Carty: A Double D Western – Blog #014 of the 156 “Pretty Faces” book cover Challenge
This is book #136 on the list of 156* books that Gardner Francis Fox wrote from 1953 to 1986. This is the twelfth book I scratched out a cover for.
*Note – as of 7/7/2019, The Library has found that four of the books previously thought to be written by Mr. Fox were actually not. This was based on a pseudonym he wrote under. Therefore, the total book count has dropped by four.
A Double D Western!
So after all of you have settled down and stopped the giggling; Double D is not referring to our hero’s chest size. He doesn’t even wear a bra. But speaking of bras, when you search for Double D on google you’ll get a western wear & ranch clothing company.
The original back cover description…
Carty was a loner, the man they called “the Indian.” A white man raised Kiowa, he was wise in the ways of the ancient tribesmen, a man who could live close to the earth. He was also a man of honor and, if he had to, he would kill when it was time for killing.
Carty owed an outlaw named Morgan Chance for a bad debt. At first, Carty thought Chance would simply back-shoot him in repayment. Instead, Chance offered Carty a proposition: If Carty would accompany Chance’s sister to the Checkerboard Ranch, the debt would be forgotten. Carty accepted.
The trip to the Checkerboard Ranch was a long and hard one. A rival band of outlaws was laying for Chance’s gang, and wouldn’t think twice about taking his sister instead. It was Carty alone with a woman against a no man’s land of unforeseeable dangers. Yet, if any man could survive it, Carty was that man. But even Carty was only human, and this time the odds were against him more than ever before…
What is a Double D western book?
In the beginning, I wasn’t too sure on what a Double D western book was. So I posted the question to a group on Goodreads.com. Two possibilities came back as answers. One said it might be referring to the Double D ranch in Texas. The other thought it was a part of the Doubleday/The Double D Western book series. Either way, Carty’s story is a good hard western.
This wasn’t the first time Mr. Fox wrote a western. He has quite a history with the genre. For the comic book industry, he co-created and wrote for Ghost Rider and The White Indian. For the pulp industry, he wrote 22 tough little yarns about the wild west. For the paperback industry, he wrote two other westerns: Blood Trail and Bold Ones (which has not yet been transcribed as I write this blog entry).
Amos Carty is paying back a debt. He’s taking another man’s sister safely to her wedding. Bad men are out to stop her from marrying because of her brother’s actions and shady dealings. The first chapter is a great set up for Carty’s character and his soon to be situation. This is not over explained and takes the reader through a standard open-ended description of the story plot, giving an enticing beginning to the adventure.
I like westerns. I’m not saying I’m the biggest fan, but they are fun to watch and read. One of my favorite movies is Jeremiah Johnson, co-written by John Milius of Conan the Barbarian movie fame. The best selling point for me is when the story centers around a loner type character that has the odds stacked up against him. In Jeremiah Johnson, Robert Redford consciously abandons civilization for the wild frontier of America.
Carty has a similar feel. He’s doing “this favor” to pay back a debt. Now taking a woman across a hostile country in comparison to the debt that needs to be paid back, is not the even exchange one would expect. Carty has his honor and weighs the task equal to the debt he owes. He also comes across as an older in age character. He has had a long life and would like to retire to a cabin in the woods. This debt has to be settled no matter how small in order to clear his conscious and fade away.
As the story moves on we find Carty and Kate (Morgan’s sister) on their way to her wedding at Chessboard ranch, not the Double D ranch. Here’s an interesting tidbit. On the back jacket cover it says he’s taking her to the Checkerboard ranch, but inside the story has no mention of that ranch and has the ranch called: Chessboard. This is a big sign of the industries standards to how they got these books to print. We take for granted that products can get to market very quickly nowadays. Back in the day, I would assume that there were many moving parts that had to keep in touch with one another and here’s an example of a typo sliding under all of the editor’s radars.
Here’s an excerpt from Chapter seven of Carty showing a deeper look into Carty’s character:
Five days later, Amos Carty was in the San Luis Valley, moving eastward toward the Sangre de Cristo mountain range. Far north of those mountains, close by South Pass, was the little cabin he and his father had built so long ago. He would go there, look the place over, and make any repairs that had to be made, then settle in for the rest of the summer, plan to do some hunting during the fall, and put down trap lines for the winter. Might be he could make himself a little money in furs, come the cold weather.
He fretted some about Kate Chance, but her memory was fading from his mind the farther away from Chessboard he rode. A woman was not for him. He was a loner, content to ride the backwater trails, the high country, always by himself. A man like him had nothing to offer any woman.
Might be a good idea to ride into one of the little towns that dotted the Arkansas or its tributaries like the Purgatoire or the Aphishapa and get himself a woman. Spend a few days or nights with her before riding on. Take the tensions out of him.
There was a backwater town not far from here, just beyond Le Veta Pass, not far from the Huerfano River. What was it called? He had visited it some years back, after his father had been killed by the Sioux. He had been a youngster back then, he had been thinking of riding back to a Kiowa encampment and spending the rest of his life with them.
Jackpot. That was its name.
