Monday, August 29, 2011

LONESOME DOVE - The Back Story

           Lonesome Dove: A Novel Right at the outset, let me say that all or much of the following may be old news to many of you reading this. If so, sorry to be wasting your time—as for me, I only recently learned these things and found them to be pretty fascinating. For those of you hearing about them here for the first time, hope you enjoy the info as well.

            LONESOME DOVE, as everybody knows, was a 1985 novel by Larry McMurtry that earned tons of critical acclaim and even went on to win that year's Pulitzer Prize for fiction. What I was surprised to learn—it was never acknowledged in the book nor anywhere else by McMurtry, as far as I can tell—was that the central theme of the book, the big cattle drive headed by Augustus McCrae and Woodrow Call, was largely based on the real-life experiences of Charles Goodnight and Oliver Loving.
I'd heard of the Goodnight-Loving Trail before but didn't really know much about the two men after whom it was named. Both were Civil War veterans. Goodnight was a Texas Ranger in the late 1850s. After the war, the two joined forces to round up herds of longhorn cattle that had been left to roam free, unattended, while the war was going on. There was need for beef in New Mexico and Colorado. The route that became famous as the Goodnight-Loving Trail was already known to some, but it was Goodnight and Loving who mapped and more clearly defined it. Goodnight even invented the "chuckwagon" for their initial drive. They made two drives without significant incident. On the third, however, they ran into trouble when Loving stirred up a band of Comanche and suffered severe wounds from which he eventually died after blood poisoning set in. Goodnight sat at his partner's bedside during the final days that he clung to life. And then, in answer to Loving's last wishes, Goodnight accompanied his body back for burial in Texas. For many years afterward, Goodnight kept a picture of Loving in his pocket and later had it framed and placed on his desk.
If you know the storyline of LONESOME DOVE then you see how closely it followed these events. Woodrow Call was patterned after Goodnight; Gus McCrae after Loving. Of course McMurtry wove a deep, rich tapestry of backgrounds and secondary characters and subplots around this thread of history and there surely is nothing wrong with fictionalizing and expounding upon factual occurrences, especially in the hands of someone as talented as Mr. McMurtry. I guess I'm just a little disappointed that Mc-Murtry didn't acknowledge the real history more openly. (And if he has —and I'm simply unaware of it—then my apologies all around.)
Now … Go back a little over ten years prior to LONESOME DOVE the book. In 1972, McMurtry originally penned the LD story as a screenplay for a theatrical movie to be called THE STREETS OF LAREDO. (Somewhat ironically, McMurtry would use this title later for a novel that was a sequel to DOVE—but the original STREETS screenplay was the cattle drive story.) At any rate, the screenplay fell into the hands of director Peter Bogdanovich who badly wanted to make the film. He pitched it to John Wayne, James Stewart, and Henry Fonda who were to play the parts, respectively, of Woodrow, Gus, and Jake Spoon. Stewart was keen to do it but Wayne had reservations, for whatever reasons. Eventually director John Ford convinced Wayne it was wrong for him and the whole thing fell apart.
Having watched the LONESOME DOVE TV miniseries nearly a dozen times, I've got to say it stands as damn near perfect. Hard to imagine anyone else playing the roles of Gus and Woodrow (and in subsequent attempts, where it was done, it didn't work nearly as well) and I don't know how it possibly could be improved upon. A big screen movie running only 2½ to 3 hours naturally would have had to cut out scenes and characters that made it to television so much of the depth and richness of the story surely would have been lost.
Still, I gotta admit … the imagination can't help but rev a bit at the thought of those wonderful old veterans—Duke, Jimmy, and Hank—in those key roles … man, wouldn't that have been something?

I'd love to hear what anybody else thinks …

Persevere — WD

Sunday, August 28, 2011


            I recently became part of a group of hardboiled crime/mystery writers calling ourselves the Hardboiled Collective. The formation of this group was the brain child of Dutch mystery writer Jochem Vandersteen. Other members include: Bill Crider, Paul Bishop, Timothy Hallinan, Zoe Sharp, Brian Drake, Mike Tucher, Steve Ulfelder, Matt Hilton, Paul D. Brazil, Tony Black, Bruce DeSilva, Chris Knopf, Keith Gilman, and Jaden D. Terrell. The purpose of this group is to support and help promote each other's works.
            If you aren't familiar with any of these bylines, then I urge you to correct that at your earliest convenience. All are fine writers and I guarantee your reading enjoyment will be increased by seeking out their work. You can find them via Google or Amazon, including Amazon's Listmania: Hardboiled Collective.
            The recent Kindle release of my Joe Hannibal novel , THE SKINTIGHT SHROUD, is currently receiving much-appreciated attention from members of the Hardboiled Collective on blogs, Twitter, and Facebook. Timothy Hallinan and Tony Black have also posted interviews with me on their blogs. You can check these out at: (8/28 post) and (8/28 post). Each man has his own interview style so the results are not redundant. I hope you will check them out and find them interesting. Please feel free to leave commentary.

