Mean Pete--Head Honcho of Mean Pete Publishing

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

MR. ANDERSON--A FILM TREATMENT


This is a treatment for a movie I wrote recently. It's the sort of movie Clint Eastwood used to make back in the 70's and 80's, the kind of movie John Milius or another of my favorite screenwriter/directors, Charles B. Pierce, would also make back then--with Arnold Schwarzenegger or Burt Reynolds. It's the kind of movie that could be made today with any number of younger talent, including one of my favorites, Ryan Gosling or, heaven forbid, Brad Pitt!

I thought I'd post it here and see if it catches anyone's eye. I figure it's better than sending it out snail-mail to all the studios…or playing the lottery…. 


MR. ANDERSON—FILM TREATMENT

“His son was all he had
and they framed him for murder.
Big mistake...”

By Peter Brandvold


That’s the name of a website that distributes free amateur porn on the Internet.  Anyone can play. 

This is the story of a beautiful young college woman who gets involved with this site and about her young college boyfriend who becomes blamed for her murder.  It’s set in an affluent small city with a prestigious university boasting a Big Ten football team nestled in the eastern Rockies north of Denver, Colorado.  I’m thinking Boulder--Jonbenet Ramsay country--but let’s call it Mount Evans. 

That stately, snow-mantled peak watches over this picturesque city along the Big Thompson River.

The young woman, Blaire Reynolds, is found dead in her condo overlooking the river.  Beaten to death.  The last one seen with the girl at a college hangout where both appeared drunk and were arguing is Danny Anderson, a star Grizzlies linebacker. 

Danny’s a big, good-looking kid from a farm in North Dakota, affable in a toothy Midwestern way but whose on-and-off relationship with the capricious Blaire has caused him to drink too much and get into fights, which is very uncharacteristic of this kid who everyone endearingly calls “Plowboy.”

And now Blaire’s dead--both eyes swollen shut, dislocated jaw, severe trauma to the brain--and the cops find Danny passed out in his frat with a bloody towel on the floor, his bloody shoes on the floor, even blood under Danny’s fingernails.  His knuckles are scraped and swollen, as though he punched a door and maybe a face.

His blood alcohol level is over the top.

The cops discover that Danny’s towel and shoes are covered with Blaire’s blood.  And since he was the last one seen with her, and they were arguing, and he was seen punching the door of her car as she was leaving the Blue Boar and trying to get away from him…

Danny goes to jail.

His father, Dave Anderson, from Limon, North Dakota--a farm-tough, no-nonsense, square-jawed guy--mid-30’s to late-40’s--drives out to Mount Evans to find out what has gone so very wrong in Danny’s life.  Wearing his traditional soiled feed cap, Dave pulls into this politically liberal, moneyed town in his muddy Ford F250 truck with a Winchester racked in his back window, and his scruffy blue heeler, Hank, sitting the passenger seat like a “Montana date.” 

Dave doesn’t believe that his son could have killed this girl.  But after talking to the cops and his son’s friends, and the people who were in the bar that night, he begins to believe it’s true. 

He doesn’t have money for a lawyer.  Danny was attending the U on a full football scholarship.  The bank is about to foreclose on Dave’s farm.  His beloved wife and Danny’s mother, Denise, died last year when a bridge went out on their county road, and Dave blames himself because when he drove out looking for her, when she hadn’t shown up at the bowling alley she worked part-time at, he drove his car into the same wash in which Denise lay dying, landing atop her car and, possibly--though he doesn’t know for certain--killing her.

Blaire Reynolds was a California girl.  Her father is a wealthy film producer, her mother a socialite.  Her parents drive out to Mount Evans to make sure the district attorney punishes Danny to the nth letter of the law and then some.  CNN gets wind of this high-profile murder in the same town in which Jonbenet died and Robert Redford’s daughter’s boyfriend was also killed, where Mork and Mindy was set…this beautiful, troubled place…and it becomes a big media event.    

Anderson Cooper is here.  Bill Maher.  Oprah--“how do we protect our young women when we send them off to college with thugs?” 

