Friday, August 31, 2007

Forthcoming Westerns: September 2007

This is a list of westerns scheduled for release in September 2007—it can be difficult to put together a complete list of every western being published, which is the long way of saying it is not an exhaustive list. It is however a pretty darn impressive list. There are 27 books being published with a good mixture of originals and reprints, and hardcovers and paperbacks. Who says the western is dead?

September 1st

Assassination of Jesse James by Ron Hansen
Blood of Bass Tillman by Cotton Smith
The Fugitive: A Western Trio by Max Brand
Night Riders: A Western Duo by Giff Cheshire
A Phyllis of the Sierras by Bret Harte
Wilderness #53: The Rising Storm David Thompson
A Threat to Justice by Chuck Norris & Ken Abraham
Pride and Code of the Mountain Man by William W. Johnstone

Description for Blood of Bass Tillman

No doubt about it, Bass Tillman is getting old. It’s been years since he killed a man in a gunfight. He’s respectable now. A lawyer, not a gunfighter. He should be taking it easy, enjoying life with his family. But he has only one thing on his mind—tracking down the men who murdered his son and daughter-in-law in cold blood. Tillman swore on his loved-ones’ graves that he would bring their killers to justice, and with only a few clues to go by, that’s what he’s going to do…even if it means going back to a life he left behind.

September 4th

Matt Jenson: Last Mountain Man by William W. Johnstone
Montana Revenge by Dusty Richards
The Thunder Riders by Frank Leslie
The Trailsman #311: Idaho Impact by Jon Sharpe

September 5th

Coming Storm by Tracie Peterson

September 11th

Welcome to Hard Times by E.L. Doctorow

September 15th

Avenging Victorio by Dave DeWitt

September 16th

Ride the Trail of Death by Kenneth L. Kieser

September 19th

Forgotten Range by Robert J. Horton
Gunsmoke: A Western Quartet by T.T. Flynn
The Devil’s Rangers by Jim Grand
Wind River Kid by Will Cook

September 25th

The Gamblers: Denver Draw by Robert J. Randisi
Longarm and the Guns of Fort Sabre (Longarm #347) by Tabor Evans
Longarm Giant #26: Golden Eagle Shoot-out by Tabor Evans
Slocum in Shot Creek (Slocum #344) by Jake Logan
Way with a Gun (The Gunsmith #310) by J.R. Roberts

Description for The Gamblers: Denver Draw

On the run from the assassins who murdered his family, Ty Butler found a new way to survive: with a few good hands, a loaded gun, and a little luck. But lying low and keeping out of his hunters' gunsights is getting harder to do since he started earning a serious rep at the poker table;and especially now that he's made some new friends . . . named Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, and Doc Holliday.

September 30th

Who’s Who in the Western Novels of Zane Grey by John Donahue

September—release date unknown

Big Bend Death Trap by James J. Griffin

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Saddlebums Interview: Robert J. Randisi

Robert J. Randisi is the author of more than 400 novels—some 300 are in the western genre. He is the creator and writer of The Gunsmith series, which is published under his J.R. Roberts pseudonym, as well as numerous westerns under his own name and others. He is the co-founder of, with Ed Gorman, Mystery Scene magazine, and he is the founder of the Private Eye Writer’s of America (PWA). He also created the PWA’s Shamus awards, as well as the “Eye”—which is the PWA’s Life Achievement Award.

Mr. Randisi is a versatile writer who has written in the mystery, thriller, horror, adventure, and western genres. He received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly for his excellent mystery novel Alone with the Dead, and he has been called the “next Louis L’Amour” by author Jake Foster. He is prolific; he has published one novel a month since 1982, and if that isn’t enough, he has also edited numerous anthologies, including the First Cases series of crime anthologies.

First, I want to thank you for taking the time to chat with us Bob.

It’s my pleasure. Always willing to talk about writing and about writing westerns.

I’ve been reading your work, both westerns and mysteries, for seven or eight years and I’m impressed with both the quantity and the quality of your work. My question: what is a typical workday like for you?

I’m usually working on two books at one time, so during the day I’ll work on, say, a western. At some point I stop for dinner. After dinner I watch a little TV, and then I take a nap. After the nap it’s on to the mystery novel I’m working on. I have a TV in my office, so I usually watch while I’m working. Last week I watched all three Magnificent movies on tape while I worked on a western. Also some old Warner Bros. westerns like Cheyenne and Maverick. Then, while working on a mystery I’ll watch some Sunset Strip or Hawaiian Eye tapes, maybe some British mysteries or movies, like Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, or American films like Harper or Chinatown. I work until about 4 a.m., then read for an hour before going to bed. Up at 11 am, breakfast and start over. Some days errands—like the bank, the P.O.—take me away from the work for a while. Also going out to dinner with friends. But I work every day.