Persevere — WD

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


            HELL ON WHEELS is one terrific Western yarn! It is the fourth and latest entry in the Rancho Diablo books and is a superlative addition to this already outstanding series.
            Sam Blaylock has fought hard to build a home where his family can finally settle down and that home has become the Rancho Diablo Ranch, a rugged slice of Texas just outside the town of Shooter's Cross. One of the key men who has always been at Sam's side during this struggle (as well as in the past) is young Mike Tucker. Despite his loyalty to Sam, Tucker is a man apart, a man with some parts of his past better left unknown. He's working hard to learn ranching ways and to settle down with the others at Rancho Diablo, but it remains an unavoidable fact that what he's best at is scouting and doing gun work. The latter is evident to everyone and it makes some folks nervous, even a little frightened. Among these is Sam's wife, Jenny, and the subject of Tucker has struck more than one discordant note between the pair. But Tucker's loyalty to Sam cuts both ways and the bond between the two men remains solid.
            In a series of escalating events (including the book's reader-grabbing opening scene) Tucker's gunslinging past draws increasing attention and increasing displeasure from Jenny. But then—while Sam is away on a bull-buying trip—a shocking event occurs: Miriam, Sam and Jenny's daughter, is kidnapped by a vicious gang of human traffickers who plan to take her, along with several other young women they have snatched from around Shooter's Cross, to sell down in Mexico. Jenny must turn to Tucker and urge him to call upon all the lethal skills that she had formerly disparaged in order to aid her in a desperate race against time to rescue her daughter.
            The journey will be both hard and dangerous. It will test the two unlikely partners and it will teach them things about themselves and also about one another that they never expected. In the end, the success of their mission will come down to whether or not their two iron wills can unify for the sake of what is at hand.
            If you're looking for gritty, authentic Western action with strong characterizations and top-notch writing (by Mel Odom this time out, alternating with James Reasoner and Bill Crider under the "house name" of Colby Jackson for this exciting series)—it don't get much better than this.
            Highly recommended.

Don't miss this one, gang.
Persevere --- WD

Monday, August 22, 2011

Noteworthy Reads: LITTLE ELVISES by Timothy Hallinan

            This is the second title in a new series by Edgar-nominee Hallinan, author of the acclaimed Poke Rafferty series (recipient of said Edgar nom) and also the Simeon Grist PI novels.
            The protagonist of LITTLE ELVISES is Junior Bender, first introduced in last year's CRASHED. Bender is a very successful burglar, having plied this trade since his late teens without ever being caught. He also has a sideline: He is a private eye … of sorts. The only clients he takes on, you see, are crooks. When someone does something crooked to a crook, the cops are hardly an option. That leaves Junior.
            This time out Junior is leveraged by a corrupt detective to go to the aid of an old record producer who, back in the Sixties, made a big name for himself by taking good-looking (though not necessarily talented) young men off the streets of Philadelphia and grooming them to become—for a few weeks, maybe a year tops—singing heartthrobs for idolizing teenaged girls … In other words, Elvis Presley knock-offs or "Little Elvises". This producer is now facing a murder charge for killing a sleazy journalist he had openly made threats against and it is Junior's job to try and uncover the real killer.
            There are subplots, plot twists, and colorful characters galore as Bender delves into the case. Junior himself is a very engaging character, a guy still in love with his ex wife and tortured by being separated from his 12-year-old daughter. But the real star here is Hallinan's writing; he is a skilled craftsman who does pathos, action, humor, and suspense with equal effectiveness, not to mention vividly painting scenes and characters. His dialogue crackles and the banter between characters is bound to make you smile and sometimes even laugh out loud.
            Junior Bender's world may not be a place where you'd want to live, but it sure is fun to read about and LITTLE ELVISES is a top-notch example.
Be sure to check out this and other works  by this fine author. You can learn more about him by visiting his web site at which also links to his blog.
Also of note is that Tim is the editor of an anthology titled SHAKEN: STORIES FOR JAPAN whose entire sales earnings  (even Amazon is foregoing its standard cut) go to the Japan Relief Fund. Those brave people still need all the help they can get so this is a way to enjoy some good reading and contribute to a good cause all at the same time.

