Deep in Revision

busy-running-scheduleI’m deep in revision, so there may be a little radio silence here for a while.

I’m head down over the second pass of the second Paizo novel of the summer, smoothing out the rough draft and groaning at the bad stuff. Occasionally I happen upon a chunk of text I like so well I can hardly believe I wrote it, which is always a nice surprise. Will I complete it and a final, third pass, by the end of September? Will Lassie warn the firemen? Will the sherif stop the stagecoach? Probably.

I’ve been talking with Chris Hocking about taking the magical list of noir live even as I read deeper and deeper into its depths. He’s fully on board, but neither of us want to just drop it onto the web site without any kind of word of explanation. It’ll probably come out as a kind of back and forth discussion between the two of us, with a little bit of info on each book and what makes it worth reading, and, possibly, our differing reactions.

Now I’m casting around for some kind of equivalent list of the best westerns. There are an awful lot of western novels out there — how do you know which ones are good? I’ve had some people tell me to just read anything by L’amour. I read one, found it good, but it didn’t blow my socks off, so I don’t know if I just caught an average one or if it’s typical. It wasn’t like Haas (Benteen) where I just had to track ’em all down. I remain open to suggestions. The great thing about this noir list, though, was that it came from someone with very similar taste, so it was ideally tailored for me. I wonder if I’ll be able to find someone like that similarly well-read in the field of westerns.

In other news I have a pile of gaming stuff I need to review, but that will probably happen over at Black Gate. For now, adieu. I’m going to get back to the manuscript.

3 Comments on “Deep in Revision

  1. Joe Abercrombie wrote a recommendation list on his blog back when he wrote The Red Country. The site seems to be down at the moment, so I’ll just copy this here:

    Pete Dexter, Deadwood – I suspect the makers of the TV series owe a debt to this offbeat, dark and hilarious telling of the last days of Wild Bill Hickok.

    A.B. Guthrie, The Big Sky and The Way West – Great novels of the early west. Tough and authentic-seeming, it’s hard to believe they were written in the late 40s.

    Richard Matheson, Journal of the Gun Years – If you only read one on this list, make it this one. Very slim, very powerful story of the cost of violence, from the man who brought you I am Legend. I’d never heard of it before plucking it at random from a bookstore shelf but I’m mighty glad I did.

    Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian – The west as hell. The crazy, unpunctuated biblical style and searing bleakness won’t be for everyone, but you can’t ignore the power.

    Larry McMurtry, Lonesome Dove – Superb stuff. Tough, moving, packed with memorable characters. There’s a brilliant TV adaptation as well.

    Charles Portis, True Grit – A classic, with brilliant voice and style.

    Elmore Leonard, The Complete Western Stories of Elmore Leonard – He’s a master at characterisation, is Leonard, and can sketch a vivid character with a few words of description and a line of dialogue. I read a couple of his full-length westerns as well (I say full length, they’re barely more than novellas, really) and I thought in the end his stuff worked a lot better short form. Valdez is Coming is an extension and elaboration of one of the stories in this volume, and he actually takes a fascinating, surprising, and hard edged short story and spins a rather predictable novel out of it. The shorts are fantastic, though. Amazing how many memorable characters he produces in these thirty stories, and never seems to be treading the same ground.

    Hampton Sides, Blood and Thunder – The only non-fiction I’m putting in here. Rousing account of the conquest of the west centring on Kit Carson.

    • I haven’t read much from this list apart from Lonesome Dove, which I quite liked, and Valdez is Coming, which I’ll have to say I found not in the LEAST bit predictable. It was a tour de force and one of the finest westerns I’ve read.

      Some of these pieces are about the west or set in the west — what I’m REALLY after is a list of great hard boiled western novels. I was talking about this with Chris Hocking the other day, wondering if there was someone who’d worked their way through all the old Gold Medal Westerns looking for good ones the way some mystery fans had scoured the Gold Medal hard boiled and noir stuff.

      That said, I think I’ll definitely track down the Complete Western stories of Elmore Leonard, and the stuff from A.B. Guthrie. Thanks for sharing!

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