"Keeping myself interested got to be a problem in the 90’s—not the 1990’s, but when I reached Gunsmith #90. So I started playing some games, like doing some Gunsmiths that borrowed plots from favorite movies, or doing some Wild, Wild West type stories.”

You created The Gunsmith series, which is published under the pseudonym J.R. Roberts. It first appeared in 1982, and there are currently somewhere in the neighborhood of 320 books in the series. Have you written each book in the series? If so, how do you keep yourself interested in the stories and the characters?

Actually, back in 1983 when Berkley bought out Charter books they wanted to bring in a couple of other writers so we could build an inventory and get about a year ahead. So there were a few years there where I did 8 a year instead of twelve. Also, while two other writers were doing some Gunsmiths I was doing some ghost work, or house name work like Nick Carter Books, or helping someone else write their series. So it was pretty much a wash there, and when I do a bibliography—like I did last year for the Stark House reprint of my first novel—I don’t mention the ghost work and some of the series work. It all comes out even in the end. I’ve still done over 430 books since 1982. But there are probably about 30 Gunsmiths in that first hundred that I didn’t do. I own them, though, as I own the entire series.

Keeping myself interested got to be a problem in the 90’s—not the 1990’s, but when I reached Gunsmith #90. So I started playing some games, like doing some Gunsmiths that borrowed plots from favorite movies, or doing some Wild, Wild West type stories. I started one Gunsmith with the line, “Her name was Lola, she was a showgirl,” to see if the editor would catch it. They either didn’t, or they did and thought it was funny. So you need to entertain yourself as well as your reader to keep everybody interested.

Since we’re talking about your publishing history, what is the first novel you published? Was it a long time coming, or did you hit print pretty quickly once you decided to write it?

My first novel under my own name was called THE DISAPPEARANCE OF PENNY. It was a mystery that was published in 1980. (I did a ghost job on a book that came out in ’79). I sold my first short story in 1972, sold my first novel in ’79 on basis of an outline. I’ve sold all my novels that way, have never sold a completed manuscript. I met my first editor at an MWA [Mystery Writers of America] cocktail party where I used to tend bar so that everybody in the room had to come to me, and I’d meet everybody. We got along and I pitched him on the book. He liked it and bought it, and he’s the guy who asked me if I could write westerns, which led to The Gunsmith. So I’d say when I decided I wanted to do novels instead of short stories it took me about two years to get a book of my own in print. And I’ve never looked back. I’ve had a book published every month since January of 1982 (including those ghost and house jobs).

When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?

That happened when I was 15. That was when I not only decided I was gong to be a writer, but that I was going to be a full time writer by the time I was 30. When I turned thirty I had about 12 Gunsmiths under contract, so I quit working to write full time. That was a fifteen year plan. My second fifteen year plan was to be a millionaire by the time I was 45. Didn’t work out as well as the first plan.

You have had a long career—you have written in several different genres and published extensively in both novel form and short stories. Is there a specific genre or format you enjoy working in best? If you could choose would you concentrate on shorter works or novels?

I prefer to write novels, and my first love has always been the mystery. Specifically the hardboiled private eye novel.

It is my understanding that you have written several novels under house names—other than your long running series The Gunsmith. When you write under a house name do you approach it differently than your other work? Do you enjoy writing them, and if you can would you briefly explain how series writing works? Do you have any responsibility for promotion, or does the publisher prefer you stay quiet about your authorship?

First, the Gunsmith name “J.R. Roberts” is not a house name. It’s a pseudonym. That means it’s still mine, I get royalties. When I wrote 6 Nick Carter books in the 80’s I got a flat rate, no royalty. Usually when you write under house names—like the guys who write Longarm and Jake Logan—the publisher keeps quiet about it, so you have no input into promotion. They want the reader to think that “Tabor Evans” is really a guy who writes Longarm. If you look at the copyright page of a Gunsmith, it has my real name on it.

So writing under a housed name is different than writing your own series. You do the best you can when writing a house name series, but you have more invested in your own. I’ve done some Trailsman books, and I finished out the Canyon O’Grady series (the last seven) and a series called Shelter (3 books when the author, Paul Ledd [Paul Lederer], wanted to quit).

Is there a book, or a few books, that you have written and are particularly proud of?

