Hallowed Ground: Meet Coble Bray

Sometimes a book comes along that just grabs you. That one for me lately was Hallowed Ground by Darrel Sparkman. This is a western about a tough marshal named Coble Bray. His character reminded me a lot of Gunsmoke’s Matt Dillon. Whenever a job was too hard, they telegraphed Coble because no one was better at tracking bad men.

In this story, someone is kidnapping, starving, then killing little girls and they have no time to waste in finding the killer. Darrel’s superb writing really pulls you in and plants you right there in the old west. You feel as though you’re riding this dark trail with Coble. And there’s some romance too so that made me a happy camper. In the TV westerns, I always hated when the cowboy rode away, alone and aching for someone to care, to love.

Here’s the back cover copy:

One Murdered Girl. One Unknown Killer. One Legendary Lawman. 

A lone man sits his horse atop a bluff near the southern Missouri border. There’s a story in the country ahead of him. A dark tale of murdered girls and a killer not caught, of an old friend asking for help, and a letter from a frightened young mother that has arrived too late to save her daughter. A letter that now rests in this man’s pocket….

Marshal Coble Bray isn’t subtle. He’s known as “The Deacon,’’ and when local lawmen come across murderers and thieves too tough or ruthless for them to handle, he’s the one they call. He’s got guts and brains and an itchy trigger finger, and he hunts men like others hunt wolves. But none of this will help him with the challenge he now faces.

Innocent young girls are being murdered in a ritualistic fashion. What evidence there is has turned out to be useless, and every trail turns into a dead end. Between an ambitious judge, a useless sheriff, and a gang of bloodthirsty vigilantes, the countryside is primed to explode. Dodging danger, hot lead, and the advances of two beautiful women, Coble pushes forward in his mission. He knows the murderer is near, but how do you find a killer who hides in plain sight?

There was one passage that stuck in my mind that tells you exactly the kind of person Coble Bray is. This is his answer to a woman’s question about how he lives with killing.

“I’ve always believed the mind is a room with many doors. Most of the doors you pass through all the time. Some of them you open once in a while to see what’s in there, and remember. A few of the doors…those you nail shut and you never open them. Not ever.” Coble stood abruptly, the legs of the chair scraping the floor beneath him. “And with that deep thought, I’d better get going. The rain’s stopped and I want to get to Big Springs before dark.”

* * *

If you’re looking for something a little different from the standard romance, maybe you’ll give this a try. The book is available in print and ebook. Here’s the Amazon link:  http://a.co/iaoBS66

You can find out more on his website: http://www.darrelsparkman.com/

Darrel Sparkman also has a lot of good short stories on Rope and Wire. A word of warning…you’d better have some time.  http://www.ropeandwire.com/western-short-stories-darrel-sparkman.html

My question: Why do you think TV westerns died out? They were hugely popular for so many years and then suddenly disappeared.

I’m giving away one copy of the book (print or ebook) to someone who comments.


Hallowed Ground: Meet Coble Bray — 30 Comments

  1. I can’t say why they stopped running, but I miss them. Little House on the Prairie, The Virginian, The Big Valley, Bonanza, The Rifleman, Gunsmoke are my old favorites, Dr Quinn Medicine Woman a new favorite. These shows are filled with things that never go out of style “Respect, Honor, Love”. We need more of this.

    • Good morning, Allison……..Thank you for coming by. I totally agree about the values those shows imparted. They taught as well as entertained. We lost a great deal when they replaced those with shows of crime, violence, and bad language. It’s sad to see the way the world is going. We need to get those values back….and our cowboys!

      Good luck in the drawing!

  2. People quit wanting TV shows, where the bad get what is coming to them and where the good wins. They quit teaching good morals, and we let a few that were leading the pack get away with it, by watching the crap they were putting out. Not saying everything is bad, but we lost our way.
    I miss watching some of the westerns, and when I do see them on TV, I enjoy them.

    • Good morning, Veda…….I’m really glad to see you. Yes, ma’am, we’ve lost our way. If only John Wayne was still alive and Clint Eastwood was younger. Those men knew how to make a show worth watching. We have so much crap on TV that I’ve dropped all except the local channels. I’m not going to watch those shows. Just not. And I think you’re right. We let down our guard and those other shows snuck in.