Persevere --- WD

Friday, August 19, 2011

THE SKINTIGHT SHROUD - Now Available on Kindle

This—my second Joe Hannibal novel, originally published in 1989—is now available on Kindle (along with THE BURNING SEASON, which "went live" back in May).
THE SKINTIGHT SHROUD is one of my personal favorites. As I've often stated in interviews and discussions, one of my writing quirks is that I always have to have a title fixed pretty firmly in mind before I can get rolling on a story or book. In this case I had the title in mind years before I had any kind of suitable story to match it with.
I remember, back in the mists of time, when I was in my late teens, reading a ton and tinkering with early attempts at my own writing … I read my first Travis McGee novel, BRIGHT ORANGE FOR THE SHROUD and loved it. The book made an impact, so did its intriguing title. Around that same time, Grace Metalious (author of PEYTON PLACE) had a book out entitled THE TIGHT WHITE COLLAR. I never read that book—or PEYTON PLACE either, for that matter—but something about that title also sounded intriguing and stuck with me. Not too longer after, once the influence of McGee on top of inroads already made by Spillane and the like had irreversibly aimed my own writing down the mystery/detective path, I came up with THE SKINTIGHT SHROUD and knew that some day I would use it for the title of something I wrote.
Flash forward almost thirty years. My Joe Hannibal series was under way, with a half dozen or so short stories and one prior novel having been published, and I was ready to write my next book. I wanted to use murder within the thriving porn industry as its central plot and—tah-dah!—THE SKINTIGHT SHROUD came out of mental moth balls and made, at least for me, a perfect fit.
I even wrote a poem (my first and only, so far) to help tie the title into the storyline.

                        At birth, you are trapped in it
                        At death, you are wrapped in it
                        Ashes to ashes, dust to dust
                        Hope, despair, love, hate, lust
                        Proving ground for Heaven, or just Hell on Earth?
                        God's grand design, or the Devil's twisted mirth?
                        Sometimes I want to scream out loud
                        Can't anyone see me struggling in this skintight shroud?

One final note: A number of mysteries had been written in the mid to late eighties, when adult movies were really beginning to thrive in the mainstream, but almost all of them used "snuff films" as a plot device. I wanted to be sure and avoid that while at the same presenting some in-depth facts about the industry and showing those involved in a less stereotypical manner. (Also, writing this book finally provided some credence to the assurances I had been giving my wife that the x-rated videos I sometimes watched, the skin mags I bought, and the strip clubs I visited on occasion were all necessary research for my craft.)
SKINTIGHT SHROUD is somewhat dated now in its references to videocassettes, the state of the adult film industry as it was run back then versus how it is today, etc. I feel the story and characterizations remain solid, however, and, as I said at the beginning, it remains one of my favorites.
I hope you give it a try and have a favorable reaction, too.
If you like it, remember that other previously out-of-print Hannibals will be appearing soon—along with an eBook original, GOSHEN HOLE, before year's end.

Until next time …
Persevere — WD

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


A nice interview with yours truly was posted earlier today on Morgen Bailey's blog in the UK. Miss Bailey is a British writer/blogger who has quite an interesting way of conducting interviews. She does the standard Q&A and then intersperses a bit of added commentary and observations from her end so that the final result has some added entertainment and comes across more like, as she puts it, "A friendly chat."
You can check it out for yourself at: .
In the archives you can also scroll back through other interviews with a whole range of talented and interesting authors.

Persevere — WD

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Noteworthy Reads: BULLET FOR ONE & FOX FIVE

Following are two recent Kindle releases that I have read and highly recommend.
I was previously unfamiliar with either of these authors but both bylines are now definitely on my BOLO list.
I suggest you put them on yours too.

"John Coburn is a private eye who won't let the law stand in the way of justice!"
So reads one of the tag lines for this new mystery thriller by Brian Drake.
Another says: "If he fails, can he live with another ghost? … If he succeeds, can he live with the consequences?"
These are great come-ons and, for me at least, did exactly what they were supposed to do—make me want to read this book. Tag lines for books, however—like movie trailers —are often the best part of what follows. One always needs to keep this in mind and I have to admit that, as I hit the "Buy it with 1-click" tab on Amazon, I was wondering if this might be another such case.
Well, it wasn't. If anything, the tag lines might actually be guilty of soft-peddling the balls-out, full-throttle reading experience that Bullet For One delivers. Drake writes action sequences about as good as any you'll find, and the book is loaded with them. Chases, gun fights, fist fights, knife fights, beatings, escapes … it's all here and vengeance-seeking PI John Coburn is right in the thick of every minute of it. This is definitely Spillane territory, and I mean that as a compliment. The character of Coburn himself doesn't have a lot of depth in this particular outing (one hopes there will be more in a series) because his focused so keenly set on solving the murder of his partner and making sure punishment is meted out. But several of the secondary characters are well drawn and the plot has plenty of twists and turns and surprises before Coburn wraps things up—to his own satisfaction and also that of the reader.
If you like your tough guys tough and your action fast and furious, you don't want to miss this one!

