Friday, July 18, 2014

Fresh Book Friday - The Piano Player

Title: The Piano Player
Author: Carolyn Niethammer
Genre: Historical Women’s Western
Publisher: Oak Tree Press
Date of Publication: June 2014

In 1882, Frisco Rosie, the saloon piano player, and Nellie, upstanding boarding house owner, form an improbable bond that takes them from Tombstone’s desert to a Mexican jail and eventually to Dawson City’s frozen creeks. Challenging society’s norms for proper womanhood, they each pursue their own dreams for success, postponing romance with the men who love them, until for one, it becomes too late.

One evening we were trudging beside our sleds, talking about stopping to camp when the crackings and grumblings of the ice on the Yukon began to echo up and down the canyon. Panicked, I didn’t know whether to stop or make for the bank.

“What’s happening?” I shouted above the noise, turning to the others who were in single file behind me.

“The ice is readjusting itself,” Colin shouted. “Be careful and keep to the middle. The sides have to adjust to the strain.”

I went ahead and the others dropped behind with fifteen feet between each of us. Though it was nearly twilight, we pressed on, hoping to put another mile behind us. We’d gone only a hundred yards when the ice under my feet began swaying up and down in a sickening way. I dropped the towline to my sled to catch my balance. In seconds, with a loud crack, a dozen pieces of ice separated from the whole and began rushing downstream, taking me along. All around me was swirling, icy water, and I could see Nellie becoming part of the distance.

My tiny, icy life raft swept swiftly through the free water, tilting, bouncing, jarring, threatening every moment to dump me. I crouched down and spread my feet, hoping to give myself stability. I’d feel myself slipping into the dark water when unaccountably the ice would straighten and rush ahead with me still a passenger.

The darkness was deepening, and the passing trees became nothing but shadows. My only thought was that I was not ready to die, and this formed into silent words over and over when, with a bone-jarring crunch, my private ice floe crashed into the others that had stopped ahead of it. I screamed, my voice rolling off into the empty night, as I fell flat on my face.

I stayed on my belly, arms and legs outspread to carry my weight, as I inched my way through the freezing slush toward the riverbank. Finally my frozen fingers grasped the cold boulders and I pulled myself onto the muddy rocky shore.

Surrounding me was only the forest and blackness, the rest of the party far behind. As I huddled on the bank, I realized that already my coat was becoming stiff, the water it had soaked up turning to ice. Shivers overtook me, shaking me so violently that my teeth clattered, the only noise save for the rushing water. Then came the drowsiness and I lay on my side, still shivering but wanting only not to have to walk anymore. I’d survived the river, but I knew my body would be frozen solid by morning.

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Author Bio:
Carolyn Niethammer grew up in the little mountain town of Prescott, Arizona. At that time, there were more cattle than people in Yavapai County. After studying journalism at the University of Arizona, she worked as a feature writer for newspapers and magazines and did a stint as a corporate writer. The subjects of her 10 books all relate to the Southwest – five on the foods of the region, including edible wild plants, three on Native American women, and one travelogue on Southeastern Arizona. The Piano Player is her first novel, and has been in production for decades.

She currently lives in Tucson, Arizona, with her husband, Ford Burkhart.

Find Carolyn:

An adventure novel! Very cool!

1 comment:

  1. 'The Piano Player' is a tough cookie named Rosie with a big heart. I can attest, guys will enjoy discovering the West as women lived it, at least these two dynamite women.


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