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Thursday, December 7, 2017

NaNoWrMo Behind, New Year Ahead

This post by Gayle M. Irwin


I participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWrMo), which occurs annually in November, … and, I achieved my goal! At the end of the month, I had more than 57,000 words for my pet rescue romance. Granted, I started the project last year so I already had several thousand words, but my goal was to finish the first draft – and I did!

Now that NaNoWrMo is behind, a new year looms on the horizon. What are my writing goals for 2018?

  • Edit he novel and publish it for the summer reading season (it’s a romance, so I believe a May/June release will be quite timely – romance and weddings seem to bloom during those months!)
  • Market my writing better. I attended a writer’s workshop in Cheyenne the latter part of October, and was totally inspired by speakers who talked about social media marketing for writers and business strategic planning for authors. I’m already working on marketing my dog devotion books for the Lenten/Easter season.
  • Write more magazine articles. I have a good relationship with a Wyoming magazine (that’s been through 3 editors in a year!) and I’ve asked for more assignments … and received them. There’s good pay in magazines.
  • Guest blog on pet sites. I’ve reached out to a few and look forward to expanding my writing reach in my niche.
  • Become an affiliate for pet products. I’m gearing up to become an Amazon affiliate, as well as an affiliate for a well-respected dog training program. Something new to me, but hopefully will expand my stream of online income.   


I’m excited to have completed the first draft of my first-time novel, and as I start the editing  process and learn more about marketing my work, I hope to not only increase book sales, but also educate people about pet rescue groups while simultaneously growing my writing income.

How about you? Did you take part in NaNoWrMo? What are your writing goals for 2018?

Whatever your hopes, plans, goals, and dreams, remember there are tales to be told! May you enjoy a blessed holiday season and a wonderful New Year!


Gayle M. Irwin is an award-winning author and freelance writer. She enjoys sharing lessons people can learn from pets as well as educating others on the importance and joy of pet adoption. In addition to her own inspirational pet books for children and adults, she is a contributor to seven Chicken Soup for the Soul books. One of her short stories appears in Sundown's Memories from Maple Street USA: Pawprints on My Heart. She regularly writes for WREN (Wyoming Rural Electric News) magazine and Colorado's Prairie Times. A portion of her book sales are donated to pet rescue organizations. Learn more about Gayle at her website and sign up for her free monthly pet newsletter. You can also follow her blog, also found on her website. www.gaylemirwin.com



Monday, November 27, 2017

BEST OF THE BAD MEN #2: THE HATEFUL EIGHT by ANDREW McBRIDE

I’ve been fortunate enough to receive wide acclaim already for my Sundown Press novel THE PEACEMAKER, including 5 star reviews from 2 of the most successful western authors in the business. Spur award-winning and Pulitzer Prize-nominated author ROBERT VAUGHAN describes it as ‘a great book’. Meanwhile RALPH COTTON (also a Pulitzer-prize nominated novelist) writes: ‘For pure writing style, McBride’s gritty prose nails the time and place of his story with bold authority. …this relatively new author has thoroughly, and rightly so, claimed his place among the top Old West storytellers.’ I’m very grateful to both Robert & Ralph for their fantastic support.