The president of the college, Don Christopher, is interviewed over and over.  We see him and his smiling, well-groomed wife, Georgia, on one show after another assuring everyone that “Plowboy” will be severely punished, that his university does not condone violence against women. 

The court appoints an attorney for Danny. 

He and his dad are in a tight spot, but Danny insists he’s innocent though he hasn’t a inkling about who could have killed Blaire.  He and Blaire had been fighting because she kept wanting to breakup and get back together, and she’d been taking more and more pills and seeing other guys, and it was driving him nuts.  He went to her apartment that night to make amends, and that’s when he found her.  He panicked.  He ran… 

Dave believes Danny because he wants to believe him…he’s his only son, for chrissakes, and Danny wouldn’t do this…and Dave sets out to find out what really happened that night. 

He tries to talk to President Christopher, see if he can’t get help with an attorney, but he’s escorted from the campus by the campus police.  It’s not politically correct to be seen with Farmer Dave, as the media dubs this cap-wearing, rifle-wielding yahoo, and President Christopher might run for the state senate next year.

What Dave does manage to find out in his fumbling, amateurish fashion, with the scruffy Hank at his side (the unheeled heeler offends the sensibilities of the town’s rich yuppies and wealthy hippies here to attend a prominent Buddhist academy) and his beatup pickup always in the background of this “green” little city, is that Blaire and two other young women had a scheme going where they taped movies of themselves fucking their teachers.

If the teachers didn’t cough up a few thousand dollars, or good grades, the movies would hit the website PORNAGE.  Dave runs down one of the teachers, but not before the man falls to his death in a rock-climbing accident. 

The other two girls gave up the scheme, because they’d both been threatened by the men they’d tried to blackmail, but Blaire had discovered she had a flare for this sort of work, and became addicted to the adrenaline rush of the danger…and kept pulling these stunts until she decided to set her sites on the biggest game of all--President Don Christopher himself.

Dave learns this from one of the other two blackmailers--Tiffany Thomas.  Tiffany is scared because someone’s been following her lately, so Dave has a rough time pulling the information out of her, and just before she’s about to hand over a flash drive that she insists will clear Danny’s name, she dies in a kayaking accident on the Big Thompson.

When Dave is on his way to visit the other girl, Angie Mason, who lives in a sprawling Spanish-style casa in the mountains above town, his old truck gets a bad case of low brake-fluid, and he puts the F250 in the river.  He saves his dog, however.  And his rifle.

Time to go huntin’…    

He kills the two men who’d been tailing him to make sure his brakes failed, and then he climbs the mountain to see Angie Mason.  Angie reluctantly shows Dave how the blackmailing scheme went down right there in her own house.  Angie’s parents were always running off to Tibet to study with their Buddhist monk gurus, so she pretty much had the house to herself.  She shows how the hidden cameras worked, and then how the taped “sessions” showed up on the website.  Dave is shocked to see his own son there, with Blaire.  As if making love isn’t real enough, exciting enough unless it’s made public, for all to see... 

Angie confessed to Dave that she has a copy of the flash drive--Tiffany copied it because she knew she was being watched.  Angie slips it into her computer…and Dave sees Blaire and President Christopher…and President Christopher’s wife, the well-bred Georgia, in compromising positions while moaning and groaning with this beautiful young woman.

The windows of Angie’s grand house shatter in a hail of machine-gun fire.  Dave and Angie escape through an old mine shaft on the property, and climb down a dangerous rock wall.  Dave with Hank and Angie’s help kill the gunmen after a long, hard battle--the would-be assassins are three campus cops who Dave had seen around the college--and he and Angie reach town just in time to sit in on Anderson Cooper’s on-campus taping of his interview with the President and Mrs. Christopher. 

Dave tries to break in and tell the true story, but he is wrestled down by other campus cops and hauled off to jail.  Angie slips away.  Meanwhile, Anderson Cooper’s taping is interrupted by one of his producers alerting him to a video now being shown all over the Net--a tape showing the Christophers and Blaire on a giant bed in a large room appointed in the Spanish style, the wind rustling gauzy red drapes over the windows.

…And then a couple of campus cops beating the screaming Blaire to death in her dorm room before slipping out a window.

