After 10 years of hard work, titular author and farmer John Mort is thrilled to announce that his latest book, “Oklahoma Odyssey,” is finally complete.
Originally from Missouri, Mort and his wife made the trip southwest about two years ago.
His first book was published in 1987, “Tanks” – a compilation of stories from the Vietnam War. It won a competition sponsored by the University of Missouri in Kansas City, and it was used as a textbook in a college classroom at one time. Since then, his career as an author has been stable to say the least, with 11 books attached to his name.
Mort is a Vietnam veteran and most of his fiction is about the war. He served the First Cavalry and later attended the University of Iowa, receiving MFA and MLS degrees. He also wrote many stories set in the Ozarks.
This new book, however, “Oklahoma Odyssey,” deviates a bit from his usual published pieces. It’s a Western novel about the 1893 Land Run in the Cherokee Outlet. The settings are in Kansas, Missouri and, of course, Oklahoma. The characters are mostly Mennonites or Osages. In Mort’s words, “Mennonites do not seek revenge.”
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Mort has always been fascinated by westerns, especially the Land Run. In fact, he attributes his interest in writing and researching the subject of his book to a novel he read in high school.
“It was so well written and it definitely stuck with me,” Mort said. “It struck me, and there are so many elements to it.”
There was such a great mix of people who did the Land Run, Mort recalls through his research.
“Everything to get this land that didn’t really exist. It was sort of taken from the Cherokee, that sort of Osage take. The Indians had no plotted spaces or deeds at the time. It was a hunting ground for them – it really set the story on fire. The civil war also had a lot to do with it.
“Oklahoma Odyssey” is set in the late fall of 1892, when an outlaw named Eddie Mole shoots a freighter, Barney Kreider, in Jericho Springs, Kans. Some people in the community urged Barney’s son, “Euly”, to seek revenge. However, Euly is a Mennonite and Mennonites are not seeking revenge, writes Mort. Instead, he teams up with Osage acquaintances and begins selling goods and livestock to settlers converging on Caldwell, Kans. for the land that occurred in the Cherokee Outlet.
Although it is a narrative, Mort describes his new book as an anti-revenge novel. Violence is always better to be excluded. Death can even tell you that this is an overlooked historical event in Western history.
“Dealing with the Mennonites, they’re not violent,” Mort explained. “Or I guess sometimes they can be, but they don’t want to be. They are similar to the Amish – they forgive their enemies.
However, there is a violent element to the ending, Mort said. “We need to keep western lovers happy!”
Mort has written 11 books, including “Solider in Paradise” and “Down along the Piney: Ozark Stories.” “He even wrote a number of short stories that appeared in a plethora of publications, including The New Yorker and the Chicago Tribune.
“I wouldn’t recommend an author’s life to anyone,” Mort said with a laugh. “But when you finish the book, finally, it’s a wonderful feeling. Some of those scenes that you don’t know how you wrote. It’s a good feeling.
Mort has been researching and traveling for his book “Oklahoma Odyssey” for nearly 10 years.
The 324-page book, from the University of Nebraska Press/Bison Books, is available for purchase on Amazon. It will appear in nearby bookstores in April.