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Published on Saturday, May 24, 2013

An Interview

with Len Francis Monahan


Len Francis Monahan, the author of the new Western novel, Rattlesnakes, Ghosts and Murderers: Volume 1, McKenna and Barnett, recently granted an interview to The Western Online.

The Western Online: Can you describe your story for our readers?

Len Francis Monahan: McKenna and Barnett is the first volume in the Rattlesnakes, Ghosts and Murderers series of Western Adventures. The story opens in 1896 with passages from Ole Smoke's "writ-by-hand" diary entries detailing an environment of insanity that leads to the murder of honest, hard-working, ranch hand Colter Barnett. Barnett, having been wrongly accused of stealing a valuable silver picture frame, is shot down in cold blood by his boss and wealthy landowner Henry McKenna. Afterward, when Mr. McKenna discovers the silver picture frame to be "under a pile of old rags" in his closet, he tries to hide his mistake by burying the object with the body of his victim. And that's when the curse begins.

The story moves forward, chronicling the adventures of the murder victim's son, young Colt Barnett, a self-reliant, orphan boy who goes on to work for Mrs. Helen McKenna, the widow of murderous Henry, and new owner of the McKenna Ranch empire. Life and death issues and the struggles of running a cattle ranch in the American West are graphically depicted but the tale is related with considerable humor.

TWO: How is your story one that would interest the readers of The Western Online?

Len: Rattlesnakes, Ghosts and Murderers is unusual in the sense that it is both tragic and comic at the same time; much like life, I suppose - at least, that's how my life has unfolded anyway. My readers have reported that they were emotionally moved and yet compelled to laugh. The humor has been described as "side-splitting" and one critic advised foks not to read my book anywhere where laughing aloud might create a problem; like if you were in the middle of church services, I would guess. Rattlesnakes, Ghosts and Murderers also contains a lot of little known historical facts and its details are accurate to a subliminal degree; e.g., weather patterns, lunar cycles, temperatures, distances, dialects, etc. The story is unpredictable and continuously entertaining. As far as I'm concerned, boredom is the enemy of the novelist so I can promise you that you will not be bored while reading my book.


TWO: What motivates the protagonist in your story? What is he/she trying to prove?

Len: Colt Barnett, the adolescent protagonist, really is not trying to prove anything at all. He is merely trying to live life as best he can. And, since it's also a coming-of-age story, he's more involved in the process of self-discovery than long-range planning. Perhaps the only persons in this novel who are trying to prove something are the alcoholic veterinarian (everybody hates this guy) and the crazy preacher/school teacher.

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

Len: I think "Western" has been used to define stories about the Old West; anything west of the Mississippi River, that is. But more so, it means cattle ranches, Old West towns, hard drinking cowboys, etc. It's a man being able to walk into a saloon, roll a cigarette and say to some stinkered-up yahoo, "You heard the little lady, partner. Git yer dirty hands off her!"

TWO: What draws you to writing Westerns?

Len: I love the old Westerns, especially the persona of John Wayne, a man's man with a high degree of integrity who would not tolerate injury. As John said in The Shootist: "I won't be wronged. I won't be insulted. I won't be laid a-hand on. I don't do these things to other people, and I require the same from them." People of the Old West were free because they were deeply determined to keep it that way. That period in our history is more relevant than ever, especially in light of how our freedoms are now being so severely threatened by advancing technologies, legalized privacy-invasions and a federal government thoroughly mismanaged by a cabal of pointy-heads in Washington D.C.

TWO: What writers have influenced you the most?

Len: Oddly enough, the writers who influenced me the most include Fyodor Dostoyevski, Victor Hugo, Plato, writers and thinkers of the classical ilk. But writers of the Western genre like Zane Grey, Louis L'Amour, Larry McMurty, Cormac McCarthy and some others really set the standard.

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

Len: My favorite Western is The Shootist with John Wayne. In that story, John Wayne was essentially portraying himself, an aging legend dying of cancer. I also loved Treasure of the Sierra Madre, a modern Western starring Humphrey Bogart, Walter Huston and Tim Holt. It just doesn't get any better than this.

As far as books, I have literally read thousands of books during my life and honestly found most of them boring. It seems to me that most books are 75-95% filler designed to move a reader to some preconceived end. In such cases, I'd prefer that the author simply boil the whole thing down to one or two paragraphs and let me move on. Glendon Swarthout is an exception to this and, there again, I refer to The Shootist as an example of truly excellent work.

TWO: If you could go back in time and meet one famous person in the Old West, who would it be and why?

Len: My Great Grandfather knew Jessie James, so maybe I'd like to go back and have my old Grandpa introduce me to him. I suppose I shouldn't have picked an outlaw but there it is.

TWO: What are you plans for the future? Are you working on a sequel?

Len: Rattlesnakes, Ghosts and Murderers:V2,The Curse Continues has already been completed. I also started the 3rd and 4th books in the series but haven't gotten very far due to the fact that I'm still sweeping up shadows from Volume One. I am planning on dedicating myself to some hard work very soon, however.



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