Friday, December 30, 2016

Western Movie Gunfights

The end of one year and the start of another usually signals awards season in the film industry. Long story short, it’s the time of year when the studios roll out their Oscar contenders. It’s also when most of the movies I don’t care about are released. I’ve never forgiven the Academy for their Smokey and the Bandit snub back in ’77, so I generally boycott the ceremony. But, that won’t stop me from handing out a few awards myself. So, let’s talk Western gunfights. It isn’t an Oscar or Golden Globe category, but it sure should be.
Best Gunfight In a Classic Western
This one, for me, goes hands down to Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. This film is one of my all-time favorites. The final battle between the Earp faction and the Clantons is one of the greatest gunfights ever filmed. True, it isn’t historically accurate in the least. But, it’s a darn good firefight. The climactic struggle is wonderfully filmed by my personal favorite director, John Sturges. It’s tense, action packed, and the perfect pay-off to a wonderful film. To see how the director’s perspective changed in ten years or so, watch Hour of the Gun. That version of the famous O.K. Corral fight is much different, but equally as effective.
Best Gunfight in a Modern Western
Open Range. Need I say more? Wonderfully choreographed and superbly filmed, the gunfight in Open Range is top notch. There’s only one gunfight in the whole movie, but it’s well worth the wait! Once the shooting starts, it goes on for about twenty minutes. That gunfight, and a whole host of other reasons, is why Open Range is on my top ten list of best movies ever made.
Most Realistic Gunfight
I’ll have to go with the final showdown in 2008’s Appaloosa. It’s quick. In fact, the first time I saw the film I was a bit disappointed. The shooting was over so fast. The whole movie just didn’t do a lot for me. The second time I saw it, I enjoyed it. Third time, I loved it. It’s now one of my favorite films.  But back to that gunfight…
I imagine that’s how Old West gunfights were (when they actually occurred): sudden and quick bursts of violence. Forget long, drawn-out fights with folks taking cover behind wagons or on top of buildings and all that. In Appaloosa, guns are drawn, used, and folks die. Plain and simple. Effective. One of the best.
Most Poignant Gunfight
Can a gunfight be poignant? I think so. And the award has to go to John Wayne’s final fight in The Shootist. Such a great movie, and such a great gunfight! It’s a film I enjoy more with each viewing. As far as the gunfight goes, it’s a bittersweet affair. We get to see some good cowboy action shooting as we say goodbye to a legend. If you haven’t seen the film, I highly recommend it. And if you’re one who believes John Wayne couldn’t act, watch The Shootist. In my opinion, his role in it was far more Oscar worthy than True Grit. But, that’s just my take, of course.
Honorable Mentions
My favorite film of all time, El Dorado, has some great gunfights (the scene where Wayne and company chase assailants into an old church and then finally into a saloon is probably my favorite sequence ever captured on film). The Professionals also contains some great scenes of western gunplay. Finally, the train shoot-out near the end of How the West Was Won is pretty amazing. I enjoy that whole film a great deal.
Biggest Let Down
I’m going to take some heat for this one. Don’t get me wrong, I love this movie. It’s a classic. It’s amazing. But the final gunfight in Shane was a bit disappointing to me. We  go the whole movie hearing hints of just how awesome Shane is with a gun. We also know Jack Palance has it coming. But the gunfight itself isn’t much. A couple of shots. A few seconds. It’s over pretty quickly. I suppose the film makes up for it with a great fistfight mid-way through. That being said, I still love Shane.
Please feel free to leave comments with your favorite western movie gunfights. I’d enjoy hearing from y’all!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Book Review: Will Tanner: U.S. Deputy Marshal

