It’ll Do ’til the Mess Gets Here

I’m sitting here poised on the brink of seeing the new True Grit movie. Was gonna wait until Christmas day, but I don’t think I’m going to make it. I love the cast, I love the Coens, and I love a good Western. There have been some excellent ones released in the last few years, just not enough of them. I read somewhere a few years ago, or heard it on the radio, I don’t remember for sure, but the idea was that the Western has been supplanted by cop and crime shows and movies. The case was made about the similarities and it made sense to me at the time, even though it saddened me. I like good cop stuff too, but the archetype just isn’t the same in modern times, at least not to me. I want big hats, sixguns and thundering hooves!

Today I’ve just about wrapped up listening to James Lee Burke’s Rain Gods, which I downloaded from I liked it; thought it would make a great movie. It brought to mind Victor Gischler‘s novel The Deputy, which I read this year and enjoyed. It’s a bit different from Burke’s novel — more action movie-ish, more pulpy — but similar enough. It too would make an excellent film. I know they’d do well because the stories are strong and in the right hands a film version could be wildly successful. No Country for Old Men, also a Coen Brothers flick, was hugely successful. Hell, I thought the movie was better than Cormac McCarthy’s novel.

What these stories all have in common is that gritty, overheated, life-on-the-border setting that I love, which really calls to mind classic movie Westerns. Why aren’t there more of these types? In recent years we’ve had The Town, The Departed, Gone, Baby, Gone, etc., all movies with urban settings. New York/Boston/LA get enough love . . . why not more from the Southwest, eh?

So I’m looking for suggestions of more books and movies with settings from around 1970 on, that have some dirt and sweat in their DNA. Bring it, people!

8 thoughts on “It’ll Do ’til the Mess Gets Here

  1. G

    >I loved that movie "No Country for Old Men".Had to watch it multiple times in order to see the entire thing and that second to last scene where he leaves the house still is in my opinion the best cliffhanger to a movie I've ever seen.

  2. Peter Farris

    >I heard that actor Will Patton reads Rain Gods. Never listened to an audio book before but THAT I gotta hear. And coincidentally I just started reading Rain Gods. Been sitting in my pile forever. I'm also trying to think of writers or books that fit the bill…border noir where there's not a cell phone in sight. It's almost an untapped genre. And an itch I need scratched, too.

  3. Ron Scheer

    >I've believed for a while that urban noir has taken the place of the western for most folks. The mean streets of the city are the new frontier.But that's not the case for me. I'm no big fan of urban crime shows/films. But the appeal of westerns continues to appeal.For a film based on a Burke novel, I'd recommend IN THE ELECTRIC MIST WITH THE CONFEDERATE DEAD. I think it went straight to video, but it's damn good. With a great cast. I'm putting RAIN GODS on my list.

  4. onthatgonzotip

    >I don't know if you've ever read Annie Proulx, but her stuff is definitely dirty, sweaty, neo-Western frontier stuff. It's a bit more literary than Cormac McCarthy (who I love equally), but it's just as spare and unrelenting. Her short stories are the best; I strongly recommend Close Range as a collection to start with.

  5. Kent

    >If you haven't read it, check out Dia De Los Muertos by Kent Harrington. I think that one might be exactly what you're looking for. This is probably old hat, but Crumley's Bordersnakes and Reasoner's Dust Devils would also at least be around the edges of what you're talking about, I think.

  6. Chris

    >Pete: Will Patton is great. I've struggled with audio books, particularly fiction, because the reader often spoils it. Not Patton, though. He reads a bunch of Burke and some other great stuff available on audible: Thanks for the tip. Just added that movie to my Netflix queue!Owen: Good call on Annie Proulx. I've read some of her stuff and have a collection around here somewhere; not sure which one. Close Range has been added to my radar!Kent: I'm on Dia de los Muertos and the Ford book. I have Bordersnakes but haven't read it yet, same with Dust Devils.


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