Tuesday, April 27, 2010

JPS Brown Interview Pt. 5 The Conclusion

14) When was the last time you were in Mexico?

I live on a cow ranch near Patagonia, Arizona 17 miles from the border. I go across to Nogales, Sonora periodically for my haircut, mine and my wife Patsy’s dental care, our prescription drugs, our saddle maker, and once in a while to have brunch in a nice restaurant with the music of the mariachis. For the past ten years I haven’t had occasion to do any business, or go any farther south than the ranch that I used to lease at Agua Zarca, Sonora. That ranch is only 12 miles south of Nogales, Sonora and I still visit my vaqueros and their families there from time to time.

15)You're a man whose done it all, ( writer, cattle man, bronco buster, gold prospector, cowboy, rodeo cowboy, ranch hand, pilot, smuggled guns and whiskey into Mexico, wrangled horses for Hollywood Westerns, and worked on a alpine search and rescue team.) Is there anything you haven't done that you wished you could have?

I’ve been plenty happy doing what I’ve done, but I’ve always wanted to do one job more. That has been to visit the home country of every great husbandman of the world and write a novel based in its folklore. Those husbandmen would include: the Argentine gaucho, The brave bull rancher in Spain, the Scottish sheep man, the Basque sheep man, the Mongolian horseman, the Arab horseman, the Australian stock man, the Finnish reindeersman, the Russian Cossack. If I could have done one novel about each of only these few, I would have been happy.

16) When you wrote your first novel "Jim Kane", did you have any idea that it would be a success and then go on to be made into a film?

No, I only wanted to write a novel about the work that cowboys do. The movies weren’t doing it and only two real cowboys have become writers to win recognition for their work. They were Will James and Max Evans. All other books, even the good ones, were about the shoot-em-up cowboys that had been heralded by the old pulps and later done over and over and over again in modern movies.

Sure, I hoped Jim Kane would become a movie and the actor that I dreamed would portray the protagonist turned out to be the one who played Jim Kane, Paul Newman. If the movie had told of the real work of cowboy Jim Kane, Paul would have been credited with revolutionizing the cowboy genre.

17) You were once the heavyweight champion at Notre Dame and you sparred with Rocky Marciano, and fought professionally in Northern Mexico. Can you share some of your memories of those days boxing & what was it like to be in the ring with a legend like Rocky Marciano?

I won Middle weight and Light heavyweight championships of Notre Dame in ’51 and ’53.
I started boxing in state tournaments when I was 12 and continued boxing as an amateur through my four years of active duty in the Marine Corps. I had 106 amateur fights and lost six. I won two state championships of New Mexico, the two Notre Dame championships, the Third Marine Division championship and the All Marine Pacific Ocean area championship in 1956. Because ’56 was an Olympic Games year, I was able to compete, although I was an officer. I also coached the Third Marine Division team.

When I was a senior at Notre Dame, before he became heavyweight champion of the world, Rocky Marciano visited our campus as our guest celebrity for the boxing finals of 1952. The finals bouts decided the boxing championships in eight weight divisions. He came a few days before the finals so that all of us boxers got to meet him and work out with him.

One day, after all the rest of the boxers had gone to shower and then to the dining room for supper, Dominick Napolitano, our coach and mentor, put me in the ring with Rocky. I had a lot of reach on him and always had a great left hand. We both had enough confidence in ourselves and in the other’s respect for us that we weren’t pouring it on, but I kept that jab in his face. I knew my range very well and he knew his, so we could make contact without injuring each other. In other words, we threw our punches right, but pulled them before they caused injury.

About the middle of the third round as I stuck out another jab, he dropped a nice, sharp right hand on my bicep and shocked my whole arm numb. After that I had to work inside and that’s when I found out how strong he was. His legs were like concrete pillars, except that he moved like a cat. His arms were strong as a blacksmith’s but he had great hand speed and snap in his hooks, both the wide ones and the short ones. He sparred with a quickness and ease that never seemed to tire him. We went six rounds and he never drew a long breath.

In the light heavyweight finals two evenings later, I stopped my opponent Larry Ash in the second round. When asked to comment on my fight, Rocky said, “He’s very good. He’s very, very good. He ought to be a professional.

I had a shabby career as a professional. I often fought under assumed names and only to make a quick payday. I didn’t use my own name and try to make a professional go at it until I was 33. In the Fall of 1963, under my own name, I stopped light heavyweight Indio Lopez in the second round. In January, 1964, I stopped his brother, heavyweight Yaqui Lopez, in the second. My old manager Mike McNulty flew down to Mexico to be in my corner for those fights.

In March of 1964, against a good middleweight named Ramon Hernandez I found out in the second round why he was called “Buffalo.” I will only say this as an excuse for losing that fight as ignominiously as I did. I had to lose twenty pounds below my fighting weight of 185 pounds for that fight. That weakened me, and besides that the Buffalo’s head was harder than any human head has a right to be.

I broke my right hand on the top of his head near the end of the second round. He went down on his back and I prayed that he wouldn’t get up, but he dammit did. I fought the next 8 rounds with only my left jab. I won the 1st two rounds and the 9th and 10th, but lost the decision, because he beat me hands down in all the middle rounds.

After my hand mended Mike called to tell me that he had arranged for me to go to Las Vegas to spar with Sonny Liston in preparation of another of his championship fights. A card was being made up for two world championship bouts on the same night and I might get to fight a preliminary bout.

On my way to Las Vegas from my home in Navojoa, Sonora, I came down with hepatitis. I got as far as Gila Bend, Arizona and had to turn back. I holed up with my grandmother in Nogales. She gave me a dose of Epsom Salts as soon as I showed up, then another dose the next day.

I couldn’t work cattle, could barely hold up my head, but I had to do something to make some money to feed my family. So I started writing the stories that became my first novel, Jim Kane. Of course, I didn’t sell a thing until 1970.

The Las Vegas card never happened.

Several other border cattlemen got hepatitis at the same time I did, but I was never as sick as the others. Some of them spent time in the hospital. I was up and able to go back to work with my cattle after a month of convalescence at my Granny’s house, even though I was still plenty weak. I always credited Granny’s salts cure with being able to go back to work so quick. Nevertheless, I needed another year before I thought about fighting again and decided that I didn’t have the liver for it.

My Mexican fans all knew about the hand that I broke, but after that when anybody else asked me if I regretted having to quit I always answered, “No, because I kept breaking my hands.” That was true, after I grew to be a middleweight I always had to go have one or the other hand put in a cast after the finals of a tournament. However, when I told someone who had not seen me fight that I had to quit because of my brittle hands, without fail, they always answered, “I never boxed, because I knew that I hit so hard my hands wouldn’t stand it.”

I always answered that kind of phony with, “Yeah, I know what you mean, but I didn’t quit because I hit too hard, my hands got broken up from the referees walking on them.”

The truth is, I never knew a fighter who quit the sport because of glass hands. A good taping always fixed them for another go in the ring.

One year after I contacted hepatitis I was in Calexico, California crossing cattle through Mexicali. My partner had been in the Yuma, Arizona country club the night before where he had been introduced to Rocky Marciano. My partner knew about my friendship with Rocky from having read my scrapbook and he told Rocky that I was nearby. Rocky told him to call me and arrange for me to meet him at the Hotel De Anza in Calexico the next day. Rocky was on his way to referee a fight in Mexicali.

We had a long visit in his room before he went across the line to referee the fight, and a long visit at breakfast the next morning. He had retired from fighting, but he said that if I decided to take it up again, to call him.

I said, “Rocky, I would, but my hands won’t stand it.”

He smiled. I said, “Even the step of light foot referee breaks them up.”

We both laughed at that, because the referees breaking hands by walking on them is an old joke among fighters.

Then I said, “Besides that, I just got over a whole year of the shits and it’s left me with a chicken liver.”

And that was finally the end of my 22 year boxing career.

18) When you wrote "Forest of the Night" in the 1970's, you lost it (the transcript) after a 4 day drinking binge, I believe. You finally found it in a garbage can. That sounds like something out of a Bukowski novel. Life is truly stranger than fiction is it not?

I was crazy wild in those days, and especially after a month of working on Forests day and night without letup except to eat. I never slept over two hours at a time during that month, either. It isn’t strange that I lost the manuscript during the week long Parranda, or celebration, that I gave myself when I finished it. My mistake was in carrying it around with me so that I could from time to time satisfy myself by rereading passages of my O-so-deathless prose. It’s not strange, either that a bunch of cowboys, some that I had never even met, ganged together to search every corner of every bar on both sides of the Mexico-Arizona border in Agua Prieta and Douglas. It is strange that there were two garbage cans in that pool hall where the manuscript was found. One had been emptied completely and the other only contained my manuscript.

19) Have you ever met or read Edward Abbey or Cormac McCarthy?


20) Craig McDonald has a series out about a fictional writer named Hector Lassiter whose tag line is "The man who lives what he writes and writes what he lives". Could that tag line fit you as well?

All through my childhood and adolescence writing was easy for me, because a lot happened to the people in my family for me to write stories about. I never liked to write, so I only wrote when I had to turn in a composition or a book report.

However, because it was easy for me, when I wanted to go to Notre Dame, I thought I could make it by majoring in journalism. I never would have graduated if I had majored in anything else.

I had a very hard time passing all the required courses during my first two years at ND, but an easy and happy time learning to write and finding an appreciation of good literature during the two years of my study of journalism. I also, for the first time in my life, found out how much professors who know about stories appreciated mine about cowboys, horses, cattle, and boxing.

After I graduated, I forgot about writing, because I didn’t have to do it anymore. Besides that, I figured I had exhausted the experiences of my life that were interesting and didn’t want to get into the kind of fiction that would require me to make up stories.

Then, I left the ranch after graduation and struck out on my own. I was half an invalid and couldn’t do hard work as a cowboy. On the way home from graduation a blood clot in my labyrinth, my inner ear, had laid me low for about a year and I lost 40 pounds. The only work I could do was write, so I found work first on two Arizona weekly newspapers and later on the Herald-Post.

I wrote on that newspaper for two years while I recovered from the blood clot, then joined the Marine Corps and forgot about writing again. After two years of writing five or six stories a day for the newspaper, I didn’t ever want to write another one.

The only writing I did in the Marine Corps was a manual for animal packing for the Mountain Leadership School at Pickle Meadows, California where I served as an instructor-guide. I was one of the first five officers who helped found that program.

I went to work in the cattle business when I was released from active duty in ’58 and the only times I wrote after that was when I was laid up injured, sick, or by myself in some camp way out where the sun set between me and town, until the hepatitis hit me.

I had plenty to write about then, a good warehouse full of stories that were unlike any that any other cowpuncher had written, or any other writer had written, for that matter. I was able to see the value of those stories as material for a book. Once I decided to write a book of those stories, I got hooked on writing. The more I wrote, the more I had to keep at it. The more that I could remember of the experiences, the more value I saw in the stories and in the way they had to be written, So, I had to see that they were written. The only trouble, that kind of writing got harder and harder. It still does. It ain’t easy anymore at all.

