Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Interview with David Cranmer/Edward A. Grainger

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.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Lawrence Block and Ethan Iverson In Conversation

Ethan Iverson (of The Bad Plus) gives Lawrence Block the "blindfold test" over at Ethan's blog, Do the Math.

What exactly is "the blindfold test"? It's a jazz tradition where one listens to a record and discusses the music without knowing who is performing. Later, the musicians are revealed. Iverson adapts it to crime fiction and gives Block a number of opening chapters of novels without indication as to their titles or who wrote them. Block is as astute a reader and commentator as he is a writer, and the resulting conversation is a must-read for any lover of classic crime fiction.

I had the pleasure of transcribing the conversation, and it was a delightful experience. Thanks Ethan (and Vince) for letting me be involved!

Check out the conversation here!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Interview with Jason Starr on "The Pack"

Over at Spinetingler, I have an interview with Jason Starr about his new novel, The Pack.

Here is an excerpt:

Both The Pack and your previous novel, Panic Attack, had a lot to do with the financial and emotional pressures of the modern nuclear family, as opposed to the singles scene as presented in The Follower. Was this shift deliberate?

I wrote an earlier novel, Nothing Personal, which was also about a family with a kid, but I wanted to take The Pack in a different direction than my recent crime fiction. So, I was trying to move away from Panic Attack. After I wrote Lights Out, The Follower and Panic Attack all in order I wanted to do something a little different, more of a post-9/11 type of suspense novel where it starts off in the real world and where weirdness slowly intrudes, but with very real, viable characters. That’s what I was going for here. I don’t think I’m tying to write “family” novels, but I see that now that you point it out.

Like in many of your novels, New York City plays a crucial role in The Pack. How did you pick the locations?

I try to find the neighborhood that would be best to tell the story. So, for Simon, he starts out as a high-paid advertising executive, so I knew I had to put him in a somewhat affluent area. I chose 89th and Columbus because I used to live there on that corner, so I knew it very well from my own experience. On a side note, the building that Martin Scorsese filmed in Taxi Driver—where Robert DeNiro’s character lived and did the famous “You Talkin’ To Me?” scene—was on 89th and Columbus, the same corner where I lived, but it’s a different building now. It was a tenement, but it was torn down. The condo where I lived there in my 20s is still there. So, I knew the building very well. I’ve done that before—I’ll choose a location because I have personally spent a lot of time there. It saves having to do research, but it also keeps it personal for me in my head. I felt like I wanted the reader to identify with Simon, and I wanted to pretend I was like Simon in that situation, so thinking in an area that’s familiar to me helped me accomplish that as a writer.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

First Lines: Fredric Brown

All it takes is one sentence to transport you into the world of Fredric Brown.

His voice is as distinctive as his plots and his characters. In many ways, even when he is using a third-person narrator, it seems as though his voice is, in fact, a character in the story. Brown is omnipresent throughout his works, from first sentence to last. But, in this post, it is only the first sentences I am concerned with.

Below are the first sentences to each of his novels that were published during his lifetime. Both mystery and sci-fi are included, as is his novella, The Case of the Dancing Sandwiches. I include that only because it was published individually by Dell, the way a novel would have been. Plus, it is a great title, and the opening line is pretty spectacular.

Reading through these, there are a few recognizable traits that are characteristically Brown. First is his pacing. His books begin the way someone would tell a story orally, as though it was being told around a campfire, or as creepy bedtime story, and other times it reminds of a crazy adventure recounted at the local pub. Sometimes it feels like all three of these at the same time. His Name Was Death is a perfect examples of this.

Another trait that should come as no surprise is Brown's humor. Look at his last published novel, Mrs. Murphy's Underpants -- would anyone else juxtapose a "broken rib" and a "broken trombone" right off the bat? Only Brown. Or how about the playful repetition at the start of The Wench is Dead: "A fuzz is a fuzz is a fuzz..."

And then there are the dark portents and sinister undercurrents that are never entirely absent from Brown's writing, even when he is cracking wise. The Dead Ringer, Compliments of a Fiend, and especially The Far Cry, are perfect examples of this.

Brown, at his best, is unpredictable. He'll take a story where no one else would dare to -- or even have a wild enough imagination to think of. The Screaming Mimi's opener, "You can never tell what a drunken Irishman will do," succinctly conveys this sense of limitless possibilities.

