An Honorable Man in a Mostly Dishonorable Land: Robert J. Randisi on Writing the West

Robert J. Randisi has written at least 13 novels a year—every year—since 1982.  The tally so far is somewhere over 550.  That number wouldn’t be as impressive if not for the fact that they are all good.

Okay, I haven’t read all of his books.  (“No one has,” Randisi once told me, “not even me.”)  But I’ve read a lot of them, as many as I can get my hands on, and I’ve enjoyed every last one of them.  In fact, I have to be careful with a Randisi novel.  If I start it, I will finish it in as few sitting as possible and that can be problematic if I have things like papers to grade, deadlines to meet, or… sleep to get.

What’s the shortest distance between reality and another world, another place and time?  Simple.  Page one of a Randisi novel.

Most of Randisi’s novels have appeared in The Gunsmith action-western series (formerly adult Western series) under the name J. R. Roberts.  (The Gunsmith #353: The Deadly Chest came out this month.)  Randisi has written in just about every form and every genre—from action-adventure to science fiction to erotica–but he is best known for writing private eye fiction and Westerns.  The sixth book in his Rat Pack Mysteries series, Fly Me to the Morgue, comes out this June, and a new The Gunsmith novel comes out each month with one Giant Gunsmith each fall.

Below, Randisi and I talk about writing, getting knocked down and getting back up, and about always moving forward but looking back every now and then.
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In Constant Conflict: A Fistful of Legends

“The West,” says Raymond Foster below, “is full of legends.”

And so is the Western.

A legend is both a tale from the past–a time polished mixture of truth and myth–and the hero (or heel, as C. Courtney Joyner points out) featured in that tale.  There is the story with all its elements and there is the character with a story.  And there’s time between then and now.

Below, eight of the contributors to A Fistful of Legends edited by Nik Morton and Charles T. Whipple talk mostly about the legend as the character—what is the stuff of legends and what goes into the creation of a legendary character in Western fiction.
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Things Start to Happen: Charles T. Whipple/Chuck Tyrell on Writing the West Part 2

Journalist and novelist Charles T. Whipple writes most of his Westerns as Chuck Tyrell. Recent Chuck Tyrell titles include Guns of Ponderosa, The Killing Trail, and Hell Fire in Paradise all published as part of Robert Hale Ltd.’s Black Horse Western line. Whipple has also written a Chuck Tyrell novel, The Snake Den, for Solstice Publishing.

Whipple writes character-driven novels and stories in which the setting is very much a living, breathing character. (Whipple usually sets his Western novels in his native Arizona, but his new collection of short stories, A Matter of Tea and Other Stories, features stories set in Japan where he currently lives.  All proceeds from the book will go to relief efforts in Japan.) Below, Whipple talks about where his Western novels start and how he develops characters and settings.
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Ageless Tales & Scratching the Surface: Charles T. Whipple/Chuck Tyrell on Writing the West Part 1

Charles T. Whipple’s Westerns are written with an old man’s wisdom filtered through a child’s wide-eyed sense of wonder. His stories ripple with the feel of folk tales and local legend, without losing the immediacy and realism of someone who’s been there. Whipple grew up in the American West, in a time when the pioneers had aged but were still living—at a time when a child dreamed as much of the 19th century as 20th.

Whipple is an award-winning American journalist living in Chiba, Japan. His articles have appeared abroad in magazines such as Tokyo Journal, Boating New Zealand, and Honolulu Magazine and a bit closer to his native country in Time and Newsweek. Whipple also writes book-length non-fiction, in English and Japanese, with titles such as Seeing Japan and Inspired Shapes.

To get a taste of Whipple’s writing check out his brand new collection of short stories, A Matter of Tea and Other Stories. All proceeds from the book go to relief efforts in Japan following the recent earthquakes.

Charles Whipple doesn’t always write under his own name. For 300 or 400 words a day, he becomes someone else—Chuck Tyrell–and he returns to the land of his childhood—the American West. Continue reading