by Matthew Pizzolato
Romancing The West welcomes a friend of all Western readers and writers, Matthew Pizzolato. His short stories have been published online and in print in such publications as: BEAT to a PULP!, The Copperfield Review, Pulp Modern, Frontier Tales Magazine, and The Storyteller. Matthew also writes a weekly NASCAR column for Insider Racing News and is a contributing writer for Suite101.com. He's a member of Western Fictioneers.
Matthew can be contacted via his personal website or on Twitter at @mattpizzolato. When he's not writing, Matthew is the editor and webmaster of The Western Online.
RTW: Thanks for stopping by this week, Matthew. To get us started, please tell us about your new release.
MP: The Wanted Man is a collection of eight short stories set in the American West and touches on themes of vengeance, abuse and honor. Texas Ranger Jud Nelson appears in the title story and receives some aid from an unlikely source in chasing down a killer. Outlaw Wesley Quaid discovers that not only is the law on his trail in the form of Ranger Jud Nelson but a hired assassin has been paid to kill him. Is Texas big enough for the three of them?
Matthew is giving away a $20 Amazon Gift Certificate.
(See details below)
RTW : What aspect of life in the Old West intrigues you the most? Did you work that into The Wanted Man?
MP: Self reliance. In my opinion, self reliance is something that is lacking in today's culture that was prevalent during the Old West. During that time period, people had to fend for themselves. There were no policemen to call if someone harmed them. They had to provide food and shelter for themselves and their families. People have become too dependant on modern convinces and forget that hunger, thirst and cold are still lurking in the shadows.
All of my characters, whether they are lawmen like Jud Nelson, outlaws like Wesley Quaid, killers like the assassin Sabrina, or just everyday people are self reliant. They may work together to help each other on occasion, but they depend on no one but themselves.
RTW : If you lived in during the Old West, what modern convenience would you miss the most?
MP: Air conditioning. I work as a meat cutter when I'm not writing, so I've become accustomed to being inside in cool temperatures. That is one convenience that I take for granted and am reminded of how much I miss it whenever I spend a weekend civil war reenacting. Everything we do has to be period correct, from how we cook our food to the tents and the clothes we wear. I live in Louisiana, so wearing wool in ninety degree plus temperatures can get quite warm.
RTW: You'll get no argument from me on the air conditioning! If a person who had never read a Western asked you for a recommendation, what novel or movie would you recommend and why? What did the author do to bring the story alive for you?
MP: The Sackett Brand by Louis L'Amour, or anything else by L'Amour for that matter. His characters are portrayed as real people who live by a code. The Sackett Brand exemplifies what I consider to be the three virtues of a Western: honor, integrity and loyalty. Even the villains in L'Amour's work had a sense of honor. There was a line that they wouldn't cross and that is what draws me to his work.
RTW : Are there any common errors in westerns that bug you? If so, please set us straight.
MP: There are too many to name. The Old West mythology that is portrayed in the popular Western is highly romanticized and not always historically accurate. As an example, the role of women in Westerns is probably the most glaring error. While the whore with a heart of gold actually did exist, it's been so overdone in Westerns that it's become a cliché.
It's historical fact that while women were repressed during the time period, some of them still lead successful lives in the same roles as men. Belle Boyd was a civil war spy. Charlie Parkhurst was a female stagecoach driver. There were women outlaws, such as Belle Starr and also Flo Quick, who regularly dressed like a man and went by the name of Tom King. Then you have Poker Alice and of course, Calamity Jane, just to name a few.
RTW: What drew you to writing Westerns? Where do you draw your inspiration from?
MP: I started writing Westerns because I ran out of Louis L'Amour stories to read. When I realized I'd read everything he'd written, I felt like I'd lost my best friend. But aside from L'Amour, I draw my biggest inspiration from two of Clint Eastwood's movies, The Outlaw Josey Wales and Unforgiven.
