The words on Stephen Bly’s gravestone reflect the life he lived as a husband, father, friend and writer: “Fought the good fight, Finished the race, Kept the faith.”
On June 9, 2011, the world lost a masterful storyteller and the author of more than 100 books. His wife, Janet, and sons, Russell, Michael and Aaron, were determined that Stephen’s last incomplete novel would not be lost—and the result is Stuart Brannon’s Last Shot (Center Point).
With only 7000 words of Stephen’s to use, Janet began this memorable family project. “I sensed from the beginning that the inclusion of our sons in the creating process would be like getting Steve involved. After all, they have his genes and together they portrayed his wit and plotting abilities. Including them was the only chance to match the story–writing ability their dad possessed.”
She says that writing together helped the family mourn and heal. “Working with my sons brought comfort as we labored on behalf of someone we dearly loved and missed. It was exciting to watch my sons get engaged in the process. Some welcome healing took place in the midst of all the brainstorming, with laughter and the occasional stab of tears.”
The main character of the novel, Stuart Brannon, was a favorite of Stephen’s—so the ongoing challenge for Janet was to stay true to the character and Stephen’s writing style. “That meant lots of listening to the audios of the original six-book Stuart Brannon series,” she says, “as well as other novels that featured Brannon as a cameo appearance. Although so much of Brannon’s life differed in details, the journey along the frontier of Brannon’s soul was like peering into my husband’s.”
Featuring golf in an historical western novel was prompted by Stephen’s love for the game and his initial story idea. “The last few years while he battled cancer, my husband took up golf again, a game in which he excelled in his early years.”
The theme of Stuart Brannon’s Last Shot is this: Those who pursue justice, truth and mercy will succeed to God’s glory in the end—just as Stephen did.