David Cranmer is a busy guy, and I for one am glad to hear it. That’s what all good writers should be – keeping busy, writing up a storm, honing their craft. But, lately, Cranmer seems to be even busier than ever. In between penning stories for Needle, Crimefactory, and a host of other publications, he runs the blog The Education of a Pulp Writer, and he’s also the editor of the webzine Beat to a Pulp. On top of that, he’s working on putting out a second BTAP print anthology, and has several other book projects in the works. And now his first solo collection of Western stories has just appeared as an eBook under the pen-name Edward A. Grainger. The book is called Adventures of Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles, and it collects seven adventures (two never before published) of these two US Marshals who patrol the Old West. The stories aren’t just about action, but about the ambiguous moral underpinnings of that violent, turbulent time period. Cranmer/Grainger brings a fresh voice to Western literature, and this is a remarkable collection. Thankfully, it is only the first of what will hopefully turn out to be several volumes in the Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles saga.
On the occasion of the book’s release, David took the time to answer some questions for Pulp Serenade.
Pulp Serenade: What was the genesis for Cash and Miles’ characters?
David Cranmer: I thought I could write a Longarm novel like James Reasoner. He makes it look effortless and I figured I should be able to do that. Dumb. Halfway through the rough draft, I laughed at how bad my story was. The biggest hurdle was writing the lone protagonist. My heart wasn’t in it and it showed. I was frustrated. Cash Laramie whispered over my shoulder, “Ready to tell my story? It’s a doozy.” Sounds weird, I know, but this white guy reared by Native Americans just flowed onto the laptop screen. I couldn’t get all the details down fast enough. That was over two years ago and he is still bothering me with new adventures.
Gideon Miles was a more calculated addition. Two of my heroes from the real Old West are Wyatt Earp and Bass Reeves. Bass who? I know. Before I worked for a spell as a special deputy US Marshal, I had never heard of this African-American lawman. I hope someday he stands as tall in our consciousness as Wyatt and Wild Bill. I modeled Miles after Reeves, figuring what better partner for an outsider like Cash to have than the ultimate unsung hero of the 19th century.
PS: How has developing series characters been different for you as a writer? What are the challenges and rewards that you’ve found?
DC: I enjoy watching these characters grow. I don’t push it and don’t sit down at the keyboard saying let's write a Cash & Miles adventure today. They just happen and that's unlike anything else I’ve written. Do I daresay, magic? Details reveal themselves in the series like secondary characters, history etc. It's fascinating to watch them unfold. That's something I don’t get when writing standalones.
PS: You mentioned on your blog that most of the stories take place in the 1880s. With all the history of the West out there, how did you choose the time period and locations for Cash and Miles’ adventures?
DC: I always loved the clash that was happening during this period in our history, with the old was giving way to the new in the wake of the industrial revolution. In the middle of all this rode knights like Bass, Wyatt, and Bat Masterson delivering justice from a horse with a six-gun.
PS: What’s the most fun part about writing Westerns? How about the biggest challenge?
DC: I love western mythology and have been itching to add a few stories of mine own to the genre. The biggest thrill is contributing to a genre I have a deep respect for. Hardest part? The time it takes trying to stay as close to the facts as possible. Westerns take a lot of research for the smallest of details.
PS: A lot of people I talk to have never read a Western. What would you recommend them to start with?
DC: Any Ed Gorman noir western. He is one our finest writers and the perfect balance between the crime and western world.
PS: This is the first Cash and Miles book…please say it won’t be the last!?
DC: There will be another eBook collection but the big news is I’m working closely with a western author on the first full-length novel that will be published in 2012. I’m not a novelist—yet—but wanted to start a series of these Cash and Miles with authors I know can deliver the noir punch. There will be more details in the coming months.
PS: To change gears a bit…you’ve announced BTAP “Round 2.” Any word when it will be out in print?
DC: I’m shooting for November or December. We have a helluva line up with Vin Packer, Vicki Hendricks, Bill Pronzini, and Anthony Neil Smith to name a few. James O’Barr will be back to do the cover art. And Matthew P. Mayo has the co-editing gig.
PS: When BTAP started in 2008, did you think it would still be going strong in 2011?
DC: I knew we'd still be going because I’m a long distance runner and I love the work. As long as there's just one other person who enjoys what we're doing, I’m in it for the long haul.
PS: BTAP is 2 ½ years old. 2 ½ years from now, where would you ideally like to see BTAP?
DC: As famous as Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. (Insert smiley face here.)
PS: Between ebooks, ezines, and ereaders, people are spouting predictions left and right about what the future will look like. I’m more interested in the present. What things are happening right now that you are most excited and most worried about?
DC: That, perhaps, there is too much to read. Sound silly? I love all the webzine options. It seems everyday another zine is exploding across the net. This is a good thing and exciting! Realistically, though, how many stories can anyone read in a week? Thankfully, we have a supportive writing community, keeping up with us and leaving comments on stories. I also occasionally muse on how many non-writers are actually browsing our sites.