The latest in the excellent FilmCraft series of books concentrating on different aspects of the filmmaking process is Producing (released January 2013). The Introduction states the job of the producer is multifaceted and “requires the wearing of many hats.” The producer is “the ringmaster who keeps the circus going.”
Authors Geoffrey Macnab and Sharon Swart, explore the many aspects of the ringmasters with interviews with acclaimed producers from the USA, UK, Australia, Denmark, France, Netherlands and Hong Kong including Tim Bevan (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Bridget Jones’s Diary), Jeremy Thomas (The Last Emperor, Sexy Beast), Jan Chapman (The Piano, Lantana), Jon Kilik (The Hunger Games, Babel), and Peter Aalbæk Jensen (Melancholia, Breaking the Waves).
Jon Landau has produced the two highest grossing films to date in Titanic (1997) and Avatar (2009), both directed by James Cameron. Landau admits, “The role of a producer is to be both the Devil on the shoulder and the Angel on the shoulder.” Landau followed the path of his parents Ely and Edie Landau who produced independent films, making his debut producing the unremarkable Campus Man (1987). Success followed with The Last of the Mohicans (1992) and Mrs. Doubtfire (1993). ”Your business plan is the script,” declares Landau.
Lauren Shuler Donner is a leading producer who has prospered in a profession where females are in the minority. Her box-office hits date back to Mr. Mom (1963), St. Elmo’s Fire (1985) and Pretty In Pink (1986). Her current work builds on her producer credits for the X-Men franchise with The Wolverine (2012) starring Hugh Jackman. Shuler realizes success depends on anticipating the future. “You have to feel the temperature of the country and understand where the next trend will be.”
The Legacy section includes profiles of acclaimed producers of the past – David O. Selznick, Michael Balcon, Dino De Laurentiis, Erich Pommer and Alexander Korda.
The FilmCraft series from Focal Press continues to impress with its knowledgeable text, insightful interviews and well designed layouts complete with rare behind-the-scenes color photographs. This is an excellent addition to the series.
Review copyright Paul Green 2013. All rights reserved.
A Town Called Pandemonium is a new Weird Western anthology edited by Anne C. Perry and Jared Shurin featuring a ten short stories by a variety of new authors. Jared Shurin explains the premise of the anthology :
“Pandemonium is a lonely place. The town sits in the emptiness of the New Mexico Territory. If you wanted to visit – perhaps to make a deal with cattle baron Representation Calhoun, or conduct a different sort of transaction in the bordello of Waterloo Jones – it could be quite a memorable journey. The town is surrounded by ravines, mountains and an inhospitable desert. There’s no train, and the intermittent stagecoach guarantees only an uncomfortable passage.
Nor is Pandemonium’s isolation solely a matter of geography. In this slightly alternative history, the town has some unusual neighbors. The Anasazi still rule all their ancestral lands, uncommunicative and concerned only with their own unfathomable goals. The new state of Deseret sits to the north, its founding fathers looking hungrily at the unoccupied land of the New Mexico Territory.
For the residents of Pandemonium, however, this seclusion can be a blessing. This is a dying town, filled with the foolish, the reckless, the outcast, the hopeful and the truly desperate. From the sheriff to the undertaker’s wife, everyone has a secret. With the silver boom in the town’s past, these secrets weigh more heavily than ever before.
In Sam Sykes’ “Wish for a Gun” a lonely widower finds his heart’s desire buried right by his front door. The Deakins boys, from Will Hill’s aptly-named tale, also find something deep underground, something both extraordinary and horrible.
Both Archie Black’s “4.52 to Pandemonium” and Sam Wilson’s “Rhod the Killer” feature ostensible innocents. But they too are revealed as more what they seem, and may God have mercy on those unlucky folk who cross the paths of Rhodri Anwell and Mrs. Philpott.