I have never liked to write and I have not enjoyed it any more than I have enjoyed going on drunken binges for months at a time. What’s to enjoy about being so totally absorbed in a task that you can’t eat, or sleep, or stop doing it? That’s what I’ve done as a drunkard and is exactly what I’ve done as a writer. The trouble is, I’ve never felt duty bound to go on a drunk, and I do feel duty bound to go on writing.

21) You come from I believe 5 generation of ranchers, do you have any children following in your footsteps?

I have two sons that I can count on to help me run another ranch, if I ever make another stake to buy and stock one. One son is a movie stuntman and the other is an artist. One of my three grandsons is a cowboy who works on a ranch near Austin, Texas. One studies to be an actor. The other has been studying classic guitar for four years in Seville, Spain and plans to remain there for two more years. Three out of five cowboys who can succeed me ain’t bad, but who knows if it will ever happen again. I hope to write 30 more books. If I get that done, it will happen.

22) You've said that some of the worst people in the world and also some of the best live in the Sierra Madres. Have all the best fled from there in recent days?

Decent people find it very, very hard to stay in the Sierra Madre these days. That’s not to say that the people who stay are all villains. The best of people everywhere in the world, find it to difficult to remain hardcore good all their lives. I know people in the Sierra Madre who live by earnings from illegal crops. I respect them, trust them, and am not bothered by what they do to make a living. They have survived because their goodness is universally respected. They are part of the hard core of good people of Mexico that no villainy will ever contaminate. They have kept their ranches and raised their children to respect justice and decency while their neighbors turned to banditry, lawlessness, and dissipation. What more could anyone expect of them?

J.P.S. Brown Interview ( Pt 4 of 5 Pt) BORDER ISSUES

13) Tom Russell has written a terrific song called" Who's Gonna Build The Walls" which questions that if the illegals are sent home, who's gonna build the wall across the border. The state of Texas relies heavily on the illegals to work on their farms, as they provide cheap labor. Is there an answer to the immigrant issue? Shouldn't the real worry be that some terrorist is sneaking across that same border?

American business must need Mexican labor, or it would not risk what it does to hire Mexican labor.

One of my first jobs after I grew up and left the ranch on which I was raised was to work as a general assignment reporter for the El Paso Herald-Post. I also wrote its weekly farm and ranch page.

At that time, farmers and ranchers all along the border were subjected to the strictest, most stringent punishment for hiring illegal crossers. If caught in the act of using them, they were fined $20,000 or they went to jail. This was in 1953 and 1954. $20,000 was more than a life’s savings for a cotton farmer in the El Paso Valley.

Then, all of a sudden, someone admitted that we better let Mexican workers in, because they were drastically needed. Farmers and ranchers could not make it without them. A program was formed in which workers in Mexico were screened and documented and assigned to the American farms and ranches that needed them. They were able to stay in our country on the job for a certain time only, and then required to return to their homes in Mexico. However, their employers usually saw to their documentation so that they could return after their required rest in Mexico was over.

Overnight, the problem was solved. The Mexicans wanted to return to their homes and often found it difficult to stay on this side for the time required, but the program worked. It was called the Bracero program.

The solution to the problem of illegal crossers, be they drug traffickers or people who seek work, is the same to most border ranchers and farmers who depend on their land and cattle for a living. There are some border hotheads who call themselves ranchers and strut and arm themselves like John Wayne, but don’t ever see a cow turd dropped on their property and are against all immigrant labor. These people most of whom join or form Militia groups, have no need and no compassion for anyone, not even themselves. They only want to shout, “I’m a rancher. As per the tradition of the movie Wild West, I will shoot any Mexican who crosses my land.” It doesn’t matter that his border “ranch” and his “livestock” only consist of one old 20 year old goat and an acre and a half of sandy wash. It doesn’t matter that he’s never learned a word of Spanish or worked and depended on Mexican vaqueros and horsemen for his living. It doesn’t matter that he never crossed the border into Mexico like his neighbor ranchers have done all their lives with Mexican vaqueros guarding them with their lives and celebrating their coming with fiestas in the bosoms of their families.

The solution that I propose is this: Through a common institution like the Chambers of Commerce of Mexico and the U.S., workers are solicited by U.S. employers, screened by an American-Mexican institution or agency, transported to the border at the employer’s expense, met at the border by the employer, and transported by him to the place of employment. The employer is responsible for the worker throughout the term of his employment. After his term is over, the employee has to go home. If he wants to come back to work, he goes through the relatively simple task of submitting himself to the machinations of the agency that handles workers who seek employment in the U.S., only this will be much facilitated, because he already has a job and a reputable sponsor.

Mexicans love their country. They want to live in Mexico. They want to end their lives in the company of their families in the country they love more than life itself. The desire of illegal crossers is to eventually be able to return with their savings to build lives, businesses and fortunes in their own country. Anybody who doesn’t know that this can be done with even small capital, is a fool. Mexico is as rich in resources as the U.S. It’s politics is all that needs a drastic remedy.

This would reinforce the wonderful core of goodness in the Mexican people. And that core of people would be our ally, an ally that we could trust, an ally that would trust us and be grateful to us.

Illegal workers don’t go back, because it’s too hard and dangerous and expensive for them to return to Mexico and then again have to cross the border illegally to return to their jobs in Illinois, or Minnesota, or Northern Arizona.

If they could work in the U.S. my way, which is the way that almost anyone who hires Mexican labor would want to do it, they could return to their families and homes in Mexico without fear of losing their American jobs.

To me, that’s the solution to all of our problems of drug traffic and to all of ours and the Mexicans’ labor problems. The workers that we treat good would perhaps go home and clean up their own country’s government and lawlessness. If they could come across under the protection of our laws, we could turn our guns on the sonsofbitches that are stuffing drugs into our country.

Terrorists are sneaking across our border, that’s why we need to screen every worker before we let them in. With that in place, we goddam shoot every son of a bitch that tries to sneak across our border, because we know he’s not on ours or the Mexicans’ side.

Part 3 of a 5 part JPS Brown interview

11)You made your first trip to Mexico almost 75 years ago. It has always been a wild & lawless sort of place, but do the things going on today down there even amaze you?

Mexico has a core of very fine and elegant people and that will never change. They are stubborn about not allowing their youngsters to stray from that core, and that is what makes me say that they’ll not change. People who are influenced to stray from that core, mainly the youngsters, become the thugs of their generation. What bothers me most is that thugs have been taking on hero status. The corridos, folk-ranch songs, used to tell romantic tales of great and noble and romantic hero's, love of the land, love of the livestock. Today the corridos romanticize the smugglers, murderers, victims of the cartels, thugs, and belittle their white gringo enemies.

People had just begun to notice that their youth was beginning to stray about the time I came out to live and ranch again on this side of the line in 1974. Youngsters began to take marijuana and cocaine at that time. Before that, a marijuano, one who stooped so low as to take it, was a pariah in his society. The town dogs and little children chased him down the street. Before that, in the interior, women didn’t go barelegged or in slacks. They put a re bozo, a shawl, over their head when they walked to town. They carried a parasol. Not any more. They are all almost exactly like American kids now, with little modesty, little self-respect, little respect for anyone else, except for the ones who stand erect in the core of their families.

12) I just read where a farmer from Bisbee, Az. was murdered on his farm near the border. I'm sure you're aware of it and possibly even knew the gentleman. Some reports claim he was killed by the drug cartel and others claim he was killed by illegal immigrants crossing back and forth. I'd really like to hear your thoughts on the border issue and the drug wars that are raging all through Mexico.

I live on the border. My family settled here in 1850 when it was still Mexico. At one time mine was the largest Anglo family in the region. Only a few of us remain. Of course, Mexican families that were here three hundred years before mine are still here, only now much more plentiful than Anglo families. Why is it so surprising that they want to come back? It doesn’t surprise me any more than the migration of wild ducks surprises me.

In my childhood, Anglo families owned most of the businesses. Now, Mexican families do as they did before Anglos came here. Anglo families in my day all spoke Spanish as well as they did English, learned Spanish as their first language, because they spoke it more as children. My mother and her brothers grew up in the culture of Sonora and were more like Sonorans than they were like people of Phoenix or Prescott or any Arizona people who lived north of Tucson. Sonorans were and are more like people of Southern Arizona than they were or are like their countrymen in states south of Sonora. I also feel more akin to Sonorans than I do to my own countrymen. This is true of almost all ranchers and farmers of this area, except, or course, the dudes who have come from the east and bought up a lot of the ranches.

I didn’t know Mr. Krantz. I met him at a book signing in the Gadsden hotel in Douglas a year or two ago and liked him and talked to him for awhile. He liked my books a lot.

There are four kinds of illegal border crossers that are swarming into our country. Among the thugs are the ones who come in files that resemble paramilitary combat patrols, big, husky youngsters, well shod, well equipped, well armed. They have all, or more, of the technology, including satellite technology, that our own military does, and I suspect, better technology. These crossers have strict orders not to engage anybody, not even to ask for a drink of water. They carry the three powders, meth, heroin, cocaine and they carry 120 or 130 pounds of gear including their payload. They will defend it, but they are much better armed than our Border Patrol and local county and city police and so far no firefights have occurred.

These cartel men march all the way to Tucson at night, because the farther they get from the border, the safer it is for them. Besides that, the BP and other law enforcement have roadblocks on the freeways and highways and patrol the roads in their four-wheel pickups, and carry small arms that are no match for any paramilitary unit. The BP truck is more often than not manned by a single man or woman. I had a flat tire the other day on the Harshaw road and a little girl BP who could not have weighed 110 stopped to help me.

The second kind of crosser is a more ragtag drug trafficker who gets paid by the load. Some are thugs and some are not. This kind goes unarmed, but well shod and clothed. He always straggles back as far as he can go and unless overcome by bad weather or accident, he walks all the way back across the line. However, if something waylays him, usually bad weather, he gives himself up to a BP patrol car and is taken to Tucson, processed, then taken to a border crossing and turned loose.

The third kind of crosser is the man, or woman, or child whose shoes wear out before they cross the first ranch on the American side. Of course, 99 percent of all illegal foot traffic crosses American ranches. This third kind of crosser has always been and will always be helped by people who ranch on this border, unless the rancher is a dude and can’t tell a trafficker in stout boots from a ragged and barefoot person seeking work.

I live on the Rocking Chair ranch on Harshaw Creek road. All kinds of traffickers come by my house and past my horse corral all the time. If I started a war against every crosser I saw or who asked me for help, drug trafficker, or seeker of a better life, I would not last long. All I have to do to have a better than average chance of not being molested, is to show a little compassion from time to time and to live and let live.