THE HAM REPORTER was published in 1985 by Doubleday Books, and reprinted last year by Stark House (as a double with my first book). It features Bat Masterson when he was a sports writer in New York City in 1911, and he solves a mystery with a young Damon Runyon. The first Keough, ALONE WITH THE DEAD, got a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly. It’s one of my favorites. Also CURTAINS OF BLOOD, my Jack the Ripper meets Bram Stoker book. (Actually, I wrote that as a “Bram Stoker” novel, but the publisher put it out as a “Jack the Ripper” novel). And a little western called THE GHOST WITH BLUE EYES.

Most writers are voracious readers, and I’m wondering what you read for pleasure?

I read what I write, mysteries, westerns, some science fiction, and also read non-fiction for research.

Now I want to turn to the western genre specifically. What first led you to the genre?

My first editor—after we did PENNY—called me one day and said that his publisher wanted to get into the adult western market. This was 1981. He asked me if I could write westerns. I said yes. I’d never read one up to that point, but I got where I am by never saying “no” to an editor. I went out and bought 40 westerns, one of each in as many series as I could, so I would not repeat a character. I did a proposal for the Gunsmith. First they bought two books, then a third, and then they said they wanted to get it on a monthly basis and gave me a 9 book contract. Nobody ever asked me if I could write a book a month, and I never asked myself. Once I got the Gunsmith I just kept creating series (Tracker, Angel Eyes, Mountain Jack Pike, The Bounty Hunter, Ryder, all published during the 80’s) and writing them, until it got to the point where, in 1984, I wrote 27 novels in 12 months.

What are a few of the western writers who have most influenced your work?

When I finally did start reading westerns I read a lot of series, like the Buchanan books by “Jonas Ward.” I really enjoyed the Fargo books by John Benteen (a pseudonym for Ben Haas). I read the Sackett books by L’Amour, and some of the Silvertip books of Max Brand, but my preference ran to reading stuff like Jory Sherman’s Gunn series, or George Gilman’s Edge and Steele books.

If you could bring back the work of one western writer who would it be? Is there a specific title?

I learned a lot about writing adult western by reading the Gunn series. Jory Sherman is a helluva writer, and I saw that I could write good westerns around the sex scenes. I’d like to see those books reprinted.

You also write mysteries, and it seems there has been—both historically as well as today—a significant amount of authors who do good work in both genres. Do you think there is a relationship between the mystery and the western that promotes this crossover, or is it simply the economics of professional writing?

Well, the economics of doing this for a living makes it necessary to write in multiple genres, but there seems to be a symbiotic relationship between mysteries and westerns that appeals to a lot of writers. A lot of my westerns ARE mysteries at the same time. Same can be said for the work of Ed Gorman, Bill Pronzini, James Reasoner and others. There are similarities between the lone gunman (badge or no badge) and the P.I.

“There IS work out there for western writers—up to last year I was still writing them for five publishers. Every time one publisher decides to cancel a line, somebody else starts one up.”

The mystery genre is thriving, but many believe the western is in decline. What do you think about the western genre today, and what do you think the future holds for the western story?

I’m afraid that the further we get from the old west the less people are interested in it. That doesn’t happen with Mysteries, and is certainly not a problem with Science Fiction. The young writers of today did not grow up watching western movies or TV, so the interest is not there. There IS work out there for western writers—up to last year I was still writing them for five publishers. Every time one publisher decides to cancel a line, somebody else starts one up.

Leisure has proven that there is a market, but I wouldn’t look for anyone other than McMurtry and the late L’Amour to hit any best seller lists. Harper Torch just ceased publishing westerns, and I had done two series for them, THE SONS OF DANIEL SHAYE and THE GAMBLERS (these books are just starting to appear). The books made money, but they canceled the line, anyway. Sometimes, they just don’t make “enough” money for the publisher. I’m still writing westerns for Leisure and Berkley.

Okay, now let's get down to your current work. What is your latest novel?

Lately I’ve been writing mysteries about the Rat Pack in Vegas in 1960. The first was out last year called EVERYBODY KILLS SOMEBODY SOME TIME. It centered around the filming of the original Ocean’s 11. My character is Eddie G., a pit boss at the Sands who the “guys” go to for help. The second book, LUCK BE A LADY, DON’T DIE, will be out in December of this year.

I’m also writing books that combine the mystery with the current Texas Hold’em craze. My co-author is Vince Van Patten, the commentator for the World Poker Tour. The first book, THE PICASSO FLOP, was out earlier this year. It will be out in paper in 2009, as will the next book, THE JUDGMENT FOLD.

I’ve got a new western out from Leisure called THE MONEY GUN; [and] the first in a new series called THE GAMBLERS: BUTLER’S WAGER. Actually now it’s a trilogy. (Leisure has reprinted 3 of the books I wrote in the 80’s as “Robert Lake” and the 4th is coming out, all under my real name. I’m trying to get them to reprint some of my old series, under my real name.)

