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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