His first lines could be leisurely, such as the twisted Dickensian start to Here Comes a Candle, or they could be fast, hard and punchy, like The Lenient Beast ("Late this morning I found a dead man in my backyard") or Knock Three-One-Two ("He had a name, but it doesn't matter; call him the psycho").

As these opening lines suggest, there are many facets to Brown's style, but they all share one thing in common: they are all unmistakably the work of Fredric Brown.

Below are the lines, pasted first with high-quality scans from my own collection, and second with just the text.

First Lines: Fredric Brown (with cover scans)

"In my dream I was reaching right through the window of a hockshop."
-The Fabulous Clipjoint, 1947

"It didn't seem in the least like a prelude to murder."
-The Dead Ringer, 1948

"There are few streets in America down which a man wearing a mask can walk without attracting undue attention."
-Murder Can Be Fun (A Plot for Murder), 1948

"It was almost quitting time when my Uncle Am came into the back room of the Starlock Agency, where we both worked."
-The Bloody Moonlight, 1949

"You can never tell what a drunken Irishman will do."
-The Screaming Mimi, 1949

"The first attempt to send a rocket to the moon, in 1954, was a failure."
-What Mad Universe, 1949

"Uncle Am didn't get home that night."
-Compliments of a Fiend, 1950

"His name was Joe Bailey and the start of what happened to him was on a midsummer right in 1929 in a flat on Dearborn Street in Chicago, when he was pushed and pulled, head first, from a snug, warm, moist place where he had been quite content."
-Here Comes a Candle, 1950

"In my dream I was standing in the middle of Oak Street and it was dark night."
-Night of the Jabberwock, 1950

"It was hotter and muggier than most August days in Chicago."
-Death Has Many Doors, 1951

"Sudden terror in her eyes, Jenny backed away from the knife, her hand groping behind her for the knob of the kitchen door."
-The Far Cry, 1951

"It was an evening like any other evening--up to midnight, when the drinks began to sneak up on him."
-The Case of the Dancing Sandwiches, 1951

"The telephone directory had given me the address; it was an apartment building like any fairly new, medium-priced apartment building midway between downtown and the suburbs."
-We All Killed Grandma, 1952

"The Herald city room was hot enough to bake a cake, although it was only half past ten by the big electric clock on the wall."
-The Deep End, 1953

"Mack Irby stoke leaning on a heavy cane listening to grind of the talker for the unborn show."
-Madball, 1953

"I'd been intending to stay a few more days but, that afternoon, something changed my mind."
-The Lights in the Sky Are Stars, 1953

"Her name was Joyce Dugan, and at four o'clock on this February afternoon she had no remote thought that within the hour before closing time she was about to commit an act that wold instigate a chain of murders."
-His Name Was Death, 1954

"A fuzz is a fuzz is a fuzz when you waken from a wino jag."
-The Wench is Dead, 1955

"If the peoples of Earth were not prepared for the coming of the Martians, it was their own fault."
-Martians, Go Home, 1955

"Late this morning I found a dead man in my backyard."
-The Lenient Beast, 1956

"Call him by no name, for he had no name."
-Rogue in Space, 1957

"It was the first murder case I'd ever had a chance to work on, and I could easily have missed that chance if we'd know that it was a murder case when the call came in."
-One for the Road, 1958

"The office of Conger & Way was on the second floor of a building that once stood on Commerce Street in Cincinnati, not far from the then-famous Suspension Bridge that leads across the wide, muddy Ohio River to Covington, Kentucky."
-The Office, 1958

"He had a name, but it doesn't matter; call him the psycho."
-Knock Three-One-Two, 1959

"My uncle said, 'Gin, Ed,' and put down his cards."
-The Late Lamented, 1959

"I woke to darkness, with the shreds of a ridiculous dream keeping me from knowing what had awakened me or even who I was."
-The Murderers, 1961

"The Mind Thing used his preceptor sense to test this strange and alien environment in which he found himself."
-The Mind Thing, 1961

"Sitting there stunned, reading and rereading the kidnapper's ransom note in my own typewriter, all I could think of was, Oh God, oh God, why did this have to happen now, now when Ellen and I were in the midst of the worst quarrel we'd had in five years of marriage, now when, if I never saw her alive again I'd never be able to apologize for the horrible things I'd said to her at breakfast."
-Five-Day Nightmare, 1962