Of course there is one other kind of crosser, and he is called a pollero. A pollero is a hawk that preys on baby chickens. This pollero preys on his own people who are weakened and vulnerable from hunger and exhaustion and exposure. These polleros cross to catch their countrymen when they are at their worst, take them back, sell them into all kinds of slavery, rob them, take the tikes for adoption organizations, or sell them to cold-blooded sonsofbitches who kill them for their organs, steal from ranchers, burglarize, invade homes of old people and of women and children.

These are the dangerous ones. They often come across loaded with dope with an independent, non-cartel group, but after they hand over their cargo they look for something to steal, or hurt on their way back to Mexico.

One of these might have shot Mr. Krantz just to watch him die. The rancher might have caught him in the act of trying to steal. He might have decided to show cruelty instead of compassion. He might have tried to apprehend a crosser…..or he might have made an enemy of one of his own neighbors. I can’t judge the victim and I can’t judge the killer. I know this, I am armed everywhere I go. When I carry coffee and doughnuts, blankets and dry socks to crossers who straggle sopping wet onto my porch in a winter rainstorm, I carry them in one hand because my .22 Beretta or my .38 special is in my other and in plain sight, although pointed at the ground.

J.P.S. Brown, an ongoing interview with the author of Jim Kane

Pt. 2 of an on-going interview with author J.P.S. Brown. Questions 1-4 were posted previously and can be found in the archives on 4/18/10 We pick up with questions 5-10

5) Could he make the same journey today ( in 2010) successfully?

I don’t believe anyone could get him to go back to the Sierra. He’s had it. I figure that he had about a 75 percent chance of making it back to his home in Tucson alive before he wrote the book. Now, he would probably have about a 90 percent chance of losing his life and having his book stuffed in a place where the sun don’t shine.

6)I understand you once wrote a novel entirely from a horses point of view. What was it called and where did the inspiration come from?

The book was called I, Horse. My William Morris agent who had given me lavish praise for my work was so put out with I, Horse, that he quit me. So, I rewrote the book in third person about a top horse of mine that inspired the book and called it Steeldust. It was published by Walker and Co., New York as Steeldust and Steeldust II: The Flight.

The only reason I could see that Walker split the book in half and published the halves a year apart was so it could sell one book for the price of two.

Horses have been on this earth in more or less their modern form for about 40,000,000 years and all they have had to help them survive has been their grace and speed. Man has been here I guess in his present form for about 5,000 years. Horses haven’t poisoned the earth or their fellow beings in any way, haven’t ruined anything, except when used as a tool by men, have not murdered, and have not dealt in betrayal, or for that matter not dealt in any of the sins that man rationalizes to be necessary for his survival.

I figured a horse’s language to be a sort of poetic plain talk, but I finally abandoned the idea when I realized that my idea of a horse’s talk was too “literary.” I kept running into the problem of liking my choice and use of words more than I did my subject. I had always hated that kind of “literary” writing that showed off high-toned language ad nausea and realized that the only reason I wanted to do the book that way was to see what I could do with words about the great horse that inspired the work.

7) It's on the record that you hated the movie "Pocket Change" and "that it made you want to puke and hurt somebody". The film was based on your novel "Jim Kane" which was based factually on aspects of your life. Paul Newman played the central character based on you. Was it Newman or the studios fault, or both, for the silly characterization we see in that film.

I got along good with Paul and I thought we respected each other. I think he was trying to portray me, but if that is true, he sure missed it. I fell out with his company before the production began, so if I had wanted it to be better, it’s my own fault for not staying with it.

However, to stay with the company was just too big a sacrifice for me. I had cattle and a ranch in Mexico and I wanted it done down there. I got them to promise me they would do it there.

When I saw their first screenplay I was alone in a hotel room. It was so bad I kicked a chair through a window and crippled myself for about a month. They didn’t get it then and they couldn’t ever get it after several script conferences that I attended before production began.

Paul never attended those conferences and I am told that during the production he kept shouting at the producers to get Joe Brown involved. However, I had made it very clear to them that I hated their dishonesty and their lying, phony, Hollywood ways and they had all they wanted of me for all time already, because when I told them off I waited until I had them all together.

In order to make the movie in Mexico, they had to show the script to the government censor in Mexico City. When the censor read it, he declined to give them permission to make it in Mexico. In the book I showed Mexicans the way I saw them, with love and respect. Pocket Money depicts them as overbearing greasers.

Then, I was called on the carpet by the Mexican Consul in Nogales and told to hand in my Mexican work visa, because the censors believed that the screenplay must closely follow the book I couldn’t go back to my ranch and livestock until the matter was resolved. The Consul was my friend, so she had me produce five copies of Jim Kane for the censors to review. After five months I was allowed to return to my business in Mexico.

I should have known that I would have no influence on the production company. In the beginning, we spent two weeks in Mexico looking for locations. My town Navojoa had to brush the landing strip by hand so that the Newman-Foreman Productions Falcon jet could land and take off there. The town turned all out for us and gave us a fiesta. Paul didn’t go with us.

Marty Ritt had been hired to be the movie’s director at that time. One day, as we drove through town all ten of us crowded into two cars, Marty piped up, “Don’t worry, Joe, we’re going to put fire and life into your book.”

I was already getting the picture of the kind of movie they would make. I said, “No, Marty. You’re not going to put anything into my book. My book is what it is and you can’t put one thing into it. My book has a good, sound reputation. Let’s see what you do with your movie.”

I could write a whole lot more about this, but I’d rather tell stories about truth and honor which would not grace that Newman-Foreman production company at all. To his everlasting credit, Paul stuck to his acting and stayed clear out of his company’s dirty business. I’ve never seen a movie company that was any better, except Ron Howard’s.

8)Tom Russell comments on his album "Hotwalker" that we don't need these phony heroes ( like athletes, actors & politicians, fake tough guys ) when we have real heroes living amongst us. We would have to put you in the class of real heroes I believe. Would you be uncomfortable with that?

I’m a Marine. All real heroes are dead. I still have to try hard to stay alive and be a man.

9) What kind of man was Lee Marvin? Can you tell us any stories about him from the times you spent together?

Lee was a warm and kind friend. He had a distinguished career as a Marine rifleman in the Pacific during WWII. I met him on the set of Pocket Money on the only day I visited its set. He and I and Paul got together to visit behind the camera. We were having a very funny and lively conversation, when all of a sudden I looked over at Lee and he was sitting up in his canvas chair with his name on it, sound asleep.
The producers told him a lot of stories about me, as they came away from my presence, I guess, with their hair standing on end and their complexions ghostly. When anyone asked Lee about me, he always said, the g.d. Hollywood's talk about Joe Brown in subdued tones, much as they would mention a terrorist who might mark them for death. Joe’s without a doubt the wildest SOB I’ve ever known.

10)How are Oscar Russo ( your old partners nephew) and your good friend Adan Martinez ( who you've called the best tracker and outdoors men you ever saw) doing these days ?

Oscar still retains the El Limon and Guazaremos sections of the old ranch that was founded by my partner Rafael Russo’s Sicilian immigrant grandfather. He is the only member if the family who still wants to keep the ranch, but he doesn’t know much about ranching and he won’t stay up in the Sierra for long. He only visits it to count his diminishing herd of Black Angus cattle that aren’t fitted for life in the Sierra. He and I have tried to get together to go to the Sierra, because I have to show him the place where Rafael used to pan for gold for spending money for mariachis and beer he required when he drove his father’s cattle out of the Sierra to market. I’m the only one left who knows where it is. Also, I want to see what became of the remnant of Rafael’s cattle that were very well suited for survival as natives of the Sierra. Those cattle are sure to have gone wild just as all their ancestors did, become wild as wolves to survive and thrive and multiply. Oscar doesn’t even know they still have to exist in that vast country. I want to go up there one time and bring some of them out before I die.

Adan Martiniz brought his family out of the Sierra and moved to Hermosillo, Sonora when killings over the drug traffic began about 1974. He and his sons own several five ton trucks with which they haul needed goods to Mulatos, their hometown in the Sierra. He still runs cattle on his part of the Mulatos Ejido, or communal ranch. I’ve visited him in Hermosillo. He and his family are healthy, his sons that were so tiny when they were little are all big and strapping and miraculously alive and making a good living with the trucks.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

# 1 "TOM HORN"

Tonight, was my first screening of "TOM HORN", a 1970 film directed by William Wiard. Based on the true story of the legendary hero & assassin, Tom Horn, who was hung in 1903. The film stars icon Steve McQueen, who also executive produced it, and spent 4 years researching Horn's life. It was not one of McQueen's best efforts as an actor, but still the film was pretty interesting although not spectacular. I found the most satisfying moments of the film to be when Slim Pickens and Richard Farnsworth were on the screen. The film follows the latter days of Tom Horn's life. Once, considered a hero, as the man who captured Geronimo, and rode with Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders, he is now reduced to an assassin, ridding the area of it's cattle thieves in any manner he sees fit. Linda Evans (of Dynasty fame) plays the schoolteacher who becomes Horn's lover, but McQueen & Evans give off few sparks. After Horn's usefulness is used up, he is set up for the murder of a 14 year old boy. A crime that he is wrongfully sentenced to death for. It was extremely interesting to hear about the Jullian Gallows used in Horn's hanging.This was something worth looking into in more depth. I especially enjoyed seeing J.P.S Brown, in the role of the Padre near the end of the film. The Padre's name in the film was J.P Brown,interesting. Mr. Brown is currently doing a Q & A with "Signs & Wonders", that will be posted in the near future. The film conveys the essence of the lawlessness of the Wild Wild West of the 1900's, where a man's gun was his only truth. Tom Horn was the type of man who would thrive in the world we live in today, as southern Ariz. & Mexico continue to be riddled with violent crime. After watching the film, I immediately began to do some research on Tom Horn's life. There is a website dedicated to him and on it, they offer inconclusive proof that Horn was not the killer of the boy and that they suspect their were actually two gunmen that shot him. I don't think Tom's time was alot different from now, in some ways. The law used him as a ways to justify their means and when they were done with him, they cast him aside. Sounds familiar.

"SIGNS & WONDERS" Movie, View & Review Challege

TOM Horn

I don't know how many people read this page on a regular basis, but if just one person will join me in this challenge, it will be worth it. I had a good friend suggest that I do something on this site to honor films that have been overlooked or forgotten. Well, with a film library of over 7,000 films to chose from here at my home, that won't be too hard to do. So, Ive selected 10 films to view & review between now & the end of May. My hope is that someone else out there who loves films as much as I do, will join me in viewing these films or at least will weigh in with discussion in the comment section of each film. The 10 films I've selected are quite varied. The first film I chose as a tribute to a man who actually appeared in it, J.P.S Brown. That film is the 1970 version of "TOM HORN", starring Steve McQueen. The other films to follow are #2, the 1947 film "DARK PASSAGE" starring Humphrey Bogart & Lauren Bacall and based on the novel of Philly's own David Goodis. #3 Wim Wenders terrific film "PARIS,TEXAS" from 1984 and written by Sam Shepard. #4 is the 1978, Terrence Malick treasure "DAYS OF HEAVEN" starring Richard Gere. #5 is a very overlooked film from 1997, "EVES BAYOU" which Robert Ebert called the best film of the year and stars, Samuel Jackson. #6 is one of my favorites from my H.S. days, "ANGEL HEART" with Mickey Rourke & Robert Dinero. #7 is based on Edward Abbeys book the "Brave Cowboy" and entitled "LONELY ARE THE BRAVE" starring Kirk Douglas. #8 is a film by one of the greatest independent film makers of all-time, John Sayles, entitled "LONESTAR" with Matthew McConaughey, Kris Kristofferson and Chris Cooper. All fine actors. #9 is from 1949 and gives a starring role to downtown Oxford,Ms. in William Faulkner's "INTRUDER IN THE DUST". The final film #10, is based on Ross MacDonald's novel "The Drowning Pool" which stars Paul Newman and his wife Joanne Woodward.

If you have any of these films on hand, or you have a NETFLIX account, I hope you'll join me in revisiting these fine films for some film discussion. Lets get started !!

THAT'S A WRAP ! The12th Ebert Fest behind us

I attended my 10th straight Roger Ebert Film Festival this Saturday, although I only got to catch two films of the twelve films screened. In the past 5 years I've been a pass holder & viewed the normal 8-10 films each year. I really hate it that I was unable to see Pink Floyd's "The Wall", "Apocalypse Now Redux", and missed a chance to meet Charlie Kaufman (who makes very few public appearences). However, just in the short time I was there, I was quickly reminded of what makes this event so special. Before one of the films screened, they showed a short musical montage of musicians around the world. It immediately struck me. This festival always has & I believe always will, celebrates "Diversity". Film makers from around the world come here year after year, to be apart of the love fest of cinema that we call "The Roger Ebert Film Festival". If we could live in a world like the one that exists in those 5 days in Champaign, Il. every April in the Virginia Theatre, well that would be nirvana. I enjoyed another bonus short entitled "Plasic Man" that was voiced over by the German film-maker Werner Herzog. The two feature films we attended were "Trucker" & "Barfly". "Trucker" was one of the most overlooked films of the year in 2008. Michelle Monaghan turned in a performance that was Oscar worthy, as a female truck driver who is suddenly faced with her young son coming to live with her when her ex-husband becomes critically ill. The film also had fine performances from Nathan Fillion (of "Castle" fame), Benjamin Bratt, and Joey Lauren Adams(of Oxford, Ms.,and"Chasing Amy"). My wife & I were able to visit with Michelle Monaghan after the show and she was simply charming. "Barfly" was directed by Barbet Schroeder and based on the screenplay by Charles Bukowski. The film is a loosely based look at Bukowski's earlier days in bars in L.A., fighting, drinking & eventually writing, usually in that order. Mickey Rourke plays the role of Henry (Bukowski) & Faye Dunaway stars as Wanda, his equal in all ways & the love of his life. If you love Charles Bukowski's writing, ( I DO ! ) then you'll probably find this one pretty interesting. Others will hate it. Bukowski wouldn't care either way. Following the film there was a terrific Q & A with the films director Barbet Schroeder. Here was a man who knew Bukowski well and loved to talk about it. A real gem. He was also kind enough to hang around after the show to sign autographs & take photos and visit with guests. As I look back on the past 10 years, all I can say is, "THANK YOU ROGER EBERT". You have made our lives better and we will always be in your debt. With gratitude.

Monday, April 19, 2010

David Moody Interview 4/19/10 Author of "HATER"

David Moody is the author of the 5 book "Autumn" series, and the new "Hater" series.
The Autumn novels, will start being released for the first time ever, in the U.S., in the the fall. The sequel to "Hater", "Dog Blood" will be released on June 8th here in the U.S.

If you're not aware of David's work, you soon will be. You are in for a real treat here at S & W's. I give you an interview with the wonderful writer David Moody. (Read it quickly before the world comes to an end and you'll wish you would have.)

1)You read "Day of the Triffids" at 10 years of age and then shortly after you read "The War of the Worlds". They've obviously had quite an impact on you as a writer. Do you think a 10 year old is ready to read, "Hater" or "Autumn"?

That’s an interesting question! My honest answer – it depends on the 10 year old! I think an important point to make is that when I read ‘Triffids’ and ‘WotW’, both books were quite old. Wyndham’s book was 30+, Wells’ almost 100 years old. With each successive generation, I think people become accustomed to new levels of horror and violence. What used to be considered as shocking, 1930’s black and white horror movies, for example, are now barely even considered horror at all. So I wouldn’t necessarily want my youngest children reading my books now, but I can see that things might change in another 10 or 20 years. It’s quite frightening to think about what might be scaring people in the future!

2)Plague, astroid, climate change, meltdown of the global economy, 2012... which ones gonna get us first, it looks like the economy's got a good head start?

You might be right. As I’m sitting here typing, however, the UK (and much of Europe) has been a virtual no-fly zone for almost a week because of a cloud of ash coming from an erupting volcano in Iceland. It certainly makes you think – the end of the world could creep up on us from any direction at any time!

3) After reading "I Am Legend", I could go out on a quiet Sunday, when our downtown's virtually deserted and imagine what it would be like to be the only one left alive. I assume you have had that same visualization of loneliness and isolation to write the books the way you do?

Yes, and I imagine many people often do try to picture a world in which they were the only occupant. I guess we often think that way because we’re frustrated with the hustle and bustle of everyday life or because of work, relationship issues, cash flow problems or anyone one of a thousand other things . . . it seems like an ideal way out, but I don’t think it would be as idyllic as our daydreams might suggest! Personally, I’m of the opinion that the human race can’t keep growing at the exponential rate it has been, and that something will happen sooner or later to redress the balance and reduce our numbers. But at the same time, our species seems to keep bulldozing its way forward as if we were unstoppable. I think it’s important to think about what might happen if everything we know and rely on was suddenly less certain that we thought . . .

4) You have somewhat of a fascination with the post- apocalyptic world. What are some of your favorite books and movies tied to that scenario?

I’ve already mentioned a couple in a previous answer. I’d also include ‘Earth Abides’ by George R Stewart which is a very interesting book that considers the longer term future of the post-apocalyptic human race. As far as movies are concerned, George Romero’s original three Living Dead movies were a huge influence on me. I grew up during the Cold War and the threat of nuclear war really affected the way I thought about the world. For that reason, I’d say the most important movie for me was a BBC TV film called ‘Threads’. If you haven’t seen it, I suggest tracking down a copy. It’s the single most horrific, terrifying and thought-provoking film ever made in my opinion. A cold, powerful and unblinking vision of the end of everything.

5) In a real case scenario, your among a small group of survivors. What are the most important things to know to survive? Other than stay quiet & stay in the dark.

I imagine that people wouldn’t survive as well as they might expect after the kind of events I write about. It wouldn’t be a case of raiding the nearest supermarket and riding out the storm. I think there are lots of things we take for granted which might catch us out at the end of the world! The loss of everything and everyone who matters to you, for example. The need to keep warm and have decent supplies of food and fresh water, etc. etc. And then there’s the little things you don’t think about . . . not having access to the Internet (which we all rely on more than we’d care to admit). Not having weather forecasts. Not knowing how to fix your car or where to get spare parts . . . the list goes on forever. I guess what I’m really saying is that no matter how prepared we think we are, everyone would
probably struggle to survive.

6) Is existing the same thing as living?

Definitely not. And I think that if you were reduced to just existing for a length of time with no change to your situation in sight, that you’d possibly want to reconsider living. If that sounds harsh then I apologise, but would there be any point in prolonging your own suffering unnecessarily? The key is finding something to live for!

7)Isn't it interesting to what great lengths some people would go to save their own life, but yet of how little of importance others lives are to them at the same time?

You’re absolutely right! Again, look at any one of a hundred movies where the hero is struggling to survive and escape with his or her life. Now look at the number of background characters who get killed in the process! It’s bizarre! And the really frightening thing is that probably just about everyone is pre-programmed to want to save themselves at the expense of everybody else. There aren’t going to be many happy endings, are there?!

8) Would you rather be with the few remaining or go quietly with the billions?

In spite of everything I’ve just been saying, I want to be one of the few who remain. Don’t get me wrong, if the world’s going to be reduced to a smouldering, ball of radioactive ash then take me out with the first bombs please, but if there’s a chance of surviving in a world where there’s a chance of living, then I’d like to take it.

9) In hindsight, putting the "Autumn" series online for free downloads, good move or bad move?

Exceptionally GOOD move! If I hadn’t given the book away, I doubt I’d be in this position now. When I’d finished writing the book, I decided I wanted two things from it: an audience and an income. I knew it wouldn’t generate an income straight away, but by giving the book away I knew I could start building an audience who would, I hoped, buy my future books. And it worked!

10) You've stated that your 1st novel "Straight to You" ( only 500 published ) hasn't aged well and that you are not a big fan of it. Can you tell us a little more about it in regards to the storyline and why you think it hasn't aged well?

Although I think the book has aged badly, I still love the story. In a nutshell, it’s a simple tale of boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, boy and girl realise there’s less than a week left until the end of the world! It sounds very corny but it’s quite a unique and emotional tale. The reason it hasn’t aged well is because it was the first thing I wrote and had published. It’s quite clunky and the characters and dialogue are clumsy, and over the 16+ years since I first wrote the book I’ve become a much better writer. I do have plans to resurrect the story in the near future, but I can’t yet say how!

11) You've said "we think everything’s always going to stay the same, but that's not the case". What are your views in regards to religion, faith & hope and do you believe that mankind will persevere in the face of a worldwide calamity?

I don’t often talk about my views on religion. I believe it’s each to their own, but religion is DEFINITELY not for me. I have real issues with organised religions of any kind. I’m actually a very optimistic person, but that probably won’t come across in this answer! I am hopeful that mankind will persevere, but I think some fundamental changes are needed first. Most people, unfortunately, seem to be consumed with looking after number one at the expense of everyone else. Millions of people fighting for themselves is a recipe for failure (and, coincidentally, that’s one of the main themes of the ‘Hater’ series).

12) Why were "Hater" and "Dog Blood" both released first in the U.S., prior to their UK release? It seems like it would be the other way around.

‘Hater’ was originally released independently in 2006. The book was subsequently acquired by Thomas Dunne Books who are based in the US. Thomas Dunne Books then sold the rights to publishers in numerous other countries, the UK included. So the release dates vary from publisher to publisher, but generally it’s the US first. ‘Hater’ actually came out in the UK only 2 days after the US, and ‘Dog Blood’ will be out on both sides of the Atlantic within a couple of weeks of 8th June.

13) "Autumn", the movie, just got its DVD release in the U.S. in April. The movie was made with a very low budget, were you satisfied with the finished product and are their plans to continue the series on film?

