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.
Wayne Dundee has written some of the best western novels around.  Some of the best stuff I've read by anyone at any time, and I couldn't recommend him more highly.  Most of you reading this probably already know Wayne's stuff.  Or maybe you've read James Reasoner's reviews of Wayne's books and stories on his Rough Edges blog.  I agree with everything James said and won't try to compete with his eloquence.
Let me just say that Wayne Dundee is the real thing.  He writes novels the way Howard Hawks once directed films.  By that I don't mean he's old-fashioned at all.  His stories are colorful and eloquent, and while they're not always packed with action (though there is plenty of action and some tastefully rendered sex), the characters and situations leap right off the page the way Hawks's leaped off the screen.

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.


  1. Wow, I am humbled and honored by your kind words. They mean a great deal, especially coming from someone whose own work I enjoy and admire so much.
    Ironically, only a couple of hours after you posted this (and before I read it), I posted on my blog a mention/review of your novella GHOST COLTS, which I found to be terrific.
    Jeez, with all this mutual admiration flying back and forth, folks are gonna think we're engaged or something ...
    Too bad. I like your work --- have since long before I ever met you --- and am pleased and proud that you like mine.
    Thanks again, I really appreciate it.

  2. Right back at you, pal. I appreciate your generous comments on Ghost Colts. And no, we're not engaged. But only because Wayne couldn't find a rock big enough in Nebraska to suit me!