I’m working on the first in a soap opera mystery called THE YEARNING TIDE. My co-author is Eileen Davidson, one of the top actresses in the soap world for 20 years. Right now she’s on The Bold and the Beautiful. We’re doing two books right now, maybe more. It won’t be out till next year.

I’ve got a mystery anthology coming out this month called HOLLYWOOD AND CRIME, stories set during the history of Hollywood.

And I’m still out there pitching.

Can you tell us about the novel—or any other projects—you are working on now?

Right at the moment I’m working on the 13th Giant Gunsmith novel, and the first of the soap opera mysteries, and I’m about to start the third Rat Pack book.

I have one last question, and I must warn it is a little vague. If you could chose any project to work on, what would it be?

I’d tell you, but then I’d have to kill you. If I mentioned it some wise guy would steal it. I’m enjoying the historical aspect of the Rat Pack books. It was what I enjoyed about writing THE HAM REPORTER. So I have some other historical mysteries I’d like to do, and some western novels that deal with actual historical figures.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Saddlebums Review: Cavalry Man: Doom Weapon

Ed Gorman is a writer who should have a larger audience than he does. He is an author who has the ability to create characters that are not only believable, but also draw both the reader’s attention and sympathy. He probes the darkness without allowing his fiction to be devoured by it. His stories have a working-class voice and are laced with anger, disappointment, irony, and humor; and his latest novel Cavalry Man: Doom Weapon is no exception.

Doom Weapon is the third novel to feature Noah Ford. He is a recovering alcoholic Federal man who is as philosophical as a lawman can get—he sees pain and anguish, lonesomeness and sorrow, hatred and fear, where others see nothing more than criminals, thieves, and murderers. He is the Travis McGee of the old West—except he doesn’t have much luck with what McGee called the “wounded birds”—and when he’s on your trail there isn’t much you can do except bide your time and hope he doesn’t get a whiff.

In Cavalry Man: Doom Weapon Noah Ford is dispatched to find a missing agent—Arnold Grieves. Grieves has been missing for a few weeks and everyone back East is getting nervous. He has a pregnant wife and more importantly—as far as his boss is concerned—an open case that needs to be closed. When Noah hits Junction City, the last place Grieves was known to be, he doesn’t find much except a bunch of stories about Grieves hitting the bottle and bedding the local female population. It doesn’t help matters that people are dying violently all over town, and Noah is right at the center of it.

Doom Weapon is a terrific novel. It is one-part western and one-part mystery. It has the feel of a hardboiled detective novel, but it is western to the core. Noah Ford is a likable protagonist who—when not being drugged or beaten-up—can compete with the best of them. He is tough enough to take on the bad guys, but also smart enough to know what he is doing, and why. Most of the time he doesn’t like what he is forced to do either.

If you enjoy a good western, a mystery, or just want a well-told and entertaining story, Cavalry Man: Doom Weapon is your ticket. Unfortunately the last page comes all too quickly, and if this is—as reported—the last Cavalry Man novel we’ll see from Mr. Gorman, you may want to slow down and savor it.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Scouting the Web

■ Moonstone Books will be issuing an all new anthology of short stories featuring the famed master swordsman from the West, Zorro. The volume will include new material by authors Isabel Allende (who also reinvented the Zorro myth in a recent bestselling novel), Max Allan Collins, Loren D. Estleman, Ed Gorman and Jeff Mariotte, among others. Tales of Zorro is tentatively scheduled for December 10 but you can preorder a limited edition hardcover from Moonstone here.

■ For those proclaiming the premature death of the film Western, here’s a slate of upcoming Hollywood releases. This UK’s Sunday Times article from a few weeks ago discusses them in detail.

First, there’s September Dawn (official website), starring Jon Voight (Return to Lonesome Dove) and directed by Christopher Cain, whose Westerns resume includes Young Guns and a number of episodes for the entertaining yet ill-fated TV series The Magnificent Seven. Although I’m not a fan of Young Guns and the movie comes preceded by some pretty harsh reviews, I am still interested in watching this story set against the Mountain Meadows Massacre, a tragedy which occurred in Utah in 1857. You can see the trailer below:

Next is 3:10 to Yuma (official website), directed by James Mangold (Walk the Line) and starring Russell Crowe, Christian Bale and Peter Fonda. The movie is a remake of the 1957 film which in turn is based on the Elmore Leonard story of the same name.

The trailer has been posted all over the web so there is no point of reproducing it here. However, if you want to see it, I recommend you drop by my fellow Saddlebum Ben Boulden’s blog and likewise check out all the other good stuff there.

