August 14, 2014
Very few people know this, but I’ve been writing westerns, or in my term “horse operas” for the past 30 years. My best selling title is “Nothing But a Drifter, ” which is about a drifter who comes upon a father and daughter that is running a small cattle ranch. He is hired at this ranch, but must deal with the jealousy of another neighboring rancher, due to him being attracted to the daughter. Things now come to a head, with the father fighting with the daughter, and her sensual attraction to the drifter. Add a Cheyenne attack and bingo, you have a “horse opera.” I wrote for various mass-market paperback publishers, such as Ace and Fawcett Books. Although I wrote westerns, I was very much interested in writing science fiction novels as well. My biggest (and best selling) title is “Always The Black Knight.” in some of my other titles I tried to match Science Fiction with the Western - specifically “Martian on the Range.” unfortunately that was my worst selling novel.
I got into writing when I started editing a series of folk music fanzines, such as “Caravan, ” and “Gardyloo.” I hand-printed the zine and went over to Izzy young’s Folklore Center. It sounds weird now, but a lot of the folkies during that time period loved science-fiction writing. I think a lot of it is due to the utopian feeling that was out there, and we had to imagine that such a paradise can only exist in the outer space. But in our hearts we just wanted to make it work here on earth. I believe that this is why I wrote westerns as well. For sure, there was a conflict in my soul regarding the outer-space and life on earth, as a western.
Some of my books were translated into French, and I had quite a large readership from that country. I studied French throughout my life because I had an interest in the connection between American folk music to the French chanteuse scene that was taking place in Paris during the late 1950s. Around this time, I was approached by a French publisher to translate the Lucky Luke comic series for the English speaking world. I had to translate the stories by René Goscinny, which deals with the cowboy known to “shoot faster than his shadow.” While I was translating Goscinny’s script for Lucky Luke, I was interested that he based a lot of the narration on factual events that took place in the wild west. The French are geniuses at conveying a foreign narrative and to make it have a sense for the French reading public. For me, I just thought they were great adventure (and funny) stories, so yeah, it was successful here in the States as well.
Very few people know this, but with respect to my westerns, the book covers were actual photographs and all were taken by the photographer Terry Richardson. I met him through his dad, Bob, when Terry was a teenager and was into being a punk musician at the time. Years later, I was surprised when he took up the camera, just like his dad. I never had any direct dealings with him, because I had nothing to do with the design or any say on the book cover designs for my novels. All of that was decided by the publisher. But beyond that, Terry had a sixth sense in choosing the right image for the cover. I don’t think he even read any of my books, but he just riffed off the titles, and bingo, there’s the cover. For one, he always chooses a beautiful girl (of course) for the image of the book. I should know better, but I always found his images of women a turn-on. I always felt bad afterwards, but what can I say. One surprising fact is that I didn’t know Terry’s step-father was the musician Jackie Lomax. I’m a huge fan of his album he made for Apple Records, “Is This What You Want.” It’s a strange small world after all.
Through my connections with Izzy Young, I was able to combine my interest with the science fiction literary scene with music by Pierre Schaeffer. I always felt his music would be perfect for a science-fiction narrative, and I started a record label, with Izzy helping with the distribution, that was an album of Pierre’s music, but with a story by yours truly attached to the package. It was the only writing I did for my own pleasure. The album package was beautifully made, with the text making an appearance as a book within the album sleeve. Originally I wanted to have Terry take photographs as the illustrations for my narrative to be added to the package. But sadly it was already too expensive. The albums, were privately pressed by me, and in a limited edition of 1,000. The title of the book/album is Orphée 53 ("Orpheus 53"), which is based on an opera by Schaeffer. I think this project is my masterpiece and even though it won’t be seen by the great masses who purchased my westerns, I’m still honored that I can do such projects under the nose of my illustrious public out there.