Chapter 7: Death In The West

Buchanan: Part 1

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The hardboiled novels met with instant success. While critics seemed to be divided in their opinions of the novels, millions copies sold.

So it’s ironic that this New York native now living in Florida found his most enduring success in a large, laconic cowboy named Buchanan. While Mrs. Hendrick has no idea what triggered the conception of the big loner with the ready smile, it is obvious that Ard was at his creative peak and a western series character probably both sounded like fun and a welcome relief from the hood-infested clubs and back streets of New York and Florida.

It was time for a new pseudonym. Ard, Dartmouth graduate and former ad man, knew the markets. Readers of hardboiled fiction and readers of westerns might have had some crossover, but essentially they were two different audiences.

Readers of westerns were (and still are), primarily the blue collar guy who is discerning, discriminating and intensely loyal. Ard surely knew that the author of New York novels about a tough detective was not going to be accepted as the creator of western adventure. What’s the creator of a pavement pounding gumshoe know about cowboy boots, for God’s sakes?

How do you switch from fedora to 10-gallon and maintain credibility? How easy is it to move from bagels to hardtack? How does an Easterner replace the pasty faces of the nocturnal New York underground with the ruddy, element-hardened men of the west?

Simple. Change your name.

Ard cleverly added a “W” to his last name, hauled Jonas out of the Old Testament and placed in the saddle the big, friendly Tom Buchanan, forever heading in a laconic pace toward San Francisco.The name, of course, was plucked from the Buchanan Ad Agency where Ard began his career.

It is also probably safe to say that Buchanan was an experiment and Ard had little idea that Buchanan would not only command his own series but that the series would outlast every one of Ard’s hardboiled creations.

The character is singular enough to have carved his own niche into the market of series western heroes.

And he’s complex enough to drive the simple plots–a gentle giant of a man of Irish descent, Buchanan is always alone. He’s a peace loving man (age 30, of course) riddled with knife and bullet scars and more to come. Like the Incredible Hulk, he finds himself placed in a situation where he’s pushed to his limits. Nice guy gives way to one huge, remorseless destroyer of evil.

Buchanan seems a natural extension of Zane Grey’s Lassiter and The Virginian. He’s a ragged knight, destined to wander the West’s dusty trails, remaining poor and bound to assist the helpless.

He’s also the prototype Americans love. He’s rootless, free, and he’s happy. Here’s a chunk of dialogue from second book, One Man Massacre:

“Where you from?” he asked admiringly.

“No place in particular,” Buchanan said.

“. . .And where you bound?”

“Same place,” Buchanan laughed.

“You must like it here. . .”

“I like it best wherever I am,” Buchanan replied gently.

 

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One Response to “Chapter 7: Death In The West”

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