Carty smiled faintly. It had seemed like quite a place to him, after having known only the Kiowa tipis and that cabin he and Pa had built. Two saloons, even a building that men called a hotel. There had been women in the saloons, women at whom he had hardly dared look.
It had been in Jackpot that he had met Ken Stevens.
Stevens had been as footloose as himself. They had teamed up together to ride to one of the ranches down in the Llano Estacado country. They had worked there for a couple of years until the need to move on hit Carty. He had rarely worked as a ranch hand after that, content with living in the high country, fishing and hunting, putting together some furs during the winter season and selling them for hard cash.
Be good to ride into Jackpot. It would bring back memories.
He turned eastward at San Luis Lake and went over the Sangre de Cristos.
He came into Jackpot in late afternoon, walking his horses through the dusty street, seeing the hotel and the two saloons as smaller and meaner than he had remembered them. They were sun-baked, parched. A few horses were before the tie rail, and off on a little hillside he could make out what appeared to be a graveyard. He was a little surprised at that, and reined in to study it.
“Didn’t know Jackpot had that many people,” he muttered.
He eased from the saddle, tie-reined his horses to the pole, and stood a moment, staring at the mountains to the west, and the vast plains all around. Sunlight glinted on the waters of the Huerfano. Then he stepped up onto the porch and moved through the bat-wings into the heat of the big room.
Heads turned to glance at him, but he paid them no mind after a quick glance at each face. He saw a girl sitting over at a table with two men who looked vaguely like miners, but he ignored her for the moment.
“You got any milk?” Carty asked.
The barkeep opened his lips to laugh, but he choked his mirth back after his eyes studied the brown face and long yellow hair of the man before him. Memory stirred in the bartender; something out of the far past nudged his streak of caution. Where had he seen this man before? There was something about him, something that jarred at his nerves.
“Might find some at the hotel,” he said.
Carty nodded, and turned to glance at the girl. She was new to him; he’d never seen her before. She was pretty, she was young, and that yellow dress she wore clung to her body like wet silk.
Carty recalled a name he had heard, that other time when he had been here with Ken Stevens. Stevens had been sweet on that other girl, and even he himself had admired her from a distance.
“Nora not here anymore?” he asked.
“You go back a ways. Nora found some cowhand who wanted to marry her, so she went off with him. She ain’t been here for five, maybe six years.”
Carty nodded, and pushed away from the bar.
The man behind the bar watched him go, reaching for a glass of polish with a dry cloth. Now, what did he know about that yellow-haired stranger? He had been here before; he knew about Nora. Fred Baxter settled himself to some heavy thinking, leaning against the bar.
A lean man who had stood watching Carty, moved along the bar. “Who is he, Fred?”
“Don’t know, but he knew Nora.”
“She’s been gone a long time.” The man, who wore his six-gun tied low, hunched forward. “Funny. He didn’t ask for a drink.”
“He wanted milk.”
Milk? Is this guy a softy or what? This is something I find Mr. Fox doing often in his character development. He likes to carve a soft spot in his heroes. I personally like nihilistic masculine thick-headed heroes with the smallest soft spot in the center. Mr. Fox is always quick to soften his hero usually around memories of a relationship with someone in the past.
If you’d like to read chapter One of Carty and find out more, it is available on The Gardner Francis Fox Library.
Originally published in 1977 by Doubleday books
The cover Artist: Steven Laughlin
I digitally transcribed this book with Richard Fisher in 2019.
I’m going with the fact that Carty was published by Doubleday that this book is a contribution to the Doubleday western series. It also has no reference to the Double D ranch in Texas.
I wonder what the art direction was for the original book cover illustration? This illustration gives me the feeling that Carty is an old man and ready to retire.
I create the cover illustrations to size. I work on 6 x 6 black Ampersand Scratchboard. The book covers are 6 x 9, which leaves 3 inches for text. I want a clean “Penguin Books” look and feel to the covers. I’m using the pretty faces motif to keep a unified look and feel to the whole library. The back cover has an image of the original cover, the date it was originally printed, and the original story description.
I used this photo reference I found on Pinterest as a leaping point for my book cover illustration.
I found this reference to be perfect for what I was initially looking for. I wanted to draw on the Native American theme, but knowing there were no Native American characters in the story, I pulled on the fact that Carty is called “the Indian” and that he had to transport a woman across the territory. I played on the symbolism of the two images to sell this story with the book cover.
I’ll be revisiting this creative thought process for the next book covers I’ll be scratching out for Mr. Fox.
Here’s a short video I put together of me working on the scratchboard process.
I have had many positive comments about the “new” covers. I feel pretty confident I will be able to do all 156 book covers.
I encourage you to join my Newsletter to get notifications of when I’ve posted a new blog entry.
I will not be working on books in the order as Mr. Fox wrote them. I am doing the book cover designs based on when the transcribers who are assisting me, finish one. As they complete a book, it will be the newest release, so it will get a new book cover design. I also have to go back and replace the photo-bashed covers I made when I first started the Gardner Francis Fox Library in 2017.
Thank you for stopping by and finding out more about what I’m doing. You can also see all of the books that have been transcribed so far by visiting The Gardner Francis Fox Library’s official website.