by Laura Crum
As a Valentine’s gift, my mystery novel, Cutter, is available for free today and tomorrow (Kindle edition). Any reader who would like to try my mystery series featuring equine veterinarian Gail McCarthy, now is the time. The first book in the twelve book series, Cutter, is free Feb 13th and 14th as a Kindle edition. Here is the link.
My first mystery novel, Cutter, came about for a variety of reasons. At the time I wrote it I was roughly thirty years old, and had spent the last five years of my life immersed in cowhorse and cutting horse training and competition. I worked as an assistant to trainers, I took lessons from other trainers, and I trained my own horses and competed on the weekends. I also loved the novels of Dick Francis, and one day a light bulb went off in my head. Maybe I could use my background training western cowhorses in the same way he had used his background as a steeple chase jockey—to create entertaining horse-themed mysteries. And so Cutter was born.
I will freely admit that I modeled the book on my much-loved Dick Francis novels. Whenever I got stuck, wondering what to do next, I would open a book by the master and try to see how he did it. Then I would go back to writing. So, yes, Cutter has a strong flavor of Dick Francis. But I fail to see anything bad about that (!)
The plotting may have borrowed from Francis, but the details of Cutter all came from my own life. The people and horses of the cutting horse world in California-- the world that I had absorbed first hand for many years—are the basis for the characters in this book, described just as I knew them. Oh, I didn’t name any names, and I mixed up one trainer’s face with another trainer’s style, but these people are the real deal.
The horses are the real deal, too. Gail’s horse in the story, Gunner, is modeled on my own Gunner—who is still with me and doing well at thirty-three years of age. I bought Gunner when I was 25 and working as an assistant to some very well-regarded cowhorse and cutting horse trainers. Gunner was in my riding string, and when a buyer came for this sweet colt I couldn’t stand it, and offered the owner his full price (and then I had to take out a loan to come up with the money). Here we are shortly after I bought Gunner—he is three years old and I am pretty proud to own him. He was by far the most expensive horse I’d ever bought, and royally bred to be a cowhorse.
Gunner was bred to be a cowhorse, all right, but I soon tired of the abusive practices I saw in that sport and veered toward cutting, which was overall (at least what I saw of it) easier on the horses. The trouble was that Gunner wasn’t as well suited to be a cutting horse as he was to be a cowhorse. Gunner was 15.3 and had plenty of bone. He was not the typical, little, catty-looking cutting horse. The first cutting horse trainer I worked with took one look at Gunner and said, “Sell him and get another one. A smaller one.” But I didn’t.
I continued to train Gunner to be a cutter. And despite the fact that he was a big horse for that event, Gunner was really quick and extremely cowy. He made a believer out of quite a few trainers. I had a couple of them offer to train him for free if I would let them show him. I declined. I wanted to train Gunner myself. Here we are at the family ranch, practicing. I particularly like the way his mane and my hair are standing straight up.
I eventually got tired of the politics involved in judged events, and took up team roping, which is timed. And despite the fact that I had never competed at team roping before, I trained Gunner to be a rope horse. Here we are, roping a steer at my uncle’s arena.
Gunner at 17 years, retired from competition, but still my riding horse.
When Gunner was thirty and had a hard time keeping weight on in the pasture, I brought him back home so that he could get just what he needed to eat and lots of attention. Here he is, thirty-two years old, being hand grazed by my son.
So if you do download the free edition of Cutter (which I hope you will), you can read it knowing that Gunner is a real horse—and he has had a very happy life. The cover of Cutter was based on a photo of Gunner (cutting a cow) that I sent to the artist. I can see a resemblance. What do you think?