When — and why — did you first fall in love with Westerns?
I first fell in love with Westerns the first time I saw “The Magnificent Seven.” M7 was more than a simple Western. It encompassed everything I valued about loyalty, honor, never backing down and the ethos of doing the right thing no matter what the cost. From there I became a fan of many of the Western television shows in reruns, especially “Wanted: Dead or Alive,” “Trackdown,” “Gunsmoke,” and “Have Gun — Will Travel.” At their best, these shows were complex morality plays with great characterization, dialogue and tight writing. I still watch them and believe they hold up far better than most TV shows from the same time period.
Who are your three favorite Western writers?
Picking only three is too hard. I have a passion for the Western genre — especially the quick-reading, straightforward, six-gun blazing, paperback original actioneers from the ’50s through the ’70s. Authors such as Harry Whittington, Lewis B. Patten, Frank Gruber, Luke Short and many others told their tales in a lean 160 pages. The stories are diverse yet comfortably familiar sagas from the West of our imagination. If I was forced to pick three to take to a desert island, it would most probably be the “Fargo” stories by John Benteen (Ben Haas), Frank O’Rourke’s “The Professionals” and many similar tales, and everything by Louis L’Amour.
Which Western do you wish you’d written?
The “Fargo” series by John Benteen. While the books follow traditional Western tropes, they are not traditional Westerns. Set in the 1910s, after the Wild West had been settled, they take Fargo on adventures around the world. The Philippines, Argentina, Nicaragua, Alaska and Peru all provided Fargo with a landscape to sling hot lead and bed beautiful women. This distinction is part of the fun and what makes Fargo stand out among all his contemporaries.
What is the most recent Western you’ve read?
“Camp Ford” by Johnny D. Boggs. A terrific Civil War baseball novel, meticulously researched to capture the amazing changes in America over the span of one man’s life. It is one of the most unusual Westerns I have ever read.
The “Desert Island” question. What are your three favorite Western books?
“The Cowboy and the Cossack” by Clair Huffaker is arguably one of the best Westerns ever written that doesn’t take place in the West. “The Walking Drum” by Louis L’Amour is another non-Western Western while encompassing all of L’Amour’s strengths as a storyteller. Last but not least, “Fargo” by John Benteen, which is the book which truly fired my love for the genre.What are your three favorite Western movies?
“The Magnificent Seven” is hard to beat for complex characters and a perfect storm of a cast who were almost all on the verge of superstardom. “The Professionals” — how can you not thrill to Lee Marvin wielding a huge Lewis gun as he causes major havoc, Burt Lancaster tossing dynamite here there and everywhere, Woody Strode using his bow and arrows with a gunfighter’s arrogance, Jack Palance chewing scenery as only he can, and Claudia Cardinale (sigh). “Quigley Down Under” with Tom Selleck fits my penchant for non-Western Westerns — all the traditional tropes, but run through in an unfamiliar setting.
Of the books you’ve written, which is your favorite — and why?
“Lie Catchers” because there is so much of my own experiences as an interrogator within the pages.
What is the most recent Western you’ve written?
“52 Weeks • 52 Western Movies,” which is the sequel to “52 Weeks • 52 Western Novels”
Can you tell us anything about your next book?
I have two new books on the way, “Admit Nothing,” which is the sequel to “Lie Catchers,” and a new Western, “Viva Fargo!”
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?
1850 San Francisco in the Barbary Coast area because it was where everything connected to the Gold Rush was happening…