Trenchcoats & Ten-Gallon Hats- The Creative Relationship Between The Western And Crime Novel

 

Robert Knott, the author chosen to continue Robert B. Parker’s Western-detective mash-up series starring sheriffs Hitch and Cole, comes to visit to BookPeople tonight, Friday February 5th, at 7 PM. He’ll be speaking and signing his latest extension of the series, Robert B. Parker’s Blackjack. 

Why post about an upcoming visit from the author of a Western novel on a mystery blog, you might ask? Well, as Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery, a fan of all tough-guy fiction, explains below, the two genres may have more in common than you might think….

  • Post by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery, all quotes taken from interviews via email

Genres have always have conversations with one another. They find reinvention in themselves or each other from borrowing from one another. Few do it as much as the crime novel and the western.

“The historian Richard Slotkin is most famous for making the argument (and I believe he’s right) that the detective hero of hardboiled fiction is a literary descent of the Western or frontier hero,” says crime fiction author and expert Megan Abbott. “The dangerous frontier becomes the dangerous city, and the “savage” Native Americans are replaced by various “others” in hardboiled novels. Further, the Western or frontier hero is often a loner, someone who can mix in “both worlds” and who resists the “civilizing” influence of women–something else you can see in the detective hero.”

An argument can be made that the cross pollination came from first pulp and later paperback markets where both forms were highly popular. The markets fueled a populist readership from both urban and rural communities, demanding both escapism and something they could relate to. Authors like Max Brand, Zane Grey, Fredrick Nebel, and Raoul Whitfield usually worked in more than one genre. This lead to experimentation.

“I think when you’re talking about genre you’re talking about a contextual relationship with the reader, a line of commonality that’s something of an insider language,” says Craig Johnson, author of the lauded Sheriff Walt Longmire series. “That means it works on different levels and allows you to use as much or as little as you like.”

“The dangerous frontier becomes the dangerous city, and the “savage” Native Americans are replaced by various “others” in hardboiled novels. Further, the Western or frontier hero is often a loner, someone who can mix in “both worlds” and who resists the “civilizing” influence of women–something else you can see in the detective hero.”

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  • Introduced by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

Last week my Facebook had several posts linking to Shotgun Honey’s latest story by newcomer Natalie Schriefer. After I read it, I can see why. She uses point of view brilliantly to convey control plot and tone.


“The Hunt” by Natalie Schriefer


“At 1:30 AM, police arrived at MacKay’s bar. Two sirens blared, piercing the hot air, and I ran to the window, latching onto the chipped wooden frame. Two empty patrol cars had parked out front, blocking the road. The driver’s side door stood open on one car…”

Read the rest of the story.

Three Picks for February

  • Picks from Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

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Canary by Duane Swierczynski

One of my Top 10 of 2015 is now in paperback. A college student is forced to become an informant for an ambitious narcotics cop. To escape she sets up a plan to play the police and dealers off of one another. A tight, human thriller that gives an interesting look at the war on drugs. You can find copies of Canary on our shelves or via bookpeople.com


9780062369857What Remains Of Me by Alison Gaylin

When the a celebrity murderess’ movie star father-in-law is found shot five years after her release, past and present smack into one another. A rich psychological thriller that looks into adolescence, privilege, and the media. Great for Megan Abbott fans. What Remains of Me comes out Tuesday, February 23rd. Pre-order now!


9781459806771Love and Fear by Reed Farrel Coleman

Coleman brings back little person PI Gulliver Dowd for what may be his last book. This time he is asked to look for a missing mob boss’ daughter, finding a history of betrayal and heartbreak. One of the most underrated series in detective fiction. Love and Fear comes out Tuesday, February 9th. Pre-order now!

MysteryPeople Pick of the Month: HONKY TONK SAMURAI by Joe R. Lansdale

 

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  • Review by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

When Joe Lansdale writes a Hap and Leonard novel, you know you’re in for a good time. The misadventures of the red neck liberal and his gay black Republican partner-in-crime supply a lot of laughs and action. With Honky Tonk Samurai, the boys are back and joined by all their rowdy friends.

By now in the series, Hap and Leonard are officially private eyes. Hap’s girlfriend, Brett, has bought the agency from their friend, Marvin Hanson, who is now chief of police. Their first case is for a salty old woman who wants to find her granddaughter. The clues quickly lead to a used car/prostitution/extortion ring. when the bad guys call on an inbred family of psycho-assassins to do their dirty work, the boys put out the call, rounding up their friends like good ol’ boy PI Jim Bob Luke, reporter Cason, the beautiful and highly skilled hitwoman Vanilla Ride, and Cason’s sociopath friend Booger, like the magnificent seven with fewer and weirder members.

For the fans of the series, it is like getting together with an old friend, especially the one that just got out of prison.

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MysteryPeople Q&A with Robert Knott

  • Interview by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

Author and actor Robert Knott has just released Blackjack, his latest continuation of Robert B. Parker’s novels featuring Territorial Marshals Hitch and Cole. The book is a western whodunit – a Denver lawman’s wife has been murdered, and the chief suspect is Boston Bill Black, a gunman and gambler opening up a new gambling hall in Apaloosa.

