If you’ve read my new historical, THE BALLAD OF EMMA O’TOOLE, you already know about that obnoxious ballad. It was penned by news reporter Hector Armitage, a conniving little weasel of a man who just may be my all-time favorite villain. Written as part of a scheme to promote Hector’s journalistic career, it does the 1880’s version of going viral and makes poor Emma, who only wanted to marry her sweetheart, a national celebrity.
Hector wasn’t much of a poet. Neither am I. But that’s all right because the ballad is pure doggerel—cheesy, sentimental and annoying. I had SO much fun with it. Here’s a sample.
On an April night when the stars were out. And the moon shone like a jewel,
Billy John Carter spilled his red, young blood For love of Emma O’Toole, oh yes,
For Love of Emma O’Toole.
The gambler’s gun was cold, hard steel. The gambler’s heart was cruel,
A bullet blazed, a young man fell, The lover of Emma O’Toole, yes…
The lover of Emma O’Toole.
The jury read the verdict out. The judge he made his rule.
The gambler would to prison go Or marry Emma O’Toole, oh yes,
Or marry Emma O’Toole.
“And will you wed this man?” he asked. She answered calm and cool.
“My lover’s lying in his grave, So I must,” said Emma O’Toole, oh, yes,
“I must,” said Emma O’Toole.
There are more verses throughout the story—some written by Hector, others that appeared after the ballad took on a life of its own. When I turned the book in I was half-expecting my editors to take it out. But they loved it and left it in.
As for Hector, by the time the book was finished I’d grown so fond of him that I couldn’t kill him off at the end. But never fear, he does get his just desserts. Well-deserved punishment for crimes that should include writing bad poetry.
Do you have a favorite villain, either in one of your own books or in someone else’s?
Here’s a purchase link to the book.
And now, dear friends, I bid you a brief farewell as I ride into the sunset. Changes in my writing career are taking me away from Wildflower Junction and this wonderful group of women and readers. But I promise to drop by, and I’ll be here as a guest in January. Happy Trails.