|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
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
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