the phantom of witch's tree

mark lunde

Book Cover

GENRE

DRAMA GOTHIC CRIME SUSPENSE/THRILLER

    Core Theme

    GOOD VS. EVIL

    TIME PERIOD

    Earlier 20th Century,1960s & '70s

    COMPARABLE TITLES

    THE REVENANT, THE LIGHTHOUSE

    CHARACTER LIST

    • MATT HARGREAVES: 20S. HAUNTED, LONER.

    • JODY SIMMS: 20S. SOCIOPATH, MEAN, EVIL, DESPERATE, MATT’S NEMESIS.

    • RACHEL ADLER: 20S. ENTITLED, MENTALLY FRAGILE, ADVENTUROUS, OBJECT OF JODY’S PERVERSION AND MATT’S QUEST FOR A MONETARY AWARD.

    • AUGUSTUS: 30S, CANADIAN MOUNTIE, DUTY BOUND, WITNESS TO MATT’S SECRET PAST

    • MAJOR HARGREAVES: 70S, FAT, DISTANT, DISMISSIVE, MATT’S FATHER

    • NORBERT: 40S, LOYAL, CRUSTY, MATT’S FRIEND AND FELLOW DEPUTY

    • AGNES: 70S, CARING, INTELLIGENT, LOYAL, MATT’S SURROGATE MOTHER, MAJOR’S HOUSEKEEPER AND FORMER LOVER.

    • GLORIA: 20S, ANGRY, HATEFUL, ENEMY OF MATT THOUGH HE HAS A ROMANTIC INTEREST IN HER.

    Logline

    Old West noir story with some occult elements and minor fantasy overlay. A young deputy marshal is haunted by a violent past, a conceited ill prepared girl is lost in the wilderness and a demonic killer makes life miserable for everyone. Lots of blood and a little existential despair just for fun!

    Target Audiences

    Age: 18-34,35-54,55+

    Target Gender: Universal

    Setting

    1912 Old West / 1960 Las Vegas

    Based on a True Story

    No

    Publishing Details

    Status: Yes: with a Publisher

    Publisher: untreed reads

    Year Published: 2018

    Starting Description

    Deputy Matt Hargreaves is assigned to serve a warrant miles from home, but a simple mission goes wrong and a father and child lay dead. Consumed with guilt, Matt flees the carnage and begins a downward spiral as he is pursued by a half mad Mountie intent on his own sick justice.

    Ending Description

    Matt is an old man, driving through a snowy night in Nevada. He meets up with his long time enemy Jody Simms who's dying. In a Las Vegas back alley Matt decides to shoot Jody but pities him and they reconcile briefly before their inherent conflict returns and their long journey ends in bloodshed.

    Group Specific

    Information not completed

    Hard Copy Available

    Yes

    ISBN

    9781949135046

    Mature Audience Themes

    Substance Abuse

    Plot - Other Elements

    Philosophical Questions,Coming of Age

    Plot - Premise

    Quest

    Main Character Details

    Name: Matt Hargeaves

    Age: 23

    Gender: Male

    Role: Antagonist

    Key Traits: Desperate,Lone Wolf

    Additional Character Details

    The author has not yet written this

    Additional Character Details

    The author has not yet written this

    Additional Character Details

    The author has not yet written this

    Development Pitch

    Too long for a movie. Might make a single season series. Cheap to make using available Old West sets, happily nothing as elaborate as Deadwood. Lots of violence, some gross out adolescent humour, strong characters and a solid plot. Influenced by Lonesome Dove etc. Read critiques on Kirkus Reviews, Blueink (Notable Book) and Clarion (4 stars).

    Brief

    Set against the backdrop of the old west, the life stories of a deputy haunted by a dark past, a sadistic killer and a naïve young woman alone in the wilderness, intertwine to unfurl a violent, bloody and sometimes mystical tale of guilt, blame and justice.

    What We Liked

    - It is an intelligent genre bending romp with irreverent, over the top characters and a gritty grimy cinematic appeal. Not for the faint of heart, it is unapologetically vulgar, outrageously racist and sexist as well as being downright disturbing at times. However, it has just the right amount of pluck, mysticism, blood and gore to make an extremely provocative tale.
    - Cinematic sequences, the bending of genres, strong premise, unique and compelling characters as well as plenty of gritty, dirty fun makes this perfect for a film adaptation.
    - Though perfect for a feature film, developing it as a limited television series is plausible. The story demands high production value so an adaption of this sort would require a high-end cable or streaming platform to do it justice.
    - Key points: Intelligent and brilliantly written; Intense and compelling characters; Strong and unique genre bending premise; Gritty, bloody, sometimes disturbing, but always thought-provoking; Mystical and fantastical elements.

    Synopsis

    As of 1912, the old west is in decline. In an effort to keep the “romance” of the old west alive, the Belly Barons who are the hugely overweight and rich leaders of the town of Widow’s Tree, decide to freeze the town in time. Electricity is forbidden, the railroad is used in place of cars and casinos and brothels are abundant in an effort to bring in tourists looking for an old west experience. Matt Hargreaves is the appointed deputy of Widow Tree. He is only awarded the job because his father, Major Hargreaves, a Belly Baron, was once the marshal. Matt drinks too much, spends his father’s money, lives in his father’s mansion, and is taken care of by his housekeeper and surrogate mother, Agnes. Because of his rich lifestyle, Matt is not terribly well respected in town and is often called names by his contemporaries. However, he is great with a gun and his reputation as a gunslinger proceeds him. Matt and his friend and fellow Marshal, Norbert, set off to serve a warrant to appear in the case of a stolen pig at the Canadian and United States border. When the man receiving the warrant shoots, Matt shoots back, killing him and when more shots come from inside the house, Matt shoots back at the house. When he and Norbert venture inside, they find a young girl in a calico dress dying on the floor from the gunshot wound. After the girl dies, Norbert suggests they cover up the accidental killing by setting the house on fire with the corpses inside. Matt agrees, but is racked with guilt about the incident. He is haunted by visions of the young girl and is always looking over his shoulder for Augustus, a Canadian Mountie, who he believes witnessed the event and wants to seek revenge. Matt feels the supernatural Mountie’s mystical force everywhere and awaits his ultimate punishment for his crimes.

