Monday, December 4, 2017

Bad Hombres

Have I fucking shown you this picture of fucking Ron Hansen holding a fucking copy of fucking Peckerwood? Have I? Fucking, Ron-The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford-Hansen? That fucking guy?

Yeah, he was just being nice, but still... kinda made my day.

This picture of me holding a copy of his far superior Desperadoes probably doesn't make us square, but that's as close as it'll get.

Recently Brian Lindenmuth posted on FB about an interview in The Nation with Hernan Diaz, author of In the Distance, in which Diaz talks about the state of the western genre and why/how he chose to write one now. I don't think I know anybody who knows as much or thinks as much about westerns than Brian, so I'll not weigh in on the issues that alternately intrigued and irked him there. I'll just say, I was reading Robert Olmstead's latest, Savage Country, at the time the FB post was made and was thinking about westerns myself and wondering why I didn't read more of them.

It occurs to me you might not read westerns as often as you ought either. I think the mythic American West is fertile ground for crime fiction and the range cowboy is the probably the closest ancestor of the hardboiled private detective in the evolution of popular fable. As a fan of crime fiction I (and probably you) would most likely enjoy reading more westerns.

So... here's a few recentish ones I've enjoyed. Apologies if you're tired of me trotting out the same few titles every couple years (I'm not including titles by Cormac McCarthy or Larry McMurtry as those are the two authors cited in the Diaz interview, but I've read and enjoyed westerns by both and hope you have too).

Close Range/Bad Dirt - Annie Proulx - Also known as Wyoming Stories 1&2 - I dig short story collections and I dig Proulx's prose and characters - hardworn people in a hardscrabble country. She's got heart and an authorially admirable absence of pity.

Coal Black Horse/Far Bright Star - Robert Olmstead - As I mentioned earlier, I'm reading his latest now and I really fucking dig his shit. Read Far Bright Star before Casey Affleck's film adaptation lands and you too can be as cool as me.

Cottonwood/Hop Alley - Scott Phillips - These two tell parts of the story of Bill Ogden - grandfather to The Walkaway/The Adjustment's Wayne Ogden - as he makes and loses monies and loves by means legitimate and crooked, and by just fates and by cosmic fuckery. For a hint at what other Bill tales there may be yet to come read the short story Bill in Wyoming in Rum, Sodomy & False Eyelashes.

Deadwood - Pete Dexter - David Milch better watch his back.

Desperadoes/The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford/The Kid - Ron Hansen - Based on the exploits of The Dalton Gang, The James Gang and Billy the Kid respectively these novels are the goods.

The Dove and the Crow - Joseph Hirsh - Super slim and packed full of blood and weird.

Drop Edge of Yonder - Rudolph Wurlitzer - Wild shit, mon frère.

The Heavenly Table - Donald Ray Pollock - More savagery and perversion than you've laughed at this year. Pollock's a must read every time.

Hell at the Breech/Smonk - Tom Franklin - Hell at the Breech is a damn good book and sturdy as hell, but friends, Smonk is a bad seed of a book, just shot through with gleeful malevolence and rabidly entertaining. Whatever penance Franklin's subsequently paid to the deities of 'respected literary figure careers' they are/will all be worth it because Smonk exists.

Pig Iron - David James Keaton - I keep saying such and such is a strange one, then I arrive at Pig Iron. Sheeeit.

Woe to Live On - Daniel Woodrell - I've mentioned this one before, right? Just fuckin read it already. As much as I like Ang Lee's Ride With the Devil (particularly the director's cut), the source novel is more savage, more heartbroken and more stirring page by page.

And shit, I still haven't got to Court Merrigan's Broken Country - but look at that shit - that's gonna be dope.

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