About three years ago I suddenly found myself single and living alone, but for two cats.  It was a quiet, lonesome period, a new age, and I now had more time to kill than I knew what to do with.

Getting home after work was a short routine: feed the two felines, perform some basic chores, maybe read for an hour.  I’d spend the last hours of the evening with a simple meal and a whiskey digestif in front of a film.  All the films I never had the chance to watch with my girlfriend at the time.

These were the usual boys-only affairs.  Bond films.  Tense thrillers.  Science fiction.  Old classics.  Old classic science fiction.  And Westerns.

I spent more time with Clint Eastwood in those first few months than I did with anyone else I knew.  They’re perfect “alone” films, enhanced by awe-inspiring scenery, blue skies drowning the horizon, the lone gunslinger tiny against a backdrop of wind and whirling dust.  It takes a place like Monument Valley to make a man feel small, or isolated.  And they’re often films about a singular man surviving all odds.

I had the mad idea to write a Western one day.

Clint in "For a Few Dollars More"

Clint in “For a Few Dollars More”

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Morgan Freeman and Gene Hackman in "Unforgiven"

Morgan Freeman and Gene Hackman in “Unforgiven”

Early ideas were derivative spaghetti nonsense involving violent unjustified bloodletting.  Anyone can spin out a yarn of bounty hunters, a savage vengeance run, or the coming a shadowy stranger to free an ailing boom town from packs of outlaws.

I shelved the notion in favour of other projects.  And eventually I wasn’t alone anymore.

Still, the idea persisted.   Every piece of cookie-cutter High Noon trash gave me another idea that I tried to turn on its head and make original (people following my comments on Wattpad forums will know that originality is what I call the holy grail of writing).  I kept finding myself reading Robert E. Howard and wondering whether Zane Grey was really outdated.

There’ve been a few modern Westerns released in cinemas in the last few years.  I remember watching “Tombstone” on TV when I was in college.  And around that time, “Unforgiven” taught us that you didn’t need dull metal implements to scare someone stiff.  There was that cookie John Carpenter film.   Another by Tarantino that also ended up being something other than it started out, in ’96.  Personal favourites in recent years include “3:10 to Yuma”, “Seraphim Falls” and “True Grit” – all remakes of classics I never saw the first time around.

Tarantino hasn’t been able to stay away, actually.  “From Dusk Till Dawn” was a supernatural macguffin, and the director revisited his penchant for Sergio Leone-style Westerns in “Kill Bill”.  This year saw the controversial “Django Unchained” in cinemas to critical acclaim.

Christian Bale promises to have outlaw Russell Crowe aboard the "3:10 to Yuma"

Christian Bale promises to have outlaw Russell Crowe aboard the “3:10 to Yuma”

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White and black hats in a tale of vengeance: "Seraphim Falls" with Pierce Brosnan and Liam Neeson

White and black hats in a tale of vengeance: “Seraphim Falls” with Pierce Brosnan and Liam Neeson

It keeps the Wild West in one’s consciousness, even though many critics agree that there are no new stories to be told, and that these tales are outdated (despite timeless themes such as vengeance).

I suppose that now might be as good a time as any to brush off my muse’s old shooting irons and see if I can’t make a Stetson out of my thinking cap.  A certain publisher is looking for short, pulpy Western novels and I’m already putting my brand in the fire.

I’ll keep you all posted on how it goes, if it goes at all.

—db

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