Wednesday, July 13, 2011
I watched the new version of True Grit this week. I really liked it. It was a good story, with elements of the hero's journey, and had great characters. Watching the movie got me thinking about how much I enjoy westerns, but only certain types. I've read a handful of western novels and seen around 10-12 movies, and they (I think) have a few things in common. I like my western to have compelling characters (particularly the protagonist) and carry moral weight. Elmore Leonard (famous for his crime novels) wrote westerns (short stories and novels) early in his career. I've read them all, and watched several of the movies made from them (most recently 3:10 to Yuma). [Let me throw Robert B. Parker's Cole and Hitch novels in here, too.] His protagonists are flawed are not necessarily heroes in the traditional sense. They all have a past that weighs heavy on them, and they are dealing with the very real consequences of their past decisions. The novel Shane (as well as the movie) are similar. The best Eastwood westerns are like that, and I would include The Magnificent Seven and The Wild Bunch. I would recommend all of these. Unfortunately, particularly in the area of books, I seem to have a hard time finding stories that seem worthwhile. Too many have a hero seeking justice, but it seems kind of generic (this same problem exists in the spy/thriller genre now as well; too many supermen - the written James Bond was very flawed and carried the pain of his missions with him from novel to novel; it's why On Her Majesty's Secret Service is the best story of the old movies). Whew. Anyway, if you like a good morality play or a flawed/damaged hero, check out any of the titles I've mentioned, particularly Elmore Leonard.