Thursday, June 1, 2023

My Favorite Book, Part 29

We citizens of the United States sometimes forget that we do not own the West. Most everything that counts as cowboy came to us from south of the border, courtesy of Spanish and Mexican vaqueros. And their influence, always adapted for regional use, did not stop at the Canadian border. Cowboys are big in Canada.

I was reminded of that fact with this novel, Breaking Smith’s Quarter Horse. The book was recommended by my friend Doris Daley from Alberta. She is as fine a poet, reciter, and writer as you’re likely to find anywhere.

Written by Paul St. Pierre, the details of cowboy life in Breaking Smith’s Quarter Horse will be recognized by anybody who loves and lives the West, but with a unique north-of-our-border flavor that captures the quirks and customs of a time and place where the West was wild, the winters cold, and a sense of humor a necessary tool in coping—the sense of humor (or ‘humour’ as they spell it in Canada) perhaps most important of all. As you smile through page after page, and occasionally laugh out loud, you’ll wonder if the Indian cowboy—a horse whisperer of sorts—will ever find time in his not-so-busy schedule to see to the breaking of Smith’s quarter horse.

I thank Doris Daley for the recommendation. You will too.


Monday, May 15, 2023

Interesting times.


There is a curse, wrongly attributed to the Chinese, that says, “May you live in interesting times.”

We certainly do.

As most of you probably know, that strange assemblage of little squares above is a QR Code (QR is shorthand for Quick Response, I’m told). You see them all over the place in these interesting times. They bear about as much resemblance to the real world as Rorschach ink blots. Word is, if you point your smart phone at one, it will link you to some other place online.

As one living in interesting times, and feeling a slight tug at times to keep up, I got my very own QR Code. It links to my web site, I had to borrow my wife’s smart phone (because I don’t own one) to test it. It works. I was amazed and surprised at the success of my first-ever experience with a QR Code.

Try it.

P.S. The hero of four of my novels, Rawhide Robinson, was jealous and wanted a QR Code of his own. So, I got him one. Try it, too. Here it is:


P.P.S. All My Sins Remembered was just named a finalist for the Western Fictioneers Peacemaker Award for Best Novel of 2022!


Monday, April 24, 2023

Silver Screen Cowboys I have loved.

Movies and television programs are very much a matter of opinion. What some like, others despise. The same holds true for actors. Portrayals of cowboys on the big (and small) screen range from authentic to absurd, and the actors assigned those roles come off as believable or bogus, and sometimes downright laughable.

Like most movie fans, I have my favorites. I lean toward actors who are absorbed into the role, rather than movie stars who are essentially playing themselves in cowboy costumes. Here are some of my favorites, in no particular order. (Not included are many, many fine players who appear mostly in supporting roles or small parts.) I’m sure some—most—of you will disagree with my choices. Others will wonder about those left out. That’s fine. You can make your own list.

Robert Duvall. Tommy Lee Jones. Ben Johnson. Clint Eastwood. Tom Selleck. Paul Newman. Henry Fonda. Robert Redford. Thomas Hayden Church. Ed Harris. Jeff Bridges. Alan Ladd. Sam Elliott.

And, finally, Latigo Brown.

Latigo Brown?

Excuse the crass commercialism, but Latigo Brown is the hero of my latest novel, Silver Screen Cowboy. Like me, Latigo Brown is often uncomfortable, sometimes downright dismissive, of the unrealistic ways cowboys are portrayed on screen. Despite his surprising path from ranch and rodeo cowboy to movie star back in the golden days of Westerns and the remuneration and renown that come with it, some of the things he is asked to do on screen chafe like a bur under a saddle blanket.

Give Silver Screen Cowboy a read. Could be that Latigo Brown will make it onto your list of favorite silver screen cowboys. Even if you’ve only seen him in your mind.

Saturday, April 8, 2023

School days.

In recent weeks I’ve had the opportunity to spend time on university campuses at opposite ends of my home state of Utah.

