In researching gun shops in Morgantown, West Virginia, in 1870 I came across this ice cream shop. (It didn’t help in my research but it did make me smile).
Top Google review – “Ice cream and gun shop, what more could you ask for.”
Isn’t America a weird place?
I remember meeting my parents in America once and as we travelled from Boulder City to Las Vegas we drove past a burger restaurant with a sign outside that read, “Enjoy a burger and fire a machine gun.”
I think it was called Burgers and Bullets.
And people think the western is a dead genre. In a place where you can ask for extra pickles and ammo, a scoop of vanilla and a Glock G19, the Wild West is still alive and kicking in the unbridled hearts of a number of its inhabitants.
I’ve been going back and reading the classics of the western genre. The cornerstones of gunslinging pulp.
(The following contains spoilers. So if you just want my reaction, I loved it. I recommend you read it).
Shane by Jack Schaefer was first published in three parts in Argosy magazine in 1946. Pulp to the core. It came out as a novel in 1949 and has never been out of print. Literature with a capital W.
It’s a small book that takes its time. A slow burn. Told from the viewpoint of a boy, Bob Starrett, who watches this mythic rider come into town. The man on the horse stops at his farm house and asks for water for him and his horse. His name is Shane. The boy becomes infatuated with him. His father, Joe Starrett, offers the stranger a bed for the night and he ends up staying for much longer.
They spend time on the land. Shane helps Joe remove a tree stump. It takes a long time and Schaefer keeps with it. Showing each swing of the axe.
Shane doesn’t talk about his past and much speculation is made of him.
Soon that past, or knowledge of who he is, catches up to him. A man flees town upon merely setting eyes on Shane.
Bob and his parents are being run out of town by a rancher who needs their land back. They are homesteaders who staked their land on Luke Fletcher’s ranch. Land Fletcher had never claimed himself.
Shane stands up and defends his new home.
At first I wasn’t sure about the book. You’re spending time with these characters without a lot happening. But the writing won me over. There is something about the farm and the people that pulls you in. I liked spending time with Shane, and Bob, and Joe.
It rewards you for your patience with a great final act.
I would read it again. If you love westerns and haven’t read this one yet it’s well worth it.
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.
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.