Those two movies dumped Western mythology on its head and introduced the anti-hero. Suddenly, there were shades of gray in the Western instead of clearly draw lines of black and white. Yet while Josey Wales and Will Munny are both killers, they still possess elements of the hero, namely honor and integrity.
It is these characters that were the inspiration for Wesley Quaid and I drew on the historical record for inspiration for the assassin, Sabrina. Jud Nelson is my version of the typical Western hero, and he appears in one of the stories alongside Wesley Quaid.
RTW: Why must Wesley Quaid take this story journey? What does he have to prove? Why is Sabrina the perfect match for him?
MP: Wesley Quaid has become discontented with his life as an outlaw and is on a journey of self discovery. He's always been a man of honor but he wants to become a man of whom his father would be proud. Sabrina is a perfect match for him because she's not the typical woman who needs his protection. She's his equal who earns his respect.
RTW: That sounds right up my alley! Please set up your excerpt for us.
MP: This is a scene from one of the stories in The Wanted Man collection, Killer for Hire, where Wesley Quaid meets the assassin, Sabrina. This scene transpires after Sabrina makes an attempt on Wesley's life but fails and Wesley tracks her down and confronts her.
Killer for Hire, a story in The Wanted Man
by Matthew Pizzolato
Copyright © 2011 Matthew Pizzolato
Not ten feet away, the cloaked figure bent into the water and submersed her head. Behind her and slightly adjacent, a prairie rattler as big around as my forearm slithered toward the water.
The woman appeared oblivious.
So I did what any gentleman would do. I stepped from the trees, drew my pistol and shot the snake.
The woman lunged to her feet and would have sprung at me.
I cocked the pistol again and smiled.
She froze with her legs poised to leap.
"Who are you?" I asked.
"It doesn't matter."
"What's your name?"
Several seconds passed while she considered. Her sodden straight black hair clung to her skull. Beads of water cascaded down her face. "You may call me Sabrina."
"Oh? I may?"
She gave a curt nod.
"I didn't ask what I could call you. I asked you your name."
Anger blazed in her eyes.
I chuckled. This woman wasn't accustomed to impertinence. "In that case, you may call me Wesley Quaid."
"That isn't you're name either."
I smiled and it reached all the way to my eyes. Then I winked at her and raised an eyebrow.
She blinked and the appearance of rage vanished from her face. Her posture relaxed, and she glanced at the still writhing snake. "Are you going to return my gun?"
"No thanks. I kind of like it. Besides, I couldn't find mine."
She rolled her eyes. "I could kill you from here and take it off of your corpse."
"I enjoy shooting knives out of the air. What are you waiting for?"
Her eyes blazed again but not as furiously as before. Or was my imagination running away with me?
"Return my gun and I will let you live."
I snorted. "Do I look stupid?"
"Actually, yes." A trace of humor reached those icy blue eyes.
♥ ♥ ♥
Available at: Amazon ~ B&N ~ Goodreads
Available at: Amazon ~ B&N ~ Goodreads
RTW: Ha! I love it. :) What’s next? Will you have a sequel to The Wanted Man?
MP: I've just finished a novella length work with the outlaw Wesley Quaid as the protagonist. The stories featuring Wesley Quaid in The Wanted Man are precursors to the novella, Outlaw. I will have it available later this summer or early in the fall.
RTW: It's good to get to you, Matthew, and thanks again for joining the RTW family. Anything else you’d like to add?
MP: I like to thank Jacquie for hosting me this week and I'm eternally grateful to all of the readers who have supported my writing and my website, The Western Online. If anyone has read The Wanted Man and could find the time to write a review on Amazon or any of the other sites, I'd be forever in your debt.
Win a $20 Amazon Gift Certificate!
What do you consider the best Western (either movie or novel) of all time? Why? Comment and you'll be entered to win the $20 Amazon Gift Certificate !
Email address must be included to be eligible for the drawing (so we can contact you).
Drawing will be held Saturday, June 30 at 9pm Pacific Time.