An Unwanted Man

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic

Gary had been into the Wild West since he was a kid, and as a writer there was only one genre he wanted to write in.

Gary Zane crossed his fingers as he posted off his latest manuscript. Hopefully, he sighed as he dropped the thick envelope in the post-box. He shrugged, and walked back home. Nothing else to do but wait. He had been sending his stories off for just over a year now, and getting rejected every time. Some publishers simply did not respond, others had the decency to put their refusal on paper and send it back to him. The rejections still stung and smarted.

He closed the door to his small flat behind him and shrugged out of his coat. Ten minutes later he was flopped on the sofa in front of a Clint Eastwood film. He raised his beer glass. There was the man. He nodded to himself. He had been fascinated with the Old West, the Wild West, since he was a kid. And when he’d caught the writing bug there was only one kind of story he’d wanted to write. Westerns. When you could write about cowboys, outlaws, cattle trains, Native Americans, stage coaches, bank robberies, why would you even consider writing anything else? All of his stories were Westerns. Over the years he had completed hundreds of stories, some flash-fiction of little more than a few paragraphs, short stories, and even full length novels. He even had reoccurring characters throughout his writing. A lot of his tales were of fictional cowpoke Charlie Barton and the notorious outlaw Jake Ringo.

But while inspiration had come easy to him, the words flying like bullets in Tombstone, getting any of his works published had proved a more difficult task. One publisher with the ridiculous name of Gunslingers Publishing, said his work was not the kind of thing they published and insisted that it was in fact un-American. Gary shook his head in frustration as he read the letter. Of course it’s un-American, he said aloud, I’m writing this in rainy Manchester. Deep down he had an inkling of what they meant. A lot of the published Western novels he read were, he had to admit, awful. They were badly written, full of two-dimensional characters, and painfully predictable plots. Every time the good guy is brave and honest and always gets the girl. Surely someone would see what was good about his Western stories. Why did the publishers, and the readers, of Westerns, seem to want the badly written drivel?

A few days later, another rejection came on email. Gary swore. What was wrong with these people? What he was writing was different. It was like nothing else in the genre. Maybe, he thought, that was the problem. He told himself to ignore the rejections and to keep plugging, keep writing, and keep trying.

A week later came a rejection letter by post. Gary noticed there was something else in the envelope. He quickly scanned the letter. The publisher was rejecting his story as it was entirely unsuitable. They had been generous enough to send him a list of rules to writing Westerns. These guidelines, the letter stated, would assure him of success in the future. Could that be true? Were there actually rules that you had to adhere to when writing in the Western genre? If that was the case then no wonder he’d been struggling to get anywhere with his writing. He flicked over and went through the rules of writing Westerns. He laughed out loud. It had to be a joke. These couldn’t be the rules for a Western. If anything it was a guideline of how to produce a cliché-ridden pile of rubbish. The hero must be male and be honest and true, was one of the rules. The hero shot no man in the back. In Gary’s tales it wasn’t always clear just who was the hero and who the villain was. That was the point. The main character could be a ruthless outlaw, a sheriff could be as much of a rascal as a wanted man. It was life out West but it was still life.

Then it occurred to him. They were being serious and that was what he was up against. If he was to get anywhere with a publisher, then his Westerns were going to have to have to be re-written. But could he do that? Could he go back and remove the originality, the heart, the excitement, the very soul from his work?

The rules the publisher had provided was a recipe for baking the same book over and over again. If he abided by these rules then, it was suggested, they would consider publishing his work.

That evening he crashed out on the sofa and sipped a whiskey. What should he do? It was an impossible situation. If he continued to write Westerns his way then he would get nowhere. But was the alternative a real option? Could he really sit down at the typewriter and churn out the utter drivel that was deemed publishable, knowing deep down that it was complete dross? He sighed and took another hit of whiskey.

A while later he heard a noise from the kitchen. He knew what it sounded like but that just wasn’t possible. The jangling sound, no, couldn’t be. He downed the last of his whiskey and went to investigate. He flicked the kitchen light on and stared in disbelief. Standing there, slouched against his fridge, looking like he’d just stepped off the ranch, was a cowboy. If this was fancy-dress then it was the best costume he’d ever seen. From the hat, the neckerchief, the leather waistcoat, the boots. The boots looked scuffed and worn from days riding in the saddle. And the six-shooter at his hip looked as deadly as a rattlesnake.

Gary was lost for words, unsure quite how or why this man was here and if it was real or a product of his overactive imagination.

‘Howdy.’ The cowboy growled.

‘Erm, yeah, howdy.’ Gary stammered. ‘What are you doing here? Am I seeing things?’

‘Are you the feller who writes Westerns?’

‘Sorry?’

‘Well, are you or aint you? Do you write them or not?’

‘I do, I mean, I did. Nobody wants them, you see.’

‘Why’s that?’

‘They want me to write like everyone else.’

‘And you won’t?’

‘I can’t.’

‘So the folks in charge are fixin’ to push you around but you’re making a stand and sticking to your guns?’

‘I suppose you could put it like that.’

‘Know what that means?’

‘No.’

‘Means you’re an outlaw.’

‘Yes,’ Gary laughed. ‘I suppose it does.’


Submitted: April 20, 2020

© Copyright 2021 CTPlatt. All rights reserved.

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hullabaloo22

Oh, there's so much truth in this, CT, and not just about Westerns either. That's the good thing about self-publishing, I guess - no editor to say 'no'. The only problem then is getting anyone to buy them.
Excellent writing.

Mon, April 20th, 2020 7:34pm

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Thanks as ever! It is frustrating to get rejected when you see what IS published. Don’t get me wrong I write purely for the fun of it but particularly with the Western genre, my mind did what it always does and thinks, there’s a story here!

Mon, April 20th, 2020 12:41pm

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