"I was lying on my bed that evening with a broken rib and a broken trombone."
-Mrs. Murphy's Underpants, 1963

First Lines: Fredric Brown (text only)

"In my dream I was reaching right through the window of a hockshop."
-The Fabulous Clipjoint, 1947

"It didn't seem in the least like a prelude to murder."
-The Dead Ringer, 1948

"There are few streets in America down which a man wearing a mask can walk without attracting undue attention."
-Murder Can Be Fun (A Plot for Murder), 1948

"It was almost quitting time when my Uncle Am came into the back room of the Starlock Agency, where we both worked."
-The Bloody Moonlight, 1949

"You can never tell what a drunken Irishman will do."
-The Screaming Mimi, 1949

"The first attempt to send a rocket to the moon, in 1954, was a failure."
-What Mad Universe, 1949

"Uncle Am didn't get home that night."
-Compliments of a Fiend, 1950

"His name was Joe Bailey and the start of what happened to him was on a midsummer right in 1929 in a flat on Dearborn Street in Chicago, when he was pushed and pulled, head first, from a snug, warm, moist place where he had been quite content."
-Here Comes a Candle, 1950

"In my dream I was standing in the middle of Oak Street and it was dark night."
-Night of the Jabberwock, 1950

"It was hotter and muggier than most August days in Chicago."
-Death Has Many Doors, 1951

"Sudden terror in her eyes, Jenny backed away from the knife, her hand groping behind her for the knob of the kitchen door."
-The Far Cry, 1951

"It was an evening like any other evening--up to midnight, when the drinks began to sneak up on him."
-The Case of the Dancing Sandwiches, 1951

"The telephone directory had given me the address; it was an apartment building like any fairly new, medium-priced apartment building midway between downtown and the suburbs."
-We All Killed Grandma, 1952

"The Herald city room was hot enough to bake a cake, although it was only half past ten by the big electric clock on the wall."
-The Deep End, 1953

"Mack Irby stoke leaning on a heavy cane listening to grind of the talker for the unborn show."
-Madball, 1953

"I'd been intending to stay a few more days but, that afternoon, something changed my mind."
-The Lights in the Sky Are Stars, 1953

"Her name was Joyce Dugan, and at four o'clock on this February afternoon she had no remote thought that within the hour before closing time she was about to commit an act that wold instigate a chain of murders."
-His Name Was Death, 1954

"A fuzz is a fuzz is a fuzz when you waken from a wino jag."
-The Wench is Dead, 1955

"If the peoples of Earth were not prepared for the coming of the Martians, it was their own fault."
-Martians, Go Home, 1955

"Late this morning I found a dead man in my backyard."
-The Lenient Beast, 1956

"Call him by no name, for he had no name."
-Rogue in Space, 1957

"It was the first murder case I'd ever had a chance to work on, and I could easily have missed that chance if we'd know that it was a murder case when the call came in."
-One for the Road, 1958

"The office of Conger & Way was on the second floor of a building that once stood on Commerce Street in Cincinnati, not far from the then-famous Suspension Bridge that leads across the wide, muddy Ohio River to Covington, Kentucky."
-The Office, 1958

"He had a name, but it doesn't matter; call him the psycho."
-Knock Three-One-Two, 1959

"My uncle said, 'Gin, Ed,' and put down his cards."
-The Late Lamented, 1959

"I woke to darkness, with the shreds of a ridiculous dream keeping me from knowing what had awakened me or even who I was."
-The Murderers, 1961

"The Mind Thing used his preceptor sense to test this strange and alien environment in which he found himself."
-The Mind Thing, 1961

"Sitting there stunned, reading and rereading the kidnapper's ransom note in my own typewriter, all I could think of was, Oh God, oh God, why did this have to happen now, now when Ellen and I were in the midst of the worst quarrel we'd had in five years of marriage, now when, if I never saw her alive again I'd never be able to apologize for the horrible things I'd said to her at breakfast."
-Five-Day Nightmare, 1962

"I was lying on my bed that evening with a broken rib and a broken trombone."
-Mrs. Murphy's Underpants, 1963

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Parrot Noir in Brooklyn

Yesterday, I went on a Wild Parrot Safari in Brooklyn with fellow NoirCon vets Jeff Wong and Margery Budoff. Little did I realize that I was going to be learning about a little known piece of Brooklyn history that could be called "Parrot Noir." Turns out that back in the 1960s, while the mob was opening crates at the airport that just happened to "fall off the truck," someone accidentally opened a crate of parrots from Argentina. The birds flew away and the mob covered up the incident. Over half a century later, the parrots still call Brooklyn their home.

