Thursday, April 7, 2016

Trains are Trendy


I read that railroad construction is all the rage in Western novels. I suppose Hell on Wheels spiked the popularity of trains, but I find the trend troubling. I'm currently writing Crossing the Animas, my latest Steve Dancy Tale. As the title suggests, it takes place in the San Juan Mountains between Durango and Silverton. In 1882, the Denver & Rio Grande built a narrow gage line between the towns to get ore to market. Needless to say, the construction of the line is an element of my story.

My first impulse was to edit out the railroad construction. I didn't want to appear to be jumping on a fad. It went against my nature, I guess. (At the end of The Shopkeeper, I Wrote, "We rode out of Mason Valley with the sun at our backs." A Western chestnut has the hero rides off into the sunset, so I used the opposite direction tongue-in-cheek.) I decided against “pulling the pin” because the rail line construction wasn’t a huge element in the story and I liked the characters that came with the trains. I hate killing off characters to no purpose. I’ve heard of off-page violence and off-page sex, but off-page character assassination serves no purpose. Besides, trains and rail expansion have been an element of the Steve Dancy Tales from the beginning.

By the way, Hell on Wheels is a hell of a good show. Now if we could just get Justified back.

Hell on Wheels



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