A few months ago, my dear friend Stephen Bly went on to heaven.  Only a few days before his home-going, however, he was hard at work on what would be his last book, Stuart Brannon’s Final Shot. 

My own daddy loved Steve’s books in part, I think, because the heroes were the kind of man my dad was–and Steve was, too–hard working, God-fearing, woman-respecting men who worked hard, tried not to complain, and did what was right even though it could be painful. Stephen Bly wrote dozens of westerns, and when he died before finishing his last book, his wife, Janet Chester Bly, and three of his boys helped finish the story.

I like that picture–children carrying on a ministry when the saint has to move on.  🙂

In any case, the following is an article about the book and the effort required to finish the story:

Janet Chester Bly
My husband, Stephen Bly, hated half-done jobs. He couldn’t stand a ‘to do’ list  without immediate action. One big project for 2011: complete his novel, Stuart Brannon: The Final Shot.
      When he passed away on June 9th, 2011, my sons said to me, “Let’s finish that book.”
      The idea grew. They had their dad’s creativity and wit. They’d impart their father’s input. I also discovered the value of their feedback and encouragement. I couldn’t do it without them.
      The editor gave us a four-month extension. This incomplete project became a family affair.
      Can a committee write a novel? We had the passion to find out.
      Steve left us 7,000 words, a synopsis and some character names. We read over his sample chapters.
      “It reads more like a mystery than a western,” we four surmised.
      This book must resonate like a Stephen Bly novel and resemble the early Stuart Brannon Series. Yet, this story’s different. Brannon’s older. He struggles to fit into the 20th Century. He also grapples with the game of golf on behalf of a celebrity charity tournament.
      We immersed ourselves in the original series. We scanned other Stephen Bly novels for Brannon mentions. I scoured Steve’s resources for a basic grounding in the western world he knew so well. I also skimmed our fiction writing books for tips and printed out excerpts for the sons.
      We focused our main theme on fighting for justice, truth and mercy. 
      We met weekly to brainstorm and critique. We started with a cluster diagram of all the known factors. Spirited discussions stirred debate as well as consensus. 
      We assigned each other research topics, then talked through and roughed out random scenes. We drafted an outline and plot points to give direction for which scenes to create next.
      We tried to include as much of Steve’s writings as we could.
      To keep the constant additions discernable, I used a different color type each week that turned into a rainbow manuscript. Even with this trick and the outline, the key challenge was to keep the story’s timeline straight.
      Then I took a trip to Oregon, to discover and experience what Steve knew and we didn’t. This added much needed color and revealed critical mistakes.
      The deadline loomed as we aimed for 75,000 words. I struggled to eek out 2,000 words daily. When Aaron devised an adventure scene and Mike produced the golf tourney and poker game settings, I knew we’d hit the target count.
      After we exceeded our goal, we deleted scenes and characters that didn’t move the plot. The last days and hours were frantic with attempts to get it as perfect as possible.  
      At 10:36 a.m. on November 1st, 2011, son Mike emailed me, “Well? Ready to push ‘send’?
      At 11:46 a.m., I did.
      We finished Steve’s last undone task.
Janet Chester Bly has published 30 nonfiction and fiction books, 18 she co-authored with Christy Award winner Stephen Bly. Titles include The Hidden West Series, The Carson City Chronicles, Hope Lives Here and The Heart of a Runaway. She resides at 4200 ft. elev. on the Idaho Nez Perce Indian Reservation. Her 3 married sons live down the mountain with their families. 

In Stuart Brannon: The Final Shot, Brannon is forced to do a bit of clamming by his friend, Lady Harriet Reed-Fletcher. Then she makes him promise to try eating a razor clam fixed in various ways: a plain clam dip, a smoked clam dip, a clam cake and also a  clam spread with a touch of hot sauce. I’ll let you read about his response towards the end of Chapter 21. I definitely think Brannon would like this chowder recipe.
Razor clamming is hard. Razor clam chowder is easy. I got this off the internet at Shelterrific.com. They got it from the State of Washington,
2 Tbl. – 3 slices of diced bacon or salt pork
1/2 C. chopped onion
1 – 1 ½  C. diced raw potatoes
2 C. water
1 pint clams ground or chopped and liquid
1 can evaporated milk (can use fat-free variety)
3 Tbl. butter
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. white pepper

You can prepare everything, including the sautéed items, in the same soup pot.
Sauté pork or bacon until crisp. Remove scraps from pan and reserve for use later as a garnish.
Add chopped onion to hot fat, sauté until tender, but do not brown.
Combine cooked onion and diced potatoes in a deep saucepan. Add water, bring to a simmer for about 15 minutes or until potatoes are done.
Stir in clams and all other ingredients. Heat until piping hot, but do not boil.
Serves 6.

Another time, Brannon orders bear steak off the Gearhart Hotel café menu. If you get a hankering for bear meat, like he did, here’s a recipe to try.
Printed from COOKS.COM

2 lbs. bear steak
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 c. flour
1/2 c. shortening
Cut ripened steaks 1 inch thick and pound on both sides with a meat hammer. Mix spices and rub mixture vigorously into both sides of meat. Dredge in flour. Heat shortening in skillet and sear meat on both sides. Lower heat, add 3 tablespoons warm water, and cover skillet. Simmer steaks for 15 minutes, turning once. Test with a fork for tenderness.
Stuart Brannon’s Final Shot is available or can be ordered wherever fine books are sold. 🙂  Link to Kindle edition here. 


  1. Kathy C.

    I met Stephen Bly at ICRS one year and thought he was what Brannon would be as a mature adult.

  2. Janet Chester Bly

    Angie: Thanks so much for this post! Greatly appreciated!
    Janet Chester Bly


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