Brian Lindenmuth: Why a western?
Eric Beetner: I’ve always loved western stories, mostly films. The vast majority of westerns are nearly identical to most crime fiction. If you remove the horse and set it in a city the stories are the same morality tales and action stories. For that reason I’ve never seen too much difference in westerns as a genre. I had always wanted to play in that world and so when David Cranmer from Beat To A Pulp came to me with the chance to do some entries in The Lawyer series I jumped at the chance. Two of those are out now, Six Guns At Sundown and Blood Moon. A third will be out next year and there are others in the series from different authors.
What is your favorite western movie?
I’ll go the mat for Randolph Scott as my favorite western star. I’ll take him over John Wayne any day of the week. The films he made with Budd Boetticher are favorites. The Tall T, Ride Lonesome, Comanche Station. I shamelessly lifted several references for Six Guns At Sundown from the film Decision at Sundown. Well, the name of the town anyway. And does it get any better than Ride The High Country, the film Scott made with Sam Peckinpah? Beyond those I love The Walking Hills, Blood On The Moon, The Last Posse, The Oxbow Incident, The Gunfighter. And I love Unforgiven so damn much it hurts.
And here is where I fall apart. My knowledge of western novels is pathetic. I was never a reader of westerns because they’ve been so marginalized in fiction circles. And from the time I was young they were seen as Old Fashioned. Zane Grey was the only western writer you ever heard of. I’ve gone ahead and read a little Charles Portis since then. Modern western stuff like Cormac McCarthy or Larry Watson but those hardly count for traditional western fiction. Mostly I’m a fan of the films and many of those are adapted from classic western fiction.
Who is your favorite western writer?
Here again, I know so little I can’t even choose. I don’t know enough but I do know I love the westerns of Bill Crider. Outrage at Blanco is great as are the Ryan novels and Texas Vigilante. I guess I’d pick those for favorites too. Maybe The Sisters Brothers, does that count? But yes, Bill Crider for my favorite western author.
What do you most value in the fiction you love?
I like stories that propel forward, always forward. And stories where character is defined by action, not internal musing. I admire economy. Any novel that can bring a plot twist I didn’t see coming and send me forward not knowing what is coming next has its hooks in me.
Who is your favorite violent western character?
Bill Munny from Unforgiven. A classic trying-to-leave-it-behind gunslinger which is, sure, an archetype if not a cliche at some point, but I love it.
Is the western genre dead, dying, in a state of disrepair, or doing just fine?
It is a bit of a historical oddity, I think. The idea of doing a modern western is a real challenge. The Sisters Brothers did it. Steve Hockensmith did it with his Holmes On The Range series (which I love. Add those to the list) But I think westerns may never escape the tag of being out of date and old fashioned, which is a shame. It’s also a product of so much output in the middle of last century. Nearly every western story has been told and since it works within a limited history there is only so much it can expand. But really, hasn’t nearly every iteration of the crime novel been written already? I really encourage crime fiction fans to dig into some westerns like those Bill Crider books or some classic western pulp. I need to do more myself with writers I love like Harry Whittington who wrote quite a few westerns which obviously share a lot of DNA with his crime novels.
Then/Now/Next: what book did you read last, what book are you reading now, and what book will you read next?
I just finished Revolver by Duane Swierczynski which I adored. I’m reading Boondoggle by Mark Rapacz and it’s pretty wild so far. Next up could be any of 100 books on the shelf. Most likely Gunshine State by Andrew Nette or Red Right Hand by Chris Holm.
What was the last great western that you consumed (watched or read)?
I re-watched The Walking Hills not too long ago and it reaffirmed my love for that film. It’s a contemporary western (well, for 1949) and it is as Noir as anything you’ve ever seen. Jane Got A Gun just came on Netflix and now you’re making me want to go watch that right now. I love that people still make the occasional western like Bone Tomahawk. They keep tanking at the box office so I never know how many more we’ll get, but I love when they come around. I’m actually interested in the Magnificent Seven remake too, which surprises me. I’m glad that had a big opening. See, westerns ain’t dead yet!
Eric Beetner is the author of Rumrunners, Leadfoot (Nov 2016), The Devil Doesn’t Want Me, When The Devil Comes To Call, Dig Two Graves, The Year I Died Seven Times, White Hot Pistol, Stripper Pole At the End Of The World, the story collection A Bouquet Of Bullets, co-author (with JB Kohl) of the novels Over Their Heads, One Too Many Blows To The Head and Borrowed Trouble. He co-authored The Backlist and The Short List with Frank Zafiro and he has written the novellas FIGHTCARD: Split Decision and FIGHTCARD: A Mouth Full Of Blood under the name Jack Tunney.
His award-winning short fiction has appeared in Kwik Krimes, Trouble In The Heartland, Mama Tried, Blood On The Bayou, Pulp Ink, Pulp Ink 2, D*CKED, Reloaded, Beat To A Pulp Hardboiled Vol 2, Atomic Noir, Thuglit, All Due Respect, Hoods, Hot Rods and Hellcats, Discount Noir, Grimm Tales, Off The Record, Needle magazine, and the Million Writers Award: Best New Online Voices.
He was voted Most Criminally Underrated Author by the Stalker Awards, which he takes as a compliment.
When not writing he lives and works in Los Angeles where he edits and produces TV shows, helping to be both a part of the solution and a part of the problem of people not reading as much as they used to.
For more information, free stories and random thoughts visit ericbeetner.com