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NAIL'S CROSSING INTRODUCES ANEW HERO AND CULTURE WE KNOW LITTLE ABOUT- REVIEW

Chris Lackey's novel Nail's Crossing introduces us to Bill Maytubby, an officer in the Chickasaw Lighthorseman. His first case takes him into a world of murder and drug trafficing that leads to Louisiana. We talked to Mr. Lackey about the character and approaching his culture.

1. I knew about the Lighthorsemen from Oklahoma's frontier days, but didn't know they were still around. How would you describe the function Bill Maytubby serves?

Maytubby is a Chickasaw Lighthorseman, a tribal police officer for the Chickasaw Nation. "Lighthorse" describes a small, mounted posse distinct from the cavalry--a large mounted force. He is a commissioned officer who has trained with other Oklahoma law enforcement officers at the state's training facility in Ada--CLEET: The Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training. His primary work is done on surviving tribal lands in Oklahoma, but he is cross-deputized with many Oklahoma law enforcement entities.

2. Bill Maytubby is a unique investigator. I have to admit I underestimated him in in the beginning. How did you go about creating him?

I started with smart and observant and classically-educated. He's a St. John's-Santa Fe graduate, so he is well-read. Then I put him in situations and learned about him from that. He is quiet and lacks the conventional hard-boiled detective's flaws--alcoholism, a dark past, machismo. Because I am not indigenous, I steer clear of most spiritual content, though I don't neglect Chickasaw history.

3. Did you always have it in mind for him to partner with Hannah?

After I imagined Maytubby, he needed a partner--a foil and fellow investigator. I imagined a woman who shared Maytubby's intelligence and training but not his education or his experience in the wider world. She was blunt and tall and imposing, quicker to use force, looming over both male criminals and antagonistic law enforcement agents. And she could not be a romantic rival for Maytubby's fiancee, Jill Milton. Jill is a mixed-race character, descended from Chickasaws, their antebellum African slaves, and Europeans. She has a Ph.D. in Nutrition Science. She has an undergraduate degree from NYU and works for the Chickasaw Nation as a Nutritionist. Jill and Maytubby are very close--matching wits, cooking together, enjoying a robust love life.

4. What did you want to get across to the reader about the Chickasaws?

I can't generalize. I do incorporate Chickasaw history and facts about the contemporary Chickasaw Nation, which has its own sovereign government and a thriving economy.

5. This being your debut novel, did you draw from any influences or did you simply expand the work you were doing in short fiction?

These detective influences: Georges Simenon's Maigret novels--concise, vivid; fine whirlwind characterization. I've read all Hillerman's Navajo novels, talked to him when I worked in New Mexico. Hammett, Chandler, Robert B. Parker (too macho for me but compelling), Craig Johnson, Lou Berney, P.D. James, A.C. Constantine, Joseph Hansen.

6. I noticed that Maytubby and many of the native characters in your book carry a strong sense of humor, that is also present in the work of Craig Johnson and C.M. Wendleboe. What do you think makes that a common characteristic of Native Americans?

I can't generalize about ethnic traits.