Mad Amos Malone

The Complete Stories

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Eighteen twisted tales of the wildest West that’s ever been imagined, from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Pip & Flinx series
 
Strange things lurk up in the mountains and out in the plains and deserts of the West, but few are as unique as the giant mountain man named Amos Malone, who some call “Mad Amos”—though not to his face. Atop his unnatural steed, Worthless, Mad Amos is prepared to step into any fray and set things right, albeit in his own unusual way.
 
Now all of his uncanny exploits—including the brand-new story “Stuck”—are collected together for the first time. For this special edition, Alan Dean Foster has also penned original introductions to the series and to each individual adventure.
 
Featuring eight never-before-collected stories, including . . .
 
GHOST WIND: Nature has a way of making even the strongest folks meek. And with a ghost wind coming over the valley, even Mad Amos Malone is feeling the chill.
 
HOLY JINGLE: Of all the dangers of the Wild West, love might be the most perilous. Because when it goes awry, there’s no telling what might be at stake.
 
A MOUNTAIN MAN AND A CAT WALK INTO A BAR: Mad Amos isn’t quickly moved to action. Still, when it comes to a dog fight, he’s not afraid to bare his teeth.
 
STUCK: The untouched grove of Sequoias is one of the most beautiful, soul-rejuvenating, downright sacred places Amos has ever visited. Until he hears a cry for help. . . .

Praise for Mad Amos Malone

“The consistent rhythms of [Alan Dean] Foster’s language, his shaggy-dog puns, and the distinctive clarity of Malone’s rough yet occasionally educated voice draw readers quickly into each story’s mood while maintaining strong connections between the pieces.”Publishers Weekly

Under the Cover

An excerpt from Mad Amos Malone

When one is considering potential subject matter for a fantasy tale, fruits and vegetables are usually not at the top of the list. Nor is farming. But without hordes of orcs to battle or evil sorcerers with whom to contend, one roots out story ideas in the Old West where one can.

In this tale, instead of hordes of ravening monsters to battle, we have farmers. Lots of farmers. Plain old ordinary farmer folk. Some of them intending to be farmers from the start, others forced into it because the perceived easy ways of making money that betook them to the Golden State in the first place didn’t materialize (not much changes). But in a strange country, where the lay of the land is new and unknown, decisions on what to plant, where to plant, and when to plant can make or break a newcomer to the soil. The drainage in Montana is different from the dirt in Indiana. Potatoes are not tomatoes.

It’s the sort of expertise that seemingly may not require a wizard’s touch, but when challenged, Amos Malone is ever ready to take on all problems . . . even if it means disputing the merits of broccoli.

And of course there’s the capper to this tale, which started it all in my mind and from which I had to work, for quite a spell, backward scribewise.

“You talk to him, Jesse.”

“Not me. Look at him. It can’t be the right man.”

“Have to be,” said George Franklin. “Can’t be another human being on God’s green earth looks like that. It’s him fer sure.”

They argued vociferously among themselves. Since no one was willing to approach their quarry alone, they had no choice but to do so in a group.

“Shoot,” Deaf Jackson pointed out, “he’s jest sittin’ there whittlin’. Ain’t like he’s gnawin’ on baby bones.”

“Yeah,” said Slim Martin, “but you ever see anybody whittlin’ with a bowie knife before?”

Having finally screwed up sufficient courage to approach the giant, they found they had nothing to say.

Amos Malone pushed back the wolf head that covered his scalp and regarded the sightseers. From somewhere behind that impenetrable black beard, luxuriant enough to offer succor and shelter to any number of small unidentifiable creatures, a surprisingly balsamic voice arose to break the uncomfortable silence.

“You folks never seed a man whittlin’ afore?”

As the wealthiest and largest of the six, it fell to George Franklin to reply. Also, his erstwhile friends and neighbors were doing a fine job of concealing themselves behind him.

“Are you Amos Malone?” He swallowed uneasily. “The one they call Mad Amos?”

The bowie knife sliced. Wood chips flew. Standing there on the covered porch outside the hotel, Franklin was acutely conscious of the proximity of his belly to that huge hunk of razor-sharp metal.

“Wal, ’tis Amos Malone I am, but at the moment I ain’t particularly mad. Next week, now, I wouldn’t vouch fer that.” He paused, squinting up at Franklin. “Kin I do something fer you folks, or are y’all just wanderin’ art lovers?”

Jesse Kinkaid stepped forward. “Mr. Malone, sir, we got ourselves a bit of a goin’ problem. Word around is that you might be the man to help us out.”

“We can pay,” Franklin added hastily, grateful for the supportive voice of a neighbor.

“Ain’t said I’d take the job yet.” Malone sheathed the knife and scratched at the hem of his buckskin jacket with a huge, callused hand. “What makes you think I’m the feller you need?”

The men exchanged glances. Though there were six of them, they were peaceable folk, and they felt badly outnumbered. “Now, don’t be takin’ this as no insult, Mr. Malone,” Kinkaid began cautiously, “but the word in these parts is that you’re some kind of magician.”

“Black magic,” said Deaf Jackson much too loudly before his friends could shush him.

Malone just smiled. At least, it looked like a smile to Kinkaid and Franklin. One couldn’t be sure because only the center portion of the man’s mouth was visible behind his black rat’s nest of a beard. You couldn’t tell what the corners of his mouth were up to.

“I’m no magician, gentlemens. Jest a poor seeker after knowledge. A wanderin’ scholar, you might say.”

