What is the Corral about?

Well, simply, it is a place to round-up ideas, thoughts, comments and anything else you may like to hear about. My original intention was to have a forum but the time to manage such a gathering is really beyond me at this stage. But via email I can gather up your input and get it into the Corral.

So, would you like to make comment?

What is your favorite western story, either as a book or a movie?

Want to tell us why?

What are you currently reading, watching or listening to (regardless if it is a Western or not)?

What do you want to see in future Western stories (grit or romance, maybe both, gunplay or justice, grim reality or happy endings)?

Anything you would like to see in one of my stories?



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Robert Mitchum, now there was a man. Yep, I’m back to continue talking about this fine actor who starred in many Westerns. In fact, over a third of his one hundred and more movies were Westerns, and represent some of his best, and dare I say it, not so good works. But hey, with so many movies and some being made at the same time as a second or even third movie, then it’s bit hard to make a masterpiece every time.

Apart from his acting, Mitchum was also a superb horseman who started his early career as a villain in many low budget Hopalong Cassidy movies. His big break came when he was cast in The Story of GI Joe, which resulted in a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. But by then, he had over two dozen full length movies under his belt that included Westerns like Nevada, which was adapted from the Zane Grey novel. In the same year (1945) that he starred in GI Joe, he made West of Pecos, another Western adapted from a Zane Grey novel. However, it was Blood on the Mood, made three years later, that is one of his standout Westerns.

Blood on the Moon was adapted from a story by Luke Short, which was a pen name for Frederick Dilley Glidden, a popular Western writer. Glidden studied journalism but was lured into writing Westerns to escape unemployment during the depression. He started out writing short story pulps but was able to sell his first full length novel Blood on the Moon, which is also know as Gunman’s Chance to the Saturday Evening Post for serializing in 1941. Charles Portis, who was also a journalist, was to have similar success 27 years later when he sold True Grit to the Post.

The movie Blood on the Moon is worth a look as it is a good story well told. Mitchum is great, as is the rest of the cast, but what really makes this movie stand out, at least for me, is that it has a ‘noir’ air to it that adds grit to the tale. This is the dark and brooding West of dirty double deals, and Mitchum plays Jim Garry the drifter cowboy who gets sucked in before he figures out what’s going on. The book is still available with a recent reprint in 2010 by Leisure Books, a subsidiary of Dorchester Publishing, which recently went down the tubes after 75 years in the business. However, Amazon bought up the rights to some one thousand titles, which included a number of Westerns, and one of those was Blood on the Moon.

But if I had to pick one stand out movie to argue the case that Mitchum was a great actor I would pick the 1973 movie, The Friends of Eddie Coyle. No it’s not a Western but could easily fall into that fuzzy sub-genre known as the urban western, where the situation and characters are similar to that of a Western story but set in the city and in modern times.

The movie was adapted from the novel of the same name by George V. Higgins. Mitchum plays the lead role of ‘Eddie Fingers’, an aging gun supplier to the criminal underworld of Boston. In the book the story is told almost completely via the use of dialogue, which takes a very special sort of writing skill, and the movie follows that dialogue closely. It is a great book and a gem of a movie that has now been elevated to cult status. To my mind, this particular movie just shows how good Mitchum is when given a great part. Eddie Coyle might be a criminal and willing to sell out some of his friends in his dog eat dog world, yet, under all this dirt and corruption is a humanity that allows the reader to empathize with Eddie. This is no easy thing to pull off, even with a good script, but Mitchum does it superbly.

A fan of George V. Higgins is Elmore Leonard, who started his career as an author writing Westerns. I’m not sure what impact Higgins had on Leonard’s writing but I have wondered about an odd coincidence that also involves Quentin Tarantino. The book, The Friends of Eddie Coyle, starts with Eddie, who is referred to as just ‘the stocky man’, putting together a deal to buy some ‘clean’ revolvers from a young gunrunner by the name of Jackie Brown. Eddie plans to then on-sell these pieces to a mob that are about to rob a series of suburban banks. Now, my favorite Tarantino movie is Jackie Brown, which is adapted from an Elmore Leonard novel called Rum Punch. Is there a do-do-do-do Twilight Zone moment here for you if you squint a little and connect the dots – or is it just me? No? Well, maybe it’s just me.

Another book of Higgins has just been adapted to the big screen. It stars Brad Pitt and is called Killing Them Softly. It comes from the novel Cogan’s Trade that has been adapted by writer/director Andrew Dominik, who also wrote and directed The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Doninik has done a great job in capturing the Higgins style, which is dark, brutal and matter-of-fact. It is the story of those who have entered the industry of crime as a career by either choice or circumstance. It is a most unattractive world where no one seems to be a winner. This is a place where the fine grit gets under the skin and can’t be washed off. The cast in this movie is first class and if you like gritty noir then this is the movie for you, but be warned it is a story with no uplifting feel good Hollywood ending. In fact, it is depressingly bleak and unforgivably realistic – and not a movie for the faint heart.

But let me end with some cheer, as I offer you all the best over the festive season – and hopefully you’ll receive a book or two in your Xmas stocking – and leave you with this thought. Is there still a place for the brutal, realistic, dark, gritty Western novel, and if so why?

My thoughts on the subject, you may ask? Well, I subscribe to the belief that a good story needs conflict to make it work, and those tales that make us feel uncomfortable are usually the most exciting – well, at least to me they are. David Webb Peoples did this with his 1976 screenplay The William Munny Killings that Clint Eastwood turned into the 1992 movie Unforgiven. And Luke Short (Frederick Dilley Glidden) did it with Blood on the Moon. So I say, give me more.

All the best for 2013.



Lee Clinton
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