Thursday, June 11, 2015

Larry D. Sweazy's "Escape to Hangtown"

Larry D. Sweazy (pronounced: Swayzee) is the author of ten novels, Escape from Hangtown, See Also Murder: A Marjorie Trumaine Mystery, Vengeance at Sundown, The Gila Wars, The Coyote Tracker, The Devil's Bones, The Cougar's Prey, The Badger's Revenge, The Scorpion Trail, and The Rattlesnake Season. He won the WWA (Western Writers of America) Spur award for Best Short Fiction in 2005 and for Best Paperback Original in 2013. He also won the 2011 and 2012 Will Rogers Medallion Award for Western Fiction for books the Josiah Wolfe series. He was nominated for a Derringer award in 2007 (for the short story "See Also Murder"), and was a finalist in the Best Books of Indiana literary competition in 2010. Sweazy was awarded the Best Books in Indiana in 2011 for The Scorpion Trail. And in 2013, he received the inaugural Elmer Kelton Fiction Book of the Year for The Coyote Tracker, presented by the AWA (Academy of Western Artists). Sweazy has published over