The title character of Chrysanthy Balis’ “Belle Deeds” has her secret lust and, later, shame. Chrissie Miller discovers what happens behind closed doors in Den Patrick’s “Red Hot Hate”. While Osgood Vance’s “Sleep in Fire” and Scott K. Andrews’ “Grit” both feature men wrestling with their personal demons, Joseph D’Lacey’s hero struggles with an entire hidden history – and terrifying future. Dark deeds and darker secrets: Pandemonium is awash in them, and Jonathan Oliver’s “Raise the Beam High” explores the consequences of revelation. What happens when that which has been hidden is brought to light?
The stories of A Town Called Pandemonium – be they macabre, funny, dark or droll – are all linked together by the spectacular artwork of Adam Hill, who has given this played-out boom-town a whole new lease on life. Welcome to Pandemonium.”
- “Grit” by Scott Andrews
- “Belle Deeds” by Chrysanthy Balis
- “4.52 to Pandemonium” by Archie Black
- “The Gathering of Sheaves” by Joseph D’Lacey
- “The Sad Tale of the Deakins Boys” by Will Hill
- “Raise the Beam High” by Jonathan Oliver
- “Red Hot Hate” by Den Patrick
- “Wish for a Gun” by Sam Sykes
- “Sleep in Fire” by Osgood Vance
- “Rhod the Killer” by Sam Wilson
The anthology is available in two editions: the Silver Dollar paperback edition and the Cafe de Paris Edition (Hardcover, 100 numbered copies) from January 2013. Full details at the A Town Called Pandemonium website.
Videojournalism : Multimedia Storytelling (Focal Press, 2012) by video documentary producer Kenneth Kobré is aimed at the independent videojournalist and student. As an offshoot of photojournalism the videojournalist encounters unique challenges in bringing their story to public attention.
Mastering multimedia storytelling forms the the first chapters of this fascinating and informative book. Finding a compelling subject and story is the key aspect. The visual documentary excels at subjects where a problem is presented and overcome. Conflict, challenge and resolution can be incorporated into any number of subjects including sports, competitions and games. Serious topics such as war, poverty and death require an attention to ethics, which should be central to videojournalism.
Deciding what to film and not to film and the crossing of boundaries of good taste and personal space is particularly important in stories of tragedy, accident scenes, battlefields and terminal illness. Staged events and re-enactments are defined as docudrama. A technique often used in “Reality TV.” Videojournalism should record unmanipulated reality. Doubting the authenticity of a documentary will ultimately result in rejection of the medium.
The book also includes chapters on Camera Exposure and Handling, Light and Color, Recording Sound, Combining Audio and Stills, Shooting a Sequence, Conducting an Interview, Writing a Script and Editing the Story, The Law and Marketing a Story.
Kobre’s book offers much room for discussion and experimentation in the relatively new medium of videojournalism. The book is enhanced by contributions to individual chapters from noted experts Stan Heist, Kathy Kieliszewski, Jerry Lazar, Regina McCombs, Mary Thorsby, Josh Meltzer, David Weintraub and Donald R. Winslow.
About the author: Professor Ken Kobré heads the photojournalism program at San Francisco State University and is the bestselling author of “Photojournalism: The Professionals’ Approach.” He is also is the producer of the new hour-long documentary “Deadline Every Second: On Assignment with 12 Associated Press Photojournalists.”
“I offer this book as a starting point for exploration” states cartoonist Robyn Chapman in the introduction to her new book Drawing Comics Lab. She offers 52 exercises ranging from basic drawing skills to panel layout, pacing, one-panel gags, characterization, storytelling, materials, techniques and publishing your work. Exercises are conducted by various artists including James Sturm, Jessica Abel, Matt Madden, Steve Bisette, Eddie Campbell and Tom Hart among others.
The “Storytelling” section for example is split into 12 exercises including ‘Drawing Without Stopping’ which aims at eliminating the self critical voice that leads to procrastination – and developing a child-like free flowing approach to creating a single page comic strip. “Show or Tell” is an exercise with the task of creating images that complement the text rather than merely repeating it. Another exercise “Talking Heads” asks the artist to incorporate the 180-degree rule often used in films where the camera sweeps a 180 degree arc but maintains a consistent point of view.
