Saturday, March 08, 2008

Left Coast Crime: Cowboys Are Her Weakness

After attending the Murder in the Grove writers conference last year, East Coast writer Julia Pomeroy (Cold Moon Home) got the idea to moderate a Left Coast Crime panel a with a few of the “cowboys” she met while visiting the sorta Old West town of Boise, Idaho, where that conference was held.

Her inspiration for the panel questions? The cowboy code (aka the Riders Club Rules) put together by singers and actors Roy Rogers and Dale Evans for their fan club, the Roy Rogers Riders:
  1. Be neat and clean.
  2. Be courteous and polite.
  3. Always obey your parents.
  4. Protect the weak and help them.
  5. Be brave but never take chances.
  6. Study hard and learn all you can.
  7. Be kind to animals and take care of them.
  8. Eat all your food and never waste any.
  9. Love God and go to Sunday school regularly.
  10. Always respect our flag and our country.
(And, yes, if you had any doubt, the club and its rules date from the early 1950s, when Roy and Dale had their popular TV show.)

The writers on the panel had an entertaining--and sometimes challenging--time talking about how they and their creations do or do not live up to these rules.

Ken Kuhlken (The Vagabond Virgin) was asked how well he did with rule No. 3 about obeying your parents. He admitted that he had not personally paid it much heed when he was growing up, but talked about how the Hickey family of detectives from his novels all respect each other and look out for each other, including the sons, Alvaro and Clifford, and the father, Tom Hickey.

Bruce Cook (Philippine Fever) was dealt rule No. 5 about being brave but circumspect, and said that his characters have the brave part down, but that they they pretty much ride in hell-for-leather--which is consistent with the pejorative connotation of “cowboy” in today’s world. The panel almost devolved into a discussion of a certain other cowboy wannabe from Texas, who might possibly fit that bill, but by beating around the bush, the topic was sidestepped.

Wyoming novelist Craig Johnson (Kindness Goes Unpunished) had to field rule No. 1 about neatness and cleanliness, and talked about how his protagonist, Sheriff Walt Longmire, always keeps his speech clean, in stark contrast with Lonmire’s deputy, Victoria Moretti, who curses a blue streak and then some. But when it comes to neatness and his house, Lonmire doesn’t do so well. He lives in a half-completed cabin with a shower that has no walls, and most of his possessions are still packed in beer crates.

And although I had to borrow Johnson’s hat for this shot ...

... this urban cowboy of dubious western heritage was included on the panel and bloviated on the topic of courtesy and politeness as described in rule No. 2. I cited my third-grade certificate for good citizenship as proof of my personal behavior, but had to concede that the wiseacre tendencies of my protagonist, San Francisco private eye August Riordan, mean that he sometimes tests pretty low on the Miss Manners decorum scale.

READ MORE:Day 3 at Left Coast Crime,” by Jeri Westerson (Getting Medieval); “Mystery Writer Jess Lourey on Left Coast Crime and the Funniest Movie Ever,” by Julia Buckley (Poe’s Deadly Daughters); “Left Coast Crime Report,” by Alexandra Sokoloff (Murderati).

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