The world’s worst blogger is back. I appreciate everyone who reads this. Looking at the stats, there are quite a few of you. My New Year’s Resolution is to be a more mindful blogger! I’ve been writing plenty, but all on the fiction front. The blog fell dormant. That’s good news, in a way, because the fiction is going well.
But, I’m back with more frequency. At least that's the plan.
So let’s get into today’s book review. Per my annual tradition, I received several Amazon gift cards for Christmas. I’ve spent Christmas evening for about the last five or six years loading my Kindle with books for the upcoming year. This holiday was no exception. One of the titles I selected was Will Tanner: U.S. Deputy Marshal. It’s one of the latest series in the William Johnstone line.
It’s pretty darn good. It is a traditional western. Written in an older style. This is not a knock against it. In fact, I enjoyed the book immensely. The author takes his time telling the story. This is not to say that the book is ever boring. It is not! But, fans of the genre may recognize it unfolds a bit differently than the westerns being put out by Rough Edges Press or Piccadilly Publishing and some of the others.  It is not as fast paced and not as violent. There’s plenty of action, don’t get me wrong. The book is never dull. Just more in line with the old Louis L’amour titles than say Ben Bridges, Peter Brandvold, or Robert Randisi.
I won’t go into the plot too much. I’ll keep this spoiler free. The book involves Will Tanner (big shock) who becomes a deputy U.S. Marshal (another big shock). He’s based out of Arkansas, but his work takes him into Indian Territory and Texas. A good portion of this book takes place in my home state of Oklahoma, around the Arbuckle Mountains. It’s an area I know well, and I could picture many of the locations described. This added much to the story for me! I liked it.
I suspect I know who the author of this tale is. I’ve gotten fairly good at spotting some of the Johnstone ghost writers. Longtime western readers will probably figure this one out, too.
Overall, this is a solid, traditional western that kept me reading. I have the second one of the series already purchased and waiting on my Kindle. I look forward to the third installment which is due to be released this spring. If you’re wanting an old fashioned shoot ‘em up with well-drawn characters, rich detail, and exciting action, check this one out. Recommended.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Interview with James Reasoner

Please forgive me if I geek out here a bit. James Reasoner has been a pretty constant presence in my life for the past twenty years, even though I do not know the man. I’ve read his books for about two decades. I’ve spent a lot of time inside the wonderful adventures he brings to life. Sometimes I’ve read him without even knowing (he’s published under a variety of pen names and house names). That’s why I was thrilled to receive the chance to interview James for this latest blog entry. If there is a more prolific author currently writing, I do not know of them. As you’ll see below, Mr. Reasoner stays pretty busy. In addition to writing for others, James started Rough Edges Press a few years back. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as enjoyed hearing from James and learning a little more about his process. Without further ado…

Ryan: I'll start from the beginning. How long has writing been your full-time job?

James: Since February of 1987, so it's coming up on thirty years. There was a stretch before that, 1981-83, when I was also writing full-time, but then for the intervening four years I owned a couple of used bookstores and ran them in addition to writing.

Ryan: Does it come in waves? I mean, are there months where you think, "I better polish up the ol' resume because it's slowing down"?

James: In recent years I've had contracts lined up for quite a while in advance (the last due date on my current contract is February 2018), but there were many times in the past when we were living from contract to contract. One year I had what I called my "Longarm summer" because I wrote three Longarm novels back to back, getting a new contract for the next one as I turned them in because I didn't have anything else lined up. Then some other jobs came through and I went back to having three or four—or more—books under contract. I think it's been that way ever since.

Ryan: At this point, do you even know how many books you've authored?

James: The current work in progress is novel #340. I've also written one non-fiction book (DRAW: THE GREATEST GUNFIGHTS OF THE AMERICAN WEST).

Ryan: What is your daily routine? Do you work five days, six or seven days a week?

James: I've never been a write-every-day sort of author. I'm pretty consistent, though, about doing fifteen to twenty pages a day, five or six days a week. Sometimes, depending on where I am in a book or what my deadlines are, I can do more. For example, earlier this week I wrote 32 pages one day and 37 the next. But I was at the end of a book and trying to finish it, so that always speeds me up a little. Because I started writing back in the Seventies, long before computers, I still keep track of my output in terms of pages rather than words, although I do know that I've written more than a million words a year for eleven consecutive years now and approximately 25 million words in my career.

Ryan: Do you like the changes e-readers like Kindle have brought to the industry? Does it excite you or do you miss the old days?

