Welcome to the official website of Spur Award winner Keith McCafferty, author of Viking/Penguin’s Sean Stranahan mystery series, including The Royal Wulff Murders, The Gray Ghost Murders, Dead Man’s Fancy, Crazy Mountain Kiss, Buffalo Jump Blues, Cold Hearted River, A Death in Eden and The Bangtail Ghost, which will be published this summer, August 18, 2020. Here you will find information about the books, as well as reviews, excerpts, contests to win flies, books and hats, a sneak peek at chapter two of The Bangtail Ghost, and links to my articles. Contact me for free postcards and check out the The Deadwater Blog, which explores subjects ranging from the art of fly-tying to the art of writing about murder.
Want to become a member of the Madison River Liars and Fly Tiers Club? My first shipment of logo hats just arrived at the doorstep. They are quite handsome, with three styles to choose from. See the link on this page to order. In the future, I also plan to offer display globes with personalized name plates exhibiting the flies that are depicted on the book jackets and spines. Keep checking this website and my author Facebook page – @KeithMcCaffertyAuthor — for updates.
Order your Madison River Liars & Fly Tiers Hat today!
Signed and personally dedicated books are always available from the Country Bookshelf in Bozeman, MT. Call (406) 587-0166). Postcards and bookmarks are free. To receive a signed card, contact me at email@example.com and please include a street address.
On a cold day in the dead of a Montana winter, a single whisker discovered at a scene of horrific violence suggest that a woman has been attacked and carried away by a mountain lion. Sheriff Martha Ettinger employs her fiancé, part-time detective Sean Stranahan, to “join teams with the dead” and put a name to the gnawed bones and scattered remains, which include fake fingernails and a breast implant that, along with other clues, point to the victim being a prostitute who was entertaining wayward hunters. The woman’s will be the first of several deaths that Sean suspects are not as easily explained as they appear. As a reign of terror grips the Madison Valley, blood in the tracks will lead him from the river to the snow-covered ridge tops, as he finds himself on his most dangerous quest yet. For as Sean comes closer to unearthing the secrets shared by the dead and missing, the tracks he is following will turn and the hunter becomes the hunted.
Chapter 2: The Fire in Her Eyes
The strangest part of dying was the tickling. It felt like a small bird` had caught its claws in her throat and was beating its wings. The sensation reminded her of an old boyfriend who had a gunslinger mustache. Every night, he would wash the wax out and work in conditioner to make the hairs soft. Kissing him was erotic once she let herself go, only ticklish on nights when she just went along, happy to bend to his pleasure for the feeling of being close to someone, to hear the words “I love you,” even if they were said reflexively, as a sigh.
His name was Wyatt—he was in his early twenties; she liked them young then, before she didn’t like them at all—and she couldn’t remember why they had split apart. She had chosen to veil large chunks of the “Tucson years,” as she called them, while painting other parts in a soft, glowing light like the blush of dawn over the Chiricahuas. Wyatt had been a fine young man in life. He became an even better man now as a snapshot in her memory, when her breathing became labored.
How far had she been carried? She could remember nothing after leaving the trailer, not even switching on her headlamp. In one moment she was shuffling along, the snow so cold that it creaked under her boots, and in another she had come back from some unnamed ether with a tremendous pressure on her throat. She was being carried up the slope of a ridge, her hair hanging down, her head knocking against the downfall, her hands and her boots dragging in the snow. Somehow the band of the headlamp had stayed on her forehead, and its cold white fire cast circles that swirled up through the trees. She could barely breathe, and yet it didn’t hurt.
I must be in shock, she thought.
Finally the clamped weight on her throat eased. As she lay in the snow, she heard a deep breathing that at first she mistook for her own, followed by a soft, throaty sound, like a muffled outboard motor coughing to life, and then choking out. She turned her head to the sound and that was when she saw the eyes. They glowed in the reflection of her headlamp with a green tint, like the gemstone know as Arizona peridot, the poor man’s emerald. She had worked at a rock shop once, in that half-forgotten, half-misremembered life of adobe and sand and saguaro cactus, where everything had gone right for a while before everything went wrong.
Instinctively, she lashed out toward the glowing orbs and her hand contacted a nap of fibers like the bristles of a boar-hair brush.
“What are you?” she tried to say. “Who are you?”
She heard an angry coughing sound, followed by what sounded like a scream from the canyon below. Hers? It seemed nothing of this Earth. Then the pressure on her throat came back, this time with a searing heat, and she hit at the hard stiffness as she became dreamy until, finally, she was only stroking the stiff hairs with her fingertips, as if tracing a lover’s skin in the dark.
What was his name?