The tour was given by Steve Baldwin, who apparently gives the tour every month. You can follow his adventures at Brooklyn Parrots.


A number of the birds have made nests in the light fixtures at a local sports field. The nests supposedly weigh over 200 pounds!


It is interesting to see how the parrots have adapted their survival instincts to the urban environment. The parrots stay mainly near the grass, where they blend in. I'm assuming this is to camouflage themselves from their main predator, hawks.



They also have made a nest in a nearby tree. I was asked not to disclose the location because, in the past, there have been poachers who have robbed the nests to sell the birds to local pet stores illegally.
The parrot up top was apparently sentry, and he watched us all very carefully when we were around. The bird on the bottom was flying around and brought back twigs and leaves to work on the nest.
Looks like the parrots are just like most everyone else in NY. They're not from around here, and they're doing what they can do everyday to get by and figure out how to call NY their home. Fifty years and running, looks like they're doing a pretty good job.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

"Gun Down" by Brian Garfield (Dell, 1971)

Gun Down isn’t a fond farewell to the bygone days of the Wild West – it’s a violent, bloody eulogy belted out by two hardcases who don’t have a place in the modern world and who refuse to go out quietly. The time is 1913, and the place is Gila Bend, a town in southern Arizona. Law and order have tamed the frontier, and modernity has given people not just trains, but also automobiles, telephones, movies, and there’s even talk about airplanes. But two men are about to give the locals a taste of the old days that they won’t soon forget.

As the book begins, Zach Provo, a half-Navajo outlaw who has spent most of his life behind bars, leads a daring escape from Yuma Penitentiary. After killing the guards and taking their guns, he takes a crew of eight other inmates across the state to Gila Bend to exact retribution on the man who arrested him decades ago. That man is Sam Burgade, a legendary lawman and railroad detective whom time has passed by. Now that he is white haired and retired, Gila Bend sees little use for the likes of Burgade. But when Provo and his gang rob the town and kidnap Burgade’s daughter, it is Burgade who straps on his old gunbelt and leads the posse across the desert in pursuit of the outlaws.

Brian Garfield’s prose is as tight as a fist, and the story as forceful and raw as a punch from a desperate man. Gun Down is a tough Western, dark and unsentimental as only Garfield could write. It’s a work of subtle but masterful craftsmanship.

In Garfield’s “Ten Rules for Suspense Fiction,” the first rule is “Start with action; explain it later.” Gun Down is a perfect example of this. The first sentence of the book shows Provo smashing a prison guard’s head with a rock. As Provo and the rest of the chain gang make their escape, you learn about the time, the place, the characters, and their plan. Why waste time with exposition when you can hook readers with action and make them immediately invested in what is happening now, as well as what is going to happen next? That’s a hell of a lot more effective than wasting a few pages on setting and atmosphere.

Garfield’s characters are never your run-of-the-mill genre types. Burgade is distinct from a lot of other Western sheriffs. He's not a superhero or a one-man army, and his fatigue that comes from years of fighting is palpable. He knows that he’s from a different era and all he wants is to show the world that he’s not useless. At first, it isn’t outrage or injustice that makes him want to hunt Provo, it is opportunity.
“Burgade didn’t hate Zach Provo; he didn’t really care one way or the other about Provo. It was only that Provo gave him something else to think about besides lonely old age.

I hope they don’t get him before I get a crack at him.”
That last line, which Garfield himself put in italics, is the first sign of Burgade’s darker side, of his relentless drive and capacity for unmerciful violence. “Inside Burgade, a hard knot grew, a pain of ugly lust that demanded violence—deeper, stronger than the will to live.” It’s not that he’s a bad guy, but that what made him so good at his job as a lawman was the capacity to think—and act—like the men he was hunting down. “Burgade knew the rage that burned in Provo. It was no more savage than his own.” In this way, Sam Burgade is a cousin to Garfield’s Death Wish and Death Sentence protagonist Paul Benjamin, who draws crime to him by preempting the criminals’ thoughts and actions.

