Guest Post by Robert Dean
Scott's Note: Today we've got Robert Dean guest posting. Robert's written one novel, In the Arms of Nightmares, which is hardcore horror, and now he's got a new novel out that's a western. There's plenty of violence, of course; there is also, as he says, regret, money, malice, and death. Never a shortage of juicy stuff to call upon when doing a western. But what prompted him to take on this genre? That's what Robert's here to talk about. So...on to Robert, talking about The Red Seven.
Writing a western is weird. It’s a genre that doesn’t get a lot of respect, yet some of the dopest writers in the game have written one or two. Elmore Leonard started on them. Stephen King has dabbled with The Dark Tower series while Larry McMurty made a career from westerns. There ain’t a soul alive who’ll tell you McMurty can’t write. Jim Thompson had his toes in the western water, and there’s this dude who’s a master called Joe Lansdale who knows a thing or two about some cowboy business. Trust me on this, westerns are cool.
But, it’s in the heart of the western that the genre is so appealing, at least, to me: you gotta be a bad, bad hombre to handle the violent world of the wild west. The west was hard. People ate bears and horses. Folks slept near outhouses and pissed in pots. They wore wool everything. (Seriously, Texas in August and wearing wool? No bueno, compadre.) If you spit on a dude’s shoe, it was likely you were gonna, at least, get into a brawl where homeboy could cut your ear off and keep it. And we’re not even getting into the whole shoot em’ up thing, either.
But what makes the genre timeless is precisely all of that – the bravado, the bravery, the wildness and oneness of creating your world by bullets, with or without your hands. There’s an inherent love of the West in American culture – it’s a big piece of the fabric of who we are as a people. Many of us will never visit Tombstone, but the ghosts of the past forever intrigue us – from Miami to Seattle.
When I set out to write my novel, The Red Seven. I thought about the genre, how it wasn’t cool. No one I knew was writing westerns. To most people, the genre comes off as something old dudes in dusters cling to or women in denim skirts and chunky Navajo jewelry love. And those stereotypes suck. I wanted to write a story that dabbled in the elements of southern gothic but was raw. I wanted to write something that felt like a Tarantino movie but read like Cormac McCarthy’s little brother. Lofty goals, I know. I ain’t saying I accomplished my goals, but I sure as hell tried to write something honest.
There’s another misnomer that westerns are predictable, which also sucks as the genre should be as multi-layered as its cousins in mystery and noir. There’s plenty of room for crime and violence – just replace the cars for horses. In the current social landscape, people go to jail. In the west, folks could blast their way out of town and never be seen again. The stories allow for complexity, it’s just how bad you want to tell what happened.
So, I guess this is a call to other writers – consider the western genre. There’s a lot to love. There’s plenty to work with, and there’s a culture that’s ripe for the taking. Get on that horse, hombre. Let's ride.
You can get Robert Dean's The Red Seven here.
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