Wild Boys was influenced by pulp western paperbacks and Italian westerns as there should be beauty in the lurid details and a sense of fun in the shootouts. Some westerns forgo that and come across as dour and depressing which is fine, but those are the stories I don’t want to reread. I feel there needs to be a feeling of being on a roller coaster, of having suspense and action take a reader on a ride, crossing the line of camp to bring humor and back to the seriousness of the quest. The story must be balanced by the characters. A reader should emphasize with an outlaw, or any character, even when they do not completely understand their nature or agree with some of their choices. Most westerns are about revenge, losing someone important and seeking solace with a gun. If the eighties taught me anything, it was that crowds cheer when bad guys get what is coming to them.
In my youth, the western cycle was ending and vigilante films like Dirty Harry, The Exterminator, and Death Wish took their place as far as vendettas on celluloid. My own interests of the time lied in the booming amount of horror releases, even those had connections to the oaters. Dario Argento, my favorite horror director, had written Once Upon a Time in the West for Sergio Leone so I rented it, Coming At ‘Ya blasted on screens in 3D, and strange hybrid horror westerns like Eyes of Fire and the cheesy Ghost Town by empire pictures found their way to my VCR. The western returned to me in a violent pop culture way with Young Guns. It was cast handsome and youthful in contrast to the rough gunslingers of the past. When I was writing Wild Boys, I liked mixing the Young Guns ascetic with the bloodshed of the Italian westerns like the ‘man with no name’ trilogy headed by Clint Eastwood to the coffin dragging coolness of Django. Film has always influenced my writing. I swear at times I can see a scene play out on the screen in my head.
The final influential part that makes my western peculiar is having a gay anti-hero protagonist who encounters others with the same predilection as himself. The idea was sparked by Brokeback Mountain, which I felt was not a true western not in the sense of outlaws robbing and shooting through the Old West. Gunslingers, stagecoach ambushes, train robberies, saloons with wayward women, hangings, and one on one shootouts on a deserted main street are the necessary ingredients for a western, more so than herding sheep and looking for that once a year hookup in another era. The difference is that amidst the vengeance and survival my outlaw protagonists are gay and their orientation sets the narrative in motion with the attack by the Blakely Gang, who leaves Dusty Calhoun hanging in his burning cabin. Left for dead, he lives to seek them out, every last one. Things get complicated on his quest for revenge as he grows close to Jake Willowford after using him to infiltrate the gang.
The title and really only the title, Wild Boys, is a nod to William Burroughs as his writings influenced my first published work, Where the Road Roams. Below I am including a gallery of images (I do not own these images and they are for reference only) to give you an idea of what a pulp western looks like. Wild Boys - A Peculiar Western Novel will be released in August 2017.