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Book signings, personal appearances, interviews, and more from Mark Marchetti

Lynching at Stone Creek

Fort Smith, Arkansas sat on the border of Indian Territory in 1875. It was a rowdy place filled with brothels, saloons, and outlaws. It was said that there was ‘no law west of Arkansas’ and not much in Fort Smith. That changed when Judge Isaac Parker was appointed to the bench. Known as ‘the hanging judge’, Judge Parker was stern and unbending in his application of the law… his court often referred to as the ‘court of the damned’. The jail at Fort Smith where outlaws were held awaiting trial wasn’t a pleasant place to be and was considered to be ‘hell on the border’.

When Judge Parker issued a warrant for a man, it was up to the U. S. Marshalls to bring him in to stand trial. It was a dangerous job and required the toughest of men. Among these men was Matthew Kelso, a former bounty hunter who Judge Parker convinced to become a Deputy U. S. Marshall. Judge Parker wanted outlaws brought back alive for trial so their misdeeds and punishment would provide an example for others. Bringing outlaws back alive was something Deputy Kelso often had difficulty in doing.

Lynching of Stone Creek by Mark Marchetti
New Western Adventure Novel, Lynching of Stone Creek, by Mark Marchetti

On a return from a failed assignment where he had to kill two outlaws, Deputy Kelso has a chance meeting with Calib Bixby when he stops at his small ranch to water his horse. Calib lives alone in Indian Territory… over 70,000 square miles of hostile terrain and has a close relationship with the Osage Chief, Yellow Dog. Calib relates a story of an unwelcome visitor to his ranch and gives Matt a gold watch that belonged to a friend of his. The watch and story of how it came into Calib’s possession leads Matt to an investigation of a murder, a corrupt Sheriff, a power-hungry landowner, and the lynching of an innocent man… the lynching at Stone Creek.

Grab your copy today from Amazon.com:

Lynching at Stone Creek: A Novel of the Old West

Memories of Catalina

Reprinted from the Catalina Islander October 14, 2016

It was many years ago when I first met Artelle. She was an elderly lady who ran the Credit Union where I had an account. She was over eighty years old at that time and I wondered why she was still working at her age. As I got to know her, I found that her husband had died and she had an adult son, still at home, who had some problems. The money she earned helped but it seemed equally important for her to be connected and involved in the world around her. She always took the time to converse with the customers and showed an interest in their lives.

One day prior to a holiday period she asked if I had vacation plans. I mentioned I was going to spend the holidays at my home on Catalina. It was as if a light went on in her eyes. “Catalina! I grew up in Southern California and used to go to Catalina all the time,” she proclaimed. She then asked me to come into her office and she told me about her remembrances of the island.

When she was in her late teens/ early twenties, Artelle and her girlfriends used to catch the ferryboat, the S.S. Catalina, in Wilmington and go to Catalina for the weekend. It was the late 1930’s and the main attraction was the big bands playing at the casino ballroom.  There was no TV at that time but the music was broadcast on the radio all over the country. The boats also featured bands, dancing and entertainment on the passage over. Back then, the boats weren’t as fast as the express boats of today and the trip took about two and a half hours. She and her friends got “all dolled up” as she put it. “The ladies all wore fancy dresses and the men wore suits and ties and we danced on the boat all the way to the island,” Artelle stated. Then she mentioned with a sly grin that she and the girls sometimes had a few cocktails on the boat ride over.

When they arrived at the island there was always great excitement. It was like you arrived in a foreign country. Today we are used to a boat arriving almost hourly but back then it was just a couple of times a day and it was a big deal. Speedboats would jump over the boat wake as it approached, people came to the dock to sing and kids would dive for the coins passengers would throw overboard as the “Great White Steamer” docked. 

Then it was off to the Casino to dance all weekend long. She could still remember all the big bands she saw. It was clear to me that sharing these memories allowed her to step back to a time and place she remembered with great fondness. I felt privileged to have heard a bit of Catalina history from someone who lived it. Artelle passed away a few years ago but I can’t help to think of her every time I go to the New Year’s Eve event at the Casino… it always seems like I just stepped back into the 1930’s. 