Here, you can listen to a nice NPR interview with Fonda where he discusses his role in the film and also his thoughts on Westerns.

Finally, there’s The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (official website), which was shot more than two years ago and is scheduled for limited release on September 21. The movie stars Brad Pitt as Jesse James and is based on a novel by Ron Hansen. For the trailer, you can go to Russell Davis’ most excellent Westerns for Today blog, one of the inspirations for Saddlebums. While there, you might want to check previous posts including very interesting essays on Saving the Western Genre and promoting Westerns in schools (it’s never too late to rekindle those discussions. What do you think?).

For those who might not know, Russell Davis is the author of more than a dozen novels and the editor of the recent Western anthology Lost Trails with Martin H. Greenberg.

The article also mentions Seraphim Falls (which apparently has not been screened yet in the UK) and the upcoming Coen brothers’ film No Country for Old Men, based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy (Blood Meridian), although I don’t know whether to call it a bona fide Western (maybe this is another topic for discussion?).

■ The newest issue of Roundup Magazine from the Western Writers of America is out. The online edition includes an article by Patrick Dearen on his novel Perseverance, a profile of author Steven Law by Richard D. Jensen, a review of Elmer Kelton’s memoir Sandhills Boy: The Winding Trail of a Texas Writer by Richard S. Wheeler as well as short reviews of Western fiction and nonfiction.

■ The latest issue of True West Magazine is on sale, featuring an interview with Holly George Warren, author of Public Cowboy No. 1: The Life and Times of Gene Autry, as well as book and DVD reviews, among other goodies. Visit them online and vote on their sixth annual “Best of the West” survey.

■ The 59th Primetime Emmy Awards are coming up on September 16 and two Westerns are leading the nominations: Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee with 17 nods and Broken Trail with 16. The two miniseries managed to rack up more nominations than high-profile TV blockbusters like The Sopranos (15) and Grey’s Anatomy (10). If either of them does well come awards time, they could end up beating the original Lonesome Dove miniseries, winner of seven Emmys. In addition, the final season of the sorely missed HBO TV series Deadwood was nominated in six categories.

Elizabeth Fackler - author of such Westerns as Blood Kin and the future subject of a Saddlebums interview - will be signing her latest Devon Gray novel, Lucinda's Summer Vacation, at Art In The Orchard, Lincoln Monument Visitor Center in Lincoln, New Mexico on September 9th from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Saddlebums Review: Death Head Crossing

Whether it is an installment in the Longarm or The Trailsman series, a book co-authored with his wife (and accomplished writer in her own right) Livia Reasoner, or one of his own titles, you know what to expect from a James Reasoner novel. Seamless prose, tight plotting and all-around entertaining yarns are some of his trademarks, all of which are present in his latest offering, Death Head Crossing (Pinnacle). Set in the appropriately-named Texas town of the title, the story works both as a fast-paced mystery and a traditional Western.

Drifting gunslinger Hell Jackson rides into the small community and decides to stick around in the wake of a spate of mysterious homicides. The crimes, committed by an enigmatic killer known as the “Hand of God,” are apparently motivated by religious fanaticism and a desire to punish alleged sinners. The irony of a hero named Hell being pitted against an antagonist who is allegedly fulfilling a divine mission indicates the reader from the outset that nothing is as it seems in Death Head Crossing.

Jackson befriends young New York reporter Everett Sidney Howard, who is not only eager to write a story about the gunslinger but also make a name for himself following the footsteps of his journalistic hero, Mark Twain. Hell begrudgingly allows Everett to stick around as he pursues his investigation but not without warning the journalist first: "[I]f I find out that you called me something like a Dashing Daredevil of the Plains or some other dime-novel shit, you and me are gonna have another little talk." In time, they strike a partnership that stirs them closer to the truth behind the violent deaths that are terrorizing the town.

With a cast of skillfully fleshed out characters – including the baffled Sheriff Ward Brennan, the local representative of the Fourth Estate Malcolm Graham and Benjamin Tillman, the sanctimonious scion of a wealthy Philadelphia family who hides a tortuous secret – Death Head Crossing is a compelling Western whodunit.

