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Tuesday, August 27, 2013
Listen to This! (Two New Two-Fisted Audio Books)
Maybe you've noticed I haven't been blogging much lately. Or tweeting. Or facebooking. Or releasing my next novel. Well, it's not because I've just been chilling out, I promise you.
Because of my own appreciation for recorded books, I decided to have some of my titles produced this way. Hell and Gone was the one I got started on first, and had hoped to get released first. However, due to circumstances beyond my control, it is way, way, way overdue and still isn't even close to finished. I'm pleased to announce, however, that both Tier Zero and my Fight Card novella, Tomato Can Comeback, are now ready for download.
In case you couldn't tell, I love to read books. I just don't have time anymore for much recreational reading. But I do clock several hours at a time on a regular basis staring through a windshield on my way to various places for work. Up until a year or so ago, I took advantage of the recorded books available at the public library. I discovered authors this way I might never have read otherwise (like Wilbur Smith, who has become one of my go-to guys). Because the county I live in is mostly rural, we don't have any huge libraries, so I burned through the adventure fiction available fairly quickly. In my battle against boredom, I opened myself up to genres I probably would never have otherwise. Like romance. Yeah, a lot of it is hard to wade through...makes you feel like you're drowning in pancake syrup or something...but some of it is okay. And historical fiction--that's how I discovered Bernard Cornwall and his Sharpe series (I also checked out his one-off novel Agincourt).
Then along came Audible Audio for the Kindle. I can downloadrecorded books straight to my reader, just like ebooks, and the selection is not too shabby. I can usually find something in a genre that interests me. I've read the first several Ian Fleming 007 adventures this way, more Wilbur Smith of course, one of Len Levinson's RatBastard installments missing from my paperback collection, and Ghosts of Babylon by fellow indie author R.A. Matthis (a good read, BTW, and read by a good voice actor).
Other folks may drive a lot like I do, or do tedious work somewhere with nothing to occupy their mind while they go through the motions, or spend a lot of leisure time sunning themselves at the pool or beach. Maybe they'd like to read a book but can't afford to tie their eyes up for hours at a time.
In self-examination, I noted that after listening to one of Wilbur Smith's adventures, I began buying his books in paper and electronic form. Ka-ching! went my brain. And so I branched out. When Hell and Gone is finally finished, I'll blog it, too.
Now listen up!
Sunday, August 4, 2013
A Western That Cuts Against the Grain
In the history of the western genre (whether it be film or fiction), there have been a few basic plot skeletons used over and over again. One of these involves war with the natives; another pits lawmen against outlaws; and another features a range war.
Since the New Deal, the range war plot has been used extensively, and almost always cattlemen have been the villains, oppressing small ranchers and farmers on a greed-maddened quest for more grazing land. This theme is ubiquitous in western films, and western novels have mostly followed suit. Critics and theorists mostly agree that creative works with this theme are making a statement against Big Business.
Once in a while, though, there is a western tale using this plot template which marches to a different beat. One decent example is Louis L'Amour's Showdown at the Hogback. Then there is this novel, which shares many superficial aspects...but can't be confused with L'Amour's.
"Curly wolf" is Old West lingo for "bad mamma-jamma," and the title character certainly fits that description. Arizona (sometimes called the Arizona Kid) is an amoral gunfighter who hires out to the highest bidder. In this case, the highest bidder is a junta of crooked politicians and lawmen driving homesteaders (with both small and large ranches) off their claims in order to cash in on a lucrative railroad deal.
From what I've read, the quick-draw wasn't actually used in frontier days. Some historians say it wasn't even developed until the 1950s--a complete Hollywood fabrication. Whatever the truth may be, the quick-draw convention has been absorbed into western mythology. It's hard to find a western that does not incorporate it. This novel is no exception in that regard, but it is exceptional in that it handles all the gun play with a verisimilitude I haven't seen in any other western.
The Arizona Kid is deadly with a rifle, and a crack pistol shot either right or left-handed. He is hired to bully the homesteaders off their claims...or kill them if necessary.
Unfortunately for his employers, he begins to develop a conscience as the job unfolds. And that puts him between the proverbial rock and hard place. There are at least three sub-plots which are captivating in their own right. One is the struggle among the homesteaders to band together and fight, or pull stakes and take their family looking for some place they won't have to face death from "gun sharps" in addition to their battle with the elements, starvation, etc. (Life for frontier farmers and ranchers wasn't easy, even when unmolested by their fellow man.)
For fans of westerns, there is enough familiarity here to make you feel at home. There is also enough unorthodoxy to please those who don't normally dabble in the genre.
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