Robyn Chapman emphasises content over artistic accomplishment. “Comics that are made from a place of joy, inspiration, and truth will be far more interesting than comics that are drawn well.” Although the design of this 136 page book is deceptively simple there is plenty of useful information between the pages. This isn’t a how-to book filled with muscle bound action. Instead it concentrates on cartooning and sequential art. While the book is primarily aimed at beginners and aspiring newcomers to the profession it is also of interest for teachers and those willing to admit they might benefit from a refresher course.
The author: Robyn Chapman is assistant editor at Graphic Universe, the grphic novel imprint of Lerner Publishing Group. She also runs a mini-comics publishing house called Paper Rocket. In 2005 she became The Center for Cartoon Studies’ first fellow, and spent the next five years as their program coordinator and a faculty member. She has built and managed the curriculum for their successful Create Comics and Cartooning Studio workshops.
Drawing Comics Lab is published by Quarry Books, October 2012. Review copyright Paul Green 2012.
The latest in the excellent FilmCraft series of books concentrating on different aspects of the filmmaking process is Directing (released June 2012). The choice of directors featured by author Mike Goodridge covers USA, Mexico, Europe, Israel, Turkey, Asia and Australia and includes in depth interviews with Clint Eastwood, Paul Greengrass, Peter Weir, Pedro Almodovar, Susanne Bier, Stephen Frears, Zhang Yimou, Istvan Szabo, Park Chan-wook, Michael Haneke, Terry Gilliam, Amos Gitai, Guillermo del Toro, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne and Nuri Bilge Ceylan.
Clint Eastwood states, “A lifetime in movies is the same as a lifetime in any profession: you are constantly a student.” Without a good story the film “will never take on the life it is supposed to have out there with the audience…Sometimes I don’t change a good script at all. I bought the Unforgiven script in 1980 and put it in a drawer and said I’ll do this some day— And I took it from the drawer ten years later and called up the writer and said I had a couple of ideas and wanted to rewrite some of it, and he was fine with that.”
The director is often glorified in the media as the master craftsman but author Goodridge provides a more realistic, rounded perspective where the director is the head of a collaborative effort that includes writers, producers, cinematographers, sound, designers and editors. But ultimately the fact the director is given credit or blame for the finished film creates extra pressures. The successful directors often have the clearest vision. Goodridge explores these individual visions in great detail and illuminates the reader with a greater understanding of the complexities of the directing process. Each director has their own style and unique preparation ranging from complex storyboarding (Park Chan-wook), to plotting shot plans at the screenplay stage (Michael Haneke) to waiting until they are on set to make shooting decisions. The Dardenne brothers allow four to eight weeks rehearsal time for actors.
Many of the directors learned their craft over years of hard work in television (Eastwood on Rawhide) and documentary film/TV (Paul Greengrass on ITV’s World in Action), before finally achieving success as acclaimed directors. Guillermo del Torro began his career as a camera grip and stunt driver and Susanne Bier worked on commercial films in Denmark. Success comes with experience and knowledge.
The move to digital video is discussed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan. “I feel that you can search for new ways of expression and you can have a chance to go deeper into the human soul with digital just because you can shoot more in low-budget independent movies.”
As with previous books in the series a “Legacy” section is included as a tribute to directors of note no longer with us. These include John Ford, Alfred Hitchcock, Ingmar Bergman, Jean-Luc Godard and Akira Kurosawa.
This is a fine addition to the excellent FilmCraft series and will be of great interest to anyone interested in the film making process whether they be professionals, students or fans.
Review copyright Paul Green 2012. All rights reserved.