That’s a really difficult question to answer. There were elements of the ‘Autumn’ movie I was satisfied with, and other elements I was less happy about. Generally, those were due to budgetary constraints. At the end of the day, I’m just happy that the film was made. And it was a great honour to see Dexter Fletcher and David Carradine portraying characters I’d created. I don’t know what the future of ‘Autumn’ on film is right now – I’m exploring a lot of possibilities!

14) Were you the first to have a zombie novel where the zombies aren't flesh eaters from the get go or was that something you'd seen before?

I’d never been able to understand why zombies ate flesh? They don’t drink, don’t sleep, don’t go to the bathroom . . . why would they need to eat? It was always my intention to write a story about zombies that didn’t eat!

15) Your zombies start to evolve as we get deeper into the book, it seems only natural that they would eventually seek food or meat as that is ingrained in our minds in real life. What would vegetarians do in the after life?

I agree with that comment to an extent, but we eat because our body tells us it’s hungry and because we’re using up our energy supplies. The bodies in the ‘Autumn’ books are operating on a whole different level and it’s only their most basic functions that are driving them forward. Biologically, their digestive system would turn to mush pretty quickly, so eating would be a pointless exercise. I’ve never thought about vegetarian zombies. Maybe that’s a question for George Romero, not me!

16) I think people will be very exited to see "Hater" coming out in film with Guillermo del Toro directing. Have you heard any ramblings about possible casting decisions?

Nothing yet! Whoever they cast, I doubt anyone will be as excited to see the movie as me. To have Guillermo involved is an honour. I’m a huge fanboy!

17) Will you be on hand when "Hater" is being filmed?

I’d love to be, and I’d certainly accept any invitation that’s offered!

18) Did you get a chance to meet or talk with David Carradine during the filming of "Autumn", and if so what was he like?

Unfortunately I missed him by just a few days. I was in Canada for a week in December 2007, he filmed his scenes a week later. By all accounts he was an incredible person, and his scenes in ‘Autumn’ are very powerful – nothing like the David Carradine you’d expect from Kill Bill and Death Race 2000 etc.

19) Do you have a title in mind for the 3rd & final book in the "Hater" series?

That’s a really interesting question. I have a few potential titles, but nothing definite just yet. I actually finished another draft this morning, and I do have a new title which I might use . . . We’ve talked about ‘Them or Us’ and ‘Outside-in’ but I don’t know yet!

20) The IMDB reviews for "Autumn" have been a mixed bag and at times they've been quite harsh. Does it bother you at all and what do you want everyone to know about the film before they see it?

The reviews don’t bother me too much, providing the film has been given a fair chance. As I said earlier, the movie isn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but it does have a lot going for it. Unfortunately, the film will suffer in the same way the books have because ‘Autumn’ is NOT a typical zombie story. As we’ve already mentioned, it’s focused on the characters (who struggle to survive), it doesn’t have flesh eating and it has evolving zombies which start out slow. I think when people hear that it’s a zombie story, they make a lot of assumptions and are disappointed when they don’t get a typical zombie gore-fest.

21) What kind of reviews did "Night of the Living Dead" get when it first came out?

That’s a very good point! ‘Night of the Living Dead’ certainly wasn’t hailed as a classic when it was first released!

22) Are you aware of any other authors who have had the same kind of success as you have, doing it the same way you did (posting on-line for free downloads) ? I mean that was a VERY GUTSY move on your part !!

Yes, there are quite a few of us! Scott Sigler, J C Hutchins and David Wellington to name but three!

23) Would you advise other young aspiring writers to take that same route?

Possibly, but they should think very carefully first. It’s not necessarily the easy option it seems. I think that before making your work available online it has to be as polished as if you were presenting it to a publisher for consideration. I’m starting to think that putting your work online is an alternative to the ‘submission>rejection’ merry-go-round which was always the mainstay of the pre-Internet publishing industry. Think of it as putting your portfolio online, and concentrate on getting as many people as you can to visit your website. Eventually the right person might stumble across you! But if you think about it, you’ve got to have more chance of getting to the right person if make your work available to everyone, than if you send focused submissions to individual editors or agents.

24) You live in a house full of women ( your wife & daughters)....what do they think of Dads or Hubby's fascination with the end of the world and zombies?

Generally they just don’t understand! I have my own little office where I hide with my Mac, my music, my Xbox, a TV and the Internet. I’m the only horror fan in the house, which can be a little problematical at times!

25) Any chance you'll be writing the screenplay for "Hater"?

I doubt it, although I’d love to and I will if I’m asked!

26) When are we going to get a chance to see and meet David Moody here in the U.S.?

I’ve finally got a little more financial and personal freedom (all those women I was just talking about are growing up) so there’s a good chance I’ll be visiting soon. I’m currently looking at a couple of possibilities for later this year, perhaps to tie in with the re-release of ‘Autumn’.

27) Whats next after you wrap up the "Hater" series? Do you have anything that you can share with us about future projects? ( In the chance the world doesn't end before then ).

I have more ideas than time! I’ve made the mistake of talking about projects too early before, so you’ll just have to wait and see!

28) Will we see Danny & Ellis reunited in Dog Blood?

You might, although not as you’d expect. I won’t say any more than that for fear of spoiling the book!

Final Question: You have a wonderful website and I know you are very fan friendly. Do you fear that success might one day temper that? Take Stephen King for example, he was wonderful with his readers for years & years but eventually he just got overwhelmed. Now he can hardly go out in most places without being mobbed. Would that be a nice problem to have?

Thanks for the compliment – I’m very proud of the site. I always think that readers are a priority because an author is just someone who writes for themselves if no-one else want their books! That said, it’s already difficult to balance my writing obligations with the number of emails I get. So if anyone does write to me, please have a little patience! I’m actually finding social networking sites are making communication a lot faster, more personal and more effective. People who are interested can find me on Facebook and Twitter and all manner of other sites!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

J.P.S Brown Interview 4/18/10 Author of "Jim Kane"

Many of you may not know who J.P.S Brown, or Joe Brown, is at first glance. Joe is an author of numerous novels relating to life in the American Southwest. Joe is a prolific writer and yet that's just the tip of the iceberg in this mans fascinating life. A 5th generation rancher near the Mexican border, a cattleman, an actor, and an honest to God real live American Cowboy. His book "Jim Kane" was turned into a film called "Pocket Change", staring Paul Newman & Lee Marvin. Joe was also in the film "Tom Horn" with Steve McQueen and Slim Pickens. I had always found Joe's life story quite interesting and recently was having a discussion with musician Tom Russell when Joe's name came up. Tom had said "now there would be a interesting interview". A bit of time went by, till one day I decided to look Mr. Brown up. I found he had his own website (www.jps-brown.com) & a biography page at(jpsbrown-horseman.com) & decided to make contact. I was thrilled to find Joe willing to do an interview. It's Tom Russell who I owe this interview to, so we'll kick off the interview with the first two questions from Tom to Joe. It was quite a privlege to do this interview with Joe Brown & I think you're gonna find his story quite exciting and informative. I will be printing this interview over a couple weeks time in 5 parts. I hope you enjoy it !

1) Did you know any of the old bullfighting crowd from L.A or Tucson?

Yes, Chuck Henson and I have been close friends for 33 years. We worked together as Teamster wranglers and drivers on about 30 pictures that were made in and around Tucson, beginning in 1977. I knew Marge, his, mother and his Aunt Alice. As the Greenough sisters they were among the best and most famous lady bronc riders that pioneered American rodeo. I know a lot of Chuck's Greenough cousins, too, and knew Heavy Henson, his father. We haven't seen much of each other since I moved to Patagonia. Recently we've only visited each other when we landed in the hospital. I never tried to rodeo professionally. Did a lot of pumpkin rollers in the summertime when I was growing up, mostly to advertize our horses and get them sold. I had a lot of relatives that pioneered rodeo, among them, my uncle Buckshot Sorrells. We were all cowboys and did not take time off ranch work to rodeo except to advertize our horses in the summertime. I started boxing competitively when I was 12, so when I grew to professional RCA age I was dedicated to becoming a professional champion of the world and had no interest in becoming a pro rodeo cowboy. I never quit being an outside cowboy, though

2) Did you know Casey Tibbs or Slim Pickens

I knew Casey and Slim very well during their final years. Casey and I wrangled The Alamo, the TV version that starred Jim Arness, that our mutual friend Bert Kennedy produced and directed at Brackettsville, Texas. Casey liked my books long before we ever met. I worked with Slim Pickens on the movie Tom Horn with Steve McQueen. I was the priest who spoke with McQueen in the jail and Slim was the jailer. Slim and I had a lot of mutual cowboy friends in the cattle and horse businesses and in the movie business. I liked both of those guys a lot, although I didn't see Slim after Tom Horn. I kept up frequent phone contact with Casey, especially after he came down with cancer. I kept him supplied with Chapparral tea, a cowboy remedy for arthritis and cancer.

3) Are you still writing daily and are their any new books forthcoming?

I sit down with three fingers of bourbon and write two hours or a thousand words every afternoon at 4. Two years ago I completed a novel about a boy who is found in an abandoned wagon by a trail crew driving a herd from New Mexico to California. They keep him and raise him the Cowboy Way.
It's called The Spirit of Dogie Long. My agent in New York recently submitted it to Scribners, Will James' publisher.
For the past year and a half I've been writing the tale of an Arizona ranching family who were singled out as a target to ruin by radical environmentalists. These radicals intimidated the Forest Service into considering denying the ranchers' grazing permit on government land. The family put up sound scientific proof that they were first class stewards of the land and quieted the government. However, the radicals continued to defame them in newspapers and internet. The family took them to court, won a big chunk of money from them and left them for dead.

4) In 2008 Richard Grant wrote a book called "God's Middle Finger", and before he wrote it he consulted with you on the dangers of going into the Sierra Madre's in Mexico. At that time he had never ridden a horse and couldn't speak Spanish. Despite your warnings, and with your help, he did eventually go and write his book. Were you surprised that he wasn't killed and was able to make it out relatively unscathed.

I wanted Richard to stay away from the Sierra. Most of the decent people who ranched there for many generations have been forced to leave. I still have friends who stayed up there. I wanted Richard to stay away from the roads and truck traffic and to get to know the Sierra by using the horseshoe trails. He would have been a target on either avenue, but the roads are the most dangerous. He would have been protected and introduced to the most decent people who are still in the Sierra if he had gone horseback, but he went alone in his car and did exactly the opposite of what I advised.