    Meanwhile, Jody Simms, a psychopath and potentially demonic young man, transports a prisoner accused of the attempted rape of a school teacher. When Jody discloses his disgusting necrophilia fantasy to the prisoner, he realizes that if that secret got out, it could ruin him forever. To keep his secret safe, Jody murders the prisoner in cold blood. After this, Jody goes after the prisoner’s school teacher victim to enact his own rape fantasy. When the attempt is thwarted, he sets his sights on Rachel Adler, a naive socialite from Montreal, who fresh from an insane asylum, has been warned of an approaching demon by her psychic mother. With drugs stolen from a hapless addict he murdered, Jody drugs Rachel, sexually assaults her and buries her in a wooden box outside her own campsite. When Matt encounters Jody they each see into each other’s souls. Matt knows that Jody is a monster and Jody knows that Matt is a killer. Jody haunts Matt at every turn and claims to be in communication with prophetic coyotes. Matt knows Jody is guilty of many murders and plans to bring him to justice. As Matt and Jody regard each other around town, Matt and Norbert receive signs that someone is onto them. When Matt is kicked out by his estranged father, he reluctantly leaves town and is beaten up by Bill, a contemporary who is not as well off as he. As he is leaving town, Norbert is killed by a mysterious murderer. Matt fears that it is the Mountie getting his revenge and worries that he is next. This worry is intensified when Major Hargreaves tells Matt he believes he met the man who killed Norbert and that he is coming after Matt as well.

    When Matt arrives home, he discovers that his father and Agnes have both passed on. Through letters, Matt realizes that his father really did love him and has some closure. Since Matt believes Jody murdered the drug addict and also had something to do with Rachel’s disappearance, he sets out again with Preacher Bob to go in search of Rachel hoping to get the reward money put out by her family. When they discover the fresh grave, they think she is dead and Matt’s suspects Jody killed her. Matt vows to get him for his crimes and they continue on. Later, Rachel is rescued alive by some Native Americans traveling through the camp. She is ultimately returned to her family and plans to marry her one time sweetheart. Jody encounters a posse of ethnically diverse deputized men and Marshal Jonas Means. Jody know Jonas is onto him so he quickly fires on all four men, killing them. When the corpses of the men are discovered, the outstanding shooting garners the killer the moniker, The Phantom of Witch’s Tree. The journalists take liberties with the town’s name as well as details about the killer. Once again, Matt knows that Jody is at fault.

    Matt and Preacher Bob come across Jody with the corpse of a saloon owner. They know that he is the killer, but he refuses to admit it. They haul Jody into jail. The first trial ends in a mistrial with the one hold out juror being Rosie, a soiled dove rumored to be Jody’s real mother. He is convicted at the second trial, but manages to delay (and later murder) the hangman who was to carry out his execution. In an escape from jail, Jody also kills the jail guard, the sheriff and Preacher Bob. Matt is rewarded mightily for his involvement in catching the Phantom of Witch’s Tree. He becomes the star of dime novels and news stories. He becomes famous, gets his gun slinging skills back that waned after the killing of the young girl, and becomes a US Marshal. Though he has legitimized himself and potentially gotten away with murder, he is still a heavy drinker. Matt is lured into a saloon where he is shot in the chest by the Jody. After a near death experience Matt thinks he may have shot in Jody in the leg or a phantom may have done if for him. Though wounded, Jody escapes, but is captured again. Matt goes to see him in jail and confesses to the murders of the girl and her father. Matt ends up shooting Jody in the elbow before he leaves. Jody dies from an infection resulting from the gunshot wound. Matt doesn’t believe that Jody is really dead. Even though Matt has Jody’s body exhumed, sees an animal head has been sewn on in place of Jody’s head and seeing Jody’s severed head in a doctor’s specimen jar, Matt still doubts that he is really gone.

    Once he accepts that Jody is dead, Matt thinks he is finally free from being culpable for the murders of the girl and her father. But he starts to worry that Jody may have told Rosie his secret. He discovers that Rosie does know his secret. He also learns that she is not Jody’s mother, but in fact is the mother of the murdered girl. Matt is horrified. He also starts to fall in love with Gloria, a local waitress, who has no interest in him. She blames him for the death of her uncle. When he realizes the contempt she has for him, Matt gives up on a romantic relationship with her. As things swirl around him, Matt awakes in the saloon where he was shot. He is laying in a pool of his own blood. He realizes that he has been there the whole time and Jody is long gone. Everything he experienced after he was shot was an elaborate hallucination or otherworldly experience.

    Years pass and Matt is an old man visiting his daughter and grandchild. After the visit he stumbles upon a dying Jody in Las Vegas. Instead of killing him, Matt takes Jody to the hospital for cancer treatment. With no hope of a cure, Jody leaves the hospital and finds himself in the Nevada desert with Matt. Jody beckons the gunslinger to finally finish him as the book ends.

    About The Author

    Mark Lunde is a Canadian writer who sold his first two short stories before he was nineteen. He lives in “the fruit-stand capital of Canada” - Keremeos, British Columbia. When he’s not writing, he’s either playing one of his guitars or cruising around on his Yamaha Vmax. This is his first fiction novel published by California-based publisher Untreed Reads.