In his introduction to Editing, author Justin Chang admits film editing is a “uniquely difficult discipline to understand, let alone discuss.” Chang interviews 17 of the world’s leading editors in his efforts to better understand the “difficult discipline.” The result is an absorbing journey through the creative decisions and individual stylistic approaches of various film editors working today in both film and digital media. Each tell their own story from their unique perspective.
Joel Cox is best known for his collaboration with director Clint Eastwood, beginning with The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976) and progressing to Pale Rider (1985), Bird (1988), Unforgiven (1992), Mystic River (2003), Million Dollar Baby (2004) and J. Edgar (2011). “Clint likes the editing to be fluid, so that a story just comes together.” Cox believes the greatest cut is “a cut you didn’t see. You didn’t see it because you’re so engrossed in the story you don’t even realize we’re editing.”
Christopher Rouse tells us director Paul Greengrass’ dailies dictated his editing style on The Bourne Supremacy (2003) and The Bourne Ultimatum (2007). The result is fast paced editing style involving “quicksilver cross-cutting” in the Waterloo Station chase sequence on The Bourne Ultimatum.
Walter Murch, film editor for Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, Sam Mendes, Jerry Zucker and Kathryn Bigelow adopts “the rule of six” for successful film editing with emotion and story topping the list of priorities.
Lee Smith’s work for director Christopher Nolan on Batman Begins (2005), The Prestige (2006), The Dark Knight (2008) and Inception (2010) also involved jolting cross cutting as can be seen in fight sequences featuring Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight. The effect, as noted by Smith, is a “visceral force” to scenes.
The interviews offer insights into both the creative, psychological and technical aspects of the film editing process. The gradual move from film to digital media and its effect on the editing process is also discussed. If the book has any flaws they lie in the quality of certain photographic stills that illustrate a film sequence. At times they are reproduced in dark tones that make it difficult to see the image clearly. But overall, this 192 page large format volume serves as the perfect companion to Cinematography, also published by Focal Press. A “Legacy” section includes master editors of yesteryear including Peter Zinner, Dede Allen, Ralph E. Winters, Barbara McLean and Sally Menke.
After reading this book you will watch the films detailed in Editing with a new eye and greater awareness and understanding of the process that gives a film its sense of vitality. Published by Focal Press. With thanks to Becky Sahm at Big Picture Media.
Review copyright Paul Green 2012. All rights reserved.
The art of cinematography is often overlooked by the casual viewer and critic who concentrate their attention on the director as the Svengali figure. We all know Alfred Hitchcock, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg and Francis Ford Coppola but few can name the cinematographers who helped give their films their visual style and individual flair.
The latest book in the Film Craft series by Focal Press gives cinematographers their rightful place in film history. Authors Mike Goodridge and Tim Grierson detail the careers of twenty-one outstanding cinematographers from around the world. Lavishly illustrated with full color photographs throughout its 192 large format pages, the book includes personal interviews conducted by the authors.
The book concentrates on cinematographers still active in the film industry but includes “Legacy” portraits of important cinematographers who have passed away. These feature Jack Cardiff and Freddie Young from the UK, James Wong Howe from China/USA and Sven Nykvist from Sweden.
Matthew Libatique is a new generation cinematographer who was nominated for an Oscar for his work on Black Swan (2010) starring Natalie Portman. He has worked with Jon Favreau on both Iron Man movies and Cowboys & Aliens (2011). The book details Libatique’s working process which includes an initial deconstruction of the script of each film into color coded scenes. He also discusses the role of the cinematographer. “In terms of an actor’s performance, I don’t think we’re essential like the director is… We’re called cameramen, but the instrument is a shared tool that we use in service of the script and the characters.”
Caleb Deschanel has worked with Francis Ford Coppola and is a five-time Oscar nominee who describes his work as ‘a visual symphony.” Ed Lachman’s work ranges from Taxi Driver (1976) to Erin Brokovich (2000). He describes his craft as a “projection of the emotions.” Vittorio Stararo shares Lachman’s emphasis on emotions. “My idea was to make the relationship between life and light; different emotions compared to different colors.” His Oscar winning work on Apocalypse Now (1979), Reds (1981) and The Last Emperor (1985) clearly reflects his philosophy.
