Monday, November 30, 2015

Literature vs. Popular Fiction

I bounce around the internet each morning after checking email. I scan a lot of articles, but rarely get by the first few paragraphs. My time is precious and there is just so much stuff out there. If I tried to read it all, I’d never have time to write.

An exception was “Literature vs genre is a battle where both sides lose” by David Mitchell, published at The Guardian blog. I don’t enjoy dissertations on writing as an art form. I’m a storyteller whose medium is the written word, so I prefer articles about how to improve my craft. But Mitchell grabbed my attention with his first sentence.

“Literary fiction is an artificial luxury brand but it doesn’t sell.”

There is an audience for literary fiction, but Mitchell points out that the demand for genre fiction dwarfs the high-tone variety. He claims, “fancy reading habits don’t make you cool any longer. The people who actually buy books, in thumpingly large numbers, are genre readers.”

I think the difference is how a writer approaches a project. If a writer starts off to tell a story, a good craftsman will focus on writing the novel properly to keep the reader engaged. If a writer starts with the goal to write a literary masterpiece, then the focus becomes assembling sentences so clever they stop the reader to admire the prose. A good storyteller never takes the reader out of a story, so fancy writing is counterproductive.

Here’s the dirty little secret of fiction writing: if it doesn’t sell, it’s soon forgotten. Mark Twain, Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Owen Wister, Raymond Chandler, Louisa May Alcott and many other “Great Writers” understood this truism. 

“It might reasonably be said that all art at some time and in some manner becomes mass entertainment, and that if it does not it dies and is forgotten.”  Raymond Chandler

Built to Last

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Look and Listen

Whispersync is an Amazon feature that allows you to switch between an ebook version and an audiobook of the same title. It’s a pretty cool way to read at home and listen to books on commutes or jogs. (This link explains Whispersync.) Not all books sold on are set up for this synchronization feature, however. For my own audiobooks, only The Shopkeeper is Whispersync ready. Bummer. But at least Amazon says they’ll eventually get to the other books in the Steve Dancy series.

How do you know which books in your Kindle library are set up for Whispersync? Amazon has made it easy. To reference your Kindle library against existing Audible Whispersync titles, you can just log into which automatically lists every Kindle book you ever bought that has a Whispersync companion. This list will also give you the discounted cost to add the audiobook to your library. This may not be very valuable for books you’ve already read, but when I showed the list to my wife, she immediately added several of these titles to her to-read list.

If you buy a print book, the Kindle version may be discounted—sometimes to 99 cents—and if you buy an eBook, the Whispersync audiobook is discounted. Consuming books visually and/or audibly has become a snap. If you don’t have lots of idle hours to read, try a combo approach. 

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Is it possible to stage a Inimitable western street duel?

The western fast draw setup is as well known as the title sequence for Gunsmoke. Two men face off in the street, settle their stance, flex their fingers, and bet their lives on who is quicker. Great drama, but how do you make it fresh and different. There was the knife scene the Magnificent Seven and a lifelong secret about The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, but  Terror In A Texas Town outdid them all.

And for a nostalgic moment, here's Matt Dillon's famous duel, ending with a little film crew fun.

I ran across this movie clip in an interesting article by John Heath titled "Why Superhero Movies Aren't Like Westerns." I believe Heath makes some good observations.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

How to make a cowboy hat

Hollywood western movies
Looking the Part

I'm not a hat person. Although I own dozens of hats, I seldom wear one. I don't even like helmets. I grew up in a generation where you just wheeled your bike out of the garage and went riding without a helmet or spandex regalia. When we pulled our long boards to the beach behind our bikes, we wore flip flops, board shorts, and little else. I ski with soft head gear and when I surf, so far I can still rely on my hair to keep the sun from burning the top of my head.

That said, I like cowboy hats. I own one but seldom wear it because after all these years, it still looks new. I bought it at Wall Drug, and it immediately blew off my head and rolled down the center of the street for a quarter mile and still looked brand spankin' new*. I envy tattered, sweat-stained cowboy hats that scream authenticity. Mine says tenderfoot in neon. I know, I know, if I wore it more, it would eventually look like the genuine article. I'm just not a hat person.

For western head gear, I prefer Resistol, but here's a video from Stetson about making cowboy hats. Betcha thought it was a lot simpler.

* I'm a bit obsessed with phrases. This is an interesting article about the origins of brand spanking new.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Jenny’s Revenge Available in Print

At long last, Jenny’s Revenge, A Steve Dancy Tale is available in trade paperback format. This has been a long process that had mostly to do with abnormal issues around the cover design. The book can be ordered from Barnes and Noble, Amazon, Books a Million, or independent book stores. Thank you for reading The Steve Dancy Tales.

literary fiction book series
Honest westerns filled with dishonest characters

Jenny Bolton has plans, and they don't bode well for Steve Dancy.
Married at fifteen to a Nevada politician, Jenny suffered repeated assaults, witnessed her husband's ghastly murder, buried her vile mother-in-law, and killed a man. Dancy, who had once served as her paladin, rejected her without as much as a goodbye. Abandoned on a raw frontier, she's single-handedly building an empire that spans the state. Despite her triumphs, she feels she never should have been left alone.
Soon to marry, Steve is eager to begin a new life unaware that Jenny is mad for revenge.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Murder at Thumb Butte Available in Audio

The audio version of Murder at Thumb Butte read by Jim Tedder is now available. Tedder is a consummate professional with over 35 years in broadcasting. He's such a natural storyteller, you can almost hear the campfire crackling in the background.

Books in Motion published the audio versions of The Shopkeeper and Leadville, and now Tedder has added Murder at Thumb Butte to the audio series. We anticipate that sales will be good enough for Tedder to narrate the remaining books in the series. I sure hope so. He does a fine job as you can hear from this audio book trailer.

You can purchase the audio version of Murder at Thumb Butte through one of the following links.

James D Best bestselling books

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Another Remake?—The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

My last posting was about Hollywood remaking The Magnificent Seven, one of my favorite western movies. No sooner did it go to press than I hear Paramount is remaking another one of my favorites, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. This remake is still in the initial stages, so actual projection onto a silver screen remains iffy. (Boy, the digital world is making lots of stock phrases obsolete.)

The original 1962 film starred Jimmie Stewart and John Wayne, with Lee Marvin playing the heavy. Vera Miles, Edmond O’Brien, Andy Devine, John Carradine, Woody Strode, Strother Martin and Lee Van Cleef also had significant roles in this John Ford film. Hard to believe Paramount can afford to put together that level of cast today.

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance had a huge influence on the Steve Dancy Tales. Ransom Stoddard and Steve Dancy are eastern educated city dwellers trying to survive a raw frontier, both stories make use of political subplots, and the movie and books present day to day life as a backdrop to the action. At bottom, the film and the Steve Dancy Tales are fish-out-of-water/buddy stories.

I hope this particular remake never gets a green light. The original is a true classic and a new production is sure to fall short. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is a sophisticated, complex story, directed by a master, with a once-in-a-lifetime cast. Hollywood should quit trying to live off past glories and make new films that will be eagerly watched a half century from now.

western fiction literature
Honest westerns filled with dishonest characters.