Monday, 19 March 2018
WRITING THE WEST - Part 3
The 1960s saw changes emerging in the way movies depicted the west.
No way could you imagine the likes of John Wayne or James Stewart taking six gunfighters across the border to defend a small Mexican village. Lee Marvin could have but Yul Brynner got the role of the cold, businesslike Chris. 'The Magnificent Seven' became an instant classic - and much quoted in Western novels like John J McLaglen's 'Herne The Hunter' series.
Next on the scene was a scruffy, bristle faced, poncho wearing 'hero'. Took a bit of getting used to seeing how 'Rawhide's' Rowdy Yates had let himself go - but Clint Eastwood along with Italian film director Sergio Leone took the western down new trails and in the process another classic was born with 'The Good, The Bad And The Ugly'. Leone's films were inspirational with his own 'Once Upon A Time In The West'. Franco Nero as 'Django' - and Lee Van Cleef was making a name for himself.
Nor were the British far behind with Robert Shaw riding into 'A Town Called Hell' and Raquel Welch looking for vengeance in 'Hannie Caulder'.
While new stars were rising the old breed were dying. Joel McCrea and Randolph Scott went to Ride The High Country for one last time. While The Wild Bunch were gunned down in a bloody gore fest that divided the fans.
If there were changes in the cinema so it was echoed in the books we read.
In 1972 New English Library introduced a new breed of hero in the shape of a man called 'Edge' created by George G. Gilman. Edge broke the mold and new heroes followed in his wake.
I must have been slow in catching up because I didn't start reading Edge until 1979. How do I know this? Because the first two books have an inscription - ' To Daddy - Christmas '78'. My two eldest daughters gave me one each and lit a fuse.
No one can quite be sure when it happened but I picked up a second hand typewriter and started writing a western. Just tapped away putting words on to yellow quarto sized paper and 'Poseidon Smith' was born. So, too, was Pad MaGhee who followed in Poseidon's footsteps. I put the books into a folder and put them in a box - I had proved to myself that I could write a western - or two.
1980: My mother-in-law, who worked in the local newsagents, mentioned that there was a new Western magazine coming out and would I like a copy? Sounded like a good idea at the time and it was a good job that it was. Over the next four months I discovered that George G Gilman, J.T.Edson, Neil Hunter and most of the other western writers that I had been reading were British.
That Christmas my wife, Sandra, bought me some Avon aftershave in a bottle shaped like a Pepperpot pistol.
The Pepperpot pistol sat beside the typewriter as I re-wrote 'Poseidon Smith:Vengeance Is Mine'. The ms went to all the paperback publishers and came back with praiseworthy rejections. In the end I wrote to George G Gilman for advice - his reply was a suggestion that I send the book to Robert Hale.
After having to lose 5,000 words - Poseidon Smith (armed with a Pepperpot pistol) was published. Though not under my own name. The day that I completed the final draft my father in law died - the book had to be put to one side. Five days later tragedy struck again when my own father died. Later, when I returned the ms to Hale the author's name had changed to Jack Giles (named for two fathers who loved their westerns).
None of this would have happened has it not been for a well spent childhood. I guess it is just that childhood never ends - and that together with a love for a genre that is supposed to be on it's last legs we want to keep it alive.
When I write a western a gun sits alongside the keyboard - the kid won't have it otherwise.
The story of Poseidon Smith could not be written without the help of my family.