Wild Boys is a punk fiction western set in a time of high adventure, outlaws, and the way of the gun—with a peculiar twist.
Dusty Calhoun is out for revenge after being left for dead and losing all to violence and fire. Vengeance is complicated when he rescues Jake Willowford, a cowboy with a familiar face, and falls for him. Recklessly, Dusty plans to use Jake to infiltrate the Blakely Gang, or die trying.
The adventure continues as Jake is separated from Dusty and must find his way with the help of an outlaw, Frank Ward. On the run from One-Eyed Walker and his posse, they endure the dangers and desires of the Wild West. The ride will lead them back home or to the end of a rope.
Consequences are dealt with in a spirit quest in the Badlands. The final ride of the Wild Boys is set into motion by a wayward prostitute, Misty Waters, a randy cowboy, Troy Carter, and a message from a traitor, leading to a climactic shootout where the trail ends.
Wild Boys is no ordinary tale of the Old West.
The origins of Wild Boys — A Peculiar Western began with a trilogy of novellas. The first, simply titled The Wild Boys, was conceived as a screenplay in 2006. On the ride home from a horror convention, I felt the urge to create. Resting in the back of the car, my mind drifted to Brokeback Mountain, of all things. This was the most popular gay film of the time, and it claimed to be a western. I did not see it as a true western like the ones I grew up with, the ‘Man with No Name’ westerns of Sergio Leone set in the Old West.
Why couldn't a gay western be in that stylistic world of sudden violence and revenge?
What if the main character was beaten, saw his man die, saw his ranch burn, and was left to hang?
What if he was an outlaw who lived and wanted revenge no matter the consequence, and along the way he met a new partner, complicating his plan of infiltrating the gang that destroyed his life?
Now that sounded like a story I wanted to write—one that was dangerous, sexy, and wild. The outline came together quickly, and Dusty Calhoun was born with a strong first line: "I am going to kill them, every goddamn one of them."
The screenplay was complete in the weeks after, but I put it away and worked on other things. The interesting thing about stories is that sometimes they want to be told and will not stay buried. It would be a few years, but the Wild Boys would come back with a vengeance.
Fleshing out the narrative in 2011, the story took on a solid form from the original screenplay. The opening with Dusty in full revenge mode finding an unlikely pal in Jake felt like writing a classic spaghetti western scene with a twist. The simple focus of revenge drove the story along familiar western tropes with the added complications of finding someone new when avenging someone lost. The twist of someone being another cowboy gave the story an added dimension.
Dusty was the perfect outsider antihero, not afraid of what he wanted or of pulling the trigger. I imagined some cinematic violent scenes and some sublime sexy ones taking cues from other westerns like Red River (cowboys comparing guns), Hang 'em High, and even the youthful feel of Young Guns. Jake is a gentle Montgomery Clift type with an edge in comparison to Dusty's Clint Eastwood mystique. This is what I wanted a gay western to be—not a beautiful, sad tragedy but an adventure with thrills and passion.
The Wild Boys was completed in 2012, and under my partner Bo's suggestion, I submitted it to a publisher, Beau to Beau, and to my amazement, I got lucky.
The three novellas, The Wild Boys, Jake's Tale, and Trail's End, that make up this peculiar western where originally part of the out of print The Wild Boys Trilogy.
The excitement propelled me to expand Wild Boys into a trilogy, so I set out a rough outline, giving myself three months to write each novella. The process was a challenge as the story of Dusty Calhoun's revenge was complete in itself—a one-off. How to go forward?
I decided to focus on Jake Willowford and have a tragic opening that left the fate of Dusty unknown. Jake would be the protagonist. Not being as hard-edged as other outlaws, he would have to make his way with the help of another, a daring farmhand named Frank Ward. The story changed tone, becoming more of a western adventure with sexual tension. True to the form of a serial, Jake’s Tale ends on a cliffhanger. Something felt really right about the chemistry between Jake and Frank as Jake sought out his hero. I felt a real sense of fun writing it, especially at such a fast pace.
The final story of the trilogy would prove the hardest after the easy flow of the middle act. Trail’s End needed to resolve storylines, cross separate tones, and bring the larger story to a close. The key I found to unlock the way was the ceremony of the sweat lodge. I had participated in some lodges in the past and totally respect the Lakota ways that allow outsiders to use their rites to cleanse, so it made sense to add a spirit quest to the final ride.
In retrospect, I should have stayed with the gang a little longer, kept the fun alive, and continued to serialize their adventures in the Old West. I have no regrets, though, as a whole, Wild Boys is a unique story for its respective genres. After a good run, I retained the rights in 2016 and reformatted the trilogy into A Peculiar Western Novel.