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Topic-oca Pudding May 22, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in death, ideas, Texas, westerns, Wild West, writing.

Changing societal norms make use of some words totally verboten now, while others that were forbidden (as in George Carlin’s Seven Dirty Words are, if not acceptable, then not punishable by ostracizing when used now in ordinary conversation. Times change and what is acceptable does, too. My previous post touched on this.

Ideas change, as well, as to what is believable and what isn’t. I proposed a western where the hero (ok, the protagonist–he’s wasn’t *that* good a guy) assumes the identity of a man found dead in a freight car, only to discover he had assumed the identity of an undercover Texas railroad detective of some notoriety. He’s got the tiger by the tail since he doesn’t know anything about the detective’s background–but most people don’t, since the railroad bull prided himself on being a man of a thousand faces. He finds himself in a box, expected to find a killer.

Before he can get away from a rather nasty crime the detective was investigating, he falls in love with a woman who has fallen in love with the detective’s reputation. If he continues to use the false identity, he keeps the girl. If he doesn’t, death is likely to be the least of his woes.

My agent said the idea was unworkable since no one would believe the switch in identities. I suppose DNA tests would make this a non-starter? In 1875. Photos of people were rare (see my other posts about the fun use of photographs of Jesse James, Billy the Kid and other dead outlaws) and the detective made a point of disguises. And not making friends to trip him up. I had even taken care of the problem with his boss identifying him–the heinous crime was the murder of his boss on the train. The new boss knew the name but not the face.

But my agent had a point. Today’s CSI savvy audience would demand more technical stuff–which did not exist in the wild wild west. Part of creating a work of fiction is building a believable world that didn’t exist, or in this case mostly did but which is alien to our society and norms. Reader connection with character and theme is necessary, and if they don’t buy the premise, the book falls flat.

I still like the idea and maybe will do something with it at some point. But writing is like working a jigsaw puzzle. All the pieces have to fit, including those the readers *think* should fit.

For a mighty fine railroad detective series set during WWII, check out Yard Dog.

A Hook Runyon railroad detective story by Sheldon Russell



1. kimberlywarner - May 24, 2011

Hey there Bob! Just wanted to drop you a note to say that I finally read “The Sonora Noose” – yes, there is at least one copy here in Afghanistan. 🙂 Great story and a quick read – had to chuckle over my namesake – dear ol’ Miz Warner. Ed’s character was great as well. You take care now!

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