In real-time, we see the Christophers being hauled kicking and screaming off to jail while Blaire’s moneyed parents watch, shocked and horrified. 


Dave and Angie sit in the raucous stadium bleachers with Hank, cheering for Danny as “Plowboy” makes a fabulous, touchdown-saving tackle.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Excerpt from the New Cuno Massey .45-Caliber Book!

[This ebook original will be out by the first of next month...only from Mean Pete Press!]

A TENSE CONVERSATION

Jeston Taffly waved the pistol at the chair on the far side of the table. “Sit down.”
As Cuno stepped back toward the chair, Taffly grabbed his rifle off the table and leaned it against the wall by the door. Cuno sat down. Taffly set the bottle on the table and, keeping the pistol aimed at Cuno’s chest, he sat tensely down in the near chair.
His eyes were red-rimmed and rheumy. From the stench and the way he slurred his words, he’d been drinking all day.
Working up the courage to kill in cold blood.
“I figured I’d find you both here,” the man said when he’d taken another deep pull from the bottle. “Rode back to the ranch, she wasn’t there. Rode over here.”
“And then what were you going to do if you found us together? Shoot us?”
“Why not?”
“It wouldn’t change anything.”
Taffly took another pull from the bottle, wiped his mouth with the grimy sleeve of his jacket. “Maybe not. But it’d make me feel better.”
“She doesn’t love you. Seems to me you never gave her a chance to. You just moved into the house from the hired hand’s shack when her husband died, and started giving orders.”
“I took her husband’s place in that house, that’s true. If it wasn’t me, it would have have been someone else.” Taffly glared at Cuno from over the table, his pupils dilating visibly, ears turning red with mindless rage. “Now, what--you think you’re gonna move in and take over?”
Cuno laughed. Not so much because he found anything funny in Taffly’s words. He laughed at the man’s bitter nonsense.
“Don’t worry,” Cuno said, sitting back in his chair. “I don’t think she’s any happier with me than she is with you right now. Whatever happened between us is over.”
“Still leaves me out in the cold.”
“We’re all out in the cold. Why don’t you get up and ride on out of here, Taffly? So far, you don’t have any blood on your hands. Life is better that way, believe me. You can start again somewhere else. Fresh.”
“Nah.” Taffly shook his head and raised the cocked Schofield a little higher above the table. “I’m gonna kill you.”
“All right. Have it your way.”
Cuno had his hands on his knees. Now he slammed them up to the edge of the table, and, rising from his chair, lifted the table in front of him like a shield, pushing it back hard into Taffly.
The man screamed. The Schofield barked.
The slug plowed into a ceiling beam as Cuno continued to drive the table into Taffly. The man and his chair fell backward, hitting the floor with a thud.
Cuno saw the Schofield on the floor to his left. He kicked it away then tossed the overturned table aside.
Taffly lay writhing on the floor, raging, fresh blood oozing through the reopened cuts in his lips. Cuno straddled the man, grabbed him by his coat lapel, and hammered his face three times with resolute right jabs.
Taffly fell back against the floor, stunned.
“Have you had enough?” Cuno asked him.
Taffly shook the cobwebs from his head, and glared up at Cuno. “I’m gonna kill you if it’s the last thing I do!”
Cuno punched him again...again...and again.
Again, Taffly lay against the floor, blinking and groaning.
“How ‘bout now?”
Taffly threw his right hand out as though searching for the Schofield.
Cuno hit him again—this time with a left uppercut that drove the man’s head back hard against the floor. He was about to hit him again with the same fist, when Taffly, fear now sharp in his eyes, raised his hands in front of his face.
“Enough!” He was bleeding profusely from several lacerations, and his left eye was swelling. “Enough,” he wailed, shrinking back against the floor.
Cuno pulled the man to his feet and led him outside. Taffly was dragging the toes of his boots, arms hanging slack at his sides. He was only half conscious.
“Where’s your horse?”
“Wha—huh...?”
“Your horse?” Cuno said, louder. “Where is it?”
“B-back. Out back.”
“Let’s go find it.”
He led Taffly around the line shack and into the woods. The man was staggering, drunk and beaten half-senseless. Finally, Cuno saw the man’s horse. He helped Taffly into the saddle. The man groaned. Cuno gave him the bridle reins and then his hat, which he’d snatched off the line shack’s floor.
“There you go—put that on. I’m doing you a favor, Taffly. One that you’ll never have to repay. But don’t thank me. Just get the hell away from here. A dynamite keg is about to explode around Ocotillo. Believe me, you don’t want to be anywhere near when it does.”
Taffly looked around, his left eye swollen nearly shut. “Where...where in the hell am I supposed to go?”
“Anywhere but here.” Cuno slapped the rump of the man’s horse, watched it gallop east through the woods, heading toward the trail. “If I ever see you again—I mean ever—I’m going to kill you. No questions asked!”
The horse galloped through the trees, swerving around pockets of brush.
Gradually, the hoof thuds fell silent.
Taffly was gone.
Cuno went back into the line shack and loaded the Winchester for a ride to town.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Free From Amazon on Sunday and Monday!


