Go West, Old Man

Riley Mansfield might look a little like this.(Monte Dutton sketch)
Riley Mansfield might look a little like this.(Monte Dutton sketch)

A Swedish movie with subtitles was on a few minutes ago. I didn’t watch it, but it was on. I was going through emails and getting rid of spam on my website. All I know about the movie was that it had something to do with love, probably the forbidden variety, and, when the closing credits ran, I noticed one character had been named Dagmar.

By Monte Dutton
By Monte Dutton

Now there’s a similarly unlikely American film running. As best I can tell, Judy Garland is a farmer — see? — and she’s going to hire Gene Kelly and a troupe of entertainers to be farmhands.

That always works. I remember back when I was but a lad and all the migrant song-and-dance-men showed up at peach-picking time.

Perhaps I should just let The Weather Channel run.

I wrote the twentieth chapter of my next novel — next as in my third one’s out, my fourth is on the way, and this is the fifth — which is a modern western called Cowboys Come Home. The heroes, home from World War II in the Pacific, find trouble brewing back in Texas.

Why am I writing a western? Well, it’s a long story, which is fairly common for those who write books.

(Joe Font cover design)
(Joe Font cover design)

First of all, I just don’t think I’m suited by nature to write one yarn after another about the same character. As much as I like them, these men and women I create, once the story is done, I want to move on. When I wrote the first novel, The Audacity of Dope, I had just written my last non-fiction book (True to the Roots: Americana Music Revealed) about musicians I encountered on the road. I based Riley Mansfield on about three of them and thought, well, what if this guy accidentally became a national hero?

Off I went.

(Melanie Ryon cover design)
(Melanie Ryon cover design)

The Intangibles is built from memories of my boyhood. It’s the most personal, and I found writing it therapeutic. I confronted some scars I didn’t know I had. No matter how many books I write, this one will always be the most important, personally, I expect.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

I wanted to broaden the horizons in Crazy of Natural Causes. I moved it to another area, eastern Kentucky, and wrote about a man forced by fate and his own shortcomings to reinvent himself. It is a fable of life’s absurdity.

Out next — I’ll let you know exactly when, now that I know there is going to be a when — is Forgive Us Our Trespasses, which is a crime novel about a corrupt politician and a good cop. It’s a tale of corruption, power, and patronage, told on two levels.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

This brings me back to the original intention of the blog, which is … why am I now writing a western?

It’s the strangest story yet, much stranger than the actual plot of the novel. I was tentatively recruited to write a western, and, while continuing to add to the story, I submitted a sample, synopsis, etc. That’s when I learned how tentative it was. The publisher didn’t think this was what it had in mind. In hindsight, I think the publisher wanted more … sagebrush. And cactus. Uh, cacti.

One of my favorite novels is Larry McMurtry’s Leaving Cheyenne, which is a modern western. Its plot has nothing to do with my work-in-progress, Cowboys Come Home, but its mood was something I wanted to explore. I wanted to write about simple folk dealing with changing times.

For a while there, I was writing Forgive Us Our Trespasses and Cowboys Come Home at the same time, switching back and forth, depending on the mood. The mood swung toward Trespasses more often that not, so Cowboys came to a halt, in part because I had taken too many side trips and lost touch with the narrative.

I spun my publishing wheels for quite a while with Crazy — it made me crazy — and then it earned a KindleScout deal, and then I polished off Trespasses, and it also earned a KindleScout deal, and now I’m back on Cowboys, having cleaned, revised, and rewritten its opening and weaved more cogently into its yarn.

I was cross-stitching, and embroidering, and all I really needed to do was crochet, okay?

I have to control my wandering eye and focus on Cowboys. Wait. Let me rephrase that lest I create a wrong impression. I have to focus on the story of a manuscript called Cowboys Come Home. If it was that kind of wandering eye, it would be called Cowgirls Come Home.

 

Now I have no excuse not to get some fiction writing done.

 

              Please consider my novels. You may do so here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

 

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