Hell Jackson is likewise an intriguing character even though his background is only hinted at. Relying on both his quick draw and wits uncommon for a gunman of his repute, he seems worldlier than he wants everyone to believe. By the end of the novel, we wish to know more about his past just as much as his future and can only hope this becomes the first installment in a series. The tough Jackson and the cub reporter Howard make for a most entertaining duo and deserve to have more adventures in print.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Saddlebums Interview: Brian Garfield

Best known for the classic crime revenge novel Death Wish and the series of movies it inspired, Brian Garfield (1939) is a versatile and accomplished writer. Having published nearly 70 books throughout a career spanning nearly five decades, he has been nominated for and won numerous literary prizes. These include the Edgar Allan Poe Award of the Mystery Writers of America (MWA) for his novel Hopscotch (1976). The story was the basis for a movie of the same name starring Walter Matthau and Glenda Jackson, which in turn was nominated for a Golden Globe, the Writers Guild of America Award and yet another Edgar.

Boasting over 20 million copies of his books published worldwide, other notable Garfield works are
The Thousand Mile War: World War II in Alaska and the Aleutians, a nonfiction finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in History, and Wild Times, a finalist for the American Book Award and the basis for a television miniseries starring Sam Elliot and Dennis Hopper. Most recently, his crime novel Death Sentence (1975) was adapted to film by director James Wan (the Saw trilogy) in a 20th Century Fox production starring Kevin Bacon, John Goodman and Kelly Preston.

Garfield’s resume, however, is just as accomplished when it comes to Westerns. A past president of both the MWA and the
Western Writers of America, his work in the genre includes the Golden Spur-nominated novel Arizona (1969) and the nonfiction handbook Western Films: A Complete Guide (1973). On the eve of the release of Death Sentence, Garfield took time to talk with Saddlebums about his career as well as the past, present and future of Westerns.

Can you tell us more about your experience working in movies? How have you felt so far about the screen versions of works such as Death Wish and The Last Hard Men?

At this writing, I haven’t yet seen the new 20th Century Fox movie from my novel Death Sentence, but I’ve seen clips and have studied Ian Jeffers’ shooting script. The movie may be too gory for my own taste, but it makes the point I wanted it to make, and everything I hear about it from reporters who’ve seen it is that it’s an exciting and disturbing movie. That sounds good to me. But a writer of books has to keep in mind that a movie is not his/hers – writers do not make movies unless they write, produce and direct the movies. A movie is created by hundreds of people. If you want a story to be your own, write a book. In that context, I'm happy with most of the film adaptations. I didn't like the sequels to Death Wish and The Stepfather, but beyond getting paid for the rights, the sequels weren’t “mine” in any real sense. I loved making the film of Hopscotch, partly because the director and the other producers and the actors and I worked together on it and it became clear that we all had the same movie in mind. That doesn’t happen often, but it’s great when it does. Bottom line – I’ve been very lucky with films (nearly twenty of them have been produced) and I don’t agree with those who say, “Isn’t it terrible what Hollywood did to your book.” Hollywood hasn’t done anything to my books – the books are right over here on the shelf, untouched. My wife and dog and banker and I are glad all the movies got made, and actually I do like quite a few of them – as movies.

I’m particularly fond of a couple of made-for-TV movies and a mini-series that haven’t been shown much on cable (we’re trying to rectify that) – Necessity, Legs, Relentless, and particularly Wild Times, the mini-series about the Wild West Shows. We used early Edison footage of the Buffalo Bill show to replicate the arenas and events. Producer Doug Netter was a New Yorker, and said since I was a Westerner he wondered if I’d like to select the actors for most of the leading roles. That was a rare privilege and I was delighted when Sam Elliott, Ben Johnson, Harry Carey Jr., Penny Peyser, Pat Hingle, L.Q. Jones, Dennis Hopper, and several other of my favorite actors from Westerns agreed to appear in it. I think its Wild West Show scenes are among the best ever filmed (Sam Elliott spent MONTHS teaching himself and his horse to perform dressage.) I worked on location with that movie, and with Hopscotch and with The Last Hard Men and with a few others; met a lot of great people – stayed in touch with James Coburn and a few others – and wouldn’t have had it any other way. For this movie lover, it was educational and fascinating. But I gave up being a hotshot movie producer after ten years’ intense and tense effort got only one and a half movies produced (Hopscotch was the whole one; the half was The Stepfather – a movie our company developed, but Don Westlake wrote the screenplay and we had to sell the “package” to get it produced, so I wasn’t involved in the actual making of it. I think it’s a splendid thriller, and am happy my name’s on a bit of it. But producing films eats time and energy. I like the movies, but would rather spend the time writing books.

What is the current productions status of Manifest Destiny?

There’s an excellent screenplay by Kirk Ellis, from my book, and it looks as if actor Steve Zahn will play Theodore Roosevelt. (I hope he does – he looks perfect in the TR get-up he improvised). Karen and Howard Baldwin of Baldwin Entertainment Group (“BEG”), the producers of “Ray”, are behind the current “Death Sentence” movie and they’re also the producers who have Manifest Destiny in development, and they're tenacious about getting projects on the screen, so I’m very hopeful it’ll be done properly. It’s not yet clear whether it’ll be a cable mini-series or a feature film.