Like many of the western writers I’ve corresponded with, I didn’t get into westerns from reading the kind of novels I’d eventually write. I was initially hooked by what I watched, on the cinema and on TV, during my boyhood in the 1960s. And entering the world of the screen western was like joining a family, peopled by familiar faces. Actors re-occurred in the same roles – the same leading men, leading ladies, ‘sidekicks’, character actors and bit players (usually stunt men given an odd line.)
But perhaps most enjoyable of all were the villains.
Westerns are of course morality plays and if the hero represented the best in people, they needed a foil, an opponent, to represent the very worst; worthy opponents against whom the hero has to be tested. They were often as enjoyable, and quite often more enjoyable, than the heroes.
In my blog BEST OF THE BAD MEN #1 I’ve already discussed many of the excellent actors who gave good villain in westerns – but there were too many ‘good’ bad men for one blog to do them justice. I felt the very best bad men deserved at least a blog of their own. So here’s THE HATEFUL EIGHT - the very worst of the west. Some were quite easy to pick, others I had to think about (and I’d probably change my mind about if I was to do this blog again next week.)
So here’s villains ranked 2-8, in no particular order:
RICHARD WIDMARK was an actor of wide range and ability. He could be a hero as often as a villain. He played the ‘good guy’ in films like ‘The Last Wagon,’ and ‘Backlash.’ His most heroic role was probably as Jim Bowie in ‘The Alamo’ (1960) a performance described by John Wayne – who directed it – as ‘magnificent.’ And he could play conflicted characters such as the outlaw who renounces his law-breaking ways in ‘Warlock,’ or the obsessive submarine commander in the powerful Cold War drama ‘The Bedford Incident.’
But much as I enjoyed these performances, I always had a special fondness for Widmark the villain. His bad guys always had a dangerous, seductive charm, whether he’s up against Gregory Peck (‘Yellow Sky’) or Gary Cooper (‘Garden of Evil.’)
One of his best bad guy performances is in ‘The Law and Jake Wade.’ There’s a great scene where Widmark talks to a U.S. cavalry officer. He’s pretending to be an upright citizen, and exudes charm and reasonableness. When the officer rides away, there’s a priceless moment when Widmark smiles after him; but once he’s out of sight Widmark’s smile turns into a leer of pure evil.

Richard Widmark in ‘The Law and Jake Wade.’
ROBERT RYAN was another actor of wide range who could sometimes portray characters of integrity and dignity – but he was also a tremendous villain. In the masterful modern western ‘Bad Day at Black Rock’ he’s ostensibly a pillar of the community. He’s an intelligent, charismatic figure and a natural born leader – but he’s also poisoned by racism, in this case a hatred of the Japanese, which turns him into a ruthless murderer.

Robert Ryan in ‘Bad Day at Black Rock.
In ‘Return of the Bad Men’ there’s no such redeeming features – he’s just irredeemably villainous and loving it! In an enjoyable but wildly unhistorical western, he more or less steals the movie as The Sundance Kid - a snarling psychopath who’s a long way from Robert Redford! The movie climaxes in a shoot out in a ghost town between Ryan and Randolph Scott.

As The Sundance Kid in ‘Return of the Bad Men.
In the superb ‘The Naked Spur’ Ryan plays a ‘laughing’ villain – he even laughs during a fight with Ralph Meeker, which indicates someone teetering on the edge of irrational violence. Like a number of western villains he has a girlfriend (in this case Janet Leigh) who believes him when he says he’ll reform from his wicked ways. “Remember what you said.” she urges, to which Ryan responds with a classic bad guy line: “I remember what suits me!” As I’ve said, bad guys often had the best lines!

In ‘The Naked Spur.
In the field of ‘laughing villains’ none were better than DAN DURYEA. He played the bad guy in innumerable western movies and TV shows, bracing the likes of James Stewart and Audie Murphy. His long face, whining voice and most particularly his wild grin and jangling laugh marked him out as dangerously unstable, a powder keg always ready to blow. Perhaps his best performance in this vein is in the 1950 classic ‘Winchester 73.’

Dan Duryea in ‘Winchester 73’ (1950), a ‘laughing villain’

And coming off worst against James Stewart.
LEE VAN CLEEF spent years as a snake-like side kick to other villains (‘High Noon’ ‘The Man who shot Liberty Valance’) before ascending to top-rank villainy in Spaghetti westerns like ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.’ I’ve always had my reservations about that title – Eli Wallach isn’t that unhandsome in my view, and it’s a bit of a stretch to describe Clint Eastwood’s amoral bounty hunter as strictly ‘good,’ but Van Cleef’s gleeful killer is definitely bad. In ‘Ride Lonesome’ Van Cleef commits one of the worst crimes of any western bad guy – he hangs Randolph Scott’s wife. A crime for which he pays the usual price, in the shadow of the hanging tree.