      Good luck in the drawing! Sending love and hugs!

  3. I think maybe poor sound quality, and special effects have a lot to do with it. I know my kids won’t watch an older western because of things like that. And I also think the overacting of the actors as well. They were pretty dramatic. Not that I mind that, however my kids don’t like that. Newer westerns however, they do like. With the newer special effects and the blood that splatters on cue. Things like that make a difference to the younger generation because that’s what they have grown up seeing. When they see a movie with a poor quality film grade it’s just not as enticing to them. To me, it’s a western movie, so I love it. However I do prefer the movies on Lifetime or Hallmark or Pixl that were made in the 80’s, 90’s or 00’s. They were usually love stories, not so much action movies. Those ones are my favorite and remind me mostly of the books I read everyday.

    • Good morning, Dale……..I think you hit the nail on the head. The quality was sometimes poor on the TV westerns. But I think the quality of movies on the big screen were pretty darn good. Kids today are quite different from when we grew up. These today are very mature and worldly. Yes, love stories for sure get my vote!

      Good luck in the drawing! Love you, lady!

  4. Linda- you have sold me on this book, I will be ordering it today from Amazon. Thank you for letting us know about this one. I can tell it willl be phenomenal.
    Why did westerns die out? I think at the time when super heroes started coming all the rage, like Superman. Batman, and then the other shows with fast cars and romance during that time, people started gravitating to them, since most young kids parents only had 1 tv which was a privilege and the parents maunkyvwatched these good family westerns. So since the children grew up with the westerns, as the most watched shows, the younger generation were intrigued by a different culture which overrode their childhood shows. That may be totally wrong on my part, but that’s my impression. You have a wonderful day. Happy Early 4th of July, My sweet sister friend.

    • Good morning, Miss Tonya…….I think you’ll love this book. Some great writing that makes you stop and think. Maybe that’s why westerns died out. Kids just wanted more super heroes and gravitated to that. Could be. And like Dale pointed out, the quality of TV westerns was not that good. Kids wanted more.

      Wishing you a great 4th! Love you, sister friend!

  5. The book sounds like another good one written by you, In answer to your question, not sure, I know by the time i was born and watching tv, not a lot of cowboy shows on. but my husband found a channel stars western and all they show is cowboy shows. “they call him Bat…..Bat Masterson” some cowboy show , it has a catchy tune. but i think maybe they did away with all the western shows from what i have seen on reruns, is they are all alike. you got your outlaw, your sheriff,your deputy,a small town and the hero. I recall watching one show with my husband and they were on horses riding hard to get to the train and the horse were covered in like a foam. from being road to long.

    • Good morning, Elaine………Maybe that’s it. They got too repetitious. Then the poor quality too as Dale said. I hated to watch scenes with the animals being mistreated even though that was probably all special effects. I sure hope so. Animals are near and dear to my heart.

      Good luck in the drawing! Love you, lady.

  6. I miss them… I guess , no actors , like the old actors… Wish they would bring them back…

    • Good morning, Tonya Cherry………I sure miss them too. All the good western actors have died off. We have no one to replace them. So sad. Maybe one of these days they will come back strong. I keep hoping.

      Good luck in the drawing! Much love.

  7. I still watch every Western I get a chance to. I love the insp channel for they still show the old Western shows I especially love the Virginian. I think they probably played out because our society as a whole has become so desensitized to good morals. The younger generations wants all this paranormal junk I can’t stand that stuff. Give me a good Western any day especially like your books Linda I love them

    • Good morning, Glenda………I think so many things caused their demise but for sure the newer generation who got caught up in the paranormal craze. I’m blessed that you love my stories. And I’m blessed that our paths crossed and we’re also friends. I’m going to keep writing westerns as long as I keep breathing. I don’t care what happens to the world. Even if no one wants to read them, I’ll still keep writing.

      Good luck in the drawing! Sending much love and hugs.

