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Published on Wednesday, October 26, 2011

An Interview

with Richard Prosch

 

Richard Prosch is a Western writer whose stories have appeared here at The Western Online. He recently published an ebook collection, Devils Nest, that is available for the Kindle, the Nook, and at Smashwords.


   

The Western Online: The stories in Devils Nest are set in Nebraska. What is it about that particular state that draws you to setting your stories there?

    Richard Prosch: The easy answer is that I grew up on a farm in the northeast corner of the state, near the confluence of the Niobrara and Missouri rivers, surrounded by pioneer stories and Native American history. So there's an appreciation I have after being away for 25+ years and maybe a nostalgic desire to revisit that terrain. But it's not just that. In spite of the abundance of old west stories available, there are still regions of the West that have been neglected in genre fiction. Nebraska, the Dakotas (Deadwood excepted), the high plains and the front range of the Rockies all have a great deal of unexplored history and legend to offer casual readers and dedicated western fans.

TWO: 'The Peregrin' John Coburn is recurring character who appears in several of the stories in Devils Nest. Where does the inspiration for Coburn come from?

    Rich: Coburn is the precocious youth who goes beyond his initial reputation to gain some wisdom and see life more objectively. The ages don't quite line up, but think of Joel McCrea in Ride the High Country. He's not much of a joiner. He believes men should be judged by what they do, not who they are or what they say. Some of that comes from my own life. There's no doubt Coburn's dry humor and protestant work ethic come directly from the working farmers and ranchers I grew up around.

   

TWO: Perhaps the most intriguing story in Devils Nest is "The Ballad of Dorothy Kotraba." What inspired this story and can readers expect to see more of this character?

    Rich: I love looking at photos from 100 years ago, seeing all these people and speculating about their lives. Church was often the primary social outlet for a frontier community and one recurring image is the cluster of pious, middle-aged women gathered around a basket dinner or in a church basement. They always look so grim, it's hard to imagine they were once filled with the joy and fire of youth. But you know they were, and you know more than one of them had her share of secret, sordid adventures. Dorothy comes from there, and yes, I can absolutely say you'll see her again.

TWO: How would you define the term 'Western' and what does it mean to you?

    Rich: For me it's about geography. Stories about the West contain characters related to, or landscapes set in the United States, west of the Mississippi. I think the year or century is optional. The best westerns are about encountering the dictates of the geography, the way characters act, directly or indirectly because of it.

TWO: Which classic Western writers influence you the most?

    Rich: In many ways Owen Wister has yet to be surpassed, and I find something new every time I read him. He pretty much invented the genre, but his voice and choice of themes seem almost contemporary today. He understood human nature, and he understood the potential of the west for good and bad. More recently, I'd have to say Elmer Kelton for his range and use of dialogue.

TWO: What is your favorite Western, either novel or movie? Why?

    Rich: Tough question, but I always come back to Trail Town by Ernest Haycox, and in movies, Ride the High Country.

    I like Ride the High Country because here, in the middle of this vast panorama of grand landscapes and color, it all boils down to the relationship between Joel McCrea and Randolph Scott. How they view the past, their own lives, and how they view the future (as represented by the young man and woman riding with them). It's a terrifically nuanced piece.

TWO: Have you noticed any changes in the Western genre in recent times as opposed to the early days? If so, do you consider it good or bad?

    Rich: There's more variety than ever, more sub-genres. Romance is still there and going strong. Steampunk, weird western, western noir, all good and healthy. But one reason for the mash-up, I fear, is because so many contemporary writers have no connection in their own lives to the physical west they're writing about. Which leaves room for lots of fantasy. The best writers are still going to be the ones that have experienced nature, roamed the range, gotten their boots dirty, worked cattle, and they'll bring that to the work.

TWO:Where do you see the genre going in the next decade?

    Rich: Series characters will continue to be strong. Also, for the reasons mentioned above, genre fans of mystery, science fiction and romance are going to have more choices that feature elements of the western.

TWO:What is it about the Western genre that captures the imagination of so many?

    Rich: Despite the growth of online social media and a culture defined by daycare and group activities, I think everyone has an innate need, at some point, to confront life on their own, without help, without technology. The western gives us that scenario through historic fantasy.

TWO:Do you believe the recent rise of the ebook will contribute toward the success of the Western in the future? Why or why not?

    Rich: With the new availability of so many old titles, and so many great new series (I'm thinking of the Rancho Diablo series by Colby Jackson for instance), I'm tempted to say yes. On the other hand, there's the potential for so much junk, it might be a wash. I'd rather put my hope on the rise of a few solid writers who can push the genre forward regardless of the medium.

 

    Richard Prosch and his wife Gina own Lohman Hills Creative, LLC, an online content management service. During the past 20 years, Richard has written copy and essays for a multitude of nonfiction business and corporate venues and worked in the licensing industry on several high-profile juvenile properties. In 2011, he began writing crime and western stories.

 

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