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Each of Cotton Smith's novels brings an exciting picture of the human spirit making its way through life-changing trials, driving through physical and emotional barriers, and resurrecting itself from defeat. His stories of the West are praised for historical accuracy, unexpected plot twists and memorable characters. They are also enjoyed for their insightful descriptions of life of that era -- and for their rousing adventure.
In Dark Trail To Dodge, the ex-Ranger John Checker seeks a reunion with his long-separated sister, bridging a terrible childhood, and Tyrel Bannon, a Texas farm boy, undergoes a trying initiation into manhood. In Pray For Texas, Confederate cavalryman and pistol-fighter, Rule Cordell, struggles to overcome, not only losing the War, but the anguish of a tyrannical minister father. In Behold a Red Horse, we see the three Kerry brothers deal with the strongest one blinded. In Brothers of the Gun, John Checker must face knowing his half-brother is an evil man bent on destroying him by kidnapping their sister's children and taking them into the Indian Nations. And in Spirit Rider we see a young white man challenged by white society after growing up with an Oglala stepfather holy man who talks with sacred stones. And in Sons of Thunder, Rule Cordell tries hard to put his days as a pistol-fighter behind him but finds he can’t when his friends are challenged by a cunning carpetbagger. The Thirteenth Bullet and Winter Kill both carry this fascinating psychological edge. True West agrees: “Although the characters in Cotton Smith's books are for the most part traditional Western men: strong, dynamic, action-driven individuals; their motivations and mannerisms definitely break the mold of traditional Western novels. For one thing, they have and show far more emotion than the average man (in or out of a Western novel.) Characters are placed in realistic emotionally driven situations, bringing with them souls filled with concern, fear, joy and desire.”
"A well-honed psychological edge that helps Cotton Smith secure his place as a promising new voice of the American frontier."
His love of the West came quite naturally and quite early in life as did his gift for writing.
"I rode with them all, you know," Cotton likes to say. "Roy, Gene, Hoppy, I was right there with them. Roy Rogers and Wild Bill Elliott were my favorites. Yeah, I can hold my own on western movie trivia with anyone." From the earliest he can remember, he was wearing chaps, boots, spurs, and strapping on a set of cap guns. "Like the song says, my heroes have always been cowboys."
That love affair turned into a lifelong study of the American West. "Silver screen fascination grew into an appreciation I will never grow tired of. I believe the excitement is in what really happened during this special time in our nation's history. I believe it lives on in each of us, if we simply stop long enough to let it surface. In this time of special trial, that victorious linkage will serve us well. America will win."
Cotton Smith was born in Kansas City, Missouri; some would say a century later than he should have. He grew up enjoying both adjoining states, Kansas and Missouri, living mostly in Kansas. His ancestors fought in the Civil War, mostly for the South, as regulars and guerillas. As a young man, he learned to ride horses from a grizzled wrangler he remembers fondly. He also learned how to roll a cigarette then, too! "Looking back on it, he taught me the right ways around a horse -- and he taught me some other things too. Like swinging into the saddle with the horse loping. And springing up from the rear, like the movie stars did. Never occurred to me then that I could get hurt. Guess no young person ever does."
Early in life, he was also exposed to the ways of the Plains Indian, to their sacred ceremonies, customs and traditions. His appreciation for their spiritual connection to the land and all that occupied it was heightened by involvement with Indian friends and backed by extensive research. Both touched him deeply and can be readily seen in his caring -- and accurate--portrayal of Indians in his novels. Throughout his stories, one finds intriguing glimpses of this insight, giving readers a sense of what really was and why.
His novels certainly carry that love and much more. The reader becomes a part of what it was really like. How it felt to drive wild cattle toward an endless horizon with only one's wits for protection -- and the only source of supplies carried in a wagon. What it was like after the Civil War ended and everything a Southerner knew was gone, both black or white. What it was like to grow up in an Indian tribe and then try to live in a world where nothing sacred to you was understood. What it was like to know your life depended on the stamina and sureness of the galloping horse between your legs -- and your ability to accurately fire a Winchester. What it was like to love the land as a part of you and watch it change with first, barbed wire, and then the advent of automobiles, electricity and telephones.
"Cotton Smith is a writer who understands the best of the Western. He adds interesting and unexpected plot twists, marvelous characters, and great descriptions."
Cotton tells it this way: "There is much we can learn from our ancestors. Perhaps today more than ever. The men and women who built this country were exceptionally strong people who overcame enormous odds to establish good families, create towns where only wilderness existed, establish businesses and leave us with much to build upon. They loved the land and that love was returned manyfold."
He often suggests a simple test for his audiences to get a glimpse of what the past was like. "The next time, you open your refrigerator and ponder what's there, simple things like bacon, eggs, butter, jelly. Or how about ice cubes. Forget electricity -- or the wondrous things it brings us. What must it have been like to face the world without a computer."
ReadWest Online Magazine (www.readwest.com) calls him "... one of the best new authors out there." Roundup magazine calls him "... A promising new voice of the American frontier." Western Writers of America President, and Spur Award winner, Loren D. Estleman said, "Cotton Smith's is a significant voice in the development of the American Western."
"Cotton Smith's is a significant voice in the development of the American Western."
A gifted writer and thorough researcher, his extensive communications skills were widely evident early in life, as was his interest in the West. His writing abilities turned professionally to the creation of advertising. His ad agency's work generated international CLIO creative excellence awards; the "Oscars" of the advertising world, as well as more than a hundred other honors for creative excellence regionally and nationally. He wrote Market Navigation: Set Sail With the Wind, a study of marketing strategy principles and why they work. He is the creator of the Positioning Map and the Strategy Compass, marketing planning aids.
"Cotton Smith is one of the best new authors out there."
He is also the author of Trail to Eagle, a history of Boy Scouting in Kansas City, and Tribesmen Arise!, a history of the first 75 years of the Tribe of Mic-O-Say, the honor camping society of the Heart of America Council, BSA. He was also co-creator of an original musical, First Light, written and produced to provide the first televised presentation of the world-famous Country Club Plaza Christmas Lighting Ceremony. The First Light of Christmas, also penned by Smith, was one of six original songs crafted for the special TV event. Fans are pleasantly surprised to learn he has written several plays, poems and short stories. His literary focus includes contemporary mysteries and historical accountings, as well as tales of the west. He is also an accomplished artist; his western and Indian paintings are sought by many. They also discover he is quite good with a revolver but claims "the skill of roping's beyond me."
Often sought as a speaker, Cotton Smith has given speeches, presentations and seminars to associations, companies and book lovers throughout the country. He has received the Silver Beaver Award, the highest council honor Boy Scouting gives to adult Scouters. Currently, he serves on the Heart of America Council Executive Board and was the Presiding Chieftain of the Tribe of Mic-O-Say, an honor Scouting society. He is a horseman, past president of the Saddle & Sirloin Club of Kansas City; past Captain of the Outriders, trail-riding group; past Co-Chairman of the Kansas City Rodeo, a member of the Desert Caballeros, and past president of the Western Writers of America.
He and his wife, Sonya, are collectors of Hopi kachina dolls, as well as Plains Indian and turn-of-the century western memorabilia. He is a graduate of the University of Kansas. Prior to KU, he attended Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kansas, where he played football and baseball, participated in theater and wrote his first play.