“Brandvold has packed a lot into this relatively short, fast-moving novel, and it really kept me flipping the virtual pages. The action takes a while to get started, but once it does it’s full-throttle to the end and even more effective because of that buildup.”—James Reasoner, Rough Edges

Two men. One woman. A blistering love triangle that turns deadly at...

PARADOX FALLS

Meet Jake, David, and Ashley. They’re all good-looking and 30-something. They live in Colorado. They’re lifelong friends.

They’ve hiked the mountain trail to Paradox Falls regularly since they were teenagers.

David and Ashley are married...and wealthy.

Jake is married, as well...to Brenda. Jake is not nearly as wealthy as David and Ashley. Jake’s a struggling writer and part-time bar tender in Denver. He may or may not be in love with his wife.

Jake and Ashley had once been lovers. They were each other’s first love, in fact. But that was back in high school. Even so, their flame has never totally died.

That becomes obvious on the trail to Paradox Falls, when petty jealousies, old resentments, carnal passions and slow-burning insecurities...as well as a beautiful blond hiker named Jasmine and an old cowboy named Jerry who’s hunting a killer wielding a crossbow...churn into a lethal concoction resulting in crushed dreams and bloody murder...

***BEWARE: VIOLENCE, EXPLICIT SEX, STRONG LANGUAGE***

Plus a bonus horror short-story: “Johnny & Devlin Forever: Terror in the Piney Woods”


Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Solace of Remote Places


I've always loved living in remote places. This is an essay I wrote about one such place I lived around 25 years ago, with my then-wife Gena.