“I don’t agree with those who say, “Isn’t it terrible what Hollywood did to your book.” Hollywood hasn’t done anything to my books – the books are right over here on the shelf, untouched.”

What led you to write a novel about Theodore Roosevelt? Was it difficult to capture in writing the personality of such an individual, an almost archetypically heroic figure in American history?

I can’t remember the impetus. It may have been reading David McCullough’s biography of the young TR. I remember developing enough of an interest to go to libraries to try and find out what else had been published about TR’s adventures in the Badlands. There’d been quite a bit of nonfiction, most of it published many years earlier – TR’s own memoirs, for example, and a few biographies of him by friends like Hagedorn, mainly written in the 1920s. So far as I could find at the time, no one had written a novel about TR in the Wild West. Later I learned there had been at least three or four, including a novel by Oakley Hall that was more or less based on the subject, rather as Hall’s novel Warlock was suggested by the Tombstone events of the early 1880s (Wyatt Earp and all that). Competing with Oakley Hall was not among my ambitions, but I wasn’t doing a mythic and imaginative reconstruction of a legend; I was trying to write the story of the real TR. All the characters are real people, doing the things they seem to have done in reality. It’s a novel only in the sense that I provided narrative descriptions and made up much of the dialogue, and compressed some of the events (for example, compressing numerous actual Stockmen’s meetings held over several years into one). Nearly all TR’s dialogue in the novel is drawn from his own writings and from things written about him by his contemporaries. I did change the order of a few events, mainly because it seemed neater to compress the time-frame of events that actually had taken place over a span of several years. But TR was unique. You don’t want to mess around with a magnificent character like that. I suppose it was a bit intimidating to write fiction about him, but in many ways the book is narrative-novelized nonfiction. It’s not a made-up story about a historical character; it’s as true as I could make it – a story about a real, and great, young man (I do know the difference between fiction and fact, however; my current book, The Meinertzhagen Mystery, about a British rogue who fooled everybody from Lawrence of Arabia to Churchill to Ian Fleming, is a biography that contains no fiction at all except for the myths Richard Meinertzhagen made up about his own life – myths that bamboozled entire generations of historians, intelligence specialists and scientists).

You clearly have an affinity for the Western genre, not only because of your novels but also because you authored a seminal work on Western cinema: Western Films: A Complete Guide. Where did your interest in writing that book stem from?

It was like the impetus behind my earlier nonfiction book, The Thousand-Mile War, which is a history of the Second World War in Alaska. Nobody else had written one. It seemed to me there ought to be a book that attempted to encompass ALL the “A”-Western movies of the talkie era (with summary chapters about silent films etc.). It was a labor of madness, really. I started the work several years before the advent of the VCR, so in many instances I had to find a print of a movie (The Museum of Modern Art in New York has an excellent collection) and view it with pencil in hand. My wife Bina has a pet name for the book – “More Than You Ever Wanted To Know About Western Movies” – and she probably is right, but I had started the damn thing and by gum I was determined to finish it, even though most of the movies I had to sit through were less than wonderful (There are truly great Westerns, but let’s face it, most movies in ANY genre are not great).

“Persistence paid off (both my agent’s and mine), but an important ingredient was luck. Isn’t that always the case in the arts?”

How did you to start writing Westerns? Have you considered writing another novel in the genre?

I grew up in Arizona. A friend was Fred Glidden, a marvelous man who wrote bestselling Western novels and popular stories for the slick magazines (Saturday Evening Post and so forth). He was kind enough to take me under his wing and treat me as if I were a grown-up writer, even though I was only 15 or so. At the same time, I was blessed in having a high school English teacher, Don Everitt, who now is 101 years old and still raising hell in Tucson. “Mr. Everitt” encouraged me in my determined desire to write stories in place of class themes. By the time I graduated high school I’d already written a couple of (REALLY bad) Western novels. They went directly to the trash bins. A couple years later I was in the Army and, without realizing what havoc he was causing, somebody assigned me to a stock-records office in the Presidio of San Francisco. It took about an hour a day to do the job. The rest of the day, the typewriter was mine, and I wrote away; when I was still in the Army I didn’t mention all that, because they’d have found a busier job for me and they might have demanded a royalty on the things I wrote on their typewriter. . . . The first novel that got published was one I wrote while in the Army when I was 18. Against high odds I managed to acquire a gullible literary agent, who persisted in pushing the dog-eared manuscript at every publisher in New York until finally, two or three years later, she managed to sell it to Thomas Bouregy’s Avalon Books. By then I was out of the Army and traveling as an itinerant guitar player in a jazz / rock-n-roll band. I thought of the $300 book sale as a triumph. So when the excitement of doing American Bandstand wore off, and we disbanded the combo, I wrote more books. They, too, sold. I’m not sure why – they were very poor – but I was being paid (on-the-job training) so I just kept at it. Persistence paid off (both my agent’s and mine), but an important ingredient was luck. Isn’t that always the case in the arts?

