James Ciccone, Photo Credit Fredo Esposito
James Ciccone, Photo Credit Fredo Esposito

About the Author James Ciccone

His debut novel, A GOOD DAY TO DIE, expands the scope of the traditional Western by exposing the secrets of the cruel and hideous racial situation confronted by the classic antihero, Cherokee Bill, a notorious “half-breed” outlaw of the 1890s. The story includes black characters whose challenges are often marginalized and shut out of the mainstream. His second novel, STAGECOACH JUSTICE, was released in May 2021. Following the attention received by these stories, legendary Western writers James Reasoner and Russell Davis invited Ciccone to contribute his work to the Original Western Anthology, a collection of short stories written by some of the top Western writers working in the genre. This eagerly awaited collection is available in bookstores everywhere.

Ciccone was born in Auburn, N.Y. , and grew up in the nearby villages Skaneateles and Bridgewater where he starred as a soccer player for Mt. Markham High School and later for Colgate University and Sal Caruso of Utica, N.Y. Athleticism aside, he began to fancy himself as a writer in his adolescence. Some of his early writings were published in national and regional magazines and newspapers, including a noteworthy essay on music and religion, The Rituality of Jazz as Composed by John Coltrane. His research documenting the achievements of Everett Holmes, New York’s first black mayor, appears in the Harvard Guide to African American History.

He graduated Colgate University with a bachelor’s degree in Religion before earning a law degree at Albany Law School of Union University. He put his ambition to write on hold in order to pursue a career as a trial lawyer. The American Tennis Association was among his most influential clients by virtue of that organization’s role in developing the blueprint for the nation’s energetic and historic civil rights campaign. He served as pro bono general counsel for over 20 years, wrote the organization’s constitution and bylaws, supervised national elections, defended the organization against hostile takeover bids, and zealously advocated on behalf of children and seniors. In recognition of these contributions, he was inducted into the Black Tennis Hall of Fame in 2017 (unanimous vote).

He also took the obligation to help young writers seriously. He led a writing clinic for junior high school students and was an adjunct professor in the State University of New York system at SUNY College of Technology at Utica-Rome, N.Y. His unique approach to teaching the craft opened the door to writing well to countless students.

After leaving the practice of law, he began writing novels. He was a ghost writer for several books, including a best seller.

He submitted exactly one manuscript to exactly one publisher, Livia Washburn and Cheryl Pierson at Sundown Press/Prairie Rose Publications, and he received exactly one book deal.

His stories expand the scope of the traditional Western novel by including threshold questions related to the cruel and hideous racial situation of the Old West and the ideology that sustained it and including accurate depiction of black characters in his stories that are often shut out of traditional Westerns.

A book review published in Heart and Soul magazine accurately observes that A GOOD DAY TO DIE expands the scope of the traditional Western novel by challenging readers to consider that while all sectors of society evolved rapidly during the Western expansion why precisely is it that the racial situation appears to have remained transfixed in a vacuum during that same period of time.

Crawford Goldsby - Alias, Cherokee Bill
“Crawford Goldsby – Alias, Cherokee Bill” by FortSmithNPS is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Using snappy dialogue and a spare visual writing style, A Good Day to Die is a story about an antihero, the “half-breed” outlaw Crawford “Cherokee Bill” Goldsby of the Cook Gang, whose conflict with the nation’s oppressive ideology on the heels of the Civil War and Emancipation allows the reader to forgive his depravity, the train wrecking, stagecoach stopping, gratuitous killing, all of it. The reader is challenged to explain why Cherokee Bill is such a likable character despite the killing and outrage. The reason, of course, is the character satisfies the elements of the antihero: he is vulnerable because he is overmatched by a ruthless ideology; he shows a glimmer of humanity; and he has qualities that remind us of ourselves. In order to like “Cherokee Bill,” the reader must find a way to hate the ideology he is at odds with, even if that hatred is subconscious, and this is the novel’s contribution. Characters like Cherokee Bill and his conflict with the prevailing ideology were formerly excluded from the literature.

Ciccone argues historical fiction should remain steadfast in its refusal to edit, revise, or “un-live” history. Instead, it should spotlight the issues already present on the historical record. If critics of historical fiction insist on accuracy in all things down to the last buttons on the clothing of the characters, he asks why historical fiction should suspend that same interest when it comes to the question of race. His answer, of course, is it shouldn’t.

The text of A GOOD DAY TO DIE was analyzed by a distinguished panel at Colgate University led by Prof. Rocio Gil of the Universidad Autonoma Metropolitana Iztapalap, Mexico City, Mexico, and Dr. Andrea Maldonado of Brown University from the point of view of how race and the killing spree of the outlaw Cherokee Bill clashed on the Western frontier of the 1890s.

Mary Fields, better known as Stagecoach Mary.
Mary Fields, better known as Stagecoach Mary. Public Domain

In response to controversy triggered by a Mexican anthropologist’s comments about his work following a speech at Colgate University, he is quoted as saying, “debate is fiction’s highest form of praise.”

For example, in the beginning of A GOOD DAY TO DIE, Cherokee Bill engages in debate. He asks the Verdigris Kid whether it is wise to rely on society or the barrel of a gun for justice. The outlaws resolve the debate by arguing: “You can’t trust the law, unless you write it yourself.” This quotation is emblematic of the author’s insistence on rigorous debate to test the merits of any issue, including those presented by his stories. And STAGECOACH JUSTICE picks up where A GOOD DAY TO DIE left off, except this story treats the reader to the adventures of a female protagonist who argues the case from a woman’s point of view. Therein lies the writer’s intellectual presence, moral conscience and interest in the themes of diversity and inclusion.

In furtherance of these themes, he is building a publishing house devoted to publishing noteworthy works of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry by writers possessed of unusual talent for producing work people care to read. The company’s explicit mission is to foster a universal passion for reading by partnering with a diverse community of writers of all races, genders, geographic origins, religions, cultures, sexual orientations, physical challenges, and emotional challenges to help communicate ideas that inform, educate, and inspire, and to connect them with readers everywhere.

The company’s name is derived from Wang & Jean’s of Utica, N.Y., a popular destination among migrant workers of the 1960s seeking to escape the rigors of migrant labor and the cruel and hideous racial situation that sustained it. This symbol of relief and hope underscores his goal to preserve each and every fragment of the historical record in the interest of accuracy and in the further interest of eradicating impoverished thought in each of its manifestations. The publishing house is dedicated to the ideal of diversity, inclusion, and multi-cultural imagery.