UP ON THE HI-LINE, MONTANA

The country house advertised in the newspaper turned out to be an old hired hand’s shack, a small gray stucco affair shaped like a barn. Weeds choked the yard and swallows’ nests lined the eaves, but the place had a big kitchen and a closet we could turn into a pantry. It offered free natural gas, fresh spring water, space for a garden, and a view of the Bear Paw Mountains crowning the southern horizon.
We moved in one dark night to the eerie cries of the cat living in the basement.
Though the place was more “country” than we’d expected, my wife and I were giddy with the prospect of starting a life together beyond the confines of the city. A few months earlier we were unmarried and trapped in the heart of Tucson, Arizona—poor graduate students teaching freshman composition for poverty pay and pounding out our master’s theses in a tiny, dark apartment with only an asthmatic swamp cooler to quell the desert heat.
Tired of the city, of the smell of scorched asphalt and of the perpetual batch of ungraded essays piled on the kitchen table, we plotted our escape on a big map taped to the wall. We were looking for the calmest, remotest place we could find. In August, we polished our theses, completed a six-week tour of summer school duty, loaded my pickup, Gena’s car, and a small U-Haul trailer, and climbed the map to the Hi-Line in Montana, where cool autumn breezes wafted over the stubble fields with the smell of wheat chaff.
Montana’s Hi-Line is the area lying north of the Missouri River and just this side of Canada—“the middle of nowhere” to most travelers passing through on their way to Glacier National Park. It hugs Highway 2 as well as the Burlington Northern tracks. High, rolling wheat country broken by small mountain ranges, it lacks the glamour and drama of the Rockies, which is why the Saabs and Four-Runners haven’t overrun the dirty, battered ranch trucks, and the Spandex and Birkenstock crowd hasn’t moved in with its gourmet coffee shops and New Age bookstores.
Which is why we settled here and I got a job teaching at the community college on the Rocky Boy Indian Reservation.
Not long after we’d moved in, a shaggy, burr-laden collie appeared in the yard, drinking from the leaky water hydrant. We figured he was a drop-off or had strayed from a nearby ranch, though no one claimed him and in time the crooked white stripe down his forehead became a permanent fixture under my pickup in the yard. Ol’ Shep we called him, and he led the way on every hike, a proud scout introducing us greenhorns to his native coulees and ravines that creased the prairie and to the creek curling through the distant breaks.
That first year it snowed before Halloween. One morning at dawn I sat by an upstairs window with a mug of coffee and the humming space heart, watching the cattle in the pasture gathered and waiting for the farmer, Hanson, to bring hay. Above them, the snow-covered mountains pinkened with first light.
The reservation lies in the heart of those mountains, and when I drove into them later that morning, plowing through drifts, the snow was deeper, the air bluer, the quiet even more dense. Wood smoke plumed from the clapboard shacks and webbed in the valleys between pine-covered ridges.
It was the smoke of pine and aspen gleaned from the drainages surrounding Mount Baldy. In the brush along the creek, an old man dusted snow from a sweat lodge and tended the fire where several stones heated. I remembered those seasonless Tucson years I woke mornings to the roar of traffic and the smell of car exhaust, and walked to school, sweating and tight with city nerves.
All winter, Chinooks blew the snow off between storms, but that spring the mountains around Upper Bear Paw Lake were dusted with what the Indians call the Going-Home Snow. I stood hip-deep in the black, numbing water, casting nymphs to cutthroat trout while noisy squadrons of Canada geese practiced liftoffs and landings nearby, and Chippewa-Crees preparing for their annual sun dance sang in the picnic shelter across the lake.
In May, our neighbor rototilled a garden for us, and our landlord worked in several tractor loads of manure from his feedlot. Gena and I planted Early Girl tomatoes and nearly everything else we thought would have a chance in these climes. We spent our mornings sipping coffee and pulling mallow before the sun became unbearable and the wind picked up. Mid-summer, the Early Girls resembled shrubs, the sunflowers grew heads the size of dinner plates, and the pumpkins climbed the barbed wire fence to hide in the pasture.
Wild berries were abundant in the country we hiked each day, so in July we scoured the ravines and coulees for juneberries and raspberries. When the chokecherries came ripe in September and we’d finished canning and freezing our garden harvest, we hiked in the mountains bright with turning aspens, filling milk cartons with the bitter chokecherries and with rosehips we dried for tea.
The ridges Ol’ Shep and I hiked above Miner’s Gulch were thick with mule deer, and we came upon elk scat in the tufts of sage above the timberline. Along the creek closer to home the chokecherries were even more plentiful than in the mountains. Gena and I filled several buckets and steamed up the kitchen making syrup and jelly. I brewed chokecherry wine, as well, and we used it to wash down venison and grouse on cold winter nights when the raw wind howled off the Bear Paws and across the stubble fields.
Midway through our third year on the Hi-Line now, we occasionally long for the bookstores and restaurants of a city, but we’re not going anywhere. Here, the deer outnumber the people and the water’s sweet. The pantry’s stocked and the freezer’s full. The land teems with new, little discoveries we need only hike the nearest draw to make.
A few days ago, for instance, I came upon the fox that lives in the coulee, sound asleep in the sun atop a haystack. Without discussing it at length or even thinking about it much, we’ve decided to stay.


 [Update: Gena and I remained on the Hi-Line for two more years. Then we moved to Minnesota where we lived a similar life on our own farm for seven more years, raising Shep’s and Miss Stella’s two pups, Buck and Thor, and a passel of chickens, ducks, geese, and turkeys. We moved to Colorado in 2002 and were divorced in 2007. We remain friends. Recently, I moved back to Minnesota with my rescue dog and best friend, Sydney.]

