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Saturday, January 25, 2020

WESTERN NON-FICTION—SIX-GUN IN CHEEK

WESTERN NON-FICTION
SIX-GUN IN CHEEK
BILL PRONZINI
Dubbed An Affectionate Guide to the Worst in Western Fiction, Six-Gun in Cheek sounds like a concept three guys laughed hilariously about after six shooters of vodka chased down with Red Bull at the local watering hole. Dont we want to read the best the genre has to offer and shovel the worst behind the couch so company cant see it? No we dont, because with lines like, A bullet had found its way to some portion of Brads anatomy that was resenting it (from Outlaws of Caja Basin), and, He had learned to do without women until Poppy Ames unleashed his libido and put it out in front where he could really see it (from The Gunfighters), we all want to grab the vodka and Red Bull and slide into the booth at the local watering hole ready to read and laugh a lot more. Six-Gun in Cheek contains hundreds of similar one-liners, longer excerpts, plot summaries, anecdotes, historical tidbits and little-known biographical facts about the wordslingers who perpetrated them. Its a rollicking read and not for the faint of heart or the literati who hold themselves above such genre conventions. Who needs them anyway? Pass the Red Bull and let me pour you a vodka shot. 

Best known for his long-running and critically acclaimed Nameless private detective series, Bill Pronzini has also written numerous highly regarded Westerns, including The Gallows Land, Quincannon and The Last Days of Horse-Shy Halloran. He has compiled over one hundred anthologies collecting short stories in the mystery, Western and science fiction genres, and written numerous standalone novels under his own name and under the pseudonyms William Jeffrey, Alex Saxon and Jack Foxx. He has a passion for the absurd, which has served him well as a long-time scholar and aficionado of pulp magazines, and the wide, wild, range of mysteries and Westerns from the best to the laughably bad. He has been named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America and has been the recipient of the Private Eye Writers of America Lifetime Achievement Award. 

Prior to writing Six-Gun in Cheek, Pronzini amassed the same so bad its good (or at least amusing) tributes to the alternative classics of crime fiction. Gun in Cheek and Son of Gun in Cheek poke the same style of gentle, affectionate fun he pursues with the bang-bang horse operas in Six-Gun in Cheek. Pronzini is not disparaging in his approach, but shows his genuine love for Westerns and the wordslingers who wrote them. 

As for his pick of the best of the worst, Pronzini singles out Black Gold by the pseudonymous Jackson Cole, claiming, It not only has everything a bad western can possibly have, it brilliantly manages to go one step further. It has something no other horse opera has, a plot element so bold, so dazzling, so casually insane it left me awestruck when I first encountered it. After reading Pronzini's assessment, I had to go and find a copy of Black Gold for myself.

Pronzini reveals million-word-a-year pulp writer Chuck Marin was so passionate about the Westerns he wrote he believed his characters were real people and entitled to the same privileges and courtesies. On the back forty of his ranch in Oceanside, California, Martin constructed a small private graveyard he dubbed Boot Hill. Distinguishing them with handmade tombstones, Martin solemnly buried each of the characters he killed off in his Westerns. 

If Six-Gun in Cheek were a movie, it would be a mashup of Blazing Saddles, Support Your Local Sheriff, and A Million Ways to Die in the West. It would tank at the box office, make no sense at all to overseas audiences and then explode on DVD. It would be blasted on widescreen televisions at alcohol fueled parties held when your parents arent home. Midnight movie marquees would tout it across the nation and there would be folks lined up in Western dress waiting to recite the dialogue aloud and throw toast and rice at the screen. 

"I'm a lone wolf an I'm here to blow this prairie-dog community to hellandgone. Emerge from yore holes, you varmints, or Ill smoke yuh out."

CONTRIBUTOR: PAUL BISHOP

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