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The Pirooters: An Old Man’s Tale

Please note that Treble Heart Books has gone out of business. As a result, The Pirooters is no longer in print.

“I leave it up to you to decide whether I told the truth or the biggest windy you ever heard in your life.”

San Antonio, Texas, 1916. Jim Ed’s hot temper keeps him in constant trouble with his father, Leo Pargrew, a wealthy lawyer. After a long absence, the Pargrews are visited by Leo’s father Virge, an old cowman, come to reconcile Leo with his family. While staying with Leo, Virge tells Jim Ed a yarn of hair-raising exploits with his wild granduncle Heck

in search of Jim Bowie’s legendary silver mine down in old Mexico in 1865 with Comanches, bandidos, and French Foreign Legionnaires all in hot pursuit. Enthralled by the tale, Jim Ed doesn’t know whether to believe it, but one summer at Virge’s ranch, he learns the real secret of the lost treasure of Santa Perdida.

The Pirooters is a rootin’-tootin’, wild’n’wooly Western novel full of action, humor, and authentic period detail and dialog, one that will readily appeal to Western and pioneer fiction’s many and devoted fans. It is an unforgettable adventure yarn as well as a tribute to Western movies, the Southwest in general, and the great state of Texas in particular.


William Garwood, True West Magazine

“Holed up in the abandoned monastery of Santa Perdida and hopelessly outgunned, they forget the treasure and fight for their lives. Enthralled by the tale, Jim Ed realizes the secret of Santa Perdida—and of himself. This unusual Western sends readers along two narrative trails that lead to a heartwarming finale.”


Will Howard, The Texas Bookshelf


“Life in 1916 San Antonio where the civilization has budded with the Battle of Flowers, motorcycles, and talk of renaming Kaiser Wilhelm district to King William is interrupted with long-separated Grandfather Virge Pargrew’s retun and recollection of a post-bellum adventure with Indians, treasure, and rides beyond the Rio Grande to the Bolsom de Malpini. It’s a ridin’ and shoot ’em up.


Seems Virge and brother Heck and Old Mose, the freedman “as old as time,” set out on a series of rip snorting cavortations with Comanches, bandits, and a few unappreciative Frenchmen troubling the crew who are after Jim Bowie’s Santa Perdida treasure. Mellon shows his realism as he recount the trio’s decision to bury some bad guys, not out of sentiment, but out of practical caution, to keep the vultures from marking their location for El Guapo. Woven into the tale readers find the 1916 descendants’ forgiveness for old Virge and welcome him back into the family fold.


Sources vary on what is “pirooting.” Some describe it as making one’s way down a muddy street, some call it whirling, others wandering. The novel’s back-flashing manner between 1916 and earlier times make the story a rootin’ tootin’ piroot of its own.”


Steve M, Western Fiction Review


“The story moves at tremendous pace to the final violent battle that has an impressive death toll, which painted some very visual imagery within my minds eye…The story is told as flashbacks to 1865 but the scenes set in the books present provide some very real and relatable situations of conflict between different generations…Towards the end Jim Ed asks a question that leads to Virge replying, “that’s another story,” and that’s one I’d like to hear too, so Mark, any chance of Virge and co returning in another book?”


Tonya Thul-Theis, Midwest Reviews


“Western readers have long loved hearing of stories past, which enrich a time of true cowboys and Indians. Western fiction readers will saddle up and head to the campfire to listen to this tale from the heart of the Lone Star State. This Western fiction novel set in 1916 is full of rich western dialogue sure to draw the reader in. In addition to a tale of the lost treasure of Santa Perdida this novel weaves in an important lesson in family forgiveness and a whole host of characters.”


K. K. Searle, The Texas History Page


“The Page received a copy of Mark Mellon’s new book The Pirooters. Everyone here read it and everyone enjoyed it. It is the story of the Pargrew brothers, Heck and Virge, who have just returned from fighting for the Confederacy in the Civil War. They return to Reconstruction era Texas to find they have lost everything. That’s where the adventures begin. It was fun to read a Texas western that focused on that period after the Civil War but before the over cliched period of the 1880-1890s…If you enjoy Texas and western fiction and have ever thought it might be fun to go looking for Jim Bowie’s legendary silver mine, we think you will enjoy The Pirooters. I particularly enjoyed the twist ending. The real treasure is where you find it.”


Why I Choose the Title The Pirooters


I was originally going to entitle my novel either Bowie’s Silver or Jim Bowie’s Lost Mine. Most of the action in the book centers around a hunt for the famous Texan’s legendary mine in reliance on a map that is an obvious forgery to anyone with a grain of common sense. (The map is the novel’s “McGuffin,” Alfred Hitchcock’s term for a device to advance the plot of a story.) The preliminary titles were quickly abandoned, however, because they sounded too much to me like an unimaginative, corny, grade-Z Western.


The title that I eventually chose, The Pirooters, was taken from “piroot,” old Texas slang meaning to wander without any meaningful purpose. (Some scholars conjecture that the term may be a corruption of the word “pirouette.”) The term was introduced to me by J. Frank Dobie, a wonderful historian of Texas and the Southwest who wrote Coronado’s Children, a very fine book about Bowie’s mine and other legends of lost or hidden Texas treasure. I think that this title suits the novel very well since I basically set out to write The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn on horseback (with the caveat that I am not a patch on the seat of Mark Twain’s pants). In both books, the protagonists light out for the countryside and have picaresque adventures with frequent run-ins with venal, grasping, and otherwise flawed representatives of civilization and authority.


Like many middle-aged American men, I have loved Westerns since I was a small child, although more in films than in books. Although no longer as popular as they once were, I nonetheless wanted to write a Western that contained everything I loved about the genre: action, humor, the Western landscape, and a real feel for Nature. The book was also meant to be an extended love letter to Texas in particular and the Southwest in general, a region I have always favored.


I also dislike doing the same thing all the time. Having written science fiction and historical fiction, I wanted to do something completely different and decided on a Western. To illustrate my penchant for variety, after The Pirooters I wrote a humor novel set in the present day and then an alternate history or “steampunk” novel wherein Napoleon invades England.


The chief problem I faced when writing The Pirooters was how to tie together the events that took place in the novel’s “present,” 1915, with the episodes from 1865 when most of the action takes place, so as to have a satisfactory dramatic conclusion. I won’t give away what happens, but I was able to reach a conclusion that, on a personal basis, I found very pleasing. I wrote this novel over the course of a little more than a year from 2002 to 2003.


I have spent some time trying to think of a name for a sequel to The Pirooters. I came up with The Meanderers, but that’s just flogging a dead horse. Currently, I favor Nothing Sure But Death In Texas.