Author Spotlight: Carl Bernard aka Abe Dancer & Caleb Rand
Meet the man who writes under the pseudonyms of Abe Dancer & Caleb Rand:
The early years … sitting astride the arm of an art-deco settee, watching Cisco Kid on television, wearing Tom Mix papier-mache hats, toting chrome-plated cap guns with my younger brother Rex, as my enthusiastic side-kick. I saw Gene Autry at the Earls Court in 1955.
Main interests: American Civil War, the films of Clint Eastwood and John Wayne, the writings of Jack Schaefer, the artworks of Frederick Remington.
Treasured possessions: A signed colour photograph of Roy Rogers and Trigger. A paperback copy of ‘Shane’ saved since 1954, in the belief that Schaefer’s inscription: ‘To Carl, my first book’, was personal to me.
A little background….
After 25 years work in higher education, I realized I was well practised in
dealing and working with the saloon keepers, sodbusters, dudes, ranch hands and herds of cattle that were up against carpetbaggers, bank robbers, tinhorns and crooked sheriffs.
Committee meetings were gunfights at OK corrals; course teams and their educational concerns up against the might of senior managers and their financial rights of way. The black-hatted baddies were in fact the shiny-grey-suited faculty heads. It didn’t take much to transpose the setting and era, put everyone on a horse and give ‘em guns. So, with the end of the century approaching, and with a full cylinder of ready-made stories, I took early retirement and moved away from London. It’s a lot easier to find the right frame of mind among the dunes of Wittering’s East Head, and I got my first two books published inside two years. I like to think back on that as the purging, or good-riddance period.
But you don’t have to be in the higher education sector, to encounter the bad guys. They can turn up anywhere, even as a neighbour. And they do provide a continuing supply of storylines. Even in a small-pond village, there’s no shortage of snappin’ turtles.
Inspiration….. Putting people into thinly disguised characterisations is entertaining. I once told an old friend that I was creating a character who was monumentally degenerate. He thought for a moment, smiled, and asked if I could make it him. Seeing his name in a cowboy book was more than compensation. Thinking up names is good – more than 500 to date. Moss Trinket, Chum Weems, Millie Matches and Hirkham Pond are favourites. Jake Earnley and Cal Birdham were county sheriffs, and Rufus Stone was a US Marshal.
Where do you find your points of reference? I use an extensive collection of reference material that covers just about everything from pistols and horses to costume and transport, trees and shrubs. Web-cams set in the wildernesses of New Mexico and Montana come in handy. One problem, is containing, not living-out the idiom. Skimming a pint of beer thirty feet along the bar top in your local, raises a few eyebrows, and your sons wouldn’t speak to you ever again. People often ask if I’ve visited any ‘western’ locations to research. Well, yes and no. I mean, how much of his time did Arthur C Clarke spend on Alpha Centuri? Or what did Jackie Collins do for her research? Well, yeah, okay!
How prolific are you… Agatha Christie was once asked how much time she usually took between finishing one book and starting the next. Her answer was: ‘about twenty minutes’. Well I can beat that….
Tell us about your covers…….Getting what I have in mind to the book cover of a Black Horse Western is no problem. I supply my wife – Margaret Bonito – with the appropriate information, and three or four days later there’s finished art-work.
Ten of my most memorable westerns are, and not in any particular order:
- The Magnificent Seven
- The Outlaw Josey Wales
- Day Of The Outlaw
- Dead Man
- Duel At Diablo
- True Grit
- Stalking Moon
- Way Out West
Hope you’ve enjoyed learning a little more about Carl Bernard.