She couldn’t remember, though his face had come back. She saw him clearly. Then he receded, like she was looking at his image through the wrong end of a telescope.
“Wyatt?” The word formed on her lips. She felt happy to have remembered his name. There was a pulsing of light behind her eyelids as her headlamp flickered rapidly and went out.
She opened her eyes to the engulfing blackness. No, that wasn’t her world anymore. She closed her eyes to try to find him again, and as she did, she felt the fluttering against her throat stop as the bird took flight.
The Book Reviews are in!
Booklist: McCafferty’s Sean Stranahan and Martha Ettinger novels sneak up on you: they’re as comfortable as the proverbial old shoe, always offering an entertaining mix of human comedy and outdoor adventure, but inevitably there’s some grisly stuff hiding in the shadows. This time it’s mountain lions, and, while the big cats generally want nothing to do with people, even for dinner, sometimes they do. That’s the case here, in Montana’s Gravelly Range, where the disappearances of two and possibly more people may be the result of attacks by a rogue cat. PI and fishing guide Stranahan and his soon-to-be wife, Sheriff Ettinger, are tasked with finding the victims and tracking the mountain lion. As the pair dig into the case, they find that human malfeasance may be behind the lion attacks. As always in this series, McCafferty, the survival and outdoor skills editor at Field & Stream, writes about the wild with knowledge and eloquence, and that’s especially true this time, as he simultaneously scares us to the bone with descriptions of cats stalking prey and manages to imbue the predators with tragic grandeur. — Bill Ott Publisher’s Weekly Review Bangtail Ghost: A Sean Stranahan Mystery Keith McCafferty. Viking, $26 (320p) ISBN 978-0-525-56205-4 The discovery of a woman’s mutilated body in the mountains of southwest Montana propels McCafferty’s top-notch eighth mystery featuring painter, fishing guide, and occasional PI Sean Stranahan (after 2018’s A Death in Eden). Paw prints and DNA evidence indicate that the woman was killed and partially eaten by a mountain lion. The locals react with alarm, and Sean’s fiancée, Sheriff Martha Ettinger, forms a task force to identify the victim and track down the lion before it kills again. Initial attempts fail dramatically, but eventually Sean and dog handler Buster Garrett tree and kill the cat in a vividly drawn nighttime chase. A few months later, however, when both a sheep herder and Buster are killed in eerily similar lion attacks, the cycle appears to be starting again. A gimmicky means of murder revealed late in the story ties up a few loose ends, but crime is only of secondary interest. The primary focus throughout is Montana’s Big Sky country and its big cats. Regional mystery fans have cause to rejoice.
Keith McCafferty is the author of eight novels in the Sean Stranahan mystery series, published by Viking/Penguin Books. He is the recipient of the Will Rogers Gold and Silver Medallion Awards and the Western Writers of America Spur Award for Best Novel, among many other awards. Two of his novels were chosen as Best Reads by Oprah Winfrey’s “O” magazine.
Keith is also a two-time National Magazine Award finalist and the recipient of the Robert Traver Award for angling literature. For years he made a living with his flyrod, writing stories for Field & Stream, where he was the Survival and Outdoor Skills editor. “It was like flying around the world on a broom” he recalls, “only the fly rod was my broom.”
A wild bird rescue volunteer, Keith lives with his wife and family, and various feathered friends, in Montana.
EVENTS: THE BANGTAIL GHOST
Upcoming events for “The Bangtail Ghost” can be attended through virtual mediums including ZOOM and Crowdcast, which allow an audience to tune in live. The events may or may not be recorded for later viewing on the website or Facebook. I have provided contact information. Check the event’s link on the bookstore’s website and follow directions. If the information isn’t clear, email the store and say you want to sign up for Keith McCafferty’s event. You can also phone. In some cases, your name will be added to a list. You will then be emailed about joining the event the day of or day before the scheduled date and provided with the details.
I will update you on this website link and on my Author Facebook page as the dates draw closer. I hope that you will tune in live to one or more event. It’s a brave new world! See you in cyberspace. Keith
August 18, 7pm pacific time
August 19, 7pm central time
Murder by the Book
August 20, 6pm pacific time
August 22, 5:30pm pacific time
August 25, 7:30pm mountain time
in partnership with Madison Books in Seattle, WA and Paulina Springs Books in Sisters, OR
August 28, 7pm central time
Mystery To Me
The event link on the website is:
The event link on Facebook is:
Montana Book Festival
BookPeople of Moscow
The Well-Read Moose
Coeur d’Alene, ID
Contact Claire Davey
Third Place Books
Lake Forest Park, WA
The Mysterious Bookshop
Check out this episode of “Remote. No Pressure. Fly Fishing Podcast,” which I did with host Jeff Troutman: