Recently I was merrily working away at my newest novel when I took a break to grab some water and stretch my legs. I just don’t like sitting all day, even when the writing is flowing smoothly; I have to get up here and there and do a quick workout or even just take a walk around the block to get the blood flowing and come back refreshed to get back to work.
Sometimes when I do that, my mind goes off on a tangent and ideas for different stories start ricocheting around, and suddenly I found myself thinking about a story that had been percolating in the background of my brain for a while; not a science fiction story, but a traditional Western, and I decided to pursue it when I got back to the computer.
Why a western, you may ask?
The first movie I ever remember watching was the Clint Eastwood Classic “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.” It was in the den of my grandparents’ house, and I was all of four years old, and to this day I still get a thrill out of hearing that nigh-unto cliche’d piece of music that marked the opening credits. It initiates something deep and visceral inside me, tickling memories that go back about as far as I can reasonably remember.
The trailer – The good the bad and the ugly
My grandfather loved Westerns, and he passed that love onto me. It didn’t matter if the star was Clint Eastwood or John Wayne or someone else; if I have my choice of what kind of film to watch, it’s most likely going to be a Western (or science fiction, of course, but let us not pick nits). My love of Westerns transcends film as well; I’ve previously discussed my enjoyment of the books of Louis L’Amour, and there were others as well. I remember reading The Shootist by Glendon Swarthout; the novel that would ultimately be adapted to a screenplay that would become John Wayne’s last film, and a passage therein that always stuck with me:
He thought: I will not break. I won’t tell anybody what a tight I am in. I will keep my pride. And my guns loaded to the last.
A short trailer…
There was something about it that rang true to me. I grew up around such people: the tough and no-nonsense Southwestern lawmen that were constantly going in and out of my grandfather’s house. They could be terse and taciturn, but they could also get a twinkle in their eye and seemed to like having a moment to acknowledge the child I was; as if my innocence reminded them of the children they themselves had once been long before, before the sun and wind and austerity of the West had burned the innocence out of them. But, as that child, I admired their grimly stoic demeanor and unflinching code of honor and integrity; their dedication to being honest and forthright even when such was not the easiest path to choose. Many had grown up with nothing but their integrity, and they would have preferred death to betraying it.
Because of them, when I first started writing for myself many of the stories I wrote were Westerns, and I still am drawn to Westerns, and heavily influenced by them in much of what I do in my life. The Western story that came out, Draw The Long Bow, is a tale of a man riding the revenge trail, but not for the normal reasons most would think!
The title, Draw The Long Bow, is actually taken from a saying in the 1800’s: ancient Norman archers were renowned for their ability to tell amazingly tall tales about their abilities with their weapons, so to say that someone was “drawing the long bow” meant he was telling an outlandish tale. As this is in part a story about a man whose entire existence is a lie, I felt such was apropos.
It surprises me sometimes, when the idea for a story pops into my head and begins to nag at me until I can’t help but sit down and write it out, just for my own edification. It’s delightful to me when that story rings true and says something I think worth sharing!