Blog Tour: Caroline Lawrence’s First Western

As part of a blog tour celebration of the publication of the first novel in Caroline Lawrence’s Western Mysteries, she has kindly come to talk about her first Western here on T4F! Read the review.

Although I grew up in the America during the golden age of the Western, and although we went to the movies a lot, the Western that first made an impression on me wasn’t one of the great film classics. It was an obscure TV show.

In fact, there were two of them.

Richard Boone as Paladin

Richard Boone as Paladin

Have Gun Will Travel (1957 1963) was a show about a hired gunman. I liked it because the hero dressed all in black had the emblem of a chess knight on his black leather holster. His name was Paladin, which means knight in French. Paladin wasn’t handsome; he had beady eyes, a large nose and a pockmarked face. In fact, he looked a lot like my dad, a Jewish drama teacher who usually played the bad-guy in his amateur theatricals group. Like a knight of old, Paladin would ride into town, help someone in distress and ride out again, usually into the sunset. I don’t really remember any of the stories, just Richard Boone as that extraordinarily sinister-looking Western hero, so unlike John Wayne, Gary Cooper or even Clint Eastwood.

Also, it had a great theme song with these lyrics:

Paladin, Paladin, where do you roam?
Paladin, Paladin, far, far from home…

Have Gun, Will Travel reads the card of a man:
a knight without armour in a savage land.

His fast gun for hire heeds the calling wind
A soldier of fortune is the man called Paladin.

He travels on to wherever he must
A chess knight of silver is his badge of trust

There are campfire legends that the plainsmen sing
Of the man with the gun, of the man called Paladin.

Paladin, Paladin, where do you roam?
Paladin, Paladin, far, far from home…

Here’s the theme tune with some fun clips on YouTube.

But the Western that probably made the earliest and biggest impression was another TV

The Wild, Wild West

The Wild, Wild West

show called The Wild, Wild West (1965-69). It was a gloriously unlikely mixture of three genres: Western, Detective & Sci-Fi. The premise was that two secret agents were on permanent assignment to protect President Grant after the assassination of Lincoln at the end of the Civil War. The hero is James T. West, an 1800s version of James Bond who is catnip to the ladies. The actor who played him was Robert Conrad, who wore such tight trousers that they split on several occasions. Like Bond, West is skilled with firearms and loves his gadgets. His sidekick Artemus Gordon, played by Ross Martin, is the one who invents the gadgets, like Q. But unlike Q, he is also an actor and master of disguise, and he is always at West’s side to help him with the mission.

The two of them travel from place to place on a steam train equipped with all sorts of spy gadgets, like an early version of steampunk. Protecting President Grant is just a screenwriters device to have West & Gordon match wits with dastardly masterminds like the evil dwarf, Dr Miguelito Loveless. Like Paladin, the heroes always head out to new adventure at the end of each episode, leaving lovelorn females and fuming criminals in their wake. The plots were frankly ridiculous, but scattered among the episodes were some ideas so brilliant that I can still remember them today. For example, in one episode Artemus Gordons brilliant disguise is proved useless when a woman recognises his ears, which are as distinctive as fingerprints.

Wild Wild West intro

Wild Wild West intro

The Wild Wild West had a catchy theme tune and fun animated opening credit sequence, which shows James Bond I mean James West karate chopping a bank robber, outdrawing a gunman, thwarting a poker cheat and subduing a girl assassin with a kiss. You can check it out on YouTube.

The Wild, Wild West was drily humorous, more about intrigue and deception, less about cattle and campfires. Those were the things that made this Western so appealing to me back then, and I suspect they are elements you will also spot in The Case of the Deadly Desperados.

P.S. In 1999, they made a movie version of The Wild, Wild West with Will Smith as James West and Kevin Kline as Artemus Gordon, but the original 1960s TV series will always be dearest to my heart. You could say it was my first Western.

About Rhys

Rhys is a 19 year old with roots in the UK and Germany. Aside from reading and blogging, he also produces theatre, loves Kate Bush and hopes to pursue a career in publishing. His reviews have been widely quoted in books such as Philip Reeve’s Mortal Engines Quartet, Catherine Bruton’s Pop!, James Treadwell’s Advent and Anarchy and he has presented at such events as Book Expo America.

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