Lee Van Cleef in ‘Ride Lonesome.
Some western villains will remain famous for one role above all others. ELI WALLACH made relatively few westerns, but will be long remembered as Calvera in ‘The Magnificent Seven’ (1960.) As the leader of a rapacious band of Mexican bandits, he’s more a tyrant with delusions of grandeur than mere self-serving villain. In his own warped view, he’s simply maintaining the natural order of things. And he gets to say one of the most memorable lines in western film. Regarding the Mexican peons he feels he almost has a divine right to oppress, he declares: “If God didn’t want them sheared, he would not have made them sheep.”

Eli Wallach in ‘The Magnificent Seven’ (1960.)
Another bad guy famous for one role in particular is JACK PALANCE. In ‘Shane’ he’s the gunman hired by a cattle baron to terrorise Wyoming homesteaders. The lank, gaunt Palance, with his cadaverous features and gloating smile, is the epitome of evil – even dogs slink away from him. This blackest of black hats – literally – lovingly pulls one glove – also black - onto his gun hand as he prepares to despatch one of these pesky ‘sod-busters’. His victim is the pathetic but still brave ‘little man’ Elisha Cook Jnr. who falls before his gun, jolting backwards and ploughing into the mud of the street in the first ‘realistic’ depiction of death in the history of the western. Even in an age of much more graphic violence this scene still has the power to shock. And viewing the victim of his murder, Palance’s tight, brittle-eyed grin stays fixed.

Jack Palance oozes evil in ‘Shane.’
Like Richard Widmark, RICHARD BOONE could also play the good guy – indeed they’re both heroic in the same movie. In ‘The Alamo’ (1960) Boone plays Sam Houston as a ‘father of Texas’, organising the defence of the new republic whilst Jim Bowie (Widmark) and others fight to the death, buying him the time to do so. Boone brought similar gravitas and authority – what one critic called ‘craggy nobility’ – to his role as the U.S. cavalry commander in the underrated ‘Thunder of Drums’ (1960.) And he was, of course, the hero of the long-running TV western series ‘Have Gun Will Travel’ as the enigmatic Paladin.
It’s a mark of Boone’s range and forcefulness as an actor that he could be equally effective as a villain. Over the years he gave a hard time to a range of western heroes, from Kirk Douglas in ‘Man without a Star’ to John Wayne in ‘Big Jake’ and ‘The Shootist.’
Perhaps his two best villains are in films based on Elmore Leonard stories – where he shows two faces of villainy. In ‘The Tall T’ (1957) he’s an intelligent, conflicted stage robber, tortured by his own loneliness. The nearest thing to a friend he finds is ostensibly his enemy, Randolph Scott, who he holds prisoner. We catch hints of the instability that’s perhaps brought him to crime – he has a sadistic sense of humour and laughs delightedly when someone burns their fingers on a coffee pot. But he sometimes shows affection and tenderness for the woman he holds captive. At the end he’s given a choice between staying bad or reforming – I won’t spoil the ending of this outstanding film by telling you which he opts for!

Richard Boone with Randolph Scott in ‘The Tall T.
If his villain in ‘The Tall T’ shows vulnerability and evokes some sympathy, that’s not the case in ‘Hombre’ (1967) – another example of a bad guy being bad and loving it. Boone’s swaggering Cicero Grimes exudes lusty, brutal energy, with his harsh laugh and aggressive demeanour leaving others cowed.

In ‘Hombre.’
It was a tough call singling out western bad guys from among so many worthy contenders and winnowing them down to a final eight. There’s undoubtedly some I’ve overlooked – but I had little doubt who would be in poll position, the best of the bad guys. So here he is, the very worst of the west, in my opinion:
Emerging in the 1960s, BRUCE DERN might have been the ‘son’ or ‘nephew’ of DAN DURYEA in that he had similar characteristics: His long face, whining voice and wild eyes marked him out as inherently irrational and unstable, poised  for sudden, unpredictable violence. This has kept him in work through a long and distinguished career. As he said: ‘I’ve played more freaks, psychotics and dopers than anyone.’ But he eschewed Duryea’s treacherous charm, which made him a genuinely chilling screen villain.
Although he has played in a wide range of films, he took very naturally to the western and was a staple of movies and TV series, adding his menacing presence to episodes of every show from ‘Bonanza’ to ‘Lancer’ to ‘The High Chaparral.’ He was particularly memorable as one of the homicidal sons of crazed semi-preacher Donald Pleasance in ‘Will Penny.’

Bruce Dern with Charlton Heston (having a bad day) and Donald Pleasance in 'Will Penny.'
Like the others here, Bruce is a fine actor of wide range. In the moving sci-fi fable ‘Silent Running’ he was literally the last defender of the Earth’s ecology, a voice of sanity (despite how crazy he might look) in a world lost to crass consumerism.


In ‘Silent Running.’
But that very same year – 1972 – Dern became possibly the baddest bad guy in western film or TV.
As John Wayne’s enemy in ‘The Cowboys’ Bruce commits a deed so dastardly that it dwarfs almost any other misdeed in the history of the screen western. I won’t give away what it was, in the unlikely event that anyone reading this blog hasn’t seen this excellent movie. Suffice it to say, John Wayne told Dern something like: “Oh, how they're gonna hate you for this!” – and viewers of ‘The Cowboys’ across the world proved him right.


Bruce Dern about to do the unthinkable to John Wayne in ‘The Cowboys.’
But prior to committing this blackest of crimes Bruce had already demonstrated his utter villainy in the way he terrorises the ‘cowboys’ of the title – a collection of schoolboys Wayne is forced to use on a trail drive. In one scene Dern tells one boy in chilling detail just exactly how he’ll sneak up on him in the dark and slit his throat. In another he snatches off another boy’s spectacles and lovingly crushes them between his hands, leaving only a buckled, glassless frame – it doesn’t get any badder than that!


The Cowboys.’
And thus Bruce Dern earns my top position in the ranks of actors who gave outstanding villain in westerns, and wins my accolade as the very worst of the west.
Feel free to disagree!
BLURB for THE PEACEMAKER:
Eighteen-year-old scout Calvin 'Choctaw' Taylor believes he can handle whatever life throws his way. He’s been on his own for several years, and he only wants to make his mark in the world. When he is asked to guide peace emissary Sean Brennan and his adopted Apache daughter, Nahlin, into a Chiricahua Apache stronghold, he agrees—but then has second thoughts. He’s heard plenty about the many ways the Apache can kill a man. But Mr. Brennan sways him, and they begin the long journey to find Cochise—and to try to forge a peace and an end to the Indian Wars that have raged for so long. During the journey, Choctaw begins to understand that there are some things about himself he doesn’t like—but he’s not sure what to do about it. Falling in love with Nahlin is something he never expected—and finds hard to live with. The death and violence, love for Nahlin and respect for both Cochise and Mr. Brennan, have a gradual effect on Choctaw that change him. But is that change for the better? Can he live with the things he’s done to survive in the name of peace?
 
EXTRACT:
Choctaw blinked sweat and sunspots out of his eyes and began to lower the field glasses; then he glimpsed movement.

He used the glasses again, scanning nearer ground, the white sands. He saw nothing.

And then two black specks were there suddenly, framed against the dazzling white. They might have dropped from the sky.

They grew bigger. Two horsebackers coming this way, walking their mounts. As he watched they spurted into rapid movement, whipping their ponies into a hard run towards him.

The specks swelled to the size of horses and men. Men in faded smocks maybe once of bright colour, their long hair bound by rags at the temple. They had rifles in their hands.

Breath caught in Choctaw’s throat. Fear made him dizzy. His arms started to tremble. He knew who was coming at him so fast.

Apaches.

And you killed them or they killed you.
**** 



Thursday, November 2, 2017

Rescue is a Beautiful Word - A Joyous Adoption Story

This post by Gayle M. Irwin



Nearly two months ago a 4-year-old Shih Tzu found a new home: MINE! His name was Stormy and he spent the first three years in a Midwestern puppy mill. He was used for breeding and though he had some interaction with people, his life wasn’t filled with much compassion, love, or care. Then, in September 2016, he was brought to an animal rescue sanctuary in southern Nebraska. At Hearts United for Animals, Stormy learned people could be kind and they could be trusted. And though he had veterinary care (sadly, losing 28 of his 42 teeth) and caring interaction with people, he still had no experience living in a home and consistent, compassionate care. That all changed on September 10 when my husband and I drove back to Casper from Nebraska with the little guy in the back seat of our car next to our 2013 rescued springer/cocker named Mary.
 
He and Mary had opportunity to meet at HUA’s play yard. They spent more time together at the hotel where we overnight and during the long drive back to Wyoming. They are now attached, especially him to her. Renamed Jeremiah, our little adoptee follows Mary everywhere and cuddles with her on the couch, on the floor, on the bed – she is his big sister and best friend. He’s already learned a great deal from her, including walks on the leash can bring grand sniffing adventures; running through the back yard is great fun; and going outside to potty gets you treats. He’s also learned how fun toys can be. He still needs to learn to share with his canine housemate, though!

Jeremiah is a sweet companion. When I’m home working in my office, both he and Mary come and lay either on the futon beside my desk or on the floor near my feet (although Jeremiah much prefers to lay on a soft-blanketed doggie bed than the hardwood floor!) When I return home from my day job, gone about eight or nine hours, Jeremiah is usually waiting at the door, and the joy he portrays, dancing on his hind legs a move for which Shih Tzus are famous, raising his little feet up toward me to be held, hugged, and cuddled melts my heart. My blind dog Sage used to come through the house after hearing the lock turn in the doorway, welcoming me home with springer songs of AHOO, AHOO!! I love the devoted, loving way dogs (and cats) oftentimes greet us when we come through the door!

As I watch Jeremiah settling in and coming out of his shell, revealing his precious, somewhat precocious personality, I am thankful my husband and I adopted him. There are challenges to pet adoption, particularly when bringing home a puppy mill/kitten mill animal; however, watching them blossom under loving tutelage is very rewarding and observing them overcome their fears and mistrust is joyous! That joy is contagious. The first time I watched Jeremiah flat-out boogie across the back yard and witness him grabbing the stuffed toy, shaking it, then running through the house with it in his small, somewhat toothless mouth made me both laugh and cry. Knowing he might never have enjoyed such freedom, pleasure and joy was like an arrow to my heart. Rescue is a beautiful word. I’m grateful to the staff and volunteers at HUA for saving Stormy/Jeremiah and the countless other animals they’ve rescued in the 30 years of operation. I’m also grateful to the other puppy mill rescues, such as National Mill Dog Rescue in Colorado, and the thousands of animal shelters and rescue groups across the country.

November is Adopt-a-Senior Pet Month. Although Jeremiah was by no means a senior, when I inquired as to why this small dog had not yet been adopted, the staff member responded, “Likely his age – most people want puppies or 1-year-olds.” That shocked me – by no means is Jeremiah “old,” unlike the cocker spaniel my husband and I adopted in 2008, who was then 10 years of age. Cody lived to be almost 18, possibly because of the love and care we gave him. I hope Jeremiah lives to such a ripe old age!

During this special month of Adopt-a-Senior Pet, I hope you will take time to help rescue animals in some way: by adopting or fostering; by volunteering at your local shelter/rescue; donating necessary items; helping to promote adoption; helping at an event put on by your local rescue organization.

November is also Thanksgiving. If you have pets, take time to be thankful for the joy and companionship they provideas and for the numerous rescue groups who unite people and pets. Also consider being grateful for the many thousands of animals who provide not only companionship, but also necessary help for their humans, such as service dogs, therapy cats, and K9 and military animals. We are blessed by having animals in our lives, in our communities, and in service to our country.

Hugs to you and your pets from me and mine, and Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

 
Gayle M. Irwin is a freelance writer, author and speaker. She is part of the Chicken Soup for the Soul family, having published seven short stories in seven of the internationally-acclaimed books, including a rescue story in the August release "The Dog Really Did That?" She also has a story in "Memories from Maple Street USA: Pawprints on My Heart" from Sundown Press. She maintains a pet blog on her website, found at www.gaylemirwin.com.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

New Release — BEST OF THE WEST— Fourteen Western Stories



Grab a cup of coffee and settle down into your easy chair to ride the range with some of the most exciting tales of the Old West you’ll find anywhere! This collection is called BEST OF THE WEST for a very good reason—IT IS!

These fourteen stories will have you standing beside lawmen and outlaws as the bullets fly, saddling up some of the best horseflesh to be found West of the Mississippi, and wagering your livelihood on the turn of a card. Tales that include savvy swindles, gunfights, loves lost (and found!), the making of an outlaw and the secret protection of a president will draw you in and hang on tight.

This anthology is bustin’ with acclaimed Western authors such as James Reasoner, Livia J. Washburn, Jackson Lowry, Kit Prate, Charlie Steel, Richard Prosch, Big Jim Williams, Cheryl Pierson, J.L. Guin, Clay More, and David Amendola.

What are you waitin’ for, pardner? You’re burnin’ daylight! Happy trails!

     

Monday, October 23, 2017

BEST OF THE BAD MEN #1

I’ve been fortunate enough to receive wide acclaim already for my Sundown Press novel THE PEACEMAKER, including 5 star reviews from 2 of the most successful western authors in the business. Spur award-winning and Pulitzer Prize-nominated author ROBERT VAUGHAN describes it as ‘a great book’. Meanwhile RALPH COTTON (also a Pulitzer-prize nominated novelist) writes: ‘For pure writing style, McBride’s gritty prose nails the time and place of his story with bold authority. …this relatively new author has thoroughly, and rightly so, claimed his place among the top Old West storytellers.’ I’m very grateful to both Robert & Ralph for their fantastic support.


Like many of the western writers I’ve corresponded with, I didn’t get into westerns from reading the kind of novels I’d eventually write. I was initially hooked by what I watched, on the cinema and on TV, during my boyhood in the 1960s. And entering the world of the screen western was like joining a family, peopled by familiar faces. Actors re-occurred in the same roles – the same leading men, from A-listers like John Wayne and Gary Cooper to ‘lower-birth’ leads like Audie Murphy and Rory Calhoun. The same leading ladies – either the ‘good girls’ who the hero should marry or the ‘bad girls’ (who often worked in saloons) who he definitely shouldn’t! The same ‘sidekicks’ – one thinks of Noah Beery Jr. and Slim Pickens. A wonderful roster of character actors – Ward Bond, John McIntire, Walter Brennan, Ben Johnson and many more. Some even seemed to corner the market in particular supporting roles – if the town doctor or storekeeper wasn’t played by Frank Ferguson, it was usually Vaughn Taylor. All of whom deserve recognition and blogs of their own.

