Friday, November 25, 2011
The Inestimable, the Venerable Wayne Dundee
Okay, you can maybe estimate him but be careful with what you come up with because he's as big as an NFL lineman and while I have a feeling it takes a lot to get him fighting mad, I wouldn't want to find out in person. Wayne could do some damage. At least, that was my sense when we met for brews and Mexican food here in Fort Collins last summer. Fortunately, however, Wayne does most of his damage on the page. And I mean that in a good way. Like a sporting fighter, he saves his best blows for the ring.
I started with Wayne's first book, DISMAL RIVER (was happy to write a blurb for it), and I just finished HARD TRAIL TO SOCORRO. I'll be damned if it wasn't one of the two or three best western novels I've read this year. Not that I was all that surprised, because before Wayne started writing westerns he wrote some very well reviewed novels in the hard-boiled crime genre featuring his detective hero, Joe Hannibal, whom I understand has somewhat of a cult following among the genre's aficionados. While I haven't read any of those books yet, they're on my list.
For now, please take my advice. If you want to read a really terrific western novel, go over to Amazon or Smashwords or Barnes and Noble and download DISMAL RIVER and just keep on reading through all of Wayne's novels and stories so far, and you won't be disappointed. His work is classic in the best sense of the word, and by that I mean the characters and stories are incredibly rich, multi-dimensional, and satisfying, the way that RED RIVER or RIO BRAVO were. That said, Wayne's work moves with a contemporary narrative thrust and the smooth precision of a prose poet but with a rough, tough edge reminiscent of Mickey Spillane, whom I know Wayne admires.
It's a shame one of the larger New York houses hasn't picked up Wayne's westerns yet. Here's hoping they will soon and that Wayne keeps hammering out these terrific stories in his home in Ogallala, Nebraska--at one time one of the rowdiest of the old-time cowtowns. The genre needs all the good writers it can get.