Cinematography explores these personal philosophies and detailed working methods of acclaimed “cameramen” in a manner that that not only informs the reader but enlightens them. The relatively new technology of 3-D is also discussed by cinematographers embracing new ways of working in a medium that offers so much scope for creativity. Mike Goodridge (editor of Screen International) and film and music critic Tim Grierson have produced an excellent book that I highly recommend to anyone interested in the art of filmmaking. Published by Focal Press. With thanks to Becky Sahm at Big Picture Media.
Review copyright Paul Green 2012. All rights reserved.
time but my main publisher, Berkley, didn’t want to see anything
“weird” by way of westerns till now. I think True Blood and other
things vampire kind of whet their appetites. DUST is what some would
call a “paranormal” western but what I call a “weird” western. In
other words it’s a traditional western with “weird” or “paranormal”
and the beautiful Deputy U.S. Marshal, Angel Coffin. They’re on the
trail of the “Hell’s Angels”–a nasty group of werewolves whom Abraham
Lincoln commissioned to help win the Civil War.
would head back to eastern Europe and behave themselves. Instead,
they headed to the American West…and now they’re on the trail of the
werewolf equivalent of the Holy Grail–a hidden treasure that will
help them conquer humanity and take over the earth. The “Angels” are
led by a beautiful Mexican witch and her pet dragon. Zane and Coffin
and Jesse James–yep, Jesse’s a ghoul-hunter, too–are hot on their
PG: What attracted you to the Weird Western genre as you are best known for writing in the classic western format.
PB: I’ve loved anything “weird” my entire life. I love the original
Jonah Hex comics and the EC comics and horror novels of all shapes and
sizes, especially Richard Laymon, and I’ve long been a fan of the
Hammer horror flicks of the 60′s and 70′s. Until recently, we really
haven’t seen much “weird” enter the western genre, however, and I
thought it was time. Oh, I have to mention Jeff Marriotte’s great
weird western comic series DESPERADOES, which I read when it first
came out. I really loved that. DUST is sort of that in prose form.
PG: One of your published books, “Bad Wind Blowing” is a Weird Western which you label a “paranormal western.” Was this your introduction writing for this genre?
PB: Yes, BAD WIND BLOWING was my first weird western, though the only
weird element is an ancient Indian demon preying on a remote Colorado
river canyon. I had a great time doing that and tried to get Berkley
to publish it but they rejected it because of the paranormal aspects.
But DUST is FILLED with weirdness, and they seemed to really like that
idea, so how things change, I reckon… But I would like to write a
whole series about my two main BAD WIND characters, Clay Carmody and
Claudine Bridger. They were great fun to write, just as Uriah Zane
and Angel Coffin are.
PG: Are you planning more Weird Western titles?
PB: I’m definitely going to continue writing weird westerns. If DUST
doesn’t fly–it’s all about the sales numbers, you know–I’ll
self-publish them. Weirdness is in my veins.
Interview copyright Paul Green 2011.
PG: The concept of the Merkabah Rider is unusual for a Western. Can you outline his background for new readers?
EE: The Rider (so-called because he hides his true name to prevent coming under the influence of malevolent spiritual forces) is the Hasidic son of an Ashkenazi grocer in San Francisco, who so excelled in his religious yeshiva studies, he was recruited by an ancient mystic Jewish order, The Sons of The Essenes. The Essenes’ doctrine is the exploration of the realms of heaven and hell by way of astral travel, a process so fraught with inherent danger that they are taught a dearth of protective rituals and formulas before they ever leave their bodies. The goal of a ‘merkabah rider’ is to rise through the various heavens and ultimately descend upon the Throne of God, thus achieving a greater understanding of the Creator, and a kind of enlightenment. But the Rider’s teacher, Adon, corrupted the Rider in the eyes of the other Essenes by introducing non-Judaic teachings to him, resulting in the Rider being turned away from the Throne by the angel Metatron. Ashamed of his failure and sensing the machinations of infernal forces in the impending American Civil War, the Rider quits his enclave and goes off to join the Union cause.
