smaller one.” But I didn’t.
I continued to train Gunner to be a cutter. And despite the fact that he was a big horse for that event, Gunner was really quick and extremely cowy. He made a believer out of quite a few trainers. I had a couple of them offer to train him for free if I would let them show him. I declined. I wanted to train Gunner myself. Here we are at the family ranch, practicing. I particularly like the way his mane and my hair are standing straight up.
I eventually got tired of the politics involved in judged events, and took up team roping, which is timed. And despite the fact that I had never competed at team roping before, I trained Gunner to be a rope horse. Here we are, roping a steer at my uncle’s arena.
Gunner at 17 years, retired from competition, but still my riding horse.
When Gunner was thirty and had a hard time keeping weight on in the pasture, I brought him back home so that he could get just what he needed to eat and lots of attention. Here he is, thirty-two years old, being hand grazed by my son.
So if you do download the free edition of Cutter (which I hope you will), you can read it knowing that Gunner is a real horse—and he has had a very happy life. The cover of Cutter was based on a photo of Gunner (cutting a cow) that I sent to the artist. I can see a resemblance. What do you think?
Wow, 30 years with Gunner!?!? Amazing! You are both so lucky to have each other. :)
jenj--I know I've been lucky. I had one beloved horse that died of an inoperable colic at 21 years old, so it doesn't always go this way for me. Gunner is the second horse I've had that made it into his thirties--my first forever horse, Burt, died of a stroke at 35. But yeah, it really is kind of amazing when you think about it. I'm 55 and I bought Gunner when I was 25. We've been together a long time.
Just wanted to say I really enjoyed Slickrock and Barnstorming. I had read a few of your other books and did not know there were more. So now I am going back to read the ones I missed. Just downloaded Cutter. Your books transport me to a wonderful world of horses and the California coast - love them! I hope you change your mind and get inspired to write more.
Wow, what an awesome life you and Gunner have had together! I think I've said it before, but I feel like I know him through your books, all of which I've read and loved (and re-read many times). My first horse, Gypsy, lived to be 31 and she was with me for 23 years. Cricket, my second horse, was only with me for 6 years and died of inoperable colic. I'm hoping Lily, who is 23, will be with me for many years to come!
Thank you, Anon! Though I am flattered when people ask me to write more novels...and very glad you all enjoy my books...I think twelve books is a lot of stories about Gail McCarthy. Not sure I have any more in me. But there are twelve books in the series, so you probably can find one you've missed (!)
Mindy--Sounds like you keep your horses forever, just like I do.
Great story and what a beautiful horse! I already have Cutter . . . and enjoyed it very much!
My Noble wasn't built the same, but was the same rich color. Gunner looks a bit like Pie in build - big and sturdy - I wonder if they have any breeding in common?
Pie is ranch horse on top and a fair amount of TB on the bottom - he looks a bit like he's an Appendix.
Thank you, Kate! Glad you enjoyed Cutter. Gunner is an own son of Mr Gunsmoke out of a daughter of King Fritz. That's old-fashioned breeding now, but at the time I bought him, Gunsmokes were a BIG deal in the cowhorse world. So Gunner's breeding is pretty classic cowhorse. He is 15.3 and kind of leggy looking for a QH--he looks as if he might have TB in him, but if he does, its pretty far back. His maternal grandsire is Booger H--which is foundation-type breeding (or at least I think so, my memory for these QH bloodlines is not what it was).
Pie is a fine looking horse and I have always admired him. The one who's breeding I am slightly familiar with is Red, though.
*Sniff* You've got me crying at work, now! I think Gunner is such a Grand Old Man, and you are soooooo lucky to have had all these years together. And he's lucky to have had such a wonderful mom, who wrote him a book, no less! :-)
I just downloaded the book and can't wait to read it. It's really neat to be able to picture the horses while you're reading about them.
RiderWriter--Gunner actually comes into all twelve books in the series. In some of them he plays a bigger role than others. I hope you enjoy Cutter--and thanks for the kind words about Gunner. I'm off to go spend some time with him right now.
Red is pretty classically bred - double Driftwood Ike (that's where the Hancock feistiness comes in), Poco and Peppy San, crossed with some serious TB speed, and tons of Three Bars - I have a fondness for Three Bars bred horses as my Noble was also heavily Three Bars. He's pretty heavily-built for a cutting horse, but he's only 15 hands and darn nible and very, very fast.
Pie is more the tall and rangy type - pretty classic breeding on top going straight back to Wimpy - and with heavy speed on the bottom. He's matured to almost 16 hands, although he's still somewhat narrow through the chest and base narrow behind - the old man who sold him to me didn't think he'd be big enough for a rope horse, and he may have been right as his build is fairly light for a QH.
Kate--We've had some Driftwood Ike horses around here and they haven't been, shall we say, the "easiest" horses. Frequently very athletic and talented, prone to being a bit strong minded and rebellious. You've obviously gone a long ways to find a path that works for you and Red, and I think that's what it takes with that sort of horse. He is lucky to have you--and judging by your recent blog posts, you are really enjoying all three of your horses. Makes life good.
This post just makes me smile! How awesome that you have immortalized Gunner with your books- and what a great pair you guys are.
I look forward to reading the book and love knowing it involves a real horse.
I have the book just haven't had time to read it yet. You can't go wrong with Dick Francis! I love his books. I can't wait to get started on Cutter. Gunner is a lucky horse.
Thanks CG. I hope you enjoy Cutter.
Thank you RG. I hear you about no time to read. I am lucky if I read one book a month (!)
Oh, thank you! I can't wait to download Cutter and read it. Dick Frances has always been one of my favorite authors... I still remember when I first 'discovered' him!
I hope you enjoy Cutter, Dreaming! I share your love for Dick Francis novels. I corresponded with him for years (and met him once)--what a lovely man--as well as a fine writer.
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