Monday, June 9, 2014

Rustle Me Up a Couple of Western Yarns

I recently had a friend say, "The older I get, the more I find I'm starting to like country music."
A few years ago, I would have laughed at her for that statement, but The Boss and I found ourselves laughing with her, because strangely enough, we had both noticed that change in our tastes. I used to proudly say was, "The only thing I hate more than country music is LOUD country music!" I can no longer say that with any degree of honesty. 

The same goes for westerns. I hated westerns growing up. Friends used to watch reruns of The Lone Ranger, The Rifleman, etc. etc. Not me, I would have rather watched static than even 30 seconds of a western. I even avoided non-western John Wayne movies, just in case.

But eventually, I did watch one because it truly was the only thing on: "The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean" (Paul Newman, 1972). I actually liked it, but I considered it the exception - not the rule. Many years later I found myself watching "Once Upon a Time in the West" (Charles Bronson, 1968). Loved it, but again it was the exception, not the rule. That eventually gave way to "Unforgiven" (Clint Eastwood, 1992), "Quigley Down Under" (Tom Selleck, 1990), and finally, "The Quick and The Dead" (Sharon Stone, Gene Hackman, Russell Crowe, Leonardo DiCaprio, 1995).*

Hm.... somehow those pesky westerns snuck up me and the blasted things hooked me. Dagnabit!

At this point I decided I had to read a Western. I had to know one way or the other if, as a young impressionable kid, I had been too caught up in science fiction and fantasy to legitimately consider a western as something worthy of my time. Afterall, who wants dusty boots and cattle rustling when you can have either dragons and wizards or spaceships and lasers.

So now, the decision was.... what western to read? I could read Larry McMurtry's "Lonesome Dove" which won all sorts of awards, both as a book and as a made-for-TV movie, but that's a darn thick book and I wasn't sure I wanted to spend that much time finding out. So I decided to pick one of those thin, pocket-sized westerns off the rack at the local library, and to really play it safe, I chose one of the best-loved western writers of all time, Louis L'Amour. "Dark Canyon" seemed decent enough, so I checked it out, brought it home, and read it.
Did I like it? Darn tootin' I did.

So that confirmed it. Granted it was only one novel, but I had proven once and for all that the western genre was I could categorize as Enjoyable. I still haven't read a whole lot of them, but have picked up a few of William W. Johnstone (whom many considered L'Amour's replacement). I've also decided to read a few Tony Hillerman mysteries - no, they're not westerns, but they concern the modern Native Americans and their customs juxtaposed against the culture that invaded them. 
Lots of great reading ahead, so I supposed it's time to move along, stop writing and start reading.
Until Next Time...
Good, Bad, and Ugly Yours,
p.s. "The Rifleman" can now be seen on MeTV, and come to find out, The Boss has always liked that show, and recently managed to convert me. She also insists that one day I find the time to watch "Tombstone" (Kurt Russell, Val Kilmer, Sam Elliott, Bill Paxton, Powers Boothe, and Dana Delany, 1993) - says it's not half bad.

*If you ever get the chance, read about the making of Sam Raimi's "The Quick and The Dead" from Bruce Campbell's memoir "If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor". He tells a funny story about how Raimi convinced Gene Hackman to speak lines he didn't want to speak.

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