At my alma mater, Utah State University in Logan, I met with a classroom full of journalism students. For more than an hour they peppered me with questions about journalism, advertising, magazine writing, poetry, fiction, nonfiction, Western history, how I go about writing, and all manner of things. Fortunately, after stringing words together over several decades for all manner of reasons I was able to offer some sort of response to most of their queries.

Days later, I spent an equally enjoyable hour with creative writing students at Utah Tech University in St. George. Again, the questions were insightful and the discussion engaging. Later, UT hosted a public event during which I read from several of my books—mostly fiction but also some nonfiction and poetry—answered a few questions, and spent time talking with and signing books for some of the readers kind enough to come out for the event.  A fine local bookseller, The Book Bungalow, handled sales and now has several of my titles on the shelves at their store in St. George.

All in all, the faculty and staff members involved in my visits had everything well in hand to make the experiences enjoyable. And, the students at both universities were impressive. They seemed bright, immersed, and involved—much different from my own time as a college student, if my hazy memories are to be trusted.

Friday, March 17, 2023

To read or not to read?

Book reviews can be helpful for readers. Honest book reviews, that is, not the puff pieces authors often ask friends to post online. An honest review that expresses the reviewer’s opinion of the book—good or bad—can help prospective readers weigh that opinion in their decision to read—or not read—a particular book. A review can also inspire readers to read books they had not known about or considered.

Not long ago, I got an email from the New York Journal of Books where readers find reviews on hundreds of books in every category imaginable. They invited me to join their panel of reviewers. It says on their website, “This panel includes bestselling and award-winning authors, journalists, experienced publishing executives, academics, as well as professionals across a number of disciplines and industries.” Given that, I can’t help but wonder how or where they heard about me. Still, I signed on.

Truth is, I am no stranger to book reviews. I wrote a library’s worth of brief reviews for Western Writers of America’s Roundup magazine (and not always to the authors’ satisfaction). True West magazine has asked me to review a few books. I write a lengthier book review each month for the Utah Westerners newsletter. And my reviews have appeared here and there on other occasions.

If you are not familiar with the New York Journal of Books, check it out. It may help you answer the question all readers ask: To read, or not to read?

Saturday, March 4, 2023

Talk, talk, talk.

Not long ago I was asked to do an online interview with a publisher of Western novels—not my own. Dusty Saddle Publishing, DSP for short, in an effort to wave the flag for Western literature, has launched a campaign to feature authors outside their own stable. So I uncapped the camera on my laptop and when the questions started coming I opened my mouth and let the syllables spill out and trickle down my shirtfront. Click on the video link and you can watch it happen.

Here is how DSP introduced the interview to their readers:

“DSP is always working to reach out to our fellow authors and bring them to you, our readers. This interview is one of the first of 2023, and we are very honored to be featuring the very talented Rod Miller. Rod has won every writing award the Western business has to offer, and his novels are generally considered to be some of the finest in the genre. We would consider it an honor if you would hop on over and take a listen to his brand-new interview and then try out a few of his books. These are the kind of Westerns readers sit around waiting for. It’s about time you discovered them.”


Thursday, February 23, 2023

At the movies.

Latigo Brown is a cowboy. A real cowboy, not like those TV and movie cowboys who ride everywhere at a high lope firing off six-shooters and hardly ever come into contact with a cow. But he finds himself lured to Hollywood by a rodeo hero, where he unexpectedly becomes a box-office star during the heyday of big-screen Westerns and cowboy heroes. Amidst the glitter and glamour of the movie business, he still harbors resentment for the way he—and other cowboys—are portrayed.

Will Latigo Brown swallow his pride and pocket the money? Will starlets, high society, and riches win out? Or will Latigo write “The End” to the movie business? Follow Latigo Brown’s adventures through rodeo arenas, film sets, and the Hollywood West in the pages of Silver Screen Cowboy. Coming soon in paperback and eBook from publisher Speaking Volumes.