Vaughn Taylor the eternal store keeper
But perhaps most enjoyable of all were the villains.
Westerns are of course morality plays and if the hero represented the best in people, they needed a foil, an opponent, to represent the very worst; worthy opponents against whom the hero has to be tested. And there were plenty of very capable actors who regularly stepped up to the plate to do just that. They were often as enjoyable, and quite often more enjoyable, than the heroes.
One of the misconception about the western, held against it by its detractors, is that it’s too simplistic, 100% pure heroes up against villains without a single redeeming feature. Anyone who thinks that has obviously never watched many westerns! Western heroes are often flawed, vulnerable or conflicted – one thinks of James Stewart in ‘The Naked Spur,’ Van Heflin in the original ‘3.10 for Yuma’ or John Wayne in ‘The Searchers.’ As for the villains, sometimes they’re clearly good men gone bad, or bad men who have their saving graces – for example Glenn Ford as the outlaw leader in the original ‘3.10 for Yuma.’ Sometimes they’re just irredeemably villainous and loving it! Even then, however, they have their likable aspects.

Glenn Ford in the original ‘3.10 for Yuma.’
The best fictional villains – in westerns or anything – are, in my opinion, almost never petty or cowardly. They are often almost as competent, resourceful, charismatic and intelligent as the heroes they’re up against. Sometimes they could almost be the hero’s evil twin, the flip side of the same coin, and often possess dangerous charm and humour. The difference between them is, usually when the chips are down, when they have to choose between serving themselves or the interests of others, the hero chooses the greater good, the villain cynically chooses himself.
There are so many splendid western bad guys that I realised one blog could never do them justice. So I decided to do two. Next time I’ll discuss ‘the hateful eight’ – the eight very best western villains, in my opinion. Meanwhile here’s a brief canter through the ranks of wrong-doers who didn’t make my final ‘worst of the west’ cut, but gave excellent villain none the less. It’s selective and doesn’t claim to be exhaustive, or else this would be the longest blog in history!
I’m not discussing bad girls – that should be a blog all to itself. Nor would I include Native American chiefs. For a long time Native American leaders were routinely characterised as villains – Chief Scar in ‘The Searchers’ for one. Attitudes changed however, and they began to be depicted as patriots and even heroes fighting to save their peoples, for example in the 50s biopics of Indian leaders from Cochise to Crazy Horse.
Nor would I include military opponents.  General Santa Anna became the ultimate hate figure on the Texas frontier after the slaughters he ordered in 1836 at The Alamo and Goliad. His defenders, however, would argue he was a patriot trying to preserve his nation against foreign aggression. I’m not going to go there!

Ruben Padilla as General Santa Anna in ‘THE ALAMO’ (1960.)
‘Outriders’ on my list of villains would be actors who more normally played good guys who made surprisingly successful forays into villainy. Audiences gasped at the sight of Henry Fonda, ruthlessly gunning down women and children in ‘Once Upon a Time in the West.’ The same man who’d played the stalwart and incorruptible Wyatt Earp in ‘My Darling Clementine!’
Burt Lancaster gave a tremendous turn as a ‘laughing villain’ in 'Vera Cruz', even dying with his trademark grin on his lips! Lancaster illustrates a characteristic of the bad guy that makes them fun to write – their unpredictability. They do what they like, therefore you never know what they’re going to do next. One minute Lancaster is siding Gary Cooper, the next he’s treacherously conspiring against him.

Slim Pickens, usually a likable side-kick, makes a highly effective slimy villain in ‘One Eyed Jacks.’

And Rory Calhoun seems to be enjoying his turn as a bad guy in ‘River of No Return.’ Like a number of western villains he has a girlfriend (in this case Marilyn Monroe) who believes he’s capable of reforming from his wicked ways. She persuades him to talk to his enemy (Robert Mitchum) the next time they meet, instead of trying to kill him. Rory agrees. “All right.” he says, “I’ll talk to him.” He then takes out his gun and checks if it’s loaded. Monroe asks “What do you need that for?” To which Rory replies: “In case he’s hard of hearing!”
Bad guys often got the best lines!

