When — and why — did you first fall in love with Westerns?
I would say that my love for Westerns stems back to when I was a boy. I grew up on a small crop farm in the American Midwest. Besides corn and beans, my dad raised ponies and sold them on the side. So I usually had something decent to ride through the woods to play cowboys and Indians with the two boys that lived on the farm down the road. That and looking for Indian arrowheads in the freshly plowed fields, of which there were quite a few. That was the spark, along with the Western TV series and movies of the era. Then my dad took me to a very special film at a drive-in movie. It was “Once Upon a Time in the West” with Henry Fonda, Charles Bronson, Jason Robards and Claudia Cardinale. That’s what started the fire. That movie was how I had always imagined the heyday of the Wild West.
That fire ignited my interests in the Old West so much that I sought out equally wild adventures in uncivilized destinations around the globe. It eventually led me to South America where I rode over the Andes Mountains from San Augustine, Colombia, to Cali on horseback across sinuous mountain trails and jungles. It was a grueling adventure that tested my grit, but it provided me with a small peek into the life of the Wild West I love so much.
Who are your three favorite Western writers?
My favorite Western writers is Larry McMurtry, without a doubt. One of the very few Western writers that have won a Pulitzer Prize. After that, I would say Charles Portis. My third favorite Western writer, who is more into writing screenplays, is Quentin Tarantino. I find the structure of his manuscripts interestingly complex and so captivating that they keep the reader guessing, always looking for the surprise.
Which Western do you wish you’d written?
The Western that I wish I would have written would be “Lonesome Dove.” Then I would have been able to keep the character Augustus McCrae in the story for a longer period of time. I always thought he was the stronger of the two in my mind, although Woodrow Call was no daisy.
What is the most recent Western you’ve read?
As I read books in two and threes, I just wrapped up Scott Harris’ novel “Battle on the Plateau” and Johnny Gunn’s “Rage on the Range.” Both good reads. Also, I am halfway through G. Michael Hopf’s “Vengeance Road.”
The “Desert Island” question. What are your three favorite Western books. What are your three favorite Western movies?
Three books I would want when stranded on a desert island … First would be “Lonesome Dove,” which I have already read eight times over the last 33 years. Then “True Grit” and “Streets of Laredo.”
My choices in movies would be “True Grit” with Jeff Bridges, “Once Upon a Time in the West” by Sergio Leone and “Unforgiven” with Clint Eastwood.
Of the books you’ve written, which is your favorite — and why?
My favorite book of the Westerns that I have written would be “Bounty Hunter Rancor Maleficent.” It’s my favorite because I feel I got just the right amount of humor to dampen the violence of men in such a trade. In my opinion, the two strong characters, Rancor and Roberto, carry well through the story and complement each other more than most of my other characters.
What is the most recent Western you’ve written?
My most recent book is “Texas Ranger Creek in Full Circle.” It was published at the end of last month. The 10th and last book of the “Sundog Series.” It completes the full circle of the life of Captain Ridge Creek and his band of Texas Rangers.
Can you tell us anything about your next book?
The book I am working on now is my 19th Western and 27th novel. It is called “Seven Killers.” It’s about an aging U.S. marshal by the name of One-Eyed Jack Black and a Chicago newspaperman named Harold Stampede. Mister Stampede is a famous dime novelist who is sent out west at the bequest of his benefactor and owner of the Chicago Evening Post. He is to seek out the seven most nefarious killers in the closing days of the Old West. The man to make that happen is U.S. Marshal Jack Black, a one-time famous gunslinger and lawman with an unquestionable reputation, who had realized that times were changing and the need for his kind was dwindling, abruptly changing his life in ways that are unkind to the once famous lawman.
If you could go back in time, what would be the time and place in the Old West you’d like to have lived in for a year?
I would like to return to the summer of 1875. The place would be Deadwood, South Dakota, so I could meet Wild Bill Hickok and experience the boom-town and gold-strike environment of the Old West.