Okay, I’ve gone and done it. I’ve perpetrated a Western.
Well, sort of a Western. It starts in Hollywood, in 1950, but soon flashes back to the traditional West of the 1800s. After years of publishing science-fiction and (I guess) science-fantasy, it was inevitable that I’d try a western sooner or later.
Unfortunately, it’s probably much too late for this one. You see, it’s meant as a tribute to all those B-westerns I saw at our double-feature weekend movie theater starting probably before second grade. I enjoyed every one of the cowboy stars mentioned in the Statler Brothers’ song and then some.
So, really, I wrote the book for me. Even if only a few people read it, I did what I set out to do: Pay tribute to those actors and actresses who toiled at Republic, Monogram/Allied Artists, Columbia, Universal and even little PRC, studios that rolled out little 60-minute series westerns by the covered-wagon-load—and brought me and my young friends so much entertainment. This was long before most homes had TVs. True, we had radio dramas, but there was still nothing like viewing the latest shoot-’em-up each weekend. Sometimes twice!
The book is titled Gunfight at Gower Gulch. In early Hollywood, the intersection of Sunset Boulevard and Gower Street in Hollywood got that nickname in the days of silent movies, because it became the gathering place for actual cowboys seeking jobs as stuntmen, wranglers, or just members of an outlaw gang or posse, maybe even bigger roles, when casting calls at the nearby studios opened. That’s where the book starts and pretty much ends.
I invented a character who lived as a youngster in the historic West and, in his old age, becomes a “script sweetener” in Hollywood, adding authenticity to Westerns. (I got that idea from a Harlan Ellison short story, “Laugh Track,” about a reclusive consultant who “sweetens” laugh tracks for radio and TV using laughing ghosts.) It’s not as far-fetched as you might think. Wyatt Earp made his way to Hollywood and consulted with folks such as director John Ford. Emmett Dalton was involved in a movie about the Dalton brothers’ outlaw activities. Frank James and Cole Younger lived to tell about their former outlaw careers.
Anyway, it’s available in all the usual places (if you buy the paperback on Amazon, the Kindle version is free). I only wish I could have produced it sooner, when more people who would get the inside bits were around. But it took me this long to complete the necessary research, on both the real and reel West. Here’s hoping some folks enjoy it.