Today I’m featuring fellow Wild Rose Press author Mike Torreano and his latest book. But first, Mike is sharing his thoughts on the Old West, which has always been an interest of mine.
America Needs Westerns
My third western, A Score to Settle, will be released by The Wild Rose Press October 21. It’s set in 1870 New Mexico Territory and unfolds on the notorious Goodnight-Loving cattle trail. My first two western mysteries, The Reckoning, and The Renewal, are set about the same timeframe in Colorado.
Let’s talk westerns for a minute. They say the traditional American western is dead—which prompts the question, ‘If that’s so, why write them?’ Well, it’s true the golden age of westerns was some time back. Since then, there’s been a bit of a dry spell until recently when several big box office westerns based on great new novels have been released.
Are they’re coming back? It sure seems like it. Why would they be mounting a return? Probably because westerns and the Old West embody timeless values—a place and time where right triumphs over wrong. Not always, certainly, but in my stories it does. The American West in the nineteenth century was a black and white society with clear-cut rules—there were things you were supposed to do as well as things you weren’t. And if you did wrong, there were consequences, oftentimes immediate, many times violent.
Code of the West
There was a code of the West, even observed among the bad guys. Simple rules for simpler times. Unwritten, but adhered to nonetheless. The Code drew its strength from the underlying character of westerners, both men and women alike. Life back then was hard, but it was also simple. Things that needed to get done got done. Whining wasn’t tolerated. Complainers were ignored. You weren’t a victim. You played the hand you were dealt.
If you’re getting the idea I like that kind of culture, you’re right.
The world we live in today sometimes baffles me. Everything seems to be different shades of gray. Honor and fidelity seem to be out of fashion. People are entitled. The media are advocates, not observers.
While the Code of the West was unwritten and existed in various forms, there were certain common elements everyone—from the hard-working sodbuster, to the law-abiding citizen, to the hardened criminal—typically abided by. Granted, there were exceptions, but generally that held true.
In 2004, Jim Owens synthesized the Code into ten guiding principles in his book, Cowboy Ethics- What Wall Street Can Learn from the Code of the West.
- Live each day with courage.
- Take pride in your work.
- Always finish what you start.
- Do what has to be done.
- Be tough, but fair.
- Keep your promises.
- Ride for the brand.
- Talk less and say more.
- Some things aren’t for sale.
- Know where to draw the line.
Let’s look at three of these.
How about number seven—Ride for the Brand. It means be loyal to the people in your life—from family and friends, to those you work for. Support the people you’re involved with.
Take a look at number four—Do what has to be done. Life is oftentimes messy. Our days are filled with ups and downs, and we make choices all day long. This is about choosing to get done what has to be done, then getting on with life.
Next, there’s number nine—Some things aren’t for sale. The Code gave westerners a guide to live by that they broke at their own peril. Are there still things today that aren’t for sale? What are they for you? They might be different for each of us, but at the end of the day I’d wager we all still have values that are non-negotiable. After all, values don’t really change—only times, circumstances, and people do.
The good news is the values the Code embodied haven’t vanished from today’s America, but more often than not it seems they have been marginalized. Popular culture tends to look down on old-time values, or should I say the timeless values of nineteenth century America. We’re an instant gratification society that focuses on the here and now, and disregards the lessons of the past. Imagine a world where you sat and talked with your family for dinner at night. Imagine a world where a man’s word, and a woman’s, was their bond. Where handshakes took the place of fifty-page contracts and lawyers.
Arthur Chapman captured these principles in a poem he penned in 1917.
“Out Where The West Begins”
Where there’s more of singing and less of sighing,
Where there’s more of giving and less of buying,
And a man makes friends without half trying—
That’s where the West begins.
So, yes, occasionally I yearn for those simpler times amid the hustle and bustle of our world. We’re inundated today with various media from morning to night. Sometimes, my main characters’ world looks pretty appealing. Especially right now.
At the end of the day, westerns serve to remind us of our solid roots and what we were and could become again. That’s why the American western will never die.
Broken after his family is murdered, rancher Del Lawson signs on to a cattle drive along the Goodnight Loving trail in 1870, unaware he’s still in danger. When he falls for a pretty Army nurse, the killers target her.
If he’s to recover from his grief and build a new life, Del must set out on a gritty hunt for the men who are hunting him.
Meanwhile, Del’s mother, Maybelle, doesn’t know her son survived that murderous night. When she discovers the gold the killers are after, she uses the treasure in an elaborate masquerade to take the murderers down.
Will mother and son’s plans reap justice-or destroy what’s left of the Lawson clan?
“Tell me your story, Del. We got time.”
Del tried to piece the last few days together. He told Sonny about leaving Rose and—
She interrupted. “That your woman?”
“If she’ll have me. If I ever see her again.” He told her about the search to find Tyson. Riding through Santa Rosa, the trickery about Lost Creek, Potter’s ambush south of town amid the sandstorm. Riding for Wilkins’ ranch and Shade being played out. The desperate walk to find Sinola in the dark.
“You’ve had quite the adventure, Del Lawson.”
Mike Torreano has a military background and is a student of history and the American West. He fell in love with Zane Grey’s descriptions of the Painted Desert in the fifth grade, when his teacher made her students read a book and write a report every week.
Mike recently had a short story set during the Yukon gold rush days published in an anthology, and he’s written for magazines and small newspapers. An experienced editor, he’s taught University English and Journalism. He’s a member of Colorado Springs Fiction Writers, Pikes Peak Writers, The Historical Novel Society, and Western Writers of America. He brings his readers back in time with him as he recreates western life in the late 19th century.
Social Media Links
Website – www.miketorreano.com
Mike Torreano Personal https://www.facebook.com/search/top?q=mike%20torreano
Mike Torreano Author https://www.facebook.com/Mike-Torreano-Author-1075