When — and why — did you first fall in love with Westerns?
I was about six years old when I fell in love with Westerns. TV was in its infancy and I became a huge fan of Hopalong Cassidy. I’ve still got several old photos of myself dressed to the hilt in my Hoppy hat, official Hoppy shirt and cowboy boots. At that time, we moved around a lot and lived on several mini-farms near the edge of town where we raised chickens, cows, pigs, etc. We even once lived in a pre-Civil War house for about a year that still had the ruins of slave quarters among its various barns and other outbuildings. This stirred my imagination of the Old West, as did the nearby historic town of Independence, Missouri, (the Queen City of the Trails) and nearby Kearny, Missouri, (home of the Jesse James family farm). I even visited the house in St. Joseph, Missouri, where Jesse James was shot. And with Hoppy, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers and all the other great Western movie stars of the era, who could have not loved the Westerns?
Who are your three favorite Western writers?
Ernest Haycox, Elmer Kelton and Ralph Cotton
Which Western do you wish you’d written?
“Shane” by Jack Schaefer
What is the most recent Western you’ve read?
“Saddle and Ride” by Ernest Haycox
The “Desert Island” question.
That’s an easy one. All the novels of Ernest Haycox. And if we talk about non-Westerns, it’s all the books of the other Ernest: Hemingway.
What are your three favorite Western books?
“Shane,” “Bugles in the Afternoon” by Ernest Haycox and “While Angels Dance” by Ralph Cotton
What are your three favorite Western movies?
“Tombstone,” “High Noon” and “The Ox-Bow Incident”
Of the books you’ve written, which is your favorite and why?
“Dead Men Don’t Ride.” It’s my favorite (at least until my next one, of course) because I felt it was the first novel where I could come out of myself and spread my wings, so to speak, and write with fewer self-imposed restrictions. Although not quite there in its final incantation, it did free me to unleash my imagination in new ways. That’s all one can hope for in this life other than writing something you feel will survive your own limited mortality.
What is the most recent Western you’ve written?
My last book was “Black Eyes in Western Skies.” I have to admit that it’s something of a strange novel — probably on the verge of being considered a “weird Western” (which is a sub-genre of the Western novel realm that I didn’t even know existed until after I began writing Westerns).
Can you tell us anything about your next book?
I’m in the middle of a book but still haven’t come up with a working title, which is unusual for me. I generally settle on a title for anything I’m writing before I even begin writing it. My current book thus far is more of a traditional Western with a man falsely accused of murder. But as usually happens, fate steps in, the man escapes and it’s off to the races. A crazed former confederate general, various frustrated lawmen, greedy gunmen and one particularly off-center bounty hunter round-out the story. How it ends? Heck if I know.
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 first thing that came to mind was probably Tombstone, Arizona, during the year leading up to the fight at the OK Corral, for obvious reasons. But on second thought, it would have to be Deadwood, South Dakota, in the year prior to the shooting of Wild Bill Hickok. To me, Wild Bill was the most fascinating gunman of the Old West. His life embodied the era. Standing at his grave nearly 11 years ago was almost like stepping back in time itself. To really journey back in time and to have seen and spoken to him would have been remarkable.
Is there a question you wish I’d asked?
Yes. Who would you list as the 10 most under-rated or over-looked Western authors?
(in alphabetical order)
W. Edmunds Claussen
Giles A. Lutz
Lewis B. Patten
Les Savage Jr.
And, of course, you could add many more…