I’m writing a western. I thought it might be useful to read one. My choice was darn near perfect.
In 2010, when the Coen Brothers released a remake of True Grit, they insisted it wasn’t one. It was made independently from the original novel by Charles Portis. I found this odd when I watched the new True Grit because it seemed exactly like the 1969 original, only with Jeff Bridges playing Rooster Cogburn instead of John Wayne.
They’re both made from the original novel, which is so good that departing from it is unnecessary. Oddly, I’d never read it. I’d heard it was great. I’d filed it away in the dusty filing cabinets of my mind. It took Bridges, Josh Brolin, Hailee Steinfeld, Matt Damon, and others to get me past comparing them to Wayne, Glen Campbell, Kim Darby, Robert Duvall, and others, and take me back to the original story told by Portis.
For the record, I prefer the original movie for the strangest reason. I like it better because Campbell is worse. Since I first watched it at age 11 — my dad always dropped me off at the Broadway for most flicks but came along to the westerns — I’ve been amused at Campbell’s wooden acting as LaBoeuf. To me, the best part of the movie is what critics would label the worst.
True Grit the novel is a quick read, which is one reason it’s so simply adaptable to cinema. Portis wrote it first person through the eyes of young Mattie Ross of Dardanelle in Yell County, Arkansas, who is off to avenge the murderer of her daddy. It’s amusing from the first page to the last as Mattie makes her singleminded, sassy way to her goal, strangely placing her confidence and life in the hands of the seedy U.S. Marshal, Cogburn, who, she is told, has grit.
Kids could use Mattie’s self-reliance today. I fret about entrusting my lawn mower to one, much less a Colt Dragoon. I think often about how free the life of a child was when I was growing up. Riding my bike all over creation. Leaving the house with bike and ball glove, maybe come home for dinner (which is now lunch) but mainly to get my roller skates and a cap pistol, then returning near dark for supper (now dinner) and watching Jonny Quest, or Andy Griffith, and then going out on the porch so my granddaddy could watch The Fugitive.
Yes. Mattie Ross would have thought the same of me that I see in my niece, nephews, great-nephews, and the great-niece arriving soon. And they will one day disparage the kids who succeed them. As I once heard a comedian say, they’ll say, “Back in my day, we didn’t have these rocket packs and teleportation devices. We drove a Mercedes to school and were damn glad to get it.”
Most of my books can be found on Amazon here. Three are available — and signed — here in Clinton at L&L Office Supply, 114 North Main Street. The links below are all for the print versions.
Denny Frawley is an ambitious prosecutor whose ambition, private life, and family are all spiraling out of control. Hal Kinley knows he must be stopped in Forgive Us Our Trespasses.
I’ve written lots of songs. Over time, I turned eleven of them into short stories. That’s how my collection, Longer Songs, came to be.
Chance Benford is crazy at the beginning of aptly titled Crazy of Natural Causes. He learns to cope with the world’s absurdity in a variety of ways.
The Intangibles was inspired by growing up during the tumultuous sixties and seventies. It’s a tale of civil rights, bigotry, cultural exchange, and, most importantly, high school football.
Riley Mansfield is the most likable character I’ve created. He’s a pot-smoking songwriter with a stubborn streak and the hero of The Audacity of Dope.
Look me up on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+ and other painstaking means of circulation that don’t occur to me now. I’m easy to find.