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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March 2012














What am I currently reading?

The Time It Never Rained by Elmer Kelton – how I would have loved to have met this author.

I went off to our local writer’s festival recently to soak up some literature. I have been to a few of these now, and get the general impression that all follow a similar format, which is based around a number of presentations, readings and author interviews. So, depending on the chosen genre or topic that has come from someone putting pen to paper (or should that be fingers to the keyboard), each presentation tends to touch on just one aspect of writing within our very varied world of stories.

Some of the headliners like Jo Nesbo from Norway, who is the creator of Detective Harry Hole and now of Headhunters fame (as it has been turned into a movie), spoke eloquently on such subjects as evil. I was all ears, as I have always liked a bit of evil in my bedtime stories – and for that I must blame my parents, who introduced me to Long John Silver (and he led me to Mr Hyde) when I was learning to read as a tot. Spoilt me really, I thought all stories could be that good just as a matter of course, only to learn that someone like Robert Louis Stevenson only comes along once every hundred years or so. And by the by, I have always seen pirate stories as a forerunner to cowboy stories – you don’t agree? Well, maybe it’s just me, as I see both as coming from the grand tradition of boy’s own adventure. That the Western was able to mature into the likes of The Shootist by Glendon Swarthout and Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry, just goes to show how great the Western can be.  

At the end of each presentation or author interview was a question time, but for the most part these were cut short, and those who took to the floor often seemed to want to air their own opinions rather than ask a question. Pity really, because I didn’t much care to hear what they had to say, and nor did the rest of the audience judging by the looks I saw around me. Still, it’s a free country, except I had to pay to get into most of the presentations! Funny isn’t it, how writer’s festivals are mostly about selling books, but you have to pay to hear the sales pitch. Seems a little like paying to see bunch of movie trailers before you get to buy your ticket to see the movie.

However, like most things in life, quality does rise to the top like cream and one of the highlights was an interview with three young adult authors, Chetan Bhagat, David Levithan and James Roy, talking about their readers and what they want. These were people who knew their stuff and I was impressed with their insights and regard for their fans. On the non-fiction side of the house, I got to see and hear from Nigel Brennan who was held hostage in Somalia for 15 months before his family managed to get him back, but only after paying a hefty ransom. His strength of character after such an ordeal was most impressive and he has now put it down in a book.

But all was not a rose garden at the festival. Well not for me anyway. One of the lowlights was a discussion on the influence of the Western on writing and storytelling.

I had circled this one in my program months beforehand and purchased my ticket early. I settled into the front row in anticipation as soon as the tent flap was lifted, but alas, I shouldn’t have bothered. Early on in the discussion it became clear that those on the panel were not discussing the Western novel but Western movies (well, at least in an oblique way). In fact by the end of the event I doubted if any of them had ever read a Western novel in their life. Sure they all waxed-on lyrical about Cormac McCarthy and quoted Blood Meridian and No Country for Old Men, but Louis L’Amour, Zane Grey, Jack Schaefer, Elmer Kelton or the original of them all, Owen Wister (just to name a few), didn’t get a mention. Nothing! Not even a note in passing. Then when political correctness rode in on a cloud of dust and the Western started to get the blame for its simplicity in portraying stereotypes and single dimensional stories, I gave up. Luckily I have mellowed over the years or I would have had my rant from the stalls at the BS that was going down on stage.    

But I sucked it up and bit my tongue. I guess it is easy to be blissfully ignorant when you have formed an opinion on a matter via just a cursory glance of the subject in question, and I ought to know because I’ve been ignorantly blissful for most of my life. But I’ve never sat on a stage and displayed that ignorance to a paying public. Every now and then when I get to actually wrap my head around a topic, I usually find that right or wrong, good or bad, treasure or trash, is never as clear-cut as some would like to make us believe. And it is in these varying shades of grey that most of the really interesting stories seem to reside. So I would have thought that reading a Western or two, before dismissing all Westerns as having little relevance or merit in today’s literature, would have been a good idea. After all, good stories well told are at the heart of an entertaining book, regardless of the genre. Or have I got it wrong?



April 2012

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