This five-pack collection of short stories is about as good as it gets in the crime thriller genre. Protagonist Charlotte "Charlie" Fox is a truly memorable—not to mention formidable—heroine. Author Sharp writes cleanly, cleverly, and convincingly as she spins these tales of Charlie, ex Special Forces soldier turned "close-protection" bodyguard.
The stories here are arranged in sequence and follow Charlie as she progresses from a time just prior to becoming a bodyguard to a point where her professional skills are honed to their finest—and must be, as they are put to the test in circumstances as explosively dangerous and up-to-the-minute as today's headlines. This range and growth allows us to see Charlie in a quieter, almost sleuth-like mode early on and then evolve into the calculating, ultimately cool—yet compassionate—protector she was born to be.
Perhaps the strongest entry in this collection is focused somewhat less on Charlie than on a woman named Layla … a disturbed soul hell bent on a mission that Charlie, in the end, must try to keep from succeeding. The back story on Layla and her deceased lover Bobby is troubling, brutal … yet hauntingly poignant.
In the end, though, it is Charlie Fox and the stiletto-sharp (no pun intended) writing skills of Zoe Sharp that will stick with you after reading these stories. I was unaware of this excellent series (there are eight novels so far, a ninth due in 2012) before now; but you can damn well bet I will be seeking out more.
Highly recommended!

Until next time, as always ...
Persevere --- WD

Thursday, August 11, 2011


In the past couple of weeks, my work in the Western genre has garnered some very encouraging words from a variety of sources.
Such as:

Wayne D. Dundee (see Righteous Reading) has been nominated for more awards than you could imagine, but few know that he was the innovator in giving new writers their chance to be read ... a little magazine called Hardboiled that was hand-typed, mimeographed, and mailed with stamps. Yeah, that was eons ago ... all the way back to 1985. Even ... wait for it ... before the Internet. But although Wayne made his bones with so-called "PI fiction," his real love has always been the West. And now, with the publication of Dismal River, Big Wayne is where he belongs, and doing it just right. Anyone who believes there's no such genre as "Hardboiled Western" would be well-advised to check it out for themselves.
From: Andrew Vachss's web site The Zero ( 8-03-11 Update.

I've mentioned here before that Wayne Dundee's DISMAL RIVER is one of the best Westerns I've read in a long time, and now he has a new Western e-book out, THE GRAVE OF MARCUS PAULY. It's a really fine story, too, with sharply drawn characters, some very evocative writing about the frontier landscape, and a poignant sense of melancholy about the passing of time and people's dreams. Plus some excellent action scenes and a very powerful ending. All in all, this is a splendid piece of work, as we've come to expect from Wayne Dundee. Highly recommended.
From: James Reasoner's blog, Rough Edges (
James was also gracious enough to post a 5-Star review for The Grave of Marcus Pauly on Amazon.

What an outstanding first western novel by hardboiled great, Wayne D. Dundee. Here's hoping he turns his masterful skills to another novel in this genre.
From: A 5-Star review for DISMAL RIVER posted on Amazon by David Cranmer — a busy and talented guy who heads up the fine web zine Beat To A Pulp ( and blogs at

These kind and very gratifying statements, coming on top of the Peacemaker Award from Western Fictioneers back in June from my 2010 Western short story "This Old Star", certainly make me feel like I have turned down the right trail by venturing into the Western genre, as I have long wanted to do.
I am deeply appreciative.

(Personal note: This does not mean, however, that I will be abandoning my old pal Joe Hannibal—the two of us still have plenty of trails to go down together as well. The link between the hardboiled "tarnished knights" of the early 1900s pulp era and the hard-bitten Western heroes of the late 1800s dime novels has been well documented by numerous sources … Joe is merely a descendant of both traditions, so there really is no conflict at all.)