He returns home after the war to find every teacher and student of his enclave has been murdered in his absence, and the other members of his worldwide Order blame him and his teacher, Adon for the crime. After years of seeking Adon abroad in the hopes of clearing his own name and avenging his enclave, the Rider returns to America.
The series then follows the adventures of The Rider, now a mystic gunslinger, as he pursues Adon, across the demon haunted American Southwest of the 1880’s, coming into contact with angels, demons, outlaws, and entities out of the Lovecraftian Mythos. In addition to supernatural dangers, the Rider also encounters real-life figures from history like Doc Holiday, Geronimo, and Al Seiber. Despite the absurdity of the description, it’s not a tongue-in-cheek story, but more a modern pulp style dark fantasy/adventure series in the same vein as the weird westerns of Robert E. Howard and Joe R. Lansdale. In fact, the first three books are presented as collections of novella-length ‘episodes’in the character’s career, sort of the like the old Zebra and Lancer paperbacks of Howard’s pulp stories. Think of a Jewish Solomon Kane in a Kung Fu setting, with all the social and ethical concerns of the latter intact.
PG: Can you provide a brief synopsis of your new volume?
EE: Have Glyphs Will Travel is told in episodic manner like the others, so the first novella, The Long Sabbath, picks off where the cliffhanger in The Mensch With No Name left off, with the Rider and his companion Kabede being pursued across the desert by a horde of walking corpses led by three formers members of his order who have defected to Adon’s cause. After dealing with that, in The War Shaman, the Rider is called on to convince the Chiricahua Apache to refuse the dark offer of Misquamacus, the supreme Native American shaman, who has allied himself with dark chaotic powers in a bid to destroy the encroaching white civilization. In the third novella, The Mules Of The Mazzikim, the Rider sets out to rescue Nehema, the succubi who undermined the demon queen Lilith to help him in the first book. He comes face to face with the object of his long quest for revenge in The Man Called Other, and in the final novella, The Fire King Triumphant, travels to Tombstone to decipher the contents of the Sheardown letters and hopefully uncover the minutiae of Adon’s scheme to bring the Great Old Ones into our world.
This is the longest of the three volumes and contains I think, the most momentous turning points thus far. The Rider reluctantly gains a stable of steady companions too, something he hasn’t really had up to this point.
PG: Have you always been attracted to Jewish mysticism?
EE: No, not at all. I did grow up Catholic and I guess I had an affinity for ritualism and mysticism, and I was always interested in obscure folk beliefs. My Polish great grandmother used to slap my left hand when I reached for a toy with my left hand as a toddler – I grew up that close to folklore in practice. But the Judaic aspect came along with the concept for the series. I had always wanted to write a weird western stories, but never could come up with a compelling enough central character. Then one day I was flipping through a book on angelology and happened to come across the term ‘merkabah rider.’ The image of a Hasidic man with a gunfighter rig mounted on a rearing, flaming horse like the ones that carried Ezekiel to heaven kind of sprung up in my mind, and I dove into the research, which I found an extremely rewarding endeavor. Jewish myths and traditions are as rich as they are vast, and almost untapped in speculative fiction.
PG: Your first volume could easily have been translated into the graphic novel format. Are we ever going to see a visual interpretation of the Rider or do you prefer to keep him within the realms of the imagination?
EE: I did start the concept as a comic book, but never could find an artist to collaborate with. If the opportunity ever presents itself I wouldn’t be against it, though the concepts and the internal conflicts in the later volumes might be a challenge to interpret.
PG: The Weird Western genre often delves into mysticism. Do you see the Rider as being an occultist or a seeker of spiritual truth attacked by dark forces?