James: I love the rise of e-books as both a reader and a writer. I like the adjustable fonts on my Kindle. I like being able to make notes and do some editing on the Kindle. I like being able to write whatever I want and get it out there to the readers. However, I'm what they call a hybrid writer. Most of my work still goes through traditional publishers. I have some nostalgia for the old days, but that's all it is. I wouldn't want to go back to writing on a manual typewriter (although sometimes I do miss it).

Ryan: Is there any genre you haven't written in? That might be easier than asking all the ones you have!

James: I've never written an actual science fiction novel or a literary, mainstream novel. I have parts of a few SF novels done, though, and expect to finish them eventually. Literary fiction (which I consider a genre, too) is probably not in my future.

Ryan: I love your westerns! Do you think there's enough up and coming authors to keep the genre going?

James: Oh, sure! A lot of people love to write Westerns. I don't believe they'll ever be as popular as they once were, but Westerns aren't going away, at least in my lifetime.

Ryan: Speaking of keeping going...will you ever pack it in or will you write as long as you're able?

James: I plan to keep writing as long as I can. In recent years I've started to think about slowing down a little and writing, say, half a million words a year instead of a million. I'd almost feel retired if I did that, I think.

Ryan: Any regrets about starting Rough Edges Press?

James: It's been more time-consuming than I thought it would be, but I wouldn't call that a regret. I've really enjoyed being able to publish some excellent books that might not have found a home otherwise.

Ryan: Do you prefer your own publishing to working for others?

James: As I said above, I'm a hybrid author. I've been part of the traditional publishing world for four decades and feel comfortable there. That said, I really do like the freedom of self-publishing and wouldn't want to give that up, either. If my traditional contracts went away (I hope they don't!), I'd just keep writing. At this point, what else am I going to do?

Ryan: What advice do you have for the wannabes and aspiring authors like me out there? What's one thing you know now about writing or publishing that you wish you would have known in the beginning?

James: I'd say the answer is persistence. Get the stuff written and out there, whether it's self-publishing or submitting to traditional and small press publishers. I once read that the definition of a writer is somebody who sits in a room and types for thirty years. That's pretty much the truth, although for some of us it's been considerably longer than thirty years. During my first stint as a full-time writer, though, I just didn't work hard enough at it. That's why I had to go into the bookstore business for a while. I didn't really know any better, didn't have the self-discipline to do the amount of work necessary. Everyone has their own natural pace, of course, but I think you have to push yourself in order to find it.

Ryan: Were there any authors who mentored you? How did you break into the business?

I started writing stories for my own enjoyment while I was in elementary school and continued on through college. That was when I started submitting short stories to various magazines. I never sold any and had almost given up on writing when I got married. My wife told me that if I really wanted to be a writer, I needed to work at it (see the above answer!) and so I started sending out short stories again. One of the magazines I submitted to was MIKE SHAYNE MYSTERY MAGAZINE, which was edited by an old writer/editor from the pulp era, Sam Merwin Jr. Sam never used traditional rejection slips, at least with me. When he sent back a story, I always got a personal note with it, scrawled on whatever scrap of paper was handy. He explained why he was rejecting the story and suggested ways to improve my writing. This went on for a while, and then I got a rejection from him saying that if I revised that particular story in line with his suggestions, he would buy it. I did, of course, and he wound up buying that story, but in the meantime he accepted another one without any revisions. I had sold one story before that, to one of the true confession magazines, but I consider my sales to MSMM to be the real start of my writing career and have always been grateful to Sam Merwin Jr. for all the advice he gave me. A couple of years after that he asked me to write some of the Mike Shayne stories in the magazine under the house-name Brett Halliday, and that was a big step in my career too. Not to mention, I love the connection with the pulp era!

I want to thank James Reasoner again for taking the time for this interview! Check out Rough Edges and Mr. Reasoner’s excellent blog! As for me, I’m going to take the above advice and get busy writing!

