Friday, April 29, 2016

Final Episode of Justified

I watched the final episode of Justified last night. A little tardy you might think. Not to my way of thinking. I never watch any TV until the entire season is available on DVD or streaming.  That way I can binge-watch the series without ugly commercials or intervening days of holding my breath for the next episode. I get it all, and I get it the way I want.

Except … the sixth season of Justified has been available for nearly a year, so you might ask what took me so long. Justified is my favorite television program. (Elmore Leonard is one of my favorite authors.) I was heartsick when I heard the series had come to an end. As long as I never watched the last season, it was not really over. It was always there to look forward to.

Here is what I wrote about Justified in a previous post:
Justified, starring Timothy Olyphant, Walton Goggins, and a host of other fine actors, is a character-driven modern day western based on a short story by Elmore Leonard. I believe bad guys and gals make heroes heroic, and Justified has a bevy of really bad characters. Our hero has sidekicks of course, but basically, it’s Deputy Marshal Raylan Givens against this cast of misfits, hoodlums, and felonious masterminds. Good actors portraying interesting characters in a tightly written drama presented with masterful storytelling. Who could ask for more?

But good things can’t be put off forever, so I watched the last season of thirteen episodes in four nights. The final episode did not disappoint. It echoed the pilot in a well-crafted conclusion that sets a high standard for future finales. Good writing starts with good plot decisions and Graham Yost and crew did a masterful job. It’s hard to imagine a different ending that would leave viewers as satisfied.

For the impatient, here is the #1 Showdown!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

A genuine Westerner?

I believe Mark Twain is the greatest western writer of all time. Not only did Tom and Huck live on the frontier, but Roughing It describes his own adventures in the Wild West, including his stint as a reporter in Virginia City when it was wilder than any cow town on Saturday night. Twain thought the West was a hoot, so he kept traveling in that direction until he reached the Hawaiian Islands. In 1866, he spent four months in paradise as a reporter for the Sacramento Union.

Here are a couple of things Mark Twain said about Hawaii.
This is the most magnificent, balmy atmosphere in the world--ought to take dead men out of grave.
The missionaries braved a thousand privations to come and make them permanently miserable by telling them how beautiful and how blissful a place heaven is, and how nearly impossible it is to get there.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Wanted: A Western Story Collection

Snake in the Grass
A Steve Dancy Tale

A lone wrangler with a fine herd of horses goes berserk in the middle of nowhere. 
Steve Dancy and Joseph McAllen must decidehelp the crazed boy or ride off.

Wanted: A Western Story Collection ebook edition is available for pre-order at Amazon. The paperback edition will come along in a few weeks. The anthology includes a Steve Dancy short story. Since this was my first short story in the series, I decided to have a little fun and wrote it from Joseph McAllen's point of view.

From the Backcover

Seven bestselling western authors join forces in the time-honored tradition of the old West to deliver a collection of short stories featuring their most popular and beloved characters. Read about the adventures of Steve Dancy, Gideon Johann, Shad Cain, Lee Mattingly, the McCabes, Hunt-U.S. Marshal, and Jess Williams. Enjoy your favorite authors and discover new friends along the trail.

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