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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I find it easy to be sidetracked, especially when on the computer and the Internet is just a mouse click away. I try to kid myself that it is necessary to divert off to some website, somewhere, for some important research. But it’s so easy to justify fibs when you tell them to yourself, isn’t it? Well, it is for me as I do have a number of websites that I like to visit at least weekly. These include Western Fiction Review, 50 Westerns from the 50’s, and Gary M. Dobbs’ Tainted Archive.

Gary seems to like the stuff I like when it comes to certain aspects of popular culture, and he has a way of getting to it at least a step or two ahead of me. Apart from being a ‘trend setter’ and doyen of really interesting pop stuff, Gary is also a successful Black Horse Western author who writes under the pen name of Jack Martin; and one of his titles, The Tarnished Star, was a big seller in the in the BHW series. It is a story of a lawman on the run for murder, and the cover of the BHW edition (because there are two edition; the second being with the Linford Western Library) is most interesting, because to me the character depicted looks a lot like Gary from the photographs on his website. Or am I seeing shadows? Maybe, maybe not, but I do know that Gary has many strings to his bow, which includes acting not just writing, so maybe he also does cover art?

Anyway, Gary switched me on, or should I say tuned me in to the release of a new book called Tune In: All These Years, Vol I, which looks in detail at the biographical events of The Beatles, and those who influenced them or assisted in their development, from before the birth of each Fab Four member up to the end of 1962. This monster of a book by Mark Lewisohn is meticulously researched, intimately detailed, lovingly recorded and beautifully written with both wit and wisdom. In doing so he has put paid to the many other biographical works I have purchased on the group and individual Beatles over the years. It is without a doubt a treasure trove of vast proportions and I look forward to Vol II and III, provided I’m still alive by the time they are published, as Vol I was some eight years in the making.   

Another very recent ‘switch-on-to-this’ piece of advice from Gary came when he recently told of how he had just become a Breaking Bad fan after arriving late to the series, which has now ended. I had heard of the show but as a rusted-on Mad Men fan I just couldn’t see how following the life and times of a high school chemistry teacher turned crystal meth cook could be all that entertaining. But Gary had become a big fan, so when shopping at my local ‘all things digital’ store and I saw the first four series of the DVD on sale as a one off super special deal, I purchased it on a whim, went home, put it in the player – and WOW!

I really didn’t know that something this good was out there, which just goes to show how out of touch I am when it comes to the serious pop culture stuff that really matters. I guess I’m spending far too much time in the cave! Now, for those who know the series, then there is no need for me to waffle on and just show my ignorance. To those few who have yet to see it, I should say nothing, as I would hate to spoil just one second of this show, other than to say that you are in for a treat of a lifetime, if of course, you like grit mixed with farce. That it is wrapped in a mid-life crisis of a 50 year old suburban husband, father and science schoolteacher makes it all the more realistic, but let me just share a couple of things I have learnt through a little research on the genius creator Vince Gilligan. 

Gilligan was a writer and executive producer with the successful television series The X-Files, and at the end of that series he came up with an idea of exploring the world of the good guy or hero who is transformed into the bad guy or villain. This is no easy story to tell because it so hard to build empathy that binds an audience to a character turning rotten or breaking bad. But this is riveting stuff because the protagonist and over-the-top-risk-taker, Walter White, is so brilliant, unpredictable and foolish all at once, you just have to go along for the ride to see what happens next.

I know this good/bad thing has been done before with shows like The Sopranos and Mad Men, but Gilligan has taken it to new heights, and trying to guess where the story may go is impossible. The twist and turns are fast and sharp, making for a wild ride that is very addictive.  

Originally, the series was to be set in Riverside, a city out of Los Angeles beside the Santa Anna River. However, the location was moved to Albuquerque as the state of New Mexico provides for a 25% tax break for local movie production. This must have been an important consideration, as each episode is reported to cost $3,000,000. Gilligan wasn’t familiar with Albuquerque or New Mexico but when he saw the landscape on screen, which is filmed on 35mm film, during the making the first ‘pilot’ episode, he began to see his creation as a Western.

Vince Gilligan is a Western fan who loves the work of John Ford, Sergio Leone and Budd Boetticher. He even named one of the characters in the series Gale Boetticher as a nod to Budd. But it was after he saw the New Mexico countryside in the first outtakes that he realized that the story could be told more visually through the scenery, and that he could integrate Old West themes that looked very much like gunfighters facing off, only this time it would be in a junkyard not a saloon or dirt street.

Adding this Western style to a contemporary setting has of course been done before in movies like, No Country For Old Men (2007), and way back before that in A Bad Day At Black Rock (1955), but Breaking Bad has introduced it to a large contemporary audience, a new generation of viewers, and I wonder if this is the future of the Western.

From a personal point of view I love the show as it has all the aspects of what I believe makes a Western a Western – a man against the odds who never gives up and if necessary will use violence against violence. However, coming late to the show has been more than a little disconcerting that some small similarities in Breaking Bad have appeared in my stories. I would love to say, great minds think alike, but in reality I guess all writers draw from the same well, especially in genre fiction. Breaking Bad has a feeling to it that is reflective of Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction (1994), but had I seen the series before creating the character of Walter ‘Walt’ Garfield for The Proclaimers, then I would have given him another name and certainly never had him saying, ‘Walt, call me Walt.’ But putting that aside, the big question for me is – will Breaking Bad have an impact on the future of the traditional Western, not just the contemporary Western?

I think it may. Modern audiences have developed a taste for stories that are not just fast paced with plenty of action and violence, but also complex in their development of characters and situations. It is no longer the straightforward or linear storytelling of good verses bad, but bad verses bad in the name of good, which blurs the lines of morality. The result? A story that is as interesting as hell.


Lee Clinton
December 2013




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