The Western

I Dont Know What It Is About The Western

I don’t know what it is about the western, but I’ve always loved them. I guess it’s easy to say that – what little boy hasn’t loved playing Cowboys and Indians? The notion of a lone rider, the stranger in a strange land, the gangs of outlaws and the badge wearing posse stuck with me. I guess even four years in the Army couldn’t cure me of it.

When I got out of the army and went to school, I wasn’t too sure how one went about becoming a writer. I asked a mentor of mine, Morton Marcus (who always gave me encouraging words, if not A’s), where I should go. He directed me to San Francisco State’s undergrad creative writing program.

Now I never thought it a strange notion to write westerns in a college creative writing class. Most folks were surprised that anyone was writing westerns, but I often received compliments that it was nice to read something different. I guess the stories you’re supposed to be writing in college have to do with substance abuse problems, emotional breakups,

and having that all take place in Europe somewhere. If I had a nickel for every one of those stories I read throughout the program, I could buy myself a nice steak dinner.

So I stuck it out – writing my westerns, but with a twist. I didn’t want to rehash Louie Lamour stories or any of the classic pulps, although I am a Lonesome Dove western kinda guy. I wanted to take the western out of it’s normal historical and geographic boundaries and place it in a different context. That’s how Strange Tales of an Unreal West came about. Strange Tales was a small printed compilation of short stories that followed the themes I was interested in.

After college I decided to go on the road and sell my vision at zine and book festivals. That idea went about as far as a lead balloon. Two years and fifteen thousand dollars later, I came back to San Francisco and decided to start all over again.

I picked up Paris High Noon – my first attempt at writing a gothic

western for a writing contest. It didn’t get past the first round, but I learned that I could write a novel. So I worked with that original idea about an old cowboy who rode with Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch, and who retired to Paris in the late 1930’s. When the Nazis invade, he straps on the old six-gun for one last showdown. Everyone I pitched it too comes away wanting to know more. I knew I had a winner, so I spent over four years writing it.

it wasn't easy getting this far

It wasn’t easy, getting this far. But there’s one thing I’ve learned from the western – no matter what the odds, if you got your pards by your side, there ain’t nothing that can’t be done. It’s them I want to thank.

A Lifetime of Adventure

A Lifetime Of Adventure

They say that history is written by the winner. If that’s true, then it’s made by both winners and losers. Folks who got caught up in times bigger than themselves and by quirks of chance or destiny, they’ve been remembered and forgotten.

Catfish lived a life that stretched from America’s settling of the Wild West to her greatest victory over evil. He never sought glory, just a

way to get by in a world that was changing faster then he could figure it out. It was by chance that he rode with Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch, charged up the San Juan Heights with Teddy Roosevelt, and traveled to Europe three times: once with Brazos Billy’s Wild West Show, the other with General Black Jack Pershing, and the last during his retirement in Paris, before the Nazis invaded.

It wasn’t all champagne and sunny skies. The pain of losing his close pards and the loneliness that comes from being the last of the breed weighed heavy on his heart. But life is for the living and history is for those who have gone ahead.

timeline below

Wild West Style

Wild West Style

On a desolate boulevard in front of the Happy Flower Café, William CATFISH” Hancock, former confederate of Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch, calls out six Nazi soldiers, whose conquest and occupation have ruined his retirement. Café garçon Jean Malheur watches the old cowboy gun down the soldiers as the bells of Notre Dame toll. He saves Catfish by shooting a wounded Nazi about to fire. Now a wanted man, Jean flees with Catfish to Norman country. Along the trail, they pick up other desperate men on the run, forming a gang of French outlaws who take the fight to the Nazis, Wild West style.

the only hope France had was in outlaws

After robbing a bank in Argentan, Catfish and La Bande Sauvage head south for the Spanish border. Catfish’s thoughts turn to his pards, past and present, including one whom the Nazis have captured. He decides to return to Paris to save Hiccup. He has lived a life in which he ran away from the consequences of his decisions, and understands that he must finally face the sum of his failures. Jean accompanies Catfish with hopes of wooing Moue Bouche, the girl he left behind.

Back in Berlin, the Nazi bosses aren’t happy that an old cowboy is able to put up more of a fight than the whole French army. The SS send their most ruthless gunfighter, SS Major Bartholomew Schwartz, a.k.a. BLACK BART, to put Catfish down. But Black Bart shares a secret past with Catfish. In 1908, Black Bart went and saw Catfish at Brazos Billy’s Wild West Show. Catfish took the boy into the saddle and ever since, Black Bart had dreams of becoming a cowboy. Now, in order to survive, he must kill his childhood hero, or find himself swinging from the gallows.

With the help of a chanteuse spy and a pair of British agents, Catfish is able to hold up the train and rescue his pard, Hiccup. But the getaway is foiled when Moue double-crosses Jean and the gang for the love of a manipulative Communist. In the moment she betrays Jean, Moue feels remorse and realizes that she loves him.

Black Bart and his SS posse track the outlaws down and surround them in an abandoned chateau. Catfish gets the others to safety but is too wounded in the gunfight to make it himself. Black Bart calls out Catfish.

So,” Catfish says, “you’re the man that’s been looking for me.”
No,” Black Bart replies, “I’m the man who found you.”

Catfish knows the past has caught up to him and understands what his consequence must be. The bells of the village toll noon.