Western Stories by Mystery Writers
Published on Wednesday, August 24, 2011 - 3:04pm
Both westerns and mysteries are properly crime fiction: sheriff's procedurals and police procedurals; the procedures vary, but there is usually some personal code of behavior, good and bad, and handguns.
Quite a few authors who are best known for their mysteries started with, or also wrote, westerns. James Lee Burke wrote Two for Texas in 1982.
We know Elmore Leonard primarily as mystery writer, but the first story he sold was "The Trail of the Apache." His best-known western is probably Hombre.
The late Robert Parker is best known for his Boston area characters: Spenser, Jess Stone and Sunny Randall; his itinerant western lawmen Everett Cole and Virgil Hitch have a terse, dry wit. At times, Hitch's 8-gauge shotgun seems to be a minor character.The movie Appaloosa, starring Viggo Mortensen, Ed Harris, Renee Zellweger and Jeremy Irons, is based on one of the Cole/Hitch novels, although more solemn in tone. Parker's 2001 novel, Gunman's Rhapsody, is about Wyatt Earp in Tombstone, Arizona.
Loren Estleman's Amos Walker lives in modern Detroit. Deputy Marshall Page Murdock, created 25 years ago, lives in the late 19th century. Oscar Stone is The Master Executioner, a traveling hangman and a perfectionist: "The abominable electric chair he considered a throwback to the days of inquisition and torture...Any fool could throw a switch."
Bill Crider, another western/mystery writer, has written an appreciation of the genres: "It's my contention that the so-called 'Code of the West' originated with Natt Bumppo, and that from it there developed the unwritten rules followed by The Virginian and by private eyes from Philip Marlowe to Spenser."