  8. It’s hard to say why Westerns died out. I guess simply changing times. Or maybe the same reason real Country and Western music died out as well. I don’t there is one simple answer. Nowadays people want graphic violence and special effects. Simplicity has taken a back seat. This book by Darrell Sparkman sounds like a great read. I’ll have to check it out. Thanks for sharing, sister!

    • Good morning, Jan……….Great point. All the simple things have disappeared. Western movies that told a great story as well as western music. No one wants simple anymore. They want to be shocked and titillated. People who turn into werewolves and aliens and all that crap. I’m glad Darrel’s book sounds tempting. His character Coble Bray really grabbed me. He’s larger-than-life.

      Love you, sister!

  9. Years ago, I loved writing shows like Magnum P.I. and Simon and Simon, but they all went away when sit-coms like The Cosby Show came into popularity. Then, the hard-nosed, more realistic crime shows came into vogue, which I did not enjoy as much. I got out of scriptwriting a year or so before Dr. Quinn came out. I had a brand new baby to care for at that time and two more babies followed. I would have loved to have written for Dr. Quinn since I had written a spec script for a wonderful little Western called Paradise/Guns of Paradise in the late 80’s and early 90’s because my true love has always been history, especially the era of the “Old West”. When my father surprised me 4 years ago and suggested I write again, I thought it over and knew I wanted to write the kind of show that I loved best…and that was a Western. It was a surprise to see that Westerns were slowly becoming popular again both on the little and big screens, though, they were much darker and filled with lots of blood and sex many my age would rather not see. However, I do like some of the realistic aspects of the new Westerns, and the pilot/series I am writing is a blend of their realism and keeping the family values of the older Westerns. The much loved Westerns I grew up with died out, I think, because the market for them became too saturated, and as some have mentioned, many of the shows at that time were put together quickly without waiting for the best scripts, actors or production values. But, Westerns are never going totally away because they represent a time in our history where people still had frontiers to settle, and any American had a certain freedom to go be a part of that frontier and grab hold of a piece of the American dream. It was a time when government was close to the people, and they felt they had a say in their own destiny and in keeping big government from telling them what to do. Unfortunately, it was also a time when government was at its worst with the way they treated the newly freed slaves, Native Americans and other nationalities such as the Chinese. I do think, though, that the sense of freedom and the courageousness and strength of people of that time period will always be popular with Americans and that will keep the Western from ever totally going out of style.

    • Hi Connie……….Thanks for coming! WOW! I know you must’ve had great fun writing those shows. I watched them all the time. Those were some awfully good high quality shows. They’re getting few and far between. I REALLY, REALLY loved Paradise. Such a great premise with the gunslinger taking those kids in. Lee Horsley played a great character. Loved him in everything he acted in but especially Paradise. I pray you’re right about westerns never completely dying off. One reason I write is trying to keep history alive. A good many of the kids today have no idea how we got where we are.

      Good luck in the pilot/series you’re currently writing. I’m praying it captures someone’s attention and they grab it. It sounds a little like Hell on Wheels. With the grit and realism yet strong values. I loved that show. So much history in it of the transcontinental railroad.

      I’ve entered you in the drawing. I think this book would make a great movie.

    • Hi, Connie. What a fascinating post and great insight into the business of scriptwriting. How amazing to have worked on those shoes. I (like my sister already mentioned) loved Paradise. In fact, I still have some recorded DVDs somewhere. I should try and find them. 🙂 I do think you are right about the sense of freedom and courageousness shown by the people who settled the old west not ever going out of style. Deep down, we all crave a simpler time when a man’s word was sealed with a handshake. I love all the heroes who fight fiercely to protect the ones they love and treat their ladies like queens. 🙂 I’m a romantic at heart. I really enjoyed your post and hope you’ll check back again. My sister always has lots of historic fun things in her posts.

      • Thanks, Jan, for your comments. I appreciate them. I also agree with your well-worded views on the Western. I do not know how you got dvd’s of Paradise. I ordered some from China and now, have to find a dvd player that plays China’s region. I found out the hard way that not all dvd players that say they are All- Region are not truly All-Region. Please read my comments after Linda’s response. Thanks again.

