At this point in my creative life, having done okay commercially for an extended period of time – while absorbing many punches in the process – being uneager for further punishment, I find there to be nothing I have written I’d be willing to get back into the marketplace to try and sell.
Except perhaps for my cowboy book.
Earlier in this blog’s history, I would insert samples from my cowboy book as posts. Then, other stuff came to mind and I forgot about it. That’s not true. I just stopped inserting samples of it in my blog. Why? I guess I moved on. Which is not the same as “I forgot about it.” I never forgot about it.
Though entirely made up, my cowboy book is structured as an oral history, in which aging participants in classic western respond in the “First Person” about what it was like to play those iconic roles, both large and small – The Good Guy, The Good Guy’s “Double” (who does all his stunts and his fighting), The Town Drunk, The Mexican “Spitfire”, The Leader Of The Lynch Mob, The Man Who Swung The Rope Over The Tree (for the hangings), The Guy Who Held The Horses (during bank robberies.)
I have one chapter devoted to “Characters Certain To Be Killed”, including, The Rancher Who Won’t Sell, The Bank Teller Who Refuses To Open the Safe, The First Indian Over The Wall, The Woman Who’s Left Alone In the Cabin and The Henchman Who’s About To Confess (who he works for.)
I also include the reminiscences of animals appearing in westerns – The Good Guy’s Horse, The Rattler, Vultures (AKA Buzzards), A Vanishing Buffalo, The Steer That Gets Branded (It’s always the same one), and Crickets.
There is one “Force of Nature” – The Wind – and the following western-identifiable piece of vegetation:
“I am honored to be the only botanical element included in this book. I’ve heard complaints from cacti, but I remind them they are not active participants. They just sit there with spiny things sticking out of them.
“I tumble through!”
“They used us as atmosphere. What we stood for depended on how we tumbled. Tumbling by casually said, ‘This is a Ghost Town; nothin’ here but tumbleweed.’ If we blew through crazily, there was a storm a-brewin’. And not just in the weather, but in the storyline as well. That’s what you call ‘foreshadowing’.”
“My range of roles was necessarily limited. I couldn’t tumble by in World War II pictures, since there’s not much tumbleweed in Europe, or as far as I know, in the Pacific. I could hardly blow down Broadway in some Depression-Era musical, or through Chicago in gangster pictures. I was inevitably ‘type cast.’ Like it or not, I only tumbled in westerns.”
“Tumbleweed’s biggest problem is stopping. Flip on the ‘wind machine’, and off we go.
Unfortunately, there is no way to put on the brakes. A strong natural wind will send us tumbling, and before you know it, we’re a couple of miles away. They had to send trucks to bring us back.
“They experimented with ‘Tumbleweed Catchers’ – people’d stand there, trying to stop us from blowing out of town – but it didn’t work out. We’d come flying down the street and – you now, something pointy’s coming at ya – they’d jump out of the way!”
“Another problem with ‘natural wind’ – a stiff breeze kicks up, and we’re tumbling through scenes we’re not even in.”
“‘Tumbleweed Tragedies?’ Well, there was this one time a friend of mine tumbled into the livery stable. Before they could get there, some horses ate him.”
“My most memorable moment? It wasn’t my proudest. It’s the final showdown, you know – the Good Guy and the Bad Guy squaring off in the center of town. I’m in the background, ‘atmosphere’, like the wagon wheels leaning against the barn. The director yells, “Action!” and just when he does, this big gust of wind blows through. They’re reaching for their guns, and out of nowhere, I tumble along and blow right into the Good Guy’s face! Ruining the shot, and destroying the moment! Because of me, the Bad Guy shot the Good Guy down!”
“On ‘Take Two’, they nailed me to a hitching post.”
When I submitted it a number of years ago, some book agents responded enthusiastically. But the publishers went “Nah”, their consistent response being, “Nobody cares about westerns.” I don’t know. Maybe they’re right. Maybe it’s too esoteric. Or maybe it’s a funny book that happens to be about westerns.
What do you think?
Writer’s Note: “Tumbleweed” may not be my best example, because it’s not an actual person in westerns, it’s rolling foliage. It could, however, be an example at how inept I am at selling things.
Writer’s Note Number Two: I have been frequently advised to ‘self publish.’ But my answer consistently is, “I’m already doing that.” I am, aren’t I? Or am I missing something.