Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Carol Buchanan's Gold Under Ice

New from western author Carol Buchanan (and a new Montana-based publisher), Gold Under Ice.

Here's an excerpt:

     As if all the cannons of North and South fired a ragged volley, as if all the black powder in Alder Gulch blew, the ice over Alder Creek broke, boomed, split into clashing chunks; echoes rebounded on echoes, pulsing in Dan Stark’s ears, and blanching the faces of two men who had been skating just a minute before. The fat man walking on the ice disappeared.
     “Get a rope!” yelled Dan over the rolling thunder. “Run!"
     Martha McDowell hoisted her skirts to run stumbling through soft snow up Wallace Street, where men already hurried toward her with ropes in their hands.
     Dan could not wait for them. “Your scarf!” One of the skaters wore a muffler several feet long. Dan bolted toward an outcropping into the stream, cursing the snow that mired his ankles and pillowed the banks, obscuring their outlines. As he ran, a sense of relief rolled below the uppermost thought – save him, save him
     From the time the ice riming the shores had joined in the middle and thickened, all of Alder Gulch had waited for it to break and melt away, so they could return to work their gold claims. Now, in mid-April, the ice was breaking.
     The skater made a ball of his muffler, and pitched it to Dan, who caught its fringe, made a hasty loop, and ran as in a nightmare, seeming to get no closer. The black water foamed white, flung up slabs of ice, damming itself, then tore the dam apart, rampaging against its banks, scouring away snow, rocks, contraptions, claim markers, and hope. A few yards upstream, the fat man, arms flailing, broke the surface, gasped and coughed. How long could a man survive such cold?
     Dan threw the loop toward him as hard and as far as he could. Fell short. The man fought the water. Dan reeled the loop in, pushed through the snow as close as he dared to the tip of the outcrop. The sodden loop threw better when Dan flung it out and slightly downstream. The fat man plunged for it, and the creek hurled arm and shoulder into the loop. A slab of ice hit his head, and he sank. Dan braced himself, wrapping the scarf, stretched to a rope, around his hands. Squatting against the water’s jealous pull, he dug his heels into the snow. Yelled for help.
     Up the man came again, unconscious, his body given to the water and the cold, his arms limp. The roiling water tossed him, played with him, sent him past Dan. Though thinking he was dead – then why fight the flood? Dan braced himself, hauled on the rope. His boots could not find purchase; the creek dragged him toward its brink. He would drown, too, if he did not let go, but he could not bring himself to unwrap the cord biting into his hands, though the bank, leaning outward, settled under his feet.
     Christ, he thought, don’t let us both be carried away. The man rose higher in the water – or did the ground sink? Dan clenched his jaws and dug in his heels, almost sat in the snow: Goddammit he would win this battle with the creek, even if for a corpse.

*     *     *     *     *     *
Gold Under Ice is the sequel to Buchanan's award-winning first novel, God's Thunderbolt. Find out more about Carol Buchanan at her Web site:

No comments:

Post a Comment