Who loves westerns? Everybody? Great. Come and join the Elwood Flynn group. I will be releasing four westerns next year and if you want an early insight into the world of Robin Castle, as he travels a path of vengeance and violence, this is the place to be. Get in early.
I will be releasing a short story soon. A taster of what is to come.
All my stories come with Elwood Flynn’s Solemn Promise – This book will contain scenes of extreme violence and themes of loss and vengeance.
Very interesting interview with Catriona Ward (author of The Last House on Needless Street – a book that will dominate 2021) on the Bestseller Experiment Podcast. The thing that interested me most was that she gets hypnagogic hallucinations… me too.
And now I’m going to publicly talk about something that few people know about me. Don’t be afraid. I’m still me.
They used to teriffy me until I read a book about hallucinations by Oliver Sacks and learned all about hypnagogic (hallucinating while falling asleep) and hypnapompic (while waking up) hallucinations. Now when they happen I just watch. I take in the amazing detail and marvel at the weirdness of the mind.
Sometimes, and most usually, it’s birds nesting in the curtains, or vines covering the ceiling and walls with bugs, indistinguishable from the real thing, crawling all over. Sometimes they are far more terrifying. Things watching you. Still things with still eyes.
A small blackened creature, it’s face lit by the moonlight, watching me from the edge of my office chair (back when my desk was next to my bed).
Once, there were studio lights on the ceiling.
Once, a bookshelf I didn’t own was shifting across the floor.
Once, a thing made of rubber bands crawled up my duvet towards me.
I would jump up, turn on the lights, and they would vanish.
I stopped turning on the light when I began to understand what they were. Now I watch them.
Anyway, now you all think I’m completely mad, I will tell you this; my horror writing is all the richer for it.
Hypnogogia has been connected to narcolepsy and schizophrenia but it has also been connected to alcohol. When I was at my worst with the visions, I was drinking heavily. Now I don’t and the exciting nightly terrors have almost gone completely.
I’ve only had to wake Rachel a few times in the last year to ask if she can see the grey man hanging onto the ceiling, watching us with its upside down head, or if she can see the metallic moths wiggling out of the vents.
Great episode. Good to know, as a writer, I’m not alone with my escaping imagination.
Getting up at 5am to write stopped being fun this week. It was hard. The words came out like stone toothpaste.
Next week will be different. I will get up with that same verve that I started with. The excitement of being amongst gunslingers while the house slept.
This week was difficult because the story stopped being a western. It was always meant to start in New York and wind its way west. I’m halfway through and can’t find my way out of the city. Gritting a 6’9″ pissed off lawman and a percheron horse halfway across a country is harder than it sounds, especially when you’re trying to maintain a certain level of pulp action.
I should have picked a city closer the the lawless frontier.
This is Robin Castle’s origin story. He’s a marshal in New York. Something terrible happens to his family and the guy who did it flees. Castle gives up his badge and the rule of the law to take after him.
He finds himself in a dry unforgiving land with vengeance in his heart and a gun on his hip.
I met him on set of his first novel, Hell’s Ridge. A small frontier town near the Colorado River. It was 1875. I found him in a dark corner of the saloon. He had a typewriter on the table with a page loaded. He had stopped mid-sentence. Loose tobacco littered a short stack of typed pages.
He was fishing a tooth out of his whiskey. I took the seat opposite him. He didn’t look up or acknowledge me. He let out a sigh. His shoulders sagged. He stared at the elusive molar.
I knew his temperament. I waited for him to initiate the conversation. I looked around at my surroundings. I felt out of place in my t-shirt. A piano played by the bar. I thought maybe I’d go and get a drink. Then Elwood came to a decision. He put the glass to his lips and drank, tooth and all. He put his fingers back to the keys on the typewriter and noticed me.
“What do you want?”
“It’s time we talked.”
ANDREW: It won’t take long.
He started to type.
ANDREW: What are you writing?
ELWOOD: You know what I’m writing.
I decided to get a drink. When I came back he was smoking a badly rolled cigarette.
ELWOOD: I don’t like your books.
ANDREW: Why not?
ELWOOD: You try too hard.
ANDREW: What do you mean?
ELWOOD: You write “literary” horror. That’s how you describe it.
ELWOOD: Do you know how pretentious it is that you feel the need to include the word “literary”? Carpenters don’t describe a table as being “wooderary”.
ANDREW: We write in different styles. I write long form horror that adheres to literary convention, you write pulp fiction. I spend hours labouring over the language, ensuring there’s no repetition or-
ELWOOD: Repetition? If your “literary sensibilities” are shaken because you had to read the word “gun” twice on the same page you don’t deserve to be entertained by me. I don’t care if you read it three times. All I care about is the story, which, if I’ve done it right, will be dragging you along by the hair so fast you won’t have time to count the words.