Monday, September 5, 2016

Thank God for Amos Walker

Thank God for Amos Walker. If you’re not familiar with Amos, he’s a P.I. who works Detroit. More than a P.I., the character embodies the term “shamus.” He’s tough as nails, dedicated, witty, and extremely capable. To say that he’s a bit cynical would be a gross understatement. In short, when it comes to private eyes in the classic vein, Loren Estleman’s creation is the real deal.
Walker first appeared in Angle Eyes, published in 1981. Since then, he’s been back in 24 other novels, and well over two dozen short stories (if my math serves me right on both counts). I just want to take a few seconds to praise Estleman and his creation. Don’t get me wrong, there are other P.I.’s I’m close to. Elvis Cole is my boy. Spenser and I are on very good terms. But, for lack of a better phrase, Loren Estleman has “kept it real” with the Walker novels. Crais and the late, great Robert Parker are two of the best. But, their heroes have gotten a bit self-reflective. Call me crazy, but I like the earlier Cole novels like The Monkey’s Raincoat and Free Fall. The multiple viewpoints of his recent efforts can serve as a distraction, at least for me. And Parker was great, but Spenser spent a lot of time discussing life and love with Susan. A bit much, for my tastes (I’ve read the first two Ace Atkins Spenser outings and they are amazing, in my opinion). Perhaps I’m just not a deep thinker. Maybe I’m just not smart enough. For whatever reason, the pulpier my detective stories are, the better! That’s where ol’ Amos comes in. Estleman doesn’t worry about all that introspective mumbo jumbo. Walker does have a philosophy and a code that comes through. But, the focus is always on the case and moving the story forward. Plain and simple, just like I like it.
I recently read 2015’s The Sundown Speech and I’m happy to report that in Walker’s 25th full-length case, he’s still going strong. Taut and lean are the order of the day. Not a lot of filler. Classic hardboiled prose and attitude. Pretty dang near flawless.

Loren Estleman has created a lot of endearing characters through the years. The Michigan native is a wonderful western author, and he has plenty of other crime novels under his belt. But, Amos is my favorite. One of the walker tales is entitled American Detective. I can’t think of a more fitting description of the character than that. I get the feeling that when Estleman gives us a Walker story, he’s not trying to break new ground or make philosophical statements regarding life and human nature. I get the impression he’s just trying to tell a darn good detective story, and he does that in spades. If you haven’t met Walker, I highly recommend you get acquainted at your earliest convenience. You’ll thank me for it.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Book Review: Mustang Man by Louis L'amour

There's something comforting about a Louis L'amour novel. Perhaps it is the fact that they remind me of my childhood; memories of my grandfather instantly flood my mind whenever I hear the author's name. Grandpa had the entire collection, or darn near close to it. Because they were readily available, L'amour's works were my first sampling of the western genre. It had been a while since I had read one, until last week when I picked up Mustang Man. I felt an instant connection to the novel, as it takes place in the Texas Panhandle and around the Rabbit Ears Mountain of northeast New Mexcio. Those areas too hold fond memories for me, and I'm familiar with that country. So, the novel resonated with me from the first page.
The action moves along at a brisk pace, which is just the way I like my books. L'amour novels do not have as much shooting as some of the modern western authors pack in, but the tale was never dull to me. And make no mistake, there's plenty of gunplay. Just not as much as series like the Johnstone books or the more recent Outlaw Ranger stories have. But, when the action does roll around, L'amour handled it just like you would expect an old pro to. Again, it was not a boring read by any means.
I almost hate including any criticism. Louie L'amour probably forgot more about writing in his lifetime than I'll ever know. But, there seemed to be a few minor unresolved elements by the time the end came. One in particular bugged me (warning: minor spoiler ahead). One central character is witnessed by another conversing with a gang of outlaws, casting doubt upon this character's true motives. This point is never really explained, and it left me a bit baffled. Other than that, Mustang Man is a solid read that I recommend for fans of the genre. It is the tenth book in the famed Sackett series, but one certainly does not have to read any of the others before enjoying this title. It is a stand-alone story that briefly alludes to the rest of the series, but always providing context. I give this one a 4 out of 5 rating and enjoyed it immensely.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Nothing's Wrong With Me, I'm a Writer

