When — and why — did you first fall in love with Westerns?
One of my fondest early childhood memories is of my entire family gathering around the TV on Sunday nights to watch “Bonanza” together. Westerns were the “bread and butter” of television in the 1950s and 1960s. Yet, to me, they were anything but bland. I enjoyed going to Saturday afternoon matinees at the movie theater to see films like “Rio Lobo” and “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.” By the time I made my first trip out West as a young teenager, I was thoroughly hooked on the aesthetic and adventure of the region and of the Western genre.
Who are your three favorite Western writers?
I greatly admire Elmore Leonard and the way he takes you deep into the mentality of his characters and the settings of his stories. Robert B. Parker was a master of such crisp dialogue that it could carry a story almost by itself. And Elmer Kelton knew the land and the kinds of people who occupied it to such a degree that his novels each possess a special kind of authenticity.
Which Western do you wish you’d written?
Tough question. On the one hand, I cringe at the thought of ever being accused of plagiarism. On the other, this is kind of like trying to answer which single Western story is my all-time favorite.
What is the most recent Western you’ve read?
I’m just finishing up James D. Best’s “Thumb Butte” from his “Steve Darcy” Western series. Next up on my list is Erin Bowman’s “Vengeance Road.” I highly recommend both authors.
The “Desert Island” question. What are your three favorite Western books?
As I suggested above, I have a difficult time answering this question for two reasons: there are so many good Westerns out there, and my enjoyment of a book often depends on the kind of mood I’m in at the moment. So maybe these aren’t strictly favorites, but rather samples of the kinds of Westerns I like. Elmer Kelton’s “Other Men’s Horses.” Gordon L. Rottman’s “The Hardest Ride.” Elmore Leonard’s “Gunsights.”
What are your three favorite Western movies?
This one is super easy for me to answer. I know it’s got its fans and detractors, but I love the 1993 movie “Tombstone.” I can watch it a dozen times a year and never tire of it. Next, I like the Robert Duvall movie “Broken Trail,” originally a two-part TV miniseries. And third would probably be Kevin Costner’s “Open Range,” for the gunfight at the end as much as for anything.
What is the most recent Western you’ve written?
I just released the short story “Just Shy of Mexico,” but by the time readers see this interview, two more of my short stories may have been published: “The Boys From the Lazy M” and “The Three.” I believe readers will enjoy “Just Shy of Mexico” because the lead character is one of those unlikely heroes who really has to prove himself. Prior to these short stories, I released the third novel in my “Emmett Strong” Western series, “Strong Ambitions,” which is a Western murder mystery. And while “Strong Ambitions” is the third book in a series, I believe it does stand well on its own.
Of the books you’ve written, which is your favorite — and why?
The one I’m working on now. It has to be. I believe that, in order to write a book that will delight readers, the author has to be thoroughly captivated by the story he or she is involved in at the moment.
Can you tell us anything about your next book?
Well, let’s see. Cimarron Jack Wheatley is just wrapping up a very successful first tour with his very own highly acclaimed “Real Wild West Extravaganza” when a series of odd coincidental events begin to take place in rapid succession — injuries, formerly satisfied troupe members quitting and then a catastrophic setback that I won’t reveal yet. Everything that Cimarron Jack is supposed to represent as a symbol of Wild West heroism in the show, he is suddenly called upon to actually be in the deadly reality of chasing down answers and outlaws.
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’m most intrigued by the 1870s and 1880s as the railroads are changing the nature of Western towns and livelihoods. I think Virginia City, Nevada, around 1880 would be interesting. Either that or El Paso, Texas, a year or two later.
Is there a question you’d wish I asked?
It’d be nice to field questions from readers, so if you get any feedback in response to this interview, I’d love the chance to respond. And thank you, Scott, for interviewing me. I count it a true honor.
Readers, you’ll definitely want to follow Scott Harris’ career as a writer of Westerns. He is one of the most innovative and creative authors in this genre. He rallies talent. He’s a true gentleman. And I expect he’ll be a top name in the genre for quite some time to come. I count it a privilege to ride for the same brand with him.