EE: The Rider has always been a seeker of spiritual enlightenment, a devotee of the Torah. That’s why the assault on his faith from all these dark corners he never knew existed is so devastating to him. His learning has been insular, strictly Jewish for the most part. He was a student who had his mind opened to different ideas by his teacher, and when those ideas proved controversial, and when he failed an important spiritual test, he basically ran away and joined the Army. That decision is what makes him into this kind of reluctant champion later on. So he gathers this encyclopedic occult knowledge by way of his travels and necessity, and he becomes somewhat addicted to it, to the learning of new concepts. But he’s no Van Helsing or Duke deRichleau or anything, he just picks things up in the course of his adventures. He still cleaves to his Jewish faith, desperately at times.
PG: Has any person or persons influenced you in your writing?
EE: Robert E. Howard is the main inspiration behind Merkabah Rider, especially his weird western stories, Old Garfield’s Heart, The Thunder Rider, The Horror From The Mound, etc. I got into Howard at the perfect time, right around the end of middle school. In my mind nobody can match his descriptions of visceral action. I think had he lived and naturally evolved as a writer, he would’ve been in the same class as Cormac McCarthy today. Ambrose Bierce for mood. Joe Lansdale to some extent, reading him taught me a respect for the way people talk, and for region. Forrest Carter as well. Definitely Richard Matheson for his straight faced treatment of the fantastic, Stephen King just for sheer imagination, and Larry McMurtry. Lonesome Dove made me sit down and write the first full length novel I ever wrote, which is the one my Dad likes best, because as he puts it, there’s no ‘freaky’ stuff in it.
PG: Do you have plans for more volumes in the series?
EE: The series will be concluded with the next book, a full length traditionally structured novel. I wanted to bring the story to a close the same way Howard ended Conan’s run (unintentionally or not) with The Hour Of The Dragon. A lot of the time these stories take on a life of their own, and I’ve been kicking around the idea of a prequel collection of the Rider’s early adventures, sort of like a Comanche Moon for Merkabah Rider. The Rider in the Civil War, the Rider in the post-war west, the Rider in other parts of the world before his return. I’d have to see if anybody was interested in it before I’d tackle it, ‘cause I usually don’t see the point in prequels. I mean, you already know how everything ends up.
PG: You always write Westerns based on extensive historical research. What attracts you to the Western genre?
EE: I’ve always loved history, but in regards to Westerns, I think I perceive an honesty and a more clear cut freedom in Westerns that I don’t see in the modern world. Our lives are full of blathering politics and blathering sitcoms and relentless creditors and a thousand different petty concerns that induce a man to sink into his recliner under the weight of it all rather than fight, rather than to pursue a meaningful life of experience even. While I know frontier America had all these things, maybe I’ve romantically convinced myself they had a lesser influence back then, or you could pack up and just ride away from them. Anyway they don’t often come into play against the fictional characters that ride through Westerns. I think people in that time and place were necessarily more active (and proactive), and the characters in Westerns put up a physical resistance against whatever impedes them. Nowadays I think The Man With No Name wouldn’t even know who to shoot at.
I’m also really fascinated by the number of different cultures that came into close contact during that period, and the interesting ways they changed each other for better or for worse. There’s a wonderfully rich, relatively unknown history that Americans (and really all people everywhere) share, and I like blowing the dust off that. Every story has to be a learning experience to really get me interested in writing it, whether it be Western or age of sail or modern day gang culture, whatever. But I guess since I’ve read so much Western history already I tend to gravitate toward setting stories there because I really think at this point I know more about the Old West than I do about the present day. I remember Patrick O’Brian wrote something to this effect –
“Obviously, I have lived very much out of the world: I know little of present-day Dublin or London or Paris, even less of post-modernity, post-structuralism, hard rock or rap, and I cannot write with much conviction about the contemporary scene.”
That’s pretty much me. I didn’t know my cellphone could get on the internet till a friend showed me. But….I actually like rap. The older stuff, anyway.
Interview © Paul Green 2011.