        • Connie, to clarify…Jan recorded some episodes onto DVDs. She didn’t buy them. She’s so upset that she can’t find them after her move. I’ve searched on Amazon for Paradise DVDs and have been really sad that they don’t have them. Amazon is supposed to have everything on the planet!!

          Hugs, lady!

    • I am so excited that you and your sister loved Paradise. It struggled so much the entire time it was on, but it stayed for 3 seasons, I think. My script was simply too late to be bought since they knew the end was coming. However, the script I wrote for it is one of my favorites. It is a very personal story for Ethan and the children. I have always been so sad that they were not able to produce it. I loved Dr. Quinn as well, most of the time. There were a few things they did on that show that bothered me. If you ever are bored, it is interesting to compare Paradise and Dr. Quinn. It’s okay because we all do this, but many aspects of the stories on Paradise show up on Dr. Quinn in bits and pieces. I would have loved writing for Dr. Quinn too, of course, mainly because of Sully, lol! I loved Hell on Wheels, except for parts of S4 and the last season which I could not stomach. In my opinion, they lost the focus of the original premise and showed viewers that they wrote themselves into a corner they could not get out of. I had no idea Hell on Wheels exsisted until after I had written the story of my series, but some of my story does remind me a little of HoW. My series is not as gritty as HoW in some aspects, however. I want families with children around 9 or 10 to be able to watch. I try to combine true history and realism and Christian values as well. I may not be able to find a network it will play on, being too violent for “family” channels and too “Christian” for the regular channels and that is a sad commentary on our times. Hell on Wheels had a theme of redemption, but they killed it off with the ridiculous way they got rid of their “preacher” in S4. I will take all the good thoughts and prayers for my series. I will need them, IF I ever finish scripting it and completing the series bible. I started my family late in life and am still very busy with my 3 children. I also get mighty tempted to read certain authors like you, Linda, and Darrel Sparkman. Thank you both for your kind words. I do pray that good Westerns never go out of style, nor the values they promote.

      • Connie, I loved Hell on Wheels and completely adored Cullen Bohannon. Oh my goodness, he was a great hero. But like you said, some of the episodes kinda went off the rails. I hated the one where Cullen let the boy hang and wouldn’t bend. That was hard to watch. The preacher was another goof. And how did Swede keep getting away? That frustrated me. I can see three times…maybe. But not over and over and over. That wasn’t realistic. And Season 4 shouldn’t even have been filmed.

        Good luck with your series. I pray that you meet with great success and that I can watch those episodes one day.

  10. I don’t know why, other than people don’t appreciate the history, the simple, the raw and humble.

    It’s a shame, cause I’ll take a western anyday!! Love me some cowboys!!

    Thanks for the chance, too!! Sounds awesome!!

    • Hi Michelle……Some people’s eyes glaze over when I talk about history. I swear they act so bored. And sadly I think simple has gone out of style. Thank goodness we still have our western books.They’re going to be around for a long time. I love me some cowboys too!! Yee-Haw!

      Love you, lady! Good luck in the drawing.

  11. Linda- I downloaded and started reading this book. It’s amazing thank you for sharing this book with us all. I highly recommend it to anyone who loves a great Western along with a great mystery. Two of my favorite genres rolled up into one. Coble Bray has already embedded himself into my heart and soul. One amazing Marshal. I love his disposition, he’s truly a remarkable man.

    • Tonya, I’m glad you like it. I love Coble Bray. Darrel is working on the second in this series and I can’t wait to see what happens to Coble next. I’m glad he hasn’t given up being marshal. 🙂

      • Wow a 2nd book, that’s great. I went and read his article about Coble Bray in the Saddlebags magazine. I loved it.

  12. Now I can’t wait to receive this book! (Insert Tonya here ) I believe the explosion of tv channels and choices for viewing caused the downward spiral of Westerns. The majority of young people frown at the idea of watching an old western. I wish they would make new movies and a tv series and have the series air on Saturday evenings when a family can set down together and watch it. Along with the downward spiral of westerns was the decline of values, morals and family life.

    • Morning, Stephanie! There has definitely been a decay. Families never spend any time together. Meals are fast food and eaten in front of the TV with the kids eating separately in their rooms. Kids are left to raise themselves and they’re not getting any direction. Very sad.