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Chris Leek talks GOSPEL OF THE BULLET

Mitchel McCann may have lost a war, but he never lost his belief. The preacher kept his faith throughout all the blood and the dying; trading his pulpit for a saddle and delivering his sermons with a brace of Walker Colts. McCann still believes in God, but he is no longer sure that God believes in him. Now fate has given him a chance at redemption; the opportunity to save a life instead of taking one.

Justice Simpson was only seven years old when she lost father. She has been losing steadily ever since. The Yankee ball that did for Dan Simpson also killed his wife, Rosalee, although it took another nine years to do it. Alone and destitute on the unforgiving streets of Saint Joseph, Missouri, Justice knows that the sooner or later the bullet will find her too.

In the winter of 1872 the war is long over, but on the Kansas—Missouri border old wounds are slow to heal and they leave ugly scars. The past is something that neither the preacher nor the girl can escape.


I interviewed Chris Leek, author of Gospel of the Bullet, available September 30 from One Eye Press:

Gerald So: What led you to write Gospel of the Bullet?

Chris Leek: I have been a fan of Westerns for as long as I can remember, although it wasn’t until fairly recently that I tried my hand at writing them. Gospel really came about as a result of a short story I penned for Zelmer Pulp's Five Broken Winchesters anthology. It featured a slightly older version of my female lead, Justice McCann. The Justice in that story was a real tough cookie. She was also a lot of fun to write. But what really began to intrigue me was how this girl ended up hunting bounty and kicking ass in the cow towns and copper camps of the Old West. Gospel of the Bullet tells the first part of that story.

Gerald: What appeals to you about Westerns in general and Gospel's characters in particular?

Chris: The Western is the classic story of good against evil. I think it was that simple premise that attracted me to the genre as a kid, that and the gunfights. Good might not always triumph, but you can be pretty sure there will be a healthy does of revenge coming if it doesn’t.

In the old pulp western novels the bad guy always wore black and the hero always got the girl. That certainly doesn't happen in Gospel, but the story still has a strong sense of right and wrong. That's not to say my heroes always find themselves on the right side of that line. And while heroes may be ten a penny in western fiction, real heroines are much harder to come by. With the notable exception of Charles Portis' wonderful, Mattie Ross finding a female lead that doesn't turn into a hot mess at the first sign of trouble is a tough ask. That's why I dig Justice McCann; she’s my attempt at redressing the balance.

Gerald: What's the best book or story you've read lately?

Galveston by Nic "True Detective" Pizzolatto really blew me away. It's a beautifully doomed piece of noir with finale feels like a knife twisting in your guts. But the best thing I've read in a coon's age is Brian Panowich's debut novel Bull Mountain. This multi-generational tale of betrayal and blood letting is going to turn a lot of heads when it's released next year. Remember, you heard it here first!

Gerald: What's next for you?

Chris: I have a fast paced little crime novella called Nevada Thunder that should be out real soon. I'm also working on the follow up to Gospel, which will take Justice McCann further west in her search for revenge and redemption. Then there is the much anticipated release of Zelmer Pulp's Trouble in the Heartland. This anthology of Bruce Springsteen-inspired crime stories features some of the best in the business, including one Dennis Lehane.

Gerald: Thank you, Chris.


Chris Leek is the author of Gospel of the Bullet and the short story collection Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em. He is part of the team behind genre fiction imprint Zelmer Pulp and an editor at western fiction magazine, The Big Adios. He can be contacted via: www.zelmerpulp.com or at his blog: www.nevadaroadkill.blogspot.com.

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