Life’s cheap here in the Inland Empire.
John Berryman once said: It is time to see the frontiers as they are, Fiction, but a fiction meaning blood… Do you agree?
He killed Butch Cassidy with a metaphor, didn’t he? I guess he would know then.
You have been compared to Cormac McCarthy and John Steinbeck. Can you comment?
I’m taller than Cormac McCarthy, but he’s better looking. Steinbeck’s dog was smarter than mine, so all in all I’m sucking hind tit on that sow.
You’ve been identified as a writer of the west. Is that any different than being someone who writes westerns?
That’s an insulting question, my friend. You look at every magazine and big time review and its clear in this country all writers come from New York City. You implying I live in Staten Island? I ought to kick your Seinfeld-loving ass all the way to Queens.
Oh, you mean the whole country? Well, you’ll have to excuse my outburst. Mostly the rest of us are afterthoughts out here. I’d say I don’t understand the question, but I think I do. I just don’t know how to answer it. Western writers tend to be dismissed as genre hacks employing familiar tropes and story lines (sort of like Shakespeare), where writers of the west tend to be dismissed as nature writers obsessed with trees and rocks and animals and other things related to place (sort of like Faulkner).
I write about people participating in stories anchored to history and place. These stories are not of their making but they are like place in that they are both permanent and ever-changing. The place and story are indeed filtered through the idea of the west. Whether that makes me a western writer or a writer of the west or neither or both, I’m not sure.
Writers often dream of having their books turned into movies. How do you feel about that?
How big is the check? Never mind, I’d even be down for a cartoon. Flintstones go west and meet a tribe of Simpsons. Barney Rubble is a fine character actor. Clint Eastwood has never done animated, has he? There’s some credibility, right there.
What inspires you?
Whiskey. Bourbon, actually. Don’t judge, I could have chosen drugs or chewing tobacco or rhyming poetry.
What’s your next project?
I’m making an Amish porn movie. The Mennonites are my primary investors along with several straw hat manufacturers. The barn raising scene is a real skirt lifter.
Are their horses in everything you write?
I hadn’t considered the repetitive horse theme. The Amish project certainly would fit the pattern, as well. I’m considering a fantasy western. Cowboys vs. Aliens kind of thing. 300 Spartans invade Montana and Custer and Sitting Bull put their differences aside to repel the horde, on horseback, of course, but the Greeks arrive riding an armada of Winged Pegasuses (I am not sure what the plural of Pegasus is). Harrison Ford will play Leonidas, if he’s available. If not, Liam Neeson. Custer is a blonde, maybe Owen Wilson, and Sitting Bull, well, George Hamilton is a natural. Perhaps Tom Cruise can play himself. That wouldn’t be a stretch.
Anything else you want to leave us with?
Just some words from Richard Pryor that have been my inspiration in times of desperation and self doubt: “A wino ain’t afraid of nothing but running out of wine.”
BRUCE HOLBERT grew up on the Columbia River in the shadow of the Grand Coulee and his great-grandfather was an Indian scout and among the first settlers of the Grand Coulee. He currently teaches high-risk “school resistant” students at Mt Spokane High School in Mead, Washington. Holbert is the author of the novels Lonesome Animals and The Hour of Lead and a graduate of the University of Iowa Writers Workshop. His fiction and nonfiction has appeared in many publications, including The Iowa Review, Hotel Amerika, Other Voices, The Antioch Review, The Spokesman Review, The West Wind Review, Cairn and RiverLit. For more information, visit:www.bruceholbertbooks.com.