Rory Calhoun and Marilyn Monroe
Amongst the many memorable western villains on screen were: Walter Brennan as the evil Old Man Clanton in ‘My Darling Clementine’; Robert Duvall as the outlaw John Wayne hunts in ‘True Grit’; Gene Hackman as the corrupt lawman in ‘Unforgiven’; Karl Malden as another villainous lawman in ‘One Eyed Jacks’; Warren Oates and John Anderson as two homicidal brothers in ‘Ride the High Country’; Skip Homeier as the sly back-shooter in ‘The Gunfighter;’ Henry Silva as the cold-eyed and clearly unstable killer in ‘The Tall T’; and Jack Elam, Claude Akins, John Dehner, Gene Evans, Alex Montoya, Ernest Borgnine, Leo Gordon, Robert J. Wilke and Victor Jory in many film and TV appearances. And many more!
I always found the lean-faced James Anderson a particularly villainous-looking villain. He was effective as the brutal cavalryman in ‘Little Big Man’ although perhaps his best depiction of evil was in a non-western ‘To Kill a Mockingbird.’

James Anderson in ‘To Kill a Mockingbird.’
Two actors who almost made it onto my ‘hateful eight’ list were Lee Marvin and Donald Pleasance.
British actor Donald Pleasance was an unusual choice to play a western villain but proved to be inspired casting. He’s Charlton Heston’s nemesis in ‘Will Penny,’ a fire-and- brimstone preacher with a brood of sons as psychopathic as he is. Pleasance manages the trick of playing an over-the-top character without (quite) going over the top.

Lee Marvin frequently played western bad guys but capped it all with his performance in ‘The Man who shot Liberty Valance.’ In a film which is an allegory for the passing of the frontier, his Valance is more than a villain; he represents the flamboyance, savagery and unrestrained violence of the Wild West. When he’s felled by a bullet, it marks the end of an era. He’s an equally enjoyable bad guy in ‘The Comancheros’ where he again shows great chemistry with John Wayne.

If your favourite western wrong-doer isn’t here, don’t worry. Come along to my next blog on the subject – BEST OF THE BAD MEN #2 - and you may find them among ‘the hateful eight’, my eight most favourite western villains!
BLURB for THE PEACEMAKER:
Eighteen-year-old scout Calvin 'Choctaw' Taylor believes he can handle whatever life throws his way. He’s been on his own for several years, and he only wants to make his mark in the world. When he is asked to guide peace emissary Sean Brennan and his adopted Apache daughter, Nahlin, into a Chiricahua Apache stronghold, he agrees—but then has second thoughts. He’s heard plenty about the many ways the Apache can kill a man. But Mr. Brennan sways him, and they begin the long journey to find Cochise—and to try to forge a peace and an end to the Indian Wars that have raged for so long. During the journey, Choctaw begins to understand that there are some things about himself he doesn’t like—but he’s not sure what to do about it. Falling in love with Nahlin is something he never expected—and finds hard to live with. The death and violence, love for Nahlin and respect for both Cochise and Mr. Brennan, have a gradual effect on Choctaw that change him. But is that change for the better? Can he live with the things he’s done to survive in the name of peace?
 
EXTRACT:
Choctaw blinked sweat and sunspots out of his eyes and began to lower the field glasses; then he glimpsed movement.

He used the glasses again, scanning nearer ground, the white sands. He saw nothing.

And then two black specks were there suddenly, framed against the dazzling white. They might have dropped from the sky.

They grew bigger. Two horsebackers coming this way, walking their mounts. As he watched they spurted into rapid movement, whipping their ponies into a hard run towards him.

The specks swelled to the size of horses and men. Men in faded smocks maybe once of bright colour, their long hair bound by rags at the temple. They had rifles in their hands.

Breath caught in Choctaw’s throat. Fear made him dizzy. His arms started to tremble. He knew who was coming at him so fast.

Apaches.

And you killed them or they killed you.
**** 


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