Forum Featuring Johnny Gunn

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

My grandfather had a complete collection of Zane Gray, and I read every one. Westerns have a flavor you don’t find in mysteries or traditional romance. A sense of right and wrong. I think “Shane” is a good example of that.

Who are your three favorite Western writers? 

A man could make a lot of enemies answering that question. I think I’ll stick with what got me started and say my all-time favorite writer of Westerns or frontier stories is Zane Gray. There is a plethora of fine writers in the market today. This genre will never die.

Which Western do you wish you’d written?

“Shane” and “True Grit” come immediately to mind. Phrasing and context make the story, and there are so many that are geniuses with those. Cotton’s “Powder River” comes to mind. That simple phrase “Fugm, fugm all” made the story come alive. There are 150 books I wish I’d written, but on the other hand, I’m glad I wrote the one’s I have.

What is the most recent Western you’ve read?

It’s not really a Western. More a Western biography. All the flavor of the West, of the end of the frontier and of a character one can look up to. “The Cowboy President” by Michael F. Blake is the story of Teddy Roosevelt in the West. He took on the outlaws, fought the Indians and upheld the concept of the free man, individual liberty. A great and true cowboy story.

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

This is question number two again, designed to get me in trouble. Ho, ho, ho. Pick three books out of so many hundreds of really good books? I’m going to pass on that one. Movies? Again, from the 1920s shoot ’em ups to today’s angst-filled gems … pick three? I’ll stick with “Shane” and leave it at that.

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

Of my stand-alone books I think “Jack Slater, Orphan Train to Cattle Baron” is my favorite Western. My trilogy of frontier life, the “Ezekiel’s Journey” books, would be a mighty close second. Neither “Slater” nor “Ezekiel” could be considered a traditional Western. My “Terrence Corcoran” books would be much more traditional.

What is the most recent Western you’ve written?

It’s called “Aurora, the Goddess of Dawn, Burns.” A traditional Western that takes place in Aurora, Nevada. It has a lot of humor, some serious outlaws, poignancy, and it ends well, I think. Redemption plays a part, and I’m introducing new characters that I hope end up in a series of books.

Can you tell us anything about your next book? 

I like to throw a lot of history in my books, and Aurora gave me plenty to talk about. The town was created during the territorial times, and both California and Nevada claimed it. It was the county seat of a Nevada county and a California county. Picture that. There was a county sheriff from each, and county governments from each. In the end, it was the lawlessness of the town that allowed California to give up its claims. My characters are U.S. marshals with great senses of humor and morals, but one is a little more unstable, looking for a fight all the time, though he still tries to stay within the law. I hope it’s a fun read.

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?

My first choice would be early frontier times to ride with Lewis and Clark. I think when we hit the Rocky Mountains I would have stayed, become among the first of the American fir traders. In the Old West? I would have wanted to be with the cattle drives and the Texas wars with the Comanche. Here again, though, blazing the Oregon Trail would be enticing. Too many choices.

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

Not really, but I would like to say that the draw of the Western today has to do with our way of life today. It gives us a chance to live in a time far different than today, to live vicariously with the giants of history, in a time that we seem to believe was simpler, less driven by forces over which we have no control. I want to be stoking the wood stove, drinking cowboy coffee and being able to fight off the bad guys.

Thank you for inviting me. I enjoyed this time with you.


2 Comments on “Forum Featuring Johnny Gunn

Gaby Pratt
December 28, 2018 at 11:05 am

Thanks for sharing your love of Westerns.

Irene Bennett Brown
December 28, 2018 at 1:08 pm

I enjoyed this interview and the value that came with it. Several things to think about, and books to look into.


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