  

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Curtain Call: Fill a Stein and Grab a Bloody Haunch, and the Viking Cafe in Fergus Falls, Minnesota!



[Over the past couple of years, I've had tons of letters about this essay I wrote about fiction-writing. Even had a couple of college English professors write and tell me they sent it out to their students when they seem to need a fire under their asses!

The pic above is of the Viking Cafe here in the little western Minnesota town I've moved back to. I've been writing here and I'll probably do a lot more of it. This world-weary wayfarer has visited many an eatery across this great country, but the Viking is still my favorite of them all! And somehow I thought it was fitting to put the pic up here with this Viking-like yarn...]
FILL A STEIN AND GRAB A BLOODY HAUNCH!
A Fiction-Writing Primer
by Peter Brandvold
That, in a heraldic nutshell, is my approach to writing.

Simple as a Zen painting and elemental as a pissed-off bobcat.

In other words, when I pour that first cup of morning mud thick enough to float a lumber drey, wrestle onto the floor amongst my snarling curs, and pick up my Macbook Pro which I prop atop my knees while said curs cozy up against my ribs and growl themselves into rabbit-rending dreams--yes, I write on the floor, close to the beasts and cold, hard earth!--I do not pad meekly but bull headlong into that netherworld of my own fevered conjurings of wild-assed adventure.

I throw my head back and bellow as loudly as I can--albeit to myself, so as not to arouse the carrion-eaters--“FILL A STEIN, MERRY LISTENERS! PULL UP A COLD ROCK BY MY HOT FIRE, GRAB A BLOODY HAUNCH OF ROASTING VENISON, AND PRICK UP YOUR EARS FOR THE STORY I’M ABOUT TO SING!”

Unless you’re trying to be Agatha Christie, that’s really the only way to do it.

Why whimper? Whimpering writers cause whimpering readers.
Admittedly, as on most subjects, I have narrow views on writing and literature. I think a story, whether it be short or long, should be a little wild and scary, sort of like the tattooed, Harley-riding jake your parents live in dread of your sister marrying. It should blow some cigarette smoke in our faces, flex its ghastly biceps, make us gasp in shock and giggle in delighted horror at the cheerio it just spun in our driveways.

Not that good fiction--I ain’t so looney as to say I write anything close tolit-ra-chah--shouldn’t also be thoughtful and reflect on our place in the cold, lonely universe in which there may or may not be a god and a reason for our being here enduring all the bullshit.

But it should also entertain the bejesus out of us. Cause our hearts to race. Interrupt our sleep with bizarrely vivid dreams. It should cause us to daydream if for just a few minutes each week in our office cubicles of telling the boss to stick it in her ear, we’re joining a carnival.

As a writer of relatively “traditional”--I really hate that word, because I don’t see myself as traditional at all--westerns, I write to entertain. But I got into this racket after beating a circuitous path through several improbable canyons.

I grew up wanting to be the Hemingway of North Dakota. Or at least the John Updike of the Great Plains. I loved poetry, Tolstoy, and Guy de Maupaussant. I was an English major at the University of North Dakota and finagled a MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona with a passel of what one would call “literary” short stories.

They weren’t half bad, either. One was published in a university quarterly and even anthologized later, and though it first appeared nearly twenty-five years ago now, I’ve recently received letters about it.

I say they weren’t half-bad, but I don’t think I could revisit even the best of them now without falling asleep. And that’s how I feel about most of the mainstream literature, and even most of the genre fiction, sorry to say, that is published today. It puts me to sleep. And that’s a bad, bad thing.
Because writing--even literary writing--should entertain or at least send some blood to our organs.

As a wide-eyed young English major fresh off the lonely prairie and wanting to read and write adventurous things, tales that made me feel eager and vibrant, I found myself nodding off over most of the novels I was assigned in college.

There were many that I liked, even some that inspired me. Moby Dick and the old Icelandic sagas, for instance. (The first was a wonderful if sometimes slow-moving and overly detailed story of one man’s war against the universe; the latter yarns were, as Michael Dirda described them in his Barnes and Noble.com review of one of my old favorites, The Long Ships by Frans G. Bengtsson, “spaghetti westerns with swords--only more thrilling.”)