ANDREW: So you don’t care about good writing?
He ignored the question.
ELWOOD: You want long descriptive passages? Tough luck. Use your imagination. All you need to know is Robin Castle has a gun and a bad guy is about to die. And I do care about the writing. I just have different opinions about it to you.
ANDREW: Robin Castle is a great character, how did you come up with-
ELWOOD: Don’t brown-nose me. I’ve read that horror book you wrote, Jack’s Game, is that what it was called? You know you don’t need to describe the curtains, right?
ANDREW: I’m sure I didn’t describe the curtains.
ELWOOD: Nobody ever read a Jack Reacher book and said, “Do you remember the curtains in that one scene? They were great curtains.”
ANDREW: I don’t describe curtains in my books.
ELWOOD: You’re stopping me from writing.
ANDREW: Can I ask one more question? He didn’t answer.
ANDREW: Is this where you normally write.
ELWOOD: No. I normally get up at 5am. I write for two hours. And then I go to work.
ANDREW: I write in the evenings, when I get the chance.
ELWOOD: You’re lazy.
ANDREW: I’m you. I guess I’m just grumpier in the mornings. That might explain your attitude.
He pulled a gun on me. It was an old six-shooter.
ELWOOD: I will shoot you if you keep speaking.
ANDREW: This is ridiculous. We’re the same person. I just thought it would be good to get inside your head a bit. Try and understand how you think. Why you write the way you do? What made you decide to pair the language down? To write novellas instead of proper boo-
ELWOOD: Proper books? There’s no such thing as a proper book. Long novels are just indulgent. All I did was get rid of all the boring bits. Rip the curtains down. It’s all about movement and dialogue.
ANDREW: I’m not trying to offend you.
Elwood pulled the hammer back.
ANDREW: You can’t kill me.
He pulled the trigger. I felt the bullet smash through my ribcage and lodge in my lung.
He fired again.
Everything went dark.
END OF INTERVIEW
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It always surprises me how recent events in American history are. In my imagination, fighting between Native Americans and the settlers ended hundreds of years ago.
Black Elk witnessed the Battle of Little Bighorn. He toured with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. He was around when 200 Sioux were massacred at Wounded Knee, putting an end to Native American military resistance in the West.
In 1930 he told his story to writer, John Neihardt. Black Elk Speaks was published in 1932.
He died in 1950.
When Black Elk was a twelve year-old boy he and a small band of Sioux set off to meet Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull on the Rosebud River. This is his account of a run-in with some white men.
“We were a small band, and we started in the night and traveled fast. Before we got to War Bonnet Creek, some Shyelas (Cheyenne) joined us, because their hearts were bad like ours and they were going to the same place. Later I learned that many small bands were doing the same thing and coming together from everywhere.
Just after we camped on the War Bonnet, our scouts saw a wagon train of the Wasichus ( white men ) coming up the old road that caused the trouble before. They had oxen hitched to their wagons and they were part of the river of Wasichus that was running into the Black Hills. They shot at our scouts, and we decided we would attack them. When the war party was getting ready, I made up my mind that, small as I was, I might as well die there, and if I did, maybe I’d be known. I told Jumping Horse, a boy about my age, that I was going along to die, and he said he would too. So we went, and so did Crab and some other boys.
When the Wasichus saw us coming, they put their wagons in a circle and got inside with their oxen. We rode around and around them in a wide circle that kept getting narrower. That is the best way to fight, because it is hard to hit ponies running fast in a circle. And sometimes there would be two circles, one inside the other, going fast in opposite directions, which made us still harder to hit. The cavalry of the Wasichus did not know how to fight. They kept together, and when they came on, you could hardly miss them. We kept apart in the circle. While we were riding around the wagons, we were hanging low on the outside of the ponies and shooting under their necks. This was not easy to do, even when your legs were long, and mine were not yet very long. But I stuck tight and shot with the six-shooter my aunt gave me. Before we started the attack I was afraid, but Big Man told us we were brave boys, and I soon got over being frightened. The Wasichus shot fast at us from behind the wagons, and I could hear bullets whizzing, but they did not hit any of us.
I do not know whether we killed any Wasichus or not. We rode around several times, and once we got close, but there were not many of us and we could not get at the Wasichus behind their wagons; so we went away. This was my first fight. When we were going back to camp, some Shyela warriors told us we were very brave boys, and that we were going to have plenty of fighting.”