Writing Western Fiction and the Mogollon Rim in Arizona

western fiction novel pictureI love the West, particularly the Old West.

I grew up roaming Arizona as a young man. I bought a Bronco when they first came out. It was a 4-wheel monster that I thought could go anywhere. It did, mostly, though there were a few instances when it went where angels fear to tread. I used to drive into the mountains, look for a dirt road or a trail and get on it merely to see where it went. And, when the trial or road ended, I’d go off-road, wending my way down gullies, up steep embankments, and looking, always looking to see what was around the next bend or over the next rise. I spent hundreds of hours doing this.

I had a favorite place to go. There was no “road” to the place. I found it by accident while exploring. I’d gone off-road hours before and I came to a dry riverbed. I began driving down it and after a mile or two I came upon a small canyon. At the end of the canyon was a waterfall. It wasn’t a huge one, but here was water in the desert. There were some green shrubs around and huge cliffs on each side. On the cliffs were thousands of wasps and bees, all there because of the moisture around.  It became a favorite “hide-out” for me. I’d bring a cot, some water and food, and camp out for a weekend. I’d always bring my .22 pistol and rifle and would spend hours shooting bees off the face of the cliff.

It was there that I first began thinking about writing westerns. I imagined what it must have been like to have lived in the Old West.

  I imagined the Indians that surely would have visited this place many times because they would have known of the water here. 
I imagined small bands camped where I was camped. I could hear the talk, could see the women drawing water for the meal, and watched as warriors sat around a fire discussing their exploits.

Recently, I did a story that incorporated a location that I came to love in Arizona. It wasn’t this place (that’s coming in another story), but instead, this one was up near the Mogollon Rim near Payson, Arizona. What a gorgeous place!  I used to go up there and spend days camping out amongst the pine trees (and rattlers!).

The Red Mountain Ranch War brings to the forefront an issue that has long beset Christians, namely whether it is ever right to kill another person. Is war wrong? Can one who calls himself a Christian take the life of another man? One of the characters in the story, a former Texas Ranger turned preacher, came to the ranch to marry a young widow and Artie Longer, a Civil War veteran. He had to face that issue.

Artie had hired on with his friend Ben Hayes after they’d learned a local rancher was driving away the hired hands and had murdered her father. Hayes, a no-nonsense ex-Civil War soldier, has a simple solution to the problem.  He and the preacher discussed the problem. Frank, the preacher, said:

“Some men are like mad dogs, though. We expect dogs to act like they do. We’re shocked when men act like dogs–mad ones. These kinds of men are mad dogs.”

Ben interjected, “And we all know what to do with such dogs. Only answer is to shoot them. Only answer to a Jarvis and his kind is a bullet in the head.” He stared hard at Frank. There was a clear challenge in his words and his stare.

It was an interesting book in terms of writing. Actually, at some point, the characters took over and wrote the story.  I wasn’t sure how it would turn out. I’ve found, as a writer, that if you draw your characters well enough, then they will act consistently within those parameters. If a writer attempts to put them outside their “character,” they will resist.

Check it out.

It’s in paperback (great gift for Dad or Granpa) or Kindle.

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(Here are some gorgeous views of the Mogollon Rim. )


2 Responses to “Writing Western Fiction and the Mogollon Rim in Arizona”

  1. Now I see why your Westerns are so alive and real. You’ve “been there” in body, mind and spirit, re-living what could have and probably did happen. With your great descriptions you bring your readers right to the spot where the stories take place.

    • Voyle Glover says:

      Appreciate the kind words, Kathryn. And you’re right. When I write about a scene in my westerns, it is typically one I have visited. Spent a lot of time exploring the Arizona back trails, and even places where there were no trails. Happy trails to you! :)

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