No, I wasn't surprised that he returned unscathed, but I was disappointed that he only met villains. I wanted him to go into the bosom of the Sierra with my friends and learn something good. He came out disgusted with Mexico. Not everyone in Mexico is a villain. The family values still govern every individual who has not dedicated himself to crime, and even still influences those who have. Most of the people are happy and hospitable and God fearing in Mexico. He chose to look for the mean ones and by God he didn't have any trouble finding them. He went in there and made himself nothing but a great big target. The Mexican word for target is BLANCO, which word also means WHITE. He went in there as a great big six foot four white man. I'm convinced that his innocence and frankness saved him and maybe after the villains got to know him they figured him to be also a little bit daft.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Daniel Woodrell to speak at Augastana College

DO NOT MISS THIS ONE !! Author Daniel Woodrell, will be making a rare public appearance at Augustana College, in Rock Island,Il. on Thursday April 15th at 7 pm. This will be the first appearance for Mr. Woodrell locally in several years. I don't think he's given a reading since the Big Read in Clayton,Mo. about 4 years ago. I do know he had been scheduled to appear in Oxford,Ms. 2 years ago but cancelled, and was originally going to attend the premier of the new directors cut showing of "RIDE WITH THE DEVIL" in St. Louis a couple months ago but cancelled due to health reasons. So, if your anywhere near Rock Island on Thursday, don't miss the chance to hear & meet one of our greatest living authors. Tickets are free to the event.

Michael Lister's "THUNDER BEACH" hits bookstores.

I just wanted to give everyone a heads up that author/poet, Michael Lister's new book "THUNDER BEACH" is now available. You can go online and order, or go to Michael's Facebook page for info & a trailer on the book. Michael is the author of S& W's favorite "DOUBLE EXPOSURE". Race out and get it and let me know what you think.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

SEAN CHERCOVER Interview 4/7/10

Sean Chercover is the author of two terrific novels, BIG CITY BAD BLOOD his debut, and the followup TRIGGER CITY. Both feature P.I. Ray Dudgeon. Sean has homes in both Toronto and Chicago and is one of the nicest guys is the mystery world. It was a real pleasure to do this interview with one of my favorite authors, I give you Mr. Sean Chercover.

1) Over the years you've worked as a truck driver, waiter, nightclub magician, car-jockey, encyclopedia salesman, bodyguard, private investigator, TV writer & editor, and as a security consultant. That's a pretty varied list of life experiences. How important were those past experiences in becoming the writer you are today?

If I'd had a totally different set of jobs, I'd have become a different person, and a different writer. But I have no way of knowing just how different. But whatever you do, any writer is helped by having a deep well of life experience from which to draw. I always wanted to write, but when I was younger, I had far less to write about.

2) Chicago was just named #10 on the "Most Miserable City" list. What are your feelings when you see something like that?

I think people who sit around making lists that rank cities by their level of "miserableness" have far too much time on their hands. I love Chicago, but your mileage may vary.

3)You spent time as a private investigator in both New Orleans & Chicago. How were they different & which was tougher to work in?

Enormously different - I can't even begin to list the ways, or this would be the longest answer in history. New Orleans was tougher to work in, by far.

4) You attended the "American Security Training Institute". What all do you learn there & what does it qualify you to do?

The school was licensed by the State of Illinois to conduct state-mandated training and testing for employment in the security sector. The first step is the basic security course, which allows you to work as unarmed security. Then the advanced course, which gets you your "blue card", qualifying you to work as a private detective, bodyguard, or security consultant. And there were specific courses in various martial arts techniques, mostly Aikido-based, and some weapons such as the kubotan and the MagLight. And firearms training. Classroom work focused on legal rights and responsibilities, and there was both classroom and practical training in the nuts-and-bolts stuff of being a private detective or a bodyguard - surveillance, skip-tracing, assessing and responding to security threats, and so on and so forth.

5)Both "Big City, Bad Blood" and "Trigger City" were set in Chicago, any chance we might see Ray in Toronto at some point?

Doubt it. Chicago is a major supporting character in the Ray Dudgeon books, and I'll probably keep him there. He could take a case that brings him briefly to Toronto some day, but I have nothing planned.

6)When you were growing up you spent some time in the summers in Georgia. What are some of your memories of those times and your impressions of the South?

My mom is from Atlanta, and I've spent a lot of time in Georgia. Many of my childhood memories of summer are of trips to Georgia. I also briefly lived in South Carolina (one semester at USC - go Gamecocks!) and of course I lived in New Orleans for a while. My feelings about the South are extremely complicated. Mostly love, but I despise racism and religious arrogance and xenophobia and cronyism, and the South is not without those things.

But the thing is, neither is anywhere else. As far as I know, Boston is the most racially segregated city in America, and Chicago has plenty of its own sins in this regard. The South has to haul around its sad history of slavery and Jim Crow, but I think many people from the Northern States are in denial about their own history, and often adopt a morally superior attitude, which is nuts.
Like I said, it's complicated.

7) Do you have an all-time favorite literary P.I.?

I don't tend to rank the things I love, so no, I don't have an all-time favorite. I love Matt Scudder and Philip Marlowe and Jack Taylor and Easy Rawlins and Elvis Cole and Dave Robichaux (I know, he's a cop, but to me he still counts) and Mike Hammer and Alex McKnight and Amos Walker and the Continental Op and ... the list goes on.

8) Did your background in security & investigative work help pave the way for you to become a mystery writer?

Without a doubt. That's the reason I went into the business. Call it research-gone-mad. Didn't teach me how to write, but it provided valuable grist for the mill, as my grandmother used to say.

9) Do you have a Ernie Banks bobble head on your desk?

Yes, I do. Although, his head is gone - just a stretched spring rising from his neck. He stands next to my Incredible Hulk bobble head.

10) How close are we to seeing the next Ray Dudgeon novel coming out and anything else you can tell us about?

The next novel is a stand-alone thriller that I'm very excited about. Don't have a pub date yet. Ray's on vacation.

11) You once wrote & sold a screenplay called "Scared Money" to Gannaway Pictures. Has there been any recent movement on that or is still buried?

That screenplay is deader than dead. The production company went under and I own the property again, but it would take a massive rewrite to bring it up-to-date, since it was based in the world of professional poker, which has changed radically since the late-90's, when I wrote the thing. Maybe I'll dust it off one day, but right now I've got other stories to tell.

12) Have options been picked up on either Big City, Bad Blood or Trigger City? I could see both being made into films, but especially "Trigger City".

Fox TV Entertainment optioned BCBB, but the executive producer took ill and the project stalled, then he passed away, and the option lapsed. But while it was at FOX, an independent producer took an interest in the property, and we just signed a new deal with her, which I'm absolutely thrilled about.

13)When you were in the "Big Easy", what were your favorite hangouts & restaurants to visit?.... Didn't it break your heart to see the damage Katrina did to it?

God, where to begin? If I start on restaurants, we'll be at this all week, so let's just stick with a few bars. Back in the day, you could often find me at The Maple Leaf Bar, Tipitina's, Mid-City Lanes Rock 'n' Bowl, The Lion's Den, Jean Lafitte's, Napoleon House, Tujague's, The Old Absinthe House, Le Bon Temps Roule, The Funky Butt, The Sazerac Bar, Igor's, Checkpoint Charlie's, Snug Harbor... I spent a lot of time in bars. I know I'm forgetting some of my hangouts, and I some of those I named are gone.

Yes, it broke my heart to see what Katrina did to New Orleans. Part of my next novel is set there.

14)With 2 books behind you, have you found a comfortable place and a peace as a writer, or do you still have some unfulfilled ambitions?

Comfort? Peace? I know not, these words you use. Actually, that's not totally true. I learned a great deal writing the first two books, and while I wouldn't use the word 'peace', I've certainly become a more confident storyteller. But I definitely have unfulfilled ambitions, and many improvements to work on.

15) When your out on book tours or doing promotional work, what are your favorite cities to visit?

New York, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, Los Angeles, Ann Arbor, Portland, Seattle... I mostly love visiting independent mystery bookstores. That's where you find people who truly love the genre, where you connect with the community. And, while I miss the time away from family, I love driving the highways of America, and seeing places I would otherwise neglect to visit.

16) Chicago provides alot of great opportunities to catch some really great music. Are you a music fan and if so who do you enjoy listening to? Does music have any role in your writing process?

Music is a huge part of my life, and I listen all the time. Everything from The Clash to Duke Ellington, Burning Spear to Lurrie Bell, Black Stalin to the Stones to Beau Jocque to Keith Jarrett. You'll find a lot of music referenced in my first two books, and I often listen while writing. I sometimes create play lists in iTunes that reflect the mood of whatever I'm writing at the time.

17) Are you a prolific reader and who do you enjoy reading?

I'm always reading. I think any writer worth a damn must also be a prolific reader. Sometimes I meet aspiring writers who say they don't actually like reading much. They will never make it.

I'm going to demur on listing names of writers I enjoy reading. I know I'll leave out some of my favorites, and some of my friends, and I'll feel guilty later.

18) What writers have been particularly helpful along the way?

God, the crime fiction community is so incredibly supportive. A few who've given me a hand-up include Ken Bruen, Robert Crais, Sara Paretsky, Lee Child, Andrew Gross, Steve Hamilton, Libby Hellmann...

19) Are you a film fan and have you gotten to attend the "Toronto Film Festival"?

I am, and I have, many times, on and off since I was a teenager. I also covered the festival for a website, for a couple of years during the dot-com boom. It was fun to go with press credentials, hit the parties and so on. It's a terrific festival, and I recommend it.

20) What are some of your all time favorite mystery films?

Off the top of my head: Chinatown. Fargo. Angel Heart. The Maltese Falcon. The Big Sleep. The Conversation. The Usual Suspects. Se7ven. Blue Velvet. The Third Man. Rear Window. Vertigo. North By Northwest. The Thin Man. Laura. Gosford Park. Blade Runner. Twilight. Murder, My Sweet... I could go on for hours.

21) Chicago has several wonderful mystery writers, two who come to mind immediately are Marcus Sakey & Theresa Schwegel. Do you guys get much of a chance to get together over drinks or coffee and discuss things?

Right now I'm in Toronto, but Marcus and I talk on the phone a lot, and hang out all the time when I'm in Chicago. And I've done signings and had drinks with Theresa, who is terrific. One thing I love about the crime fiction community in Chicago is how tight and supportive it is. I really miss all those guys when I'm away.

22)"Trigger City" opens with the lines, Facts are not the truth. Listen carefully this is important. Facts can point to the truth, or can be manipulated away from it. You search for the facts that support the goal of your client..... and then a couple lines later the page closes with,... You uncover facts until your client is satisfied, send a bill, and move on. That's the job. That's your goal. Because if your goal is the truth, you'll go both broke and crazy.And if your clients goal is the truth, run away screaming,fast as you can.

What a powerful opening first page. You're hooked from then on and it's pretty much a summation of the rest of the book . Was that what you personally learned from your experience as a private investigator and did you realize as you wrote that page that you really had the reader hooked from then on?

Answ.) First of all, thank you. People have responded well to it, and I'm really glad you dug it. Yes, the sentiment was something I learned working as a PI, and I wanted to bring that to life on the page. As I wrote the page, I did realize it was a powerful hook, but you can always lose the reader later on, even if your initial hook is strong. So I didn't make any grand assumptions about it.

