Friday, March 9, 2012
Ben Stillman Rides Again!
Fifteen freakin' years ago.
The "old" lawman in it is 43--which was old in the 1870's, when the book is set--and I remember when writing it, when I was 33, that 43 seemed old even to me but I was feeling it slipping up on me fast so I could imagine how it would be. Even for a lawman back in the 1870's.
Now I'm six years older than the old lawdog the book features, Ben Stillman, and it really did slip up on me fast, as it slipped up on Ben. At least, unlike Ben, I was not shot in the back by accident by a drunk whore and was forced to retire my badge. But then I'm also not married to a ravishing French beauty like the one Ben Stillman is, too, the old dawg.
At least, I haven't been shot by a drunk whore yet. Keep your fingers crossed for me, will you?
Anyway, I finally got this sucker back in print, and it's on sale for 2.99 at Amazon and should be on the cyber racks at B&N soon, too, though they seem to be dragging their feet on it. I had to scan and reformat an old, beat-up copy of the book that I had to buy on-line because after scouring my bear den I discovered that I had no copies left anywhere. I'd saved it to a floppy disk--remember those?--that has long since disappeared and wouldn't do me any good, anyway, because I don't have a computer that could read it.
While doing all that, and rereading the book, I kept thinking, damn, I wonder if my current books are as good as this one is. I worked really hard on ONCE A MARSHAL. I was obsessed. I couldn't let it go, wrote a lot of it during my "office hours" at Stone Child College on the Rocky Boy Indian Reservation in Montana. (I'd often lock the door--hee-hee.) It was frustrating, of course, because it was my first novel and while I'd taken creative writing classes, I realized that the only way to really learn how to write was to write and read and write and read some more and beat your brains out till you're sure it works.
I'd be hard-pressed to define "works." You just know.
I did a lot of howling while writing this one. My wife, Gena, edited it, and she really made me toe the line, because she knew what good writing was and she didn't give me a break on it though I remember several times nearing Jack Nicholson moments when I wanted to reach for an axe.
But I got her done without the cops visiting the house even once, and I was and am damn proud of it. I knew what kind of a western I wanted to write, after growing up reading Louis L'Amour and Max Brand and Frank Gruber and watching GUNSMOKE and LANCER and HIGH CHAPARRAL and all those great Sergio Leoni and Sergio Corbucci movies as well as the hilarious Trinity movies with Terrence Hill and Bud Spencer. And I have to mention the great RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY, as well. (That last scene still leaves me mewling...)
That great cover above was made by my good friend and writer, Livia Reasoner. The pic below is the Berkley cover, which I also like a lot and can remember all the slow months I had it hanging on the fridge during the long, excruciating wait for the book to come out.
Anyway, throw my dogs a bone, will ya?
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