 Persevere --- WD

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Tough As Leather by Jochem Vandersteen is a collection of short stories featuring Noah Milano, an L.A. security specialist/private investigator. Milano is cut from fairly standard fictional PI cloth yet has his own distinctions; he's young, hip, digs rock and roll music … oh yeah, and he's the son L.A.'s most popular mob boss. At one time he was his father's top "fixer" for mob problems. But now, as the result of a promise made to his dying mother, Noah has broken away from the family business and is operating on the right side of the law … mostly.
Vandersteen is a Dutch writer who does a nice job of capturing the L.A. scene. Once in a while there is an awkwardly-turned phrase, but these are few and far in between. Other-wise The stories are fast-paced and exciting, with some clever plot twists. Milano is engaging, can be tough when he needs to be, tender when it's called for, and he gets off some good wisecracks as well. The author (who also puts out a very informative blog — ) has done his homework on the genre, is clearly enamored of it, and has created his own noteworthy "son of Spade".
The twelve stories presented here as a Kindle eBook are bound to be appreciated by hardboiled PI fans and the price is a steal almost worthy of hiring Milano to investigate the crime.

Jochem has also just released a one-shot Milano story, Honey Trap, which deals with blackmail and theft within the perfume industry, an interest and seldom-used plotline.

If you have not yet discovered Vandersteen and/or Milano via their many appearances on various web zines, either or both of these eBook releases are a good way to correct the oversight.

Persevere --- WD

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

COWBOYS & ALIENS - my take

Saw COWBOYS & ALIENS a couple evenings ago and found it to be a rousing adventure film that I liked a whole lot.
The title pretty much tells the story—an alien spaceship arrives in 1873 to take over the earth and their starting point is the Arizona Territory just outside the town of Absolution. They begin rounding up (literally) humans for scientific studies and experiments while at the same time sucking up all the gold they can get their greedy, slimy fingers on (because, it is explained, gold is as precious on their planet as it is on ours).
At first they strike sporadically in outlying areas so the sense of alarm is slow to spread through the populace in and around Absolution. Then one night they hit the town itself with a swarm of flying attack crafts, wreaking general havoc, blasting things to hell, and making off with several citizens. Only one man—a mysterious stranger with an even more mysterious bracelet attached to his wrist—is able to fight back effectively, thanks to the power contained in said bracelet. He manages to shoot down one of the attack crafts and in the aftermath three things are abundantly clear: 1.) Absoultion and the surrounding area are up against a threat like nothing they've ever experienced before; 2.) They need the myserious stranger and his powerful bracelet if they are going to have any chance at all against these invaders; and 3.) The occupant of the shot-down craft who escapes in the night, leaving a trail of blood, must be tracked back to wherever it came from so that retaliation can be mounted against him and the rest of his kind. So a posse is formed to head out at first light, hell bent on regaining their abducted loved ones, saving their town … and, just incidentally, saving the whole world in the process.
All of this is done in high style, with great action sequences, special effects, and well-seasoned performers (headed up by Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, and the lovely Olivia Wilde) playing their parts to the hilt. Plots and subplots and several surprising twists are encountered as the story plunges forward until eventually all key points are revealed. Humor and genuine poignancy are also in the mix.
I was surprised at how strong the straight Western element was in this film. For over half its length—with only a couple of quick what-the-hell-just-happened scenes as the alien presence gradually starts to emerge—this is a good, gritty, old-fashioned Western. Then the pace picks up and we veer off into something a whole lot more. But both genres—Western and science fiction/horror—are given their props and handled with respect, and maybe only a slight bit of tongue-in-cheekiness.
Like I said at the outset, this is a rousing adventure that I really liked and recommend.
One final personal note: The audience on the evening I attended consisted of about 60% middle-aged-plus viewers. A higher percentage, I venture to say, than you'd generally find at a more traditional science fiction/horror/action thriller of this ilk. I submit this is yet another indicator that there is an audience out there hungry for some good old-fashioned Westerns … to the point of seeking one out, even if it means dealing with a few nasty aliens in order to do so.

Persevere — WD

Monday, August 1, 2011



My new Western novella—The Grave of Marcus Pauly—is now available from Western Trail Blazer on Amazon Kindle (click link).
Within a couple weeks, it will be on The Nook at B&N, Apple iStore, Kobo, Diesel, and ScrollMotion as well.
All reasonably priced at 99 cents (except for Lulu where it is $1.99 – still a good buy).

The teaser blurb reads:

An old grave …

A determined woman …
An ex-con with a conscience …

"Annabelle Heath travels west on a mission to fulfill her mother's dying wish. To do so, she needs the help of a man once imprisoned for bank robbery.

For Ramsey needs his current job and has no time to take off on a foolish errand. But something about this woman makes him rethink his first inclination.

Together, they ride into wild country to look for a long ago grave and find more than either ever bargained for."

I think that sets the stage well.
The story has action, grit, emotion, and a hint of romance.
I hope you'll give it a try.
I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Persevere — WD