23) I assume every ones read "Trigger City" by now, so I have to ask you how hard was it to have to kill off Delwood Crawley, (the Truman Capote like) gossip columnist and with a blow torch ?

It was tough to kill Delwood, no doubt. He'd served me well for two books, and some of my early readers were sad to see him go. I was sad to see him go, too. He's an interesting dude, and a guy you love to hate, so it would've been nice to keep him around for future books. But killing him was the right thing to do for the story, so I went ahead and did it. And, hell, if you're gonna kill the guy off, you might as well make it a doozy. Hence, the blow torch.

24)The quote " A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves" by Edward R. Murrow. Has that ever been anymore true than right now, meaning the last 10 years or so?

From a global perspective, it has definitely been more true than now. Germany in the 1930s, to use one example of many. But here in America? I don't know. I'm sad to say, it may be more true now than ever.

25) Your books contain wonderful reoccurring characters such as Ray's love interest Jill Browning, and boyhood friend Gravedigger Peace. Were those two characters a combination of people, or based on individuals from your past, or totally out of your imagination?

Thank you. Jill came out of the ether of my imagination, while Gravedigger is a composite character, based on four friends I've had over the years, all mashed together in my imagination.

26) There's a wonderful line on page 180 in "Trigger City" where Gravedigger Peace tells how he feels about peoples intentions versus what people do. Is that your personal belief as well?

Pretty much, yes. Our actions tell who we really are, and 'good intentions' are too often used to excuse bad behavior. Sometimes genuine good intentions go awry, but intentions often lie, while actions always reveal the truth.

27) Hawk River, Alphabet Soup, govt. cover ups.... we know this a work of fiction, but...how far from the truth are we here?

We're far closer to the truth than I'd like. But yeah, this is a work of fiction, and all similarities are completely coincidental, blah-blah-blah, etc.

28) Craig McDonald just wrote a great piece in Crimespree magazine on authors FBI files being recently released. Authors such as Ernest Hemingway and Rex Stout had files. If you had written "Trigger City" in that same time period, would we be wondering what was in your file?

Craig rocks, as does Crimespree magazine. Anyone who loves crime fiction should subscribe immediately.

As for my FBI file, if I'd written Trigger City back in the day, it might've attracted their attention (in a bad way), but they're a little busy these days with actual bad guys. I'm fortunate to have a couple of FBI agents who help with my research, and I'm gratified by the fact that others in the Bureau have written to tell me how much they enjoyed the book. And my first book, Big City Bad Blood, is actually mentioned on the FBI's website (http://www.fbi.gov/aboutus/faqs/working_with_fbi.htm) so I think I'm safe.

Final Question: When is Ray & Jill's wedding and are we all invited ?

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but... Jill turned down his proposal.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

He could be your new best friend !!

I'm always looking out for worthy causes & this is one of those. After I did an interview with Tom Schreck, I asked him if he could give me someone who could pass on some info in regards to helping save abused or abandoned animals. Soon afterward, I heard from the wonderful Jen Forbus, who sent me this address www.theanimalrescuesite.com for anyone out there wanting to help save an animal like the one above. Please have a heart, if your in need of a pet, contact this terrific website and find a new best friend.

"Autumn's" DVD Release, TODAY 4/6/10 (David Moody)

David Moody's "Autumn series, (5 books) has become a cult phenomenon. When "Autumn" was completed David had a choice, find a publisher or make it available on-line for free. He chose the later and that led to over half a million downloads. The rest of the series was published by INFECTED BOOKS, which David controlled. Unfortunately that has led to a problem for most U.S. readers. The books are long out of print and can only be found in the secondary market, often for hundreds of dollars each. However, there is good news around the bend. The series will become available in the U.S. beginning in Sept. of 2010 when "Autumn" (the 1st in the series) will again roll off the presses. The (2nd-4th) books in the series, will be released throughout 2011 here in the U.S. Jump on board now, because both of his series, will be the next "HOT" thing, over the next couple years.

The movie based on the novel, by the same name "Autumn" was released today in the U.S. I immediately rented it and just finished viewing it moments ago. I will warn you, it is not your typical zombie movie and you will probably enjoy it, or hate it. The movie sticks closely to David's book, however it was shot on a very small budget and it really need subtitles here in the U.S.
The acting, which includes the recently deceased David Carodine (in a small role ) and Dexter Fletcher ( of Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrel's & Layer Cake) is somewhat average and the audio could be better. BUT.. if you love films from the past such as, "The Day of the Triffids", or "Night of the Living Dead" then you'll love it. Keep an open mind, overlook the deficiencies and just relax and enjoy David Moody's post apocalyptic tale of of a viral plague that kills billions, but soon see them come to life and begin to evolve. Not your typical zombie movie. A matter of fact, it is light on the gruesome side until well into the movie and even then it's only briefly. This is a "thinking mans zombie" and a story only David Moody could tell.

David's new series "Hater" will be out in paperback in April & the 2nd in the 3 book series, (Dog Blood) will be out in the U.S. on June 8th. "Hater" was brilliant and was among my "Signs & Wonders" top 10 novels of 2009. "Hater" has already been optioned & is in production and will be directed by Guillermo del Toro, ( of Hellboy 1 &2, Pans Labyrinth, The Hobbit) and will be a don't miss I promise you. This one will get the money thrown at it to do it the justice David's books deserve. You may also catch up on David Moody if he's new to you, at his website http://www.djmoody.co.uk

Please stay posted tuned to "Signs & Wonders", as we will have an interview with Mr. Moody coming in late April or early May. "Jay-sus", that will be worth waiting for.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Interview with Irish Folk Singer, JOHNNY DUHAN 4/3/10

A couple years ago Ken Bruen introduced me to the music of Johnny Duhan. My first taste was his CD "To The Light" and after listening to the 1st track, "Don Quixote" I knew I'd found a new favorite. Shortly after that, Ken gave me Johnny's e-mail address and we've stayed in touch ever since then. Johnny is a warm and caring man with a heart the size of Texas and his music deserves to be heard. It is my pleasure to introduce him to you here at "Signs & Wonders". This is Part 1 of what will be a 2Part interview. You can order his book & CD's at www.johnnyduhan.com . I give you Mr. Johnny Duhan.

1)Your music and songwriting abilities remind me of a U.S. version of Tom Russell, neither of you have ever compromised in regards to your (integrity or independence) just to gain commercial success. Those two things are very important to you are they not?

Honesty, integrity and independence are crucially important to me. Staying true to myself and the culture I stem from - including the influence of my parents - is fundamental. Much more important than commercial success. World success is over rated. I've known lots of people who have achieved huge commercial success, and it destroyed them. Money has never been a motivating force for me. Fame, yes, when I was younger, but heading into my 60s, I'm beginning to outgrow that lust too. But it's still there, the longing for the limelight. At a deeper level, though, the light I long for now is a much purer light. And I believe it's there, hidden in the darkness. And somehow you have to go into the dark to find it.

2) Your songs are so soulful & contain the most intimate moments of your life. Has it been painful or therapeutic to paint the pages with your own blood?

A: Real creativity, I have found, is deeply painful. After years of writing surface formulaic songs - hundreds and hundreds of them - I recall the first real song that came to me. I was in Co Kerry on a camping holiday with my girlfriend - now wife - and we were involved in a road accident with a couple of US tourists who had given us a ride in their car. That evening after we pitched our tent we went to a local bar for a few drinks and immediately I was overwhelmed by a feeling of dread or claustrophobia. So much so that I had to leave the pub on my own (driven out) and go for a walk by the ocean. It was probably delayed reaction to the car crash. But the force I felt that night had something to do with my rising the following morning very early with a bolt of inspiration to write "Everything will be Alright", which eventually featured on my "Just Another Town" album. It was years later before I tapped into the same kind of inspiration to write the rest of the songs for "Just Another Town", and, again, the songs came after a severe bout of depression, though many of the songs are bright and positive. To write real songs you have to confront your demons, in the same way that an alcoholic has to confront his illness before he can enact a cure.

3) If you were able to go back to the beginning of your career, would you pursue a different path or would you do it all the same again?

A: I wrote a song once called Fool's Review for my Don Quixote album (now To The Light) which ran: I sometimes look back at the fool I was when I was young. Laugh when I think of me at seventeen. Blush when I think of all the silly things I've done. But that boy stands proudly in my memory, naming fools of those who were then as I am now."
Having said that with tongue in cheek, I would of course do things differently. It took me years to wise up to the myth of the 60's. Joni Mitchell song "Blue" exploded the idea that Sex, Drugs & rock'n'roll led to Nirvana. I was beginning to come to the same conclusion at that time but I wasn't skilled enough to articulate it in song. In fact, I was a very slow developer. Though I started out in a band in the mid sixties - and wrote most of the band's songs - I wasn't well informed, in the way of being aware of poetry and literature, which I believe is essential
for development in any of the arts.

4) When I was reading about your early days with "Granny's Intentions", their were some similarities to those in the movie "The Commitments". Have you seen the film and what were your thoughts on it when you did? (Ex. the Irish band playing soul & heading to London)

A: Strange you should ask that, as the same question came up in another interview recently. "The Commitments", in my estimation, is pastiche. It was written by a talented school teacher, who may have dreamt of being in a band in the 60s. It has all the surface elements of what it was like being in a copycat soul band. And from a nostalgic point of view it was very very entertaining. But it is not the real thing. Real life is a lot more nuanced and complicated than the bubbly picture we were given in "The Commitments". At it's own level, it is fine. But that level doesn't really interest me. I'm not nostalgic by nature. Roddy Doyle has criticised Joyce's Ulysses for not being better edited. For me this is a silly remark. Ulysses has all the quirkiness of reality. This real substance can not be edited out, just to make a well rounded book. Maybe it could have been better edited, but the real substance has to be their first to make a real work of art. Joyce had that in abundance.

5) Of all your songs that have been remade by the various musicians, do you have a favorite or is that like asking which one of your kids is your favorite?

A: "After the Dream" by Dolores Keane had the potential to be my favourite because Dolores, in my mind, is one of the finest singers Ireland has produced. Like Billy Holiday, she was a natural singer. But I fucked up (pardon the French) in agreeing to add a verse to a song that was already complete, just to suit the film it was featured in. You can't do things like this. There is such a thing as artistic sin, and I committed a cardinal one in messing with "After the Dream".

6) I've read some of the wonderful and touching letters that you've received from peoples lives you've touched around the world. Do those letters make all the struggles through the years worthwhile for you?

Yes, a German got in touch with me some time back and told me that he was amazed that I wasn't recognised in my own country. And it's true. I brought out a book, TO THE LIGHT last year and I couldn't get on any TV or radio shows to promote it, and only one of our newspapers reviewed it. Even though the book - and more so the four epic CD collections that it represents - is probably the most substantial artistic work - in sheer volume of size - that any artist has produced in Ireland in years. The letters I get, from overseas mostly, have kept me going. In the last week alone I've had letters from France and Nova Scotia. Some of the letters I get reduce me to tears. That for me is the real reward for what I do.

