The cowboy outfit his grandmother bought him when he was a child is probably what got Scott Smith interested in the Old West, he says.
As a boy, he sacked corn cobs at Baughman Milling Co. in Stanford so he could buy 10-cent tickets to all the matinee showings of shoot-'em-ups at the local movie theater. He has read every book written by Louis L'Amour.
Now, eight decades after he first strapped on that toy gun and holster, the Danville resident will have a Western novel bearing his name to put next to all of the Western classics he has collected over the years.
The Bronco Man is to be released Aug. 5 by Avalon Books.
In the book, bronco peeler Travis Alexander Boone accepts an offer of board for a winter's work at the Wyoming ranch owned by Mary Agnes Canfield. Boone soon finds himself and his long-barreled Walker Colt dealing with neighboring rancher Wells Gorman, who, in desperate need of water, wants to build a canal through part of Canfield's property — including her deceased husband's grave site.
The Bronco Man is Smith's first published novel.
Smith, 87, finished writing the book and two other Western novels about three years ago and filed them away. Then, about a year and a half ago, he tried to get them published.
"Everybody told me I had to have an agent," he said.
Smith didn't listen.
Six months after sending a manuscript of The Bronco Man to Avalon, a representative from the publishing company called and said Avalon wanted to buy it, he said.
Maybe luck had something to do with Smith's good fortune. Maybe not.
Smith had a long career in the newspaper business before he turned to novel writing. He is the former editor and publisher of the Marshall Courier in Benton, a former bureau chief at the Tampa Tribune in Florida, and a former courts reporter for The Lexington Herald. He also has worked at newspapers in Mississippi, North Carolina and Tennessee.
He started The Lincoln Ledger, a free weekly paper owned by The Advocate-Messenger in Danville. For 22 years, he published Kentucky Racing News, a monthly dedicated to auto racing. (Smith raced cars when he was younger and now cheers on his son, Win, and grandson, Jared, who build and drive race cars, respectively, for the Win Smith Racing team.)
Avalon, a well-known publisher of Western novels, changed his novel very little and kept the title he gave it, Smith said.
Smith "definitely knows the Western genre. He knows a lot of the colloquialisms," said Avalon production editor Jennifer Graham, who worked with Smith on editing the book. "I think this is the first one I've read that has this particular plot."
Graham said another editor at Avalon described the lead character as an "Old West Rambo."
"Many, many people die in the book. Many bad men die," she said.
When Avalon asked Smith whether he had any ideas for the cover of his book, he readily submitted three sketches.
Smith has drawn cartoons for national publications, including Saturday Evening Post. His syndicated comic strip O'Malley's Law has appeared in newspapers and legal journals throughout the country.
Avalon didn't use any of Smith's sketches, but maybe the publisher will print his second book, The Counterfeit Marshal. Stolen Native American artifacts are at the heart of the plot.
"If it's like the first one, definitely we're interested," Graham said.
The Bronco Man will be available in hardcover at Amazon.com or at Barnes & Noble book stores. The price is $23.95.