Ernest C. Frazier loves the Old West, but he also knew that when he started writing Western fiction he would need a new twist, a new angle, to update his cowboy settings.
So the writer, who wears a cowboy hat and resides in that ultimate cowtown Dodge City, Kan. drew upon his former background as a financial planner and came up with a trilogy of books that finds the characters in as many monetary wranglings as they do shoot-outs.
"You can't do the Old West OK Corral version anymore, so I threw in some financing," Frazier says during a recent phone interview. "I also put in more people than just cowboys."
Frazier started writing six years ago, after heart problems derailed his career as an estate planner, where he worked his way through the dangerous terrain of wills, taxes and meetings with outlaw lawyers. So he retired to his birthplace and started writing as a hobby.
Don't get him wrong. His work is big on adventure. He just wanted to make it different from the run-of-the-mill Western.
And boy-howdy. Did he ever.
His "Black Hand Trilogy" features the ongoing adventures of Malcolm, a Kansas rancher. The books, "Black Hand Over Kansas," "The Journada Del Muerto" and "The Victors" follow Malcolm and other characters from the Civil War's notorious Andersonville prison to Arizona copper mines to a deadly Spanish trail up from Mexico called "Journada Del Muerto" or "the journey of the dead man."
"That was a real trail, where the Apaches were thick and the water was scarce and where most people who traveled it wound up dead," Frazier says.
He also gets into the ethnic diversity of the Old West. The books feature Chinese warlords, Italian doctors, London millionaires and New York City Jewish businessmen. All of them seem to run into trouble out West.
"I dream up a lot of action...and they find themselves in dangerous situations," he says.
The novels are available at area bookstores and online at the publisher's Web site, www.1stbooks.com. His promotional travels have led Frazier through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and Kansas. He also will be in town this weekend for book signings.
Now that the trilogy is complete, Frazier is hard at work on a new project. He's compiling a book of interviews with war veterans, from World War II to the Gulf War. His goal is to tell true-live tales of heroism that have been overlooked previously.
"Some of these guys have stories they've never even told their wives. And for telling the older guys stories, there is a real sense of urgency to it," he says.
He's finding non-fiction writing to be more time-consuming and laborious than pounding out fiction. So once the military book is finished, he'll be back to relate more tales of gun-toting hombres and pen-wielding bankers.
But get one thing straight: Frazier, despite the cowboy hat and the Dodge City address, has never considered himself a writer of Westerns.
He says, "Just call them historical thrillers."