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Forum Featuring Jim Burnett

When — and why — did you first fall in love with Westerns?

I grew up riding and showing horses, so anything with a horse in it interested me as a kid then, and it still does today. I’m crazy about horses. I love the West, the beautiful landscapes steeped in rich history, the cowboy garb of hats and boots, chaps, guns, spurs, saddles, and bridles, and the cowboy code that represents character. Even when I put my belt on each day, sometimes I imagine I’m strapping on a gun belt with a Colt in the holster. For me, Westerns embody the simple and meaningful way of life. That is perhaps why it is imperative for me, now, to travel out West every year. It’s become an annual pilgrimage where I find peace and serenity and so much of my inspiration for writing. Something stirs deep inside of me when I’m out West on the back of a horse working cattle in the high country or just sitting and drinking in the landscape.

Who are your three favorite Western writers?

I came upon the writings of Les Savage Jr. several years ago and fell in love with his style. Tragically, he died as a young man, yet his stories live on. Louis L’Amour and Zane Grey, the big guns among the Western writers, are also favorites. They left some mighty big boots to fill.

Which Western do you wish you’d written?

My all time favorite Western is “Lonesome Dove.” I believe Larry McMurtry captured the true essence of the cowboy way of life — their tenacious pioneer spirit, their dreams, and also their unyielding resolve to overcome any and all obstacles to reach their destination. Each character in this epic Western is well-developed. McMurtry has you feeling as if you are riding along with Gus and Woodrow to the wilds of Montana, crossing rivers, pushing through sand storms, snow and rain, and having the guts to do what no man has ever done.

What is the most recent Western you’ve read?

Just a few months back I read Louis L’Amour’s “Valley of the Sun.” I’ve recently purchased a set of short stories by L’Amour and plan to savor and enjoy them.

The “Desert Island” question. What are your three favorite Western books?

“The Wild Horse,” “The Rider of Lost Creek” and “Old Yeller.”

What are your three favorite Western movies?

Wow, now that’s a challenge to limit it to three. I am a huge Jimmy Stewart fan and love every one of his Westerns. “Night Passage” with Jimmy and Audie Murphy is one of my favorites. “The Man From Laramie” and “Bend of the River” are two others I have enjoyed the many, many times I have watched them.

Of the books you’ve written, which is your favorite — and why?

My favorite book to date is the third book in my “Caller’s Spring” series, titled “Horse Creek Trading Post.” It chronicles the life, faith and travel of a Quaker family by the name of Reese who sailed from Wales to America and began a homestead in the Appalachian mountains of Tennessee. Then another generation moved on further west and began a trading post at Horse Creek, Wyoming, where God did many amazing things through this pioneer family. These men and women had spines of steel and the faith of the Old Testament patriarchs that inspire me and spur me on.

What is the most recent Western you’ve written?

My latest novel, “The Bible and the Badge,” has just come out. It is about twin Quaker brothers, Lucas and Levi Reese, who answer the call from God to be lawmen on the Kansas frontier. They wear their badges and tote their guns under the authority of God. It is a Western salute to our brave men and women of law enforcement and the military who lay down their lives every day to protect ours.

Can you tell us anything about your next book?

I’m writing a new Western adventure that will be a tribute to one-of-a-kind evangelist, Billy Graham. I’ll be sharing more details about this action-led new novel soon.

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?

The setting of my “Caller’s Spring” series is Horse Creek, Wyoming. This past summer I spent a week on my friend’s 64,000-acre ranch, which is located there. I marveled at the amount of history the ranch encapsulates. Therefore, I believe I would have liked to live there around the late 1800s. The mountain ranges are spectacular: Powell Mountain, The Hogback, Ragged Top and many more.

Is there a question you wish I’d asked? The answer?

Why do you write? That question is kind of like asking someone why he or she breathes. Why he or she eats. Why he or she blinks. Writing for me is natural. It’s necessary. It’s fulfilling, and it’s addictive. Since I have been tapping on my computer keys and putting my stories on paper, I have never stopped marveling at the reaction of readers. To know that my words have the ability and power to move their emotions is amazing. Through a story, I can help transport people virtually to a place and time they might not otherwise ever be able to visit.

A second question I might have wanted you to ask is, “Why do you write Christian Western novels and short stories?” I want people to know that there is a God who loves them like crazy and has a plan for each and every one of us. The Lord has changed my life in so many ways, and through my writing, I want people to know that nothing is impossible with God. I refer to my novels as “The Gospel in a Cowboy Wrapper.” My writings, however, are not religion in your face. They are about believable characters going through real circumstances in life. My literary works are heavily influenced by my upbringing and my 30 years in the ministry.

 

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