But so many more I slogged through, blubbering. You can take Faulkner and George Eliot, and throw them in the same river.

After reading reams of those colorless and only marginally meaningful stories in the “small” magazines, I was deluded into thinking that that was the kind of stuff I needed to write to be taken seriously. That good writing had to be slowly plotted, overly ponderous, filled with self-conscious devices, and downright boring.

I was among those who sneered at anything that smacked of unheeled entertainment. Even at those I’d grown up reading, those wonderful storytellers who’d first inspired me to spin my own yarns all those years ago on the prairie. Writers like Alexandre Dumas, Rafael Sabatini (Captain Blood!), Ray Bradbury (The Illustrated Man!), Jack Williamson, Leigh Brackett, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Max Brand, C.L. Moore, Robert E. Howard, H. Ryder Haggard, and countless others of the pulp variety.

Good, old-fashioned entertainment.

But wait a damn minute--isn’t that the stuff that inspired us to sing around our cave-mouth campfires all those eons ago in the first place?
Entertainment? The stuff that made us laugh, cry, scream, dribble down our legs? That set the boys wrestling, the damsels dancing, and the dogs howling?

Now, I’m not saying it all has to be pulp. Or that when I sit down on the floor with my savage woolies to write my own brand of western entertainment that I don’t try to include more than just thundering .45’s, bulging corsets, and fisticuffs.

Not at all.

I think a story should entertain first and foremost. But it should also cause us to reflect, however briefly and genuinely, without being maudlin, on what it’s like to be humans in a world that is largely unknown and unknowable to us, and filled with tragedy and suffering.

If we genre writers draw our characters well, make them more than just types, but give them flesh and blood and their own unique way of speaking and living and loving, and give a little voice now and then to our own cares, our own angst, then readers will naturally find the depth that is there in the yarn between the shootouts and mattress dances, the depth that reflects the writer and the larger world that we and our tales grow out of.

Writers who do that, specifically western writers who do that--are my favorites of the genre.

H.A. DeRosso does that. (Just read his novel .44 and his novella “The Bounty Hunter,” and tell me he doesn’t. Often, T.V. Olson does it, too.Others include Dean Owen, Merle Constiner, Donald Hamilton, Giles Lutz, and Giles Tippette. My good friend Kit Prate does that as well. See her wild and sexy Hot Night in Purgatory (as by Steve Travis) as well asJason Kilkenny’s Gun. You’ll never find more harrowing violence or deeper, more compelling western characters.

Jack Vance and C.L. Moore do that in western’s brother genre, science fiction.

What about Louis L’Amour?

Don’t care for the jake. He started out as a fair to middlin’ pulp writer and then, taking himself too seriously, became a pompous blowhard. Oh, he was all right when I was fresh from swaddling clothes and before I discovered better, more compelling western scribes like those I listed above, and Mickey Spillane.

But to me he’s the western equivalent of Agathie Christie. His heroes are wooden and sexless. His women are even more wooden and sexless. His plots are as bland as Bonanza, and they rely too heavily on coincidence and the infallibility and moral impeccability of his heroes.
And the biggest sin of all--they’re bloodless!

I like sex and violence in my yarns. Lots of it. Interspersed with the tender moments, mind you. But I like the stuff that makes my eyes pop and my loins happy. I’ll take a hearty dose in every chapter, please!
If I want to be put to sleep, I’ll take a pill.

That’s just who I am.

I’m sorry if I’ve offended you, caused you to shake your heads and stitch your brows in reproof. Or even to slam my books closed with the ear-splitting blam! of a .44 triggered in the tight confines of a whore’s crib.

No, I’m not.

Evoking a visceral response is what I set out to do. And I suggest that if you’re trying to write, you do the same thing.
Kick off your slippers and go barefoot. Add a little firewater to your mud.
Crowd in amongst the beasts and shout at the tops of your wicked lungs:
“FILL A STEIN AND GRAB A BLOODY HAUNCH!!”