7) I gave "Honest Injun" several listens and I know you told me not to expect too much, but to be honest I really liked "Maybe" , "We Both Need To Know", and especially "Heavy Loaded Minds". What really got me was how you guys were all over the place in regards to style. At times it was like listening to a country western tune by the Marshall Tucker Band or the Allman Bros. & then we would switch to a David Bowie "Ziggy Stardust" feeling. Was that intended, to roam around see what caught on?

A: Very perceptive, Rod. We were all over the place. Our keyboard player John Ryan had his pulse on the heart of pop culture and was forever steering us down new roads. I learned quite a lot from the experience but grew dizzy artistically because of all the chopping and changing. Being in a band is like being part of a democracy, and the democracy of Granny's Intentions was full of confusion because each of the members was pulling in different ways. Back then, we were just feeling our way. I was only 17, for God sake.

8) Did you have a feeling even at that time that Gary Moore was going to go on to have the successful career he's had? And.. What are your memories of working together on that album?

A: Gary Moore was never really a fixture in the Granny's. He stepped into the lead guitarist role in the middle of the recordings for Granny''s one and only album. Gary and Phil Lynott moved into my flat in Donnybrook in Dublin when they were homeless and we became good friends. I was probably closer to Gary in temperament, though I had little interest in the heavy rock that both of them were into. Gary was such a whiz on the guitar, it was obvious that he was destined for the limelight.

9) How much money would it take to bring you to the U.S. to tour?

A: Not a lot. It's finding the right venues that would be the problem. Generally I play smallish arts centres, sometimes even without a PA system. I went to New York some years back but the venues were all wrong. The kind of songs I sing demand a lot of concentration and I need complete silence to bring out all the juices of the lyrics. Generally I don't even have other musicians with me because I want the full focus to be kept on the words and vocal performance. I'm a bit of an odd ball, I'm told. I would love to play in the U.S., but without being even popular in my own country, I can't see how that could be achieved. I'm not complaining though, as my lack of popularity has meant that I have been able to give my full undivided attention to my work.

10) Who are some of your favorite poets, songwriters, and musicians out there working today? Or for that matter, for all time?

A: I tend to go to classical composers for melodic nourishment more and more now and old poets for poetic stimulus. I listen to Bach more than any other composer of music, for melody. In fact my daughter is playing a very beautiful piece by Bach on the piano behind me as I write. I love George Herber with a passion, and Wordsworth, Dante, Emily Dickinson, Frost, Akmatova - there are so many greats. As good as I think some of the more modern songwriters are, I haven't heard any to top Joni Mitchell, Tim Hardin, early Dylan and Leonard Cohen, to name a few. My one bit of advice to up and coming writers, is to keep a check on over exposing themselves to one particular influence, if they want to develop their own voice.

11) I understand that you did the soundtrack for the 1987 movie "Reefer and the Model". Please tell us about that experience and is it something you might want to explore again in the future?

A: Joe Comerford's film. Yes. It was a great experience. I mentioned the theme song already, "After the Dream". It gave me the opportunity to work with my favorite Irish singer, Dolores Keane. Writing the score also tested my ability to come up with lots of musical pieces to order, something I'm not usually good at. I'm not a big film buff. I prefer books any day. But it was a great experience. I was advised to pursue more work in films after Reefer won top prize at the Barcelona Film Festival. I was even given a few avenues to follow, but I didn't really do it with any kind of enthusiasm, as I felt it would be a distraction on my work as a songwriter.

12) What was your impression of the movie?

A: I thought Joe caught the feel and substance of the Irish character in the way outsiders aren't able to do, though he fell down on the dialogue. If he had had the chance to develop he might have gone on to create a substantial body of work with a distinctly Irish feel. The problem for Joe and it's a similar problem for most Irish artists, is that everything we do is weighed against what's coming out of America. The reason Van Morrison and even U2 became so successful commercially in the U.S., was that they drew most of their influences from America. They became more American than the Americans themselves. If you listen carefully to the intonation of Van's and Bono's voices, you'll detect more than a hint of an American

13) Your book "To The Light" is a full scale autobiography that is written entirely in song. Where did you come up with the idea of using that format and were you pleased with the outcome?

A: This is the most important question you've asked me so far. I spent four or five years, on and off, writing part one of an autobiography, "THERE IS A TIME". And, though I was happy enough with the end result, I detected a slightly stilted note in the prose when I reread it. I think what it was was that I was over conscious of the writing process in the writing of the book. Songwriting has always come quite naturally to me. I almost feel that I was destined to write songs. Prose is different. In writing prose I have no melody to guide me, and melody is vitally important to me. I started to write part two of my autobiography some years back, and again I felt a little at sea without melodic structure to act as a compass. Half way through the book it occurred to me that the voice I use on stage to introduce my songs to an audience was a much more confident voice than the voice that guides my written prose. So, I put the autobiography on hold and spent a year writing a 50 page chapter based on a live gig, using the stories I came up with on stage to introduce the lyrics of the songs. It worked. I was so gripped by the experience of writing in this way, I literally couldn't put the pen down. Then an even stranger thing happened. The thought occurred to me that I could condense my life's work as a songwriter into four chapters, and so "TO THE LIGHT" came about. As I was writing this book it began to dawn on me that the most important aspect of the work was the four collections of songs that it represented, (Just Another Town, To The Light, The Voyage, and Flame). The book itself is only a marker for this work of a lifetime. What I've done over a forty year period is write my autobiography in song. No one that I know of has ever done this before, anywhere. And no other Irish man that I know of has spent as long working on a single work of art as I have spent working on this project. This isn't ego speaking, this is just fact. The real test, of course, is does the work have real artistic value. Only time will determine that.

14) The one man shows you perform these days are very intimate and personal in regards to the performance & venues you play in. Are you more comfortable playing your music in a smaller setting or would you at some point want to play in front of 25,000 people?

A: I have no desire to play to a crowd that big, though I don't think it would faze me if I did. But to play that game you need to be famous. For me there is something unreal about such gatherings. Most people probably go for the occasion rather than the songs. The whole popular music industry is manufactured and manipulated by money. Because of the level of manipulation that has gone on for decades, the general publics musical taste has also become affected. Most of the product we're hearing on our radios now has been elevated to that high position by advertising. To fill giant stadiums you have to operate within the cesspool of the modern music industry. I chose a long time ago not to play the game. Consequently I have a "select audience though few", as Wordsworth so eloquently put it.

15) Do you prefer playing live or would you rather be in the studio recording?

A: Above all I love the act of writing a real song. But, real songs are slow in coming, so you need infinite patience. It gets lonely in my song-cell, but I wouldn't have it any other way. To get out and play a series of intimate shows is wonderful too. The act of singing for me is amazing. It's a bit like what I imagine a tightrope walker must feel like, high above a crowd without a safety net. Regarding recording, I'm not as enamored of studios as I used to be, though it still gives me a great thrill to work with other musicians. I've just completed recording a new series of songs featuring a cello. That was a great treat.

16) You stated that one of the reasons for writing the book "To The Light" was to awaken interest in your musical albums. Has that worked out the way you had hoped?

A: Not really. As I stated already, I'm little known in own country, as I rarely get invited onto TV or radio shows. I thought this would change once I published the book and two of the four albums that go with it. But, it just hasn't happened. A journalist from the Irish Times who wanted to do a feature on it, wasn't allowed to by his editor. But, he still managed to sneak in a one liner, "It's hardly likely you'll read a better book this year" and that gave me encouragement and a quotation I could use legitimately.

17) "The Voyage" has turned out to be your most popular song. "It is simplistic- yet a deeply touching ode to the family". While you were writing it, did you have any idea it would strike the chord it did with so many people?

A: I had no idea it would take off the way it did. And from the quantity and quality of the letters I've received regarding the song, I'm convinced that there is a core substance to the song that has real meaning for our lives, especially family life. A well known musician once tried to insult me by suggesting that the words were "pre-teenage stuff", as he put it. I caught him on the hop by telling him that he was bang on, as I had been influenced by Robert Louise Stevenson's "Treasure Island" in the writing of the lyric. Any song or poem that becomes hugely popular will always have a certain amount of detractors. Even Wordsworth's "Daffodils" was derided in his day.

18) While recording "Just Another Town" you left your record company over artistic differences ( the order the songs would appear on the album) and instead invested your own finances to do it your way. I believe you said "compromise in everything except art". Have you ever wavered on that or do you feel as strongly today as you did then?

A: No, I'm as convinced by that today as I was when I first said it. I've never got on with record companies, going back to when I made my first album with Granny's Intentions. I recall the record producer banning me from the control room because our musical ideas clashed. I'm a bit of a maverick in that regard. But then I could never really understand the role of a producer. Can you imagine artists like Van Gogh or Bach having a producer hanging over their shoulder telling them what to do.

19) I got the feeling that you still regret that petty theft at Mrs. R's pub even today. Would that be true?

A: Yes indeed. To this day I pray for the woman every morning. But, it taught me a great lesson. There is such a thing as sin and corruption, and I was on the slippery slope at that time, not because of the petty theft, but because of the abuse of trust of a fine human being.

20) On the day you were sending off the demo's for "Just Another Town", you believed you got a sign when you see a mentally ill man, a drunkard on the steps of a church, and a homeless man with a dog on your way to mail them. Your description reminded me so much of another Galway resident, Ken Bruen's description's in his Jack Taylor novels. You and Ken are friends I know. How did that relationship first develop and what do you think of Ken's writing?

A: A friend told me that Ken liked my songs at a time when I hadn't a clue who Ken Bruen was. When we eventually met for coffee in a Galway cafe, we immediately hit it off. I admitted to Ken straight away that I knew nothing about crime fiction and had even lost interest in reading literary fiction by this stage. This didn't bother Ken. We share a love of poetry and songs and this kept our conversation going. When the Jack Taylor novels first appeared I was completely surprised and chuffed to find that Jack Taylor was a big fan of Johnny Duhan's songs. The first time I found out my name was featured in the books was at Brandon Books 25th anniversary celebrations. Brandon had recently published part 1 of my autobiography, "There is a Time", and I was invited to share the stage with Ken, whose first book on Jack Taylor, "The Guards", had also just been published. As a joke on me, Ken read out a passage in which my name was mentioned. I was flabbergasted but delighted at the same time. Ken has been very supportive of me down the years. And, I greatly appreciate it. He even contacted me recently to apologize for the fact that the film company (who recently turned the Jack Taylor stories into a TV series), didn't use my songs as part of the score. I was disappointed too, but I fully understand how such companies operate. One very positive thing about Ken's books, is that they deal with the here and now of Ireland, today rather than dealing with the past, as most modern Irish fiction tends to do.