“What kind of knowledge might you be seeking, sir?” Young Hotchkiss was too wet behind the ears to know that in California Territory it was impolite at best—and potentially lethal at worst—to inquire too deeply into another man’s business.

Malone took no offense, however, and smiled at the youth. Wiser men among the six heaved silent sighs of relief.

“Oh, this and that, that and this. Same thing as the poor feller Diogenes. He has his lamp, and I’ve got that.” He gestured out into the street, indicating a massive horse of unidentifiable parentage.

Young Hotchkiss would have asked who Diogenes was . . . sounded like a furriner . . . but Franklin hastened to cut him off before he said too much.

“The point being, sir, that you are rumored to be in the possession of certain arcane skills.” When Malone did not comment but instead waited patiently, Franklin continued. “We are farmers, sir. Simple farmers.”

“I’d say that’s right on both counts.” Malone held his whittling up to the light, examining it carefully.

Franklin looked helplessly to his neighbors. Again it was Kinkaid who picked up the gauntlet. “Mr. Malone, sir, we got ourselves real troubles. Our land is, well, sir, it seems to be cursed.”

The mountain man looked up at him. “Cursed, sir?”

Kinkaid nodded somberly. “Cursed.”

“I wonder if you mightn’t be a tad more specific, friend.”

Emboldened, Slim Martin spoke up. “It’s our crops, Mr. Malone. They get lots of water, plenty of sun. We work as hard as any folk in the Central Valley but it don’t make no difference. Corn tops out at less than a foot; apples just shrivel on the tree; tomatoes never get ripe. It’s a caution, sir. And it don’t seem to matter none what we plant. Nothin’ comes up proper.”

Malone straightened in the chair, which groaned under his weight. “An’ you think I kin help you?”

It was not necessary for them to reply: their desperation was plain on their sunburned faces.

“Now, I ask you, fair gentlemens: do I look like a farmer to you?”

They eyed him up and down, noting the heavy goatskin boots, the wolf’s-head chapeau, the bowie knife and LeMat pistol secured at his waist, and the twin bandoliers of enormous Sharps buffalo rifle cartridges that crisscrossed his massive chest, and the truth of what he said laid them low.

A couple turned to leave, but not Kinkaid. “Sir,” he pleaded desperately, “if you can help us, we’d be more than just obliged. Most of us”—he gestured at his companions—“came to this country for the gold. Well, the placer gold’s all run out, and big companies have taken over most of the claims up in the high country and on the American River.

“When the big money started moving in, a lot of folks picked up and left, but some of us stayed. My people are Illinois original, and I know fine farming country when I see it. A man ought to be able to make a good living out of this earth hereabouts. Plenty of folks are: those working the valley to the east of us.

“I don’t mind bein’ run off by bandits, or the weather, or grizzlies or Indians, but I’m damned if I’ll give up and just walk away from my spread without having a reason why.”

Malone considered silently. Then he rose. Involuntarily, the little knot of farmers retreated a step. The mountain man had to bend to avoid bumping his head on the porch roof that shaded the sidewalk. “Like I said, I ain’t no farmer. But I don’t like to see good folks driven off their places when mebbe there’s a simple straight way their troubles kin be fixed. So I will have a look-see at your country, gentlemens. Don’t promise that I kin do nothin’ for you, but a look-see I’ll have.”

“As to the matter of payment,” Franklin began.

“Let me see if I kin help you folks out first,” Malone told him. “If I can fix your problems, then it’ll cost you, oh, a hundred dollars U.S. In gold.” Franklin inhaled sharply but said nothing. “Until then, bed and vittles will do me jest fine. A bucket or two of oats for Worthless wouldn’t be turned down, neither.”

Across the street the enormous multicolored nag looked back at the group and whinnied.

Franklin and Kinkaid exchanged a glance, then Franklin turned back to the mountain man and nodded. “Agreed.”

Buoyed by their success but simultaneously wary of the man they’d engaged, the farmers headed for their own mounts or, in the case of Franklin and Kinkaid, a fine new buckboard.

“Think he’s the man?” Kinkaid asked his neighbor.

“I don’t know, Jesse.” Franklin glanced back up the street to where the mountain man was mounting his ridiculous animal. “Might be he’s telling us the truth when he says he doesn’t know a thing about farming.”

Kinkaid lowered his gaze. “Well, it weren’t a farmer we come to find, was it?”

“I’m not very confident about the other, either,” Franklin murmured. “I don’t see anything remarkable about him except his size.”

Deaf Jackson swung his right leg over his saddle. “What’d you expect to find, George? Somebody with horns growin’ out of their head, breathin’ fire and riding a cloud?”

“No, I expect not.” Franklin heaved himself up into the buckboard while Kinkaid took the reins.

Young Hotchkiss mounted alongside Slim Martin. “Funny thing, back there.”

“What’s that?” Martin asked him as they turned up the street that led out of San Jose.

“That odd-looking horse of his turning back to us and whinnying when we were talking about him.”

“What’s funny about that?”

“Malone wasn’t talking that loud, and there were wagons and horses going all the time we was there. How’d that animal hear him clear across that street?”

- About the author -

Alan Dean Foster has written in a variety of genres, including hard science fiction, fantasy, horror, detective, western, historical, and contemporary fiction. He is the author of the New York Times bestseller Star Wars: The Approaching Storm and the popular Pip & Flinx novels, as well as novelizations of several films, including Transformers, Star Wars, the first three Alien films, and Alien Nation. His novel Cyber Way won the Southwest Book Award for Fiction, the first science fiction work ever to do so. Foster and his wife, JoAnn Oxley, live in Prescott, Arizona.

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— Published by Del Rey —