I recently read a story about famous Broadway choreographer Dame Gillian Lynne. Back in the 1930s, her mom took her to a doctor in an effort to find what was going on with the young girl. She didn’t pay attention in school. She constantly had to move. The diagnosis: the doctor determined there was nothing wrong with Gillian, she was a dancer. Once that was determined, and Lynne was allowed to do what came naturally to her, things made sense. She thrived. Finally, she was in her element.
I used to wonder what was wrong with me. It was very difficult for me to pay attention in school. I loved English and history. So many great stories there, and I could really get into those subjects. Everything else was a chore. Math was never my thing. Too concrete. There were no stories behind those numbers. When I started working, the same was true. As a bank teller (rough gig for a guy who hates math), I was constantly bored. My mind wandered. The same was true for every other job I held.
All the while, I wrote. My first work of fiction was a story based upon my favorite computer game and game show, Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego. It was a profanity laced action tale that, in my mind, was a masterpiece. Why the cursing? When my parents left, and I was under the care of my older brother, I’d sneak and watch my dad’s movies. All action movies were chock full of foul language. So, my young mind figured any good adventure tale needed to have it. I’d love to read it now, as I’m sure the majority of such words were misused. But, that story was the first time I put pencil to paper and recorded my ideas. It wouldn’t be the last.
After that, there was never a time when I wasn’t writing! My grandpa loved Louis L’amour. He had darn near every title by the prolific author. I don’t remember how old I was when I borrowed one and read it, but I was hooked! I used to stare at the bookcase that held them all and think, “I want to do that. I want to be that.” L’amour was a storyteller. That’s what I wanted to be. In fact, it was the one word I kept going back to in my mind. Storyteller.
I continued to write. I wrote non-fiction for a church email group, sending out thoughts, observations, and announcements. It was free, of course, so no one paid for it. I didn’t care; I had an audience! People were reading something that I wrote. Meanwhile, the fiction kept coming forth. I’d write stories for my best friend, Nick, eagerly awaiting his reaction. It was a small audience, but it was an audience. Again, someone was reading what I wrote!
I studied the bestseller charts and saw what people were reading. As an adult, I discovered the wonderful world of Robert Crais, Vince Flynn, Loren Estleman, and Robert Parker. I found other western authors, besides L’amour, like James Reasoner, William Johnstone, and Ralph Cotton.  The more I read, the more I was inspired to write. I had these stories floating around in my head that I just had to get out. I wasn’t happy when I tried to suppress them. Storyteller
So, I finally decided to see if I could actually sell one of these stories. After looking into the market, I realized there’s a steady appetite for romance. I’d never read one. I’d darn sure never tried to write one. In the spring of 2015, under a pen name, I did. It sold. I wrote another one, it sold more. All of the sudden, I had actual royalties coming in! It also showed me that I could produce a work from start to finish and send it to market. Some of these romances are a tad funny, some are a bit trashy, but all are incredibly cheesy. Still, they got me into the game and I’m not sorry I wrote them. I’ll put more out.
But I’m returning to my first literary love: pulp fiction. As noted in a different blog post, perhaps genre fiction is a better description. Whatever we decide to call it, I’m diving in. I have some projects coming out that I’m excited to share with folks. 2016 has been a very good year for me, writing wise, and I am extremely optimistic about the future. I’m finally doing what I’ve wanted to do all along. I may never be Stephen King, but like those early days, I have an audience. And after 35 plus years, I’ve finally realized that nothing is wrong with me…I’m just a writer.

Toward the middle of the summer, and late in the season, I have some works coming out that I’m very excited about! The first one is The Adventures of Johnny Derringer: Arbuckle Abduction. This story is pulp all the way, with a Depression Era gangster anti-hero hot on the trail of some of his colleagues. After a bank job goes wrong in Missouri, Johnny is given an ultimatum by the FBI: find the kidnapped daughter of an Oklahoma oil man, or else…
This is the first in a series, and I can’t wait to introduce Johnny and his adventures to pulp lovers.
The next work is War in the Wichatas. The protagonist, Frank Page, is a tough and grizzled lawman in the early 1900s who is tasked with bringing law and order to the emerging Oklahoma City. His quest takes him away from the growing city, to the still untamed frontier where he feels the most comfortable. Again, this is the start of what I hope becomes an ongoing series. I think western fans will like Frank. I sure do.

