July 6, 2011

An Interview with James Reasoner, author of "The Blood Mesa" & "Under Outlaw Flags"

If you've been following this blog for any length of time you'll know that I've been getting a real kick out of the ongoing novella series, THE DEAD MAN, created by Lee Goldberg and William Rabkin. Just yesterday, my review of the latest installment, The Blood Mesa, went up on the blog.

And today, I'm fortunate enough to present a brief interview with its author, James Reasoner, the acclaimed author and Texas native of more books than I dare count. So instead, let's just get to the interview.

Gef: You had mentioned that The Blood Mesa marks one of your most brutal works, a purposeful attempt on your part to cut loose. Was this something that you had been looking to do in your writing for a while, or just something you tackled when it came to you?

James: I’ve always included a lot of action in my work, and I’ve never been shy about going over the top when it felt right.  It’s never been quite as graphic as in my Dead Man story, though.  I think I saw this opportunity when I was reading the previous books in the series, and when I actually started writing, I knew that was the way I wanted to go.

Gef: What were your initial thoughts when you were approached to contribute to The Dead Man series? With multiple authors each writing about the Matt Cahill character, did you have concerns of "too many cooks spoil the broth" or saw a unique opportunity to, in a way, become part of a writing team on a series?

James: I’ve written for a number of different multiple-author series, so this was just business as usual for me, with a slight difference.  Most of those other series I’ve worked on didn’t have much, if any, book-to-book continuity, so I had to be more concerned with this book fitting into the flow of the rest of the series.  Luckily, with Lee Goldberg and Bill Rabkin supervising everything, that wasn’t a problem.

Gef: How did the premise for The Blood Mesa and an archeological dig as the backdrop for the action come about? Was it something that Lee Goldberg brought to you as an idea, or was this something that had been brewing in the back of your mind and thought it would suit Cahill's journey?

James: This was one of the storylines from Lee and Bill’s original premise.  I made some changes to it, in consultation with the two of them, but the basic idea was theirs.

Gef: Do you have any kind of preference when it comes to story length in your work? Since The Dead Man is a series of novellas, did the condensed framework appeal to you, or was it just another day at the office?

James: I love these novella-length works, both as a writer and a reader.  I’ve written a lot of longer books in my career and continue to do so, but The Dead Man and my Rancho Diablo novella were very enjoyable breaks from that.

Gef: My first chance to read your work came with The Blood Mesa, so what would you recommend I hunt down next? Is there anything particular you've written so far that you'd want to hang your hat on, or do you even bother with picking favorites?

James: My favorites among my novels are DUST DEVILS, a contemporary hardboiled crime story set in Texas, and UNDER OUTLAW FLAGS, a historical novel that’s part Western, part World War I novel.  DUST DEVILS is available in hardback and trade paperback editions, as well as an e-book version.  UNDER OUTLAW FLAGS is available as an e-book.

Gef: I'm a guy who keeps meaning to read more westerns, which you appear to be well versed in. So, aside from Louis L'Amour and Larry McMurtry, who would say are the authors I need to be on the look out for? -- present company included, of course.

James: I’m writing a Western series for Berkley called REDEMPTION, KANSAS, with one book out so far and at least two more to come.  I’m also doing a Western e-book series called RANCHO DIABLO with my friends Mel Odom and Bill Crider, with three books out so far under the house-name Colby Jackson, and many more to come, we hope.  Among current Western authors there are probably too many excellent writers to list and most of them are my friends, but for readers who like crime and horror fiction, I always recommend the Westerns of Ed Gorman, who has worked in both of those other genres.  Some older Western writers whose work I really enjoy are H.A. De Rosso, Lewis B. Patten, Luke Short, and Dean Owen.  All these writers fall on the more hardboiled side of the Western field, and their books are pretty easy to find.  And one of my all-time favorite Westerns is a novella by Robert E. Howard called “The Vultures of Wahpeton” (often reprinted with “Whapeton” in the title, which isn’t really correct).  Had Howard lived I think he would have been a major Western writer.

Gef: A big thanks to James for taking part in this little interview. I encourage everyone to visit his website, and especially his blog Rough Edges. You can also check out the blogs for The Dead Man, Rancho Diablo, and even Western Fictioneers (a blog co-written with wife, Livia).


  1. Excellent interview and I can tell you you can't go wrong with any Reasoner book. I've not read nearly all of them, but have never been disappointed by any I have.

  2. Thanks, Randy. That's good to know. I'll be reading Dust Devils some time in the near future.