Pick Up the Gun, My Son: a Little Western

In 2007, I attempted to write a hardboiled crime novel; one that was to be easily adaptable for film. Two years prior, just for fun, I had devised three short essays on different genre pictures using real directors and actors, but which did not exist. The first one was a 1970s Euro crime thriller, which I used as the model for my project. I kept the name and borrowed most of the scenes I had described, but relocated the story to the American South, having been prompted to do so by a dream I suspect was spurred on by my first viewing of Walking Tall (1973), which had started the whole venture.

In between breaks, I decided to partially gather inspiration from a genre which had excited so many of my favorite filmmakers, but which I had not thoroughly familiarized myself with: the American Western. Researching carefully before choosing which titles to sit through (predominantly films from the 1930s up until the early 60s), I fell madly in love with what the genre had to offer cerebrally. And so, as I continued writing The Superkiller, I began sketching out a Western of my own. The idea had actually been swimming in my head for years, having originally been conceived upon being told of a true story concerning a male rape victim’s attack. The notes for my Western began to overtake the time I was spending on my novel until I finally caved in and spent the following five months, or so, working on that story instead. And I’m glad I did. I hope you enjoy it. (It’s also available as a PDF file here).

Updated on June 15, 2013: The Westerns of Fritz Lang: An Image Gallery (click here).

Here are ten underappreciated favorites of the period that influenced this story.

  • 3 Godfathers (1948) Dir: John Ford, Cast: John Wayne, Pedro Armendariz
  • Canyon Passage (1946) Dir: Jacques Tourneur, Cast: Dana Andrews, Brian Donlevy
  • Devil’s Doorway (1950) Dir: Anthony Mann, Cast: Robert Taylor, Paula Raymond
  • Man Without a Star (1955) Dir: King Vidor, Cast: Kirk Douglas, Claire Trevor
  • No Name on the Bullet (1959) Dir: Jack Arnold, Cast: Audie Murphy, Charles Drake
  • Rancho Notorious (1952) Dir: Fritz Lang, Cast: Marlene Dietrich, Arthur Kennedy
  • Stars in My Crown (1950) Dir: Jacques Tourneur, Cast: Joel McCrea, Dean Stockwell
  • Tribute to a Bad Man (1956) Dir: Robert Wise, Cast: James Cagney, Irene Papas
  • Warlock (1959) Dir: Edward Dmytryk, Cast: Henry Fonda, Anthony Quinn
  • Yellow Sky (1948) Dir: William A. Wellman, Cast: Gregory Peck, Richard Widmark

And here’s one highly regarded masterpiece which you should see, if you haven’t already:

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