What are your thoughts about the present state of the Western genre and what do you think the future holds for the Western story?

I’m pretty out-of-date to come up to an answer to that one. I don’t keep up with current publications, except for novels by friends or nonfiction on subjects that grab me. I admit, however, that I’ve spent the last couple of weeks doing a light “polish” on a good screenplay by Anton Diether based on my Western novel Tripwire. Many of the trappings we associate with the great Westerns – particularly the face-to-face duel in the guise of a quick-draw gunfight – never happened in reality. It’s difficult to sustain that kind of mythology in an age when so many people know better. There are lots of great true stories about the Old West that can be freshly tapped by novelists and historians alike, and it’s being done at intervals, but I feel – not without regret – that the traditional Western, as we used to know it, is not likely to make a serious comeback, either in print or on film... About Western movies, we published my Western Films guide back in the early 80s, when the movie appetite for Westerns seemed virtually dead. Since then there’ve been sporadic attempts to revive it, and there’ve been a few really good movies (Tombstone comes to mind – it might have been a great film, if they’d left out its ludicrous opening sequence) but mostly Hollywood seems to think of the Western as a bygone genre because the agrarian values reflected in classic Western novels and movies are no longer reflective of our urbanized society. That's probably an oversimplification, but there’s truth in it: in most of the Westerns of the first half of the 20th century, you could tell the good guys from the bad guys by their beliefs and behavior. Those good guys usually won because they were good guys who were in the right, and not simply because they could shoot faster, as the spaghetti Westerns implied. A few of the spaghetti oaters are fascinating; most of them are drivel; and I suspect their influence pretty much killed off the traditional Western movie.

Most writers are voracious readers and you are probably not the exception. What do you read for pleasure?

I read a hell of a lot, but mostly it’s nonfiction associated with our family-foundation work or with projects I'm writing. For pleasure I still enjoy re-reading John O’Hara and [W. Somerset] Maugham (short stories) and the towering 1940s Westerns of Ernest Haycox, and the magnificent rebel Edward Abbey. And I’ll read anything by Elmore Leonard or John Le CarrĂ©. But por favor, that’s just me – I’ve no desire to impose reading habits on others.

“There are lots of great true stories about the Old West that can be freshly tapped by novelists (...) but I feel – not without regret – that the traditional Western, as we used to know it, is not likely to make a serious comeback, either in print or on film. . . .”

Do you have any writing influences? How about influences in the Western genre?

Writing influences – I hope Maugham and O’Hara. Western influences – certainly my great late friend Fred (“Luke Short”) Glidden, Ernest Haycox, and especially Eugene Manlove Rhodes. Movies – the late Wendell Mayes (who wrote the movies Anatomy of a Murder, Advise and Consent, “In Harm’s Way” and – oddly? – Death Wish).

Are there any Western writers you would like to see back in print again?
Haycox and Rhodes would top my list. Also William McLeod Raine, Bart Spicer, our late pal William R. Cox – there were a lot of really good writers in the genre back in the late 1930s into the 1950s.

Are you writing anything right now? Can you tell us more about any other projects you are currently involved with?
As mentioned, I’ve fiddled a bit with the screenplay of Tripwire (a Western), and wrote a couple drafts of the screenplay for the current movie Death Sentence from my novel of the same title. At the moment I’m working on a “family memoir” (not about me; about my parents and their generation) and I’m writing a thriller (novel). I’ll write something Western as soon as I think of something that hasn’t already been done to death. Dunno if I’m smart enough to think of anything like that but it’s worth a try.

What is the greatest satisfaction of your writing career? Is there anything else you still feel you need to accomplish?

Survival is the greatest satisfaction, especially when you find you still have a market after nearly 50 years in the business. I’ve changed a lot; so have the publishing business and the movie business; and we haven’t changed in the same ways, necessarily. So I’m very fortunate to be here, still kicking. The thing I feel I still would like to accomplish is to write a book that’s better than any of its sixty-odd predecessors. That may not be in the cards, but I’ll keep dealing anyway. Thanks for asking.