The protagonist of my first two Western novels, “Coyote Courage” and “Coyote Creek,” is Brock Clemons. Brock has many of the standard Western hero traits: tall, handsome, fast with a gun, strong with a fist and unable to stomach injustice, especially when it involves women and children. I have also intentionally made him flawed, with moments of self-doubt that have allowed him, or forced him, to struggle with difficult and challenging moral questions.
In the past few months, quite a few people have come up and said they see me in Brock, or hear my voice speaking when they’re reading the book. I am complimented by this and can even understand some of it as, like me, Brock enjoys bourbon and spends quite a bit of time with his cigars, savoring the process and the cigars. He is also well-read and, while he enjoys the company of good conversationalists, he is quite content spending alone time with his thoughts. I also like to think that both of us have our witty moments.
And so, I can see where people might make the comparison, though it wasn’t intentional as I was writing the book.
As for the hero components of Brock’s character, even I cannot flatter myself to think I have those traits. And for those who know me and know how easily I can flatter myself, this may come as a surprise.
Actually, in thinking about the comments that people have made, I realized that I wrote Brock as I would like to be. I think most men would like to believe that if presented with the challenges and decisions Brock has faced that they would make the same decisions he does: running toward the fight, putting strangers’ lives ahead of his, taking on evil at tremendous risk to himself and beyond.
In the 1997 movie, “As Good As It Gets,” Helen Hunt’s character asks Jack Nicholson’s character (ok—demanded, didn’t ask) for a compliment. He thought about it and responded with one of movie’s great lines, “You make me want to be a better man.”
I think, with Brock, I have created a character that I am going to try and live up to. Flawed no doubt, but a good man and a great one to, occasionally and generously, be compared to.