Burgade’s pursuit leads the posse across territorial boundaries, and one by one the lawmen have to head back home. The final showdown is on a Navajo Reservation, a significant choice for a couple of reasons. One is that Burgade has no legal jurisdiction there, and he is more of an outlaw on those lands than Provo. This allows the two rivals to face off against each other on equal terms. It also brings the conflict beyond the bounds of law and order, and reveals the bare emotions that are driving the characters. Provo and Burgade’s impassioned vengeance is beyond reason, and beyond repair. Provo will never get his lost decades back, nor can Burgade undo the vicious rape that his daughter suffered. Burgade had nothing to gain by setting a trap for Provo (before his daughter was kidnapped, that is) and Provo had nothing to gain by raiding the town. Perversely, their self-destructive impulses only drive them harder.

Burgade and Provo may be smart, but they're not above reproach--or failure. They each spend a lot of time instructing their respective followers what the strategy is, or how to outwit their opponents, but things don't always go according to plan. Garfield keeps the plot dynamic by allowing his protagonists to make mistakes or to have their plans derailed by arrogance or accident. Burgade and Provo spend so much time second guessing one another that their larger goals become obscured by this contest of mental strategy and one-upmanship. They jeopardize the things they hold dear: Burgade his daughter, and Provo his freedom. Their respective failures amplifies the sense of risk, and it makes their determination to succeed--at any cost--all the more real.

Garfield also divests the Western of traditional honor and heroism. As the hunt continues, Burgade begins to have serious doubts about himself, his capabilities, and his mission. He calls it “a cheap poetic fantasy” and “an old man’s pathetic dream.” When he first heard about Provo’s breakout, he foolhardily set a trap for the outlaw that practically invited his daughter’s capture; and later he stubbornly refused to wait for help from the proper authorities. His recklessness is reprehensible, but it is also completely relatable. He’s driven by emotion, not pragmatism. There is reason behind his actions, but it is the rationale of a desperate man, tired from life, and sick from what he has seen and done.

This passage captures Burgade’s pain, as well as Garfield’s exquisite prose:
“He was old, he was dead tired, and it took him four or five minutes standing there in the silence to figure out what thirty years ago he’d have done instinctively. It left him profoundly depressed, more so than before, because now for the first time he felt the crawl of uncertainty in him as his self-confidence, which was the one thing that had kept him going, began to drain. He had pumped himself full of arrogance: now all of a sudden he was allowing himself to realize how poor his chances really were—of getting near Provo at all, of getting Susan away, of even staying alive through the next six hours.”
Gun Down is full of hard-lived poetry, and Garfield doesn’t flinch at the violent things that people do to each other and to themselves.

But amidst this harsh, action-packed story, there is some really beautiful writing. Take this passage, for example:
“Burgade’s posse left Winslow at a canter, steel-shod hoofs drumming in the starlight, along the right bank of the Little Colorado River toward the Navajo desert. It was just ten or twelve miles west of here that Provo had robbed the Santa Fe train twenty-eight years ago.”
The cadence and phrasing of the first sentence is so subtle, so well-timed and vividly described. What follows is a stark contrast in tone and meaning: the poetic imagery of the first sentence is juxtaposed with the matter-of-fact tone of the second. Garfield shows such restraint as he reveals to us the inciting incident for the whole story: the very location where Provo robbed a train and blew up several innocent civilians decades before. The fusion of the two sentences also captures one of the marvelous capacities of the West: the inexorable union of poetry and history, of lyricism and violence.

Originally published by Dell in 1971, Gun Down was turned into a movie in 1976 called The Last Hard Men. It was directed by Andrew McLaglen, a one-time assistant to John Ford, and the movie starred Charlton Heston as Burgade and James Coburn as Provo. I haven’t watched the movie yet, but when I do I will report back on it.

Three more of Garfield’s Westerns came in the mail since I started reading Gun Down. I know what I’ll be reading the rest of this weekend.

Gun Down is another tour-de-force Western from one of its best writers, Brian Garfield. Highly recommended if you haven’t already had the pleasure of reading it.
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