"What a wonderful novel is "The Quieting West". From the moment I cracked the first pages until the Epilogue, I was completely caught within the story [...]
If you enjoy a good story this is waiting for you. And if you want a book you just might want to keep on the shelf to read again, "The Quieting West" is highly recommended.
Oh, the is no sex, no swearing, nothing gross or puerile and that makes it even better." - Ben, Goodreads
Published: July 2017
This is the story of two cowboys, Billy Colter and Thomas Andrew Benton, in the rapidly changing world of the early 1900’s. Despite the forty-year difference in their ages, they become close friends in a brief time. After losing their jobs as ranch hands in Utah, they head to Denver, once old man Thomas’ stomping ground. There, Thomas spends time with Ellen Marie, a “soiled dove” he’s known all her life, while young Billy experiences the newest form of entertainment: nickelodeons.
Thomas soon receives a job offer from an old friend, and the two head to Arizona, expecting more ranch work. What they discover is a renegade group of silent film makers. Billy and Thomas are hired to protect the crew and their equipment from Patents Agents hunting down the illegal use of movie cameras. Before long, the cowboys-now-hired-guns are involved in the movie-making process. When they are lured to a world of great enchantment and seduction—Hollywood!—they find their lives forever changed. And not necessarily for the better.
It is a story of truth, fiction, and the disillusionment between the two. A story woven of humor, romance, and tragedy.
1. Far West … or its myth… what it represents for you and American/international culture?
There are so many myths and misconceptions about the American West, most of which were created and perpetuated by Hollywood!
For example: The West was much more multicultural than we’ve been led to believe. Parts of Wyoming has as many as 56 nationalities on record of having lived there, while in Texas of the 19th century, 1 in 4 residents were Black, and more were Mexican, making Whites a minority;
Gun control was a common practice. Many city ordinances prohibited the carrying of firearms within town limits. In turn, the west wasn’t nearly as violent as movies and stories make it out to be;
The Native American population numbered over 100 million at the time of Columbus. (Don’t get me started on Columbus! He didn’t even discover America!) And they weren’t savages. They were more inclined to trade with settlers than attack them.
Why such fabrications of the truth? Any number of reasons. Everyone loves a good story, and good stories are made up of conflict and drama and violence. Hollywood was a predominately White, male industry. Hell, blackface was an acceptable form of entertainment! The saddest part, the misrepresentation of the truth is just as pervasive today.
2. Between truth and fiction – who were the cowboys? How are your characters and where they fit in this mix of what general public thinks about cowboys?
The life of a cowpuncher was hard and dirty. Cowboys were very blue-collar, and often unruly, illiterate drunks. Between truth and fiction? Well, there’s always a little bit of truth in fiction, and vice versa.
You could say that Billy, the young cowboy, was the truth, the reality; a little naïve, but hard working. Thomas represents the myth. And the loss of his mental faculties is the disillusionment that lies between the two.
3. You have a long history in creating stories – what are the moments that formed you as the author of The Quieting West?
What contributed the most to the development of my writing wasn’t writing…it was reading. My favorite author is John Irving; I’ve read and studied everything he’s written. And Ray Bradbury, especially “Fahrenheit 451.” And Kurt Vonnegut. And Valerie J. Freireich. And Ernest Hemingway. The list goes on. There’s no better way to learn to write than to read, read, read.
4. How important is the visual in a novel in general and in The Quieting West in particular?
Writers need to trust the intelligence of their readers, who have great imaginations. That’s why they’re reading instead of watching a movie or a show. A good writer should try to stimulate that imagination by showing just the right amount of detail…the reader will take it from there.
I had a few tell me how scary my first book was. While I wanted to create a dark atmosphere of doom and hopelessness, I didn’t think I went into that much visual detail. But apparently, I had given just enough.
“The Quieting West” has a certain amount of historical detail to it, so I had to make sure the reader could conjure in their mind what life might have been like a century ago.
5. Your other published book “Gospel for the Damned” seems to have a different topic. How do you come up with… these ideas?
“Gospel for the Damned” came from a desire to write something in the vein of the Speculative Fiction I so love, like Ray Bradbury or Harlan Ellison. Exactly how it first came to me I can’t remember; I only recall I just started writing. It went into a lot of different directions before finally settling into what it is, which has been labeled “dystopian,” though it isn’t exactly that.
“The Quieting West” came from a variety of places: my love of silent movies and the Old West; one of my favorite movies growing up, “Nickelodeon”; and a documentary of the silent film era, “Hollywood,” by Kevin Brownlow.
The book I’m currently writing came from an interest in steampunk and writing something romantic. However, it’s turning out more like an 18th Century Clockwork Tragedy.
I just try to keep myself open to whatever might make a good story.
6. Can, and in what degree, an author write different genres?
One of the greatest challenges I face in getting an audience for my work is that I won’t ever write in only one genre. As a reader, I enjoy a variety of books, especially those that transcend their genre. For instance, my favorite mystery author is John Straley, creator of the Cecil Younger series. His work reads like well-honed literature to me, not paint-by-numbers crime drama. William Goldman is another writer I admire; his expansive body of work includes a thriller (“Magic”), a fairy-tale for grown-ups (“The Princess Bride”), and the screenplay “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.”
I won’t adhere to any one genre because I don’t want to be predictable, for myself or my audience. So many of my favorite authors, filmmakers, or musicians have become disappointing derivatives of themselves because they only create what’s expected of their chosen “genre.”
Unfortunately for me, it seems that to be a truly successful independent author you need to find a niche and stay there. Urban-fantasy appears to be the new big thing. I’m trying to make “genreless” my niche, I guess. Only time will tell how that’s going to work out for me.
Thank you Cremona and George for this opportunity to discuss my work and for sponsoring my latest book on your site.
About the author:
Gordon Gravley has been making up stories all his life. The dystopian Gospel for the Damned was his first novel. Born in Phoenix, Arizona, Gordon moved around – California; Colorado; Alaska; Northern Arizona – before eventually settling in Seattle, Washington. Calling the Northwest his home since 1998, he doesn’t expect to be moving elsewhere anytime soon. There, he’ll continue to make up stories, and live with his wife and son.
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