Mark Marchetti-Author and Catalina resident 

Finding Catalina

Reprinted from the Catalina Islander March 25, 2016

The Catalina Islander is a weekly community newspaper serving Avalon, Catalina Island (California), and its mainland friends, since 1914.

In 1983 Jimmy Buffett wrote a song called One Particular Harbor which almost perfectly describes my relationship with Catalina Island. I was raised in Northern California and always had a fascination with the ocean and beach but neither of my parents were ‘beach people’. Never the less, it seemed I was destined to find my one particular harbor. My mother never learned to swim, but insisted that her sons would become swimmers, so as a youngster I got swimming lessons. It was fine with me because I loved to be in the water and it was the first step towards finding Catalina.

There have been many turning points in my life that have made an impact… even at a young age. In the 1950’s there was a TV show called Sea Hunt (1958-61) starring Lloyd Bridges as Mike Nelson, a retired Navy Diver who had all sorts of exciting adventures. By our modern standards, the SCUBA diving sequences and special effects would be seen as amateur but to a boy of eight with an imagination it was magic. Many of my diving friends reference Sea Hunt as their first introduction to SCUBA and credit the show for sparking their interest in diving. After seeing Sea Hunt, I had only two goals in life… to become a SCUBA diver and to own a boat (he had a cool cabin cruiser named Argonaut on the show). I was too young to learn SCUBA but quickly learned to snorkel and when I turned seventeen I took a SCUBA class and got certified. I did my check out dives in the cold, dark water of Monterey Bay and at that point in my life I had no idea a place like Catalina existed… but I was getting closer!

When my local dive shop sponsored a boat dive trip I signed up. We boarded an old rusty boat called the Emerald and headed out to sea. I don’t recall where we dove but I remember the Captain saying we would get a mooring in Avalon for the night. It was a hot, sunny summer afternoon when the boat pulled in and I’ll never forget my first impression of Catalina. The harbor was full of beautiful boats, many had music playing, there were girls in bikinis everywhere… on the beach, walking downtown, dancing on boats… everywhere!  When I ordered a beer at a local bar the bartender wasn’t overly concerned about seeing an ID (things were a little looser in the 1960’s). On top of all this, the water was clear, warm and provided great diving! I found Catalina Island and it was a very positive experience. After that, I returned as often as possible.

As my life progressed, I got married, had children and Catalina remained an important part of my life. Every visit to the island was viewed as an adventure. My children learned to swim, snorkel, SCUBA dive, paddle board and play golf here. We brought our friends so we could share the island with them and over the years have made many local friends. It was about twelve years ago when we realized the dream of buying our own home here. While we don’t live here full time, we now get to spend considerably more time on the island.

I write historical fiction novels and have traveled to many places encountering interesting people along the way… many have inspired characters in my books. Places like Key West, Saint Augustine, Port Royal, and Avalon have long and colorful histories that can provide a backdrop to a story. I have also found the best stories are told around a campfire, on a fishing boat or at a local bar. If you don’t hear a good story in places like The Marlin Club, The Lobster Trap, Coyote Joe’s or The Locker Room, well, you just aren’t listening!

Many years ago I found myself sitting at a bar, having a few beers with Joseph Wambaugh, a very well-known author… which is a separate story in itself. My first book was in the beginning stages but I was struggling with some aspects of the craft. We talked about writing, etc. and I learned some things from him about listening to the stories around me, but more importantly, seeking stories out and remembering them. Many of the tales heard can be inserted into a novel through a character in the story. I also learned writing is a process that can’t be hurried and all about ‘writer’s block’… when you just can’t make the process happen.

Fortunately I have Catalina. Maybe it’s the weather, the people, the relaxed atmosphere, the cocktails… but there are two places I never have writer’s block; Catalina Island and aboard my boat! So I’ll just keep coming back to Catalina… like Jimmy said in the song, ‘I know I don’t get there often enough but God knows I surely try.’ 

Mark Marchetti, Author and Catalina Island Resident