And finally, my personal favorite of the bunch, an anthology of stories featuring Ethan Tate. Ethan is a young tech billionaire who has a big secret: he is routinely visited by the dead. Tate helps clear a haunted theater in Chicago, meets the ghost of a cold blooded killer in Kansas, and runs into a very famous spirit in Dallas who once killed a very famous man.
Ethan Tate first appeared in a short story, “Saving Thelma”, that is for sale on the Kindle right now (under Daniel Fowler). If you need some reading material, it’s short and cheap, and serves as a good introduction to the character and his world. I wrote the tale originally to submit for a horror anthology. After completion, I noticed one big problem: the story isn’t scary! It’s more supernatural noir, but certainly not horror. A word of warning, though: there’s some rough language in this one, so just know what you’re getting into.
I’ll have more info on all of these books in the future. And, I have a whole bunch of book and film reviews coming to the blog. As always, thanks for reading. Until next time…peace, love, and pulp!

It's a Great Time to Be a Reader: The State of Modern Pulp, as I See It

When it comes to pulp fiction, it’s a great time to be a reader. I use the term “pulp” because I’m not sure how else to classify the type of works I’m referring to. For me, pulp is sort of an all-encompassing term that may include hard boiled P.I. tales, men’s adventure, and westerns. Perhaps “genre fiction” is more accurate. No matter what you call it, it’s a great time to be a fan and connoisseur.

A couple of years ago, I thought just the opposite. When I was a kid in the ‘80s and into the ‘90s, one could still easily find pulp on the paperback racks. True, it was thinning out, and wasn’t anywhere near the levels it had been during its zenith. As a teen in the ‘90s, I could easily find such western series as Longarm, The Trailsman, Slocum, and The Gunsmith. Beyond these series, there were a whole host of other “adult westerns” that flooded the market, but never seemed to last long. Westerns as a whole regained popularity in the 1990s, in film and in paperback form, it seems, and there was a plethora of titles.

When it came to action and adventure, series such as The Executioner and The Destroyer were going strong, along with others that came and went. But, the herd started thinning as time went on. I could still scour used book stores, and the occasional antique store I went to with my grandparents, to find real treasures. The big publishers in New York decided to shave a few off here and there, and pretty soon only a few series held on. Recently, we saw Longarm, Slocum, Fargo, and even The Gunsmith go the way of the buffalo. A few western series are still out there (Johnstone), but it’s looking bleaker and bleaker every day—as far as the New York publishers, anyway.

Thankfully, it’s looking better and better with the small houses and independent guys. Today, even though the Big Guys aren’t publishing hardly any pulp or genre fiction, it’s a great time to be a pulp reader! Thanks to the Kindle, and other e-reading devices, I now have virtually more material at my fingertips than I have time to read! And it’s not poorly written, throw-away junk either. We are talking the masters here, people.
Prolific author James Reasoner is still putting out just as much as he used to, publishing under his own imprint, Rough Edges Press. He’s not alone, either. He has the likes of Ed Gorman and others joining him. Some stories are new, and some are reprints of long out of print gems. Either way, if you want some great action packed reads, Rough Edges is a good place to start.

James is one of my literary heroes. As a wannabe author, I admire the sheer amount the man writes (with no drop-off in quality), and the fact that he struck out on his own and is making it happen. I’ve read much of his work, even being able to spot the titles he wrote for various series such as Longarm (turns out, I was correct ina lot of my guesses. I believe I’ve spotted him writing for another still-running and aforementioned western series, but I will say no more).

Speaking of westerns, The Gunsmith can still be found, but not on the local drugstore paperback rack as in the old days. Robert Randisi (who writes wonderful mysteries, as well) has brought his creation Clint Adams (The Gunsmith) to the wonderful world of e-reading with new Gunsmith titles. The old ones are being reissued, as well, thanks to the guys over at Piccadilly Press. Piccadilly is publishing tons of works, many of them classic pulp western reprints, at affordable prices. Good stuff!

John Hegenberger is a “new to me” author who has quickly become one of my favorites. He’s been writing for a while, but only recently has introduced his detective fiction to the world. I’m sure glad he did! Stan Wade, a late ‘50s and early ‘60s P.I., is a great character who interacts with all sorts of classic Hollywood types. His adventures are quick and fun, and I highly recommend them. Beyond that, John has some other great titles including some sci-fi. I interviewed John, and if you haven’t read it, click here to enjoy. He’s an author you should be familiar with.

Long-time comic book and pulp author Ron Fortier is going strong over at Airship 27. Not only is Ron’s own work published under that press, but he’s got some great pulp authors with him, putting out some awesome stuff! Mr. Fortier recently announced that his Brother Bones character, the Undead Avenger, is going to be appearing in a movie! I’ve been reading Brother Bones, and I can tell you it’s great pulpy fun. Much like The Shadow and the great pulp heroes of old, he’s sure to please fans of the genre. Also, a good place to start when taking flight with the Airship is their anthology The Legends of New Pulp Fiction. Lots of good short stories in that collection, and it raises money for a great cause. It’s a good introduction and jumping off point to dozens of great modern pulp writers.

I could go on and on. I’m sure I’ll be back with another modern pulp round-up, but the authors mentioned above are a great place to get going, if you’re looking for such titles. For fans of the genre like me, we live in exciting times! It’s also a great time to be a pulp writer, but more on that in my next post.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Film Review: Bone Tomahawk

Y’all, I don’t even know where to start with this movie. First of all, let me say that I think it is a very well-made film. The dialogue is excellent, the pacing spot on, and visuals are stunning. S. Craig Zahler may be a first time filmmaker, but nothing about this picture says “amateur.” In fact, it is expertly crafted! The man should probably win an Academy Award (if not for directing, certainly for the writing—I can’t remember a recent movie that has such wonderful dialogue).
Like many good westerns, this is a slow burning film. The last thirty minutes or so are action packed. We’re talking edge of your seat type stuff. But until then we have time to really get to know the characters. That’s a good thing, because they’re aptly crafted. I particularly loved Deputy Chicory. I have no doubt Richard Jenkins should have won an Oscar for that role. Beyond Jenkins, the whole cast was stellar. Hey, it’s Kurt Russel in a western…you can’t beat that.

The action is adequately staged. Rather than large set pieces of major battles, we get tense, taut burst of violence. So, what’s my gripe with Bone Tomahawk? It’s savagely brutal. It’s not a huge spoiler to say the villains in this film are far from traditional. They’re cave dwelling cannibals (we find this out very early on, long before we actually see them).

Minor Spoilers Below…

We see a man split in two (this is after he’s scalped), and then consumed. Yep, that’s the level of violence we’re dealing with here. In perhaps the most disturbing part, viewers briefly see the women of the inbred cannibalistic tribe, pregnant, but amputated and blinded so they cannot escape. That didn’t sit well with me. It was effective, as I’m sure Zahler intended such a reaction. But it’s certainly not my cup of tea.

End Spoilers…

It has been described as a western-horror hybrid. However, I think it can be better described as traditional frontier tale that has a few horror elements. There is nothing supernatural in this film, and it does not fit into the “weird western” genre like Cowboys & Aliens. Some of the lines are outright funny, and there’s even some sentimental sweetness to it. A conversation regarding a flea circus is so well written, beautifully acted, and touching that one can't help but smile in the midst of all the carnage. Beyond this, the heroes are truly likable, and you’re rooting for them all the way.

Bone Tomahawk comes so close to being a perfect western! I almost added it to my cannon of classic oaters. In the end, the violence was just too off-putting for me. It’s too bad, though, as there’s a lot to love in this movie. James Reasoner recently reviewed the film, and he commented that he hopes S. Craig Zahler will try his hand at a more traditional western. I share those same sentiments. He darn near created a modern classic.