Throw in a bounty hunter with ties to Cole’s past and a new love interest for Hitch and you have a novel that continues the fun you expect out of the series. Robert Knott will be speaking and signing his latest here at BookPeople on Friday, February 5th, beginning at 7 PM. He was kind enough to take some early questions about the novel and writing in the west.

MysteryPeople Scott:  Blackjack has a different flavor than most of the Hitch and Cole novels. What did you want to accomplish with it?

Robert Knott: Well, hum, I did not set out to bring about a different flavor but I suppose this book is – to some degree – more human, more sensitive? There is also some “whodunit” happening with Blackjack. I also feel – as I move through this journey of life with Hitch and Cole that they need to learn, grow and change. I know, I know, I know, it is one thing to make sure your serial protagonist does what is expected but then there is also – for me – a need for an evolution to go with what is expected. Evolution of character interests me. Basically relationships and characters need to change otherwise, like in life, without change we become stagnant, stale. In regard to accomplishment – and I can say, this is by design – I like the idea of not setting up an antagonist that we know in the end is going to get what is coming to him. I like that flavor, don’t get me wrong but I also like not knowing, and that is what is happening here with Blackjack. Another character element I always think about – and that is: characters are not good or bad but rather they are simply victims of circumstances.

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Crime Fiction Friday: “When The Hammer Comes Down” by Josh Stallings

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We’re looking forward to hosting Josh Stallings this upcoming Monday, February 1st, at 7 PM, along with Terry Shames and Scott Frank. His novel Young Americans is a heist novel set in the glam rock 70s. Here he takes a look at the war on drugs in the late 80s, with appearances from Daryl Gates and Nancy Reagan. The story originally appeared in Protectors 2: Heroes, edited by Thomas Pluck, an anthology we’re proud to sell here at BookPeople. Profits from Protectors 2: Heroes go to PROTECT, an organization that lobbies for legislation that protects children from physical, sexual, and emotional abuse.

Click here for more details about the event. 


“When The Hammer Comes Down” by Josh Stallings

“3:23 PM Los Angeles.

April hit like a firebomb. It was murder your best friend weather. Too hot to fuck weather. Watch what you say or this shit steps off weather. The only thing Angelenos hate more than rain is excessive heat. When you live in paradise anything less than perfection is an attack on your birthright. Traffic on the Harbor Freeway was building into a snarling mess. At under ten miles an hour no air moved throughthe Caprice’s open windows. Sweat dripped off Detective Madsen’s Neanderthal brow. “It is hotter than two rats fucking in a wool sock.”

“Two rats huh? Guess it is.” Detective Lunt wanted a cool drink in a cooler restaurant, instead he was driving across town for a P.R. bust and grin. “Apologize to Caselli. Eat a little shit and he’ll have our air blowing cold in bang time.”

“That walleyed inbred needle dick wrench monkey deserves nothing but my boot in his ass.”

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MysteryPeople Q&A with Screenwriter and Author Scott Frank

  • Interview by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

Scott Frank is a screenwriter and director of exquisite talent. He has adapted Get Shorty, Out Of Sight, and Minority Report. As both writer and director, he has given us two of the best crime films in past decade, A Walk Among The Tombstones (from the Lawrence Block novel) and The Lookout.

Frank has now added “novelist” to his already impressive resume with his debut, Shaker, a crime satire that takes a New York hitman to L.A. just in time for one of California’s worst earthquakes. The book looks at gangs, the media culture, and politics, all in a style that allows for human depth and darkness as well as laughs. Mr. Frank took a few questions about the book and the switch from screen to prose. He joins us Monday, February 1st, at 7 PM, appearing alongside authors Terry Shames and Josh Stallings. 


MysteryPeople Scott: You mainly are known for your work in film. What made Shaker more suitable to tell as a novel?

Scott Frank: It was a story that depended so much on understanding the history of several characters. You couldn’t really go forward without knowing what had come before. So it just seemed more of a novel to me for that reason.

MPS: What did you enjoy doing in prose that you couldn’t do in a screenplay?

SF: When you write a film, “show not tell” is always your mantra. You don’t ever get a chance to go deep. You want to define scene and character as quickly as you can. And if you do go backwards, it can’t play as digression. It will feel like a mistake. We just don’t watch movies in the same way we read books. In a book, a digression can be the most satisfying part. It was so much fun writing about what happened before the book began, and then making it pay off.

MPS: The book has an interesting interplay between plot and backstory. On the surface, it plays like a Carl Hiassen crime satire, yet you slowly get introduced to everybody’s dark history. Was this planned going in or just happen since you were dealing with some pretty unsavory characters?

SF: It just sort of evolved. I realized that if I wanted a reader to actually care about these people, I couldn’t always write them as jokes. I thought it might be interesting for introduce someone, make an impression, then subvert that with their backstory, so that you cared about them, no matter how unsavory they turned out to be. The tone in those past sections, then, had to be more serious, but still had to somehow dovetail with the rest of the book. Was the hardest part for me. But I just heard those parts differently in my head.

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