A Field & Stream Exclusive: THE ROYAL WULFF MURDERS by Keith McCafferty, Part One

Belly up to a bar in West Yellowstone or Ennis and you might find yourself talking to a creatively profane fishing guide, a down-on-his-luck artist who can't afford rent, the millionaire owner of a streamside log-cabin mansion who uses it only two weeks a year, or a pretty woman with a box of trout flies and a cryptic background.

That's the kind of people you meet in Montana's trout fishing country. And that's why The Royal Wulff Murders ($27; us.penguingroup.com), field editor Keith McCafferty's new novel, features such an eclectic bunch.

Why would McCafferty--a talented elk hunter, survival expert, and unabashed steelhead bum who has written nearly 500 articles for _Field & Stream_--enter the fiction business?

"I decided to write a book the night I slept on the ground on a mountain for a Field & Stream assignment," says McCafferty, a 30-year Bozeman resident. "It was so cold in the middle of the night that rather than get up, I peed myself. [Editor's note: Sorry, Keith!] That did it."

The novel opens with a fisherman reeling in a body he's snagged on a stonefly nymph in the Madison River. The man's guide marvels over the strength of the tippet as the client winches in the corpse: "He made a mental note to convert all his monofilament leader material to Orvis Super-strong in the future."

McCafferty understands that's something only an angler would observe. And identify with. Sportsmen will find the one-of-a-kind novel captivating, intelligent, and at times uproarious. The book will be available in stores next month.

The following is an exclusive online-only excerpt from McCafferty's novel. It is the first of five parts. Look for Part Two next week. --Mike Toth
WARNING: The following excerpt contains adult language. Reader discretion is advised.
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PART ONE

The fishing guide known as Rainbow Sam found the body. Or rather, it was the client casting from the bow of Sam's driftboat, working a fly called a Girdle Bug in front of a logjam that parted the current of the Madison River. When the float indicator pulled under the surface, Sam winced, figuring a snag. The client, whose largest trout to date had been the size of a breakfast sausage, reared back as if to stick a tarpon.

The body submerged under the driftwood shook free of its tether, bobbed to the surface and floated, face down, the hook buried in the crotch of the waders.

The client's reel screamed. The bloated corpse took line, steadily, implacably, in the manner of a large carp. Leaning hard on the oars, Sam closed the gap between his boat and the body. Calmly, in a voice that had coaxed a thousand neophyte anglers, he instructed his client to drop the long-handled net over the dead man's head. The catch so enmeshed, he angled his Clackacraft downstream at the pace of the current, fanning the oars gently toward a bay at the bank...

Reprinted by arrangement with Viking, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., from THE ROYAL WULFF MURDERS by Keith McCafferty, to be published on February 16, 2012.
Copyright (C) 2012 by Keith McCafferty