The Magazine for Crime & Mystery

hunting season

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Ezine 12 Contents

Val McDermid Interview

Stark Contrasts Michael Carlson examines the pulp fiction of Richard Stark

Have you got what it takes to be a Writer? by Fiona Shoop

It Could Only Happen in Hollywood

nevada barr


Talks about her latest novel Hunting Season
Like most writers, I have been an avid reader since before I properly learned to hold a book. My sister and I would lie perfectly still, hanging on my mother's every word, as she read aloud to us before bed. In our household the term "My book" referred to whatever one was reading at the time, and "Just let me finish this chapter" was an acceptable excuse for putting of all manner of chores.

Before I cared a whit about language, style or genre I was in love with the stories. Even now I will forget the names of people I meet, where I met them, or whether I liked them or not, but I always remember the stories they tell me. More than anything else in our lives, we are shaped by our stories: family stories handed down, heroes made for us by writers, standards set, lessons taught.

Growing up on the edge of the Smoke Creek Desert in northern California, many of the stories that shaped me were cowboy tales. My father and his friends would sit around in the evenings sipping scotch and tell of horses broken, heroic rescues and the scrapes they got themselves into and out of these last usually delivered with much laughter and self-deprecating humor. These hearth-and-bourbon stories were augmented by the movies, the westerns that dominated the theatres in the fifties and early sixties.

When I began the creep toward my thirties, the stories having changed to tales of anti-heroes and unhappy endings with New York settings, I began craving the old clean stories I'd heard as a kid, but with a difference. I'd grown up with the action hero in the saddle. I'd identified with the man in the white hat, not the damsel in distress. I yearned for a woman who dealt with the wrongs of the world as John Wayne and the boys had, with physical courage and action, a woman seldom rescued, often the rescuer. The woman I'd fantasized about growing up to be when I was three and four and ten.

Boys heroes were men. Boy's heroes were role models. Girls' heroes were men. Girls' role models, the teachers of how we were to be, were victims. This did not set well with me. My dreams were not of waiting for the knight but of stealing his horse and riding off to the Crusades. So I began to write the story I wanted to be. My first books were westerns: the women were strong but still not quite what I needed. Then, in Texas, I dreamed Anna Pigeon. Because I am a modern, because I suffer the slights and neuroses of my day, Anna became more real than my cowboy heroes, but nonetheless courageous and, in her small, female, middle-aged way, no less powerful. Hunting Season is the tenth adventure I have shared with the lady hidden beneath the guns and smoke of my childhood stories, the lady I saw in the saddle when the men talked of riding the range.

© Nevada Barr 2002 {short description of image}