Tuesday, April 22, 2014

And Speaking Of...

Ron Scheer and Vladimir Nabokov (in my last two posts), Ron is at The Fall Creek Review with his thoughts on The Real Life of Sebastian Knight by Nabokov. April 22nd is the Russian born author's birthday and a perfect time to take a look at his first English novel.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

How the West Was Written: Frontier Fiction, 1880-1906 by Ron Scheer

This book began as a question about the origins of the cowboy western ... how it grew from Owen Wister’s bestseller, The Virginian (1902), to Zane Grey’s first novels a decade later. A reading of frontier fiction from that period, however, soon reveals that the cowboy western was only one of many different kinds of stories being set in the West.

Besides novels about ranching and the cattle industry, writers wrote stories about railroads, mining, timber, the military, politics, women’s rights, temperance, law enforcement, engineering projects, homesteaders, detectives, preachers and, of course, Indians, all of it an outpouring between the years 1880–1915. That brief 35-year period extends from the Earp-Clanton gunfight in Tombstone, Arizona, to the start of the First World War.

The chapters of How the West Was Written tell a story of how the western frontier fed the imagination of writers, both men and women. It illustrates how the cowboy is only one small figure in a much larger fictional landscape. There are early frontier novels in which he is the central character, while in others he’s only a two-dimensional, tobacco-chewing caricature, or just an incidental part of the scenery.

A reading of this body of work reveals that the best-remembered novel from that period, The Virginian, is only one among many early western stories. And it was not the first. The western terrain was used to explore ideas already present in other popular fiction—ideas about character, women, romance, villainy, race, and so on. A modern reader of early western fiction discovers that Wister’s novel was part of a flood of creative output. He and, later, Zane Grey were just two of many writers using the frontier as a setting for telling the human story.  Ron Scheer
Currently available in ebook format for Kindle and in paperback. A second volume is in the works for the years 1907 - 1915.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Hour of the Gun (1967)

I'm working on an article about the many Wyatt Earp films and I watched Hour of the Gun (1967) for the first time. I liked James Garner's hardboiled performance as Wyatt and found the overall film quite entertaining. Though for a movie that opens with "This Picture Is Based On Fact. This Is The Way It Happened," goofs in a very big way by portraying the legendary marshal catching up with Ike Clanton (the superb Robert Ryan) in Mexico. And there are many other inaccuracies but as a Western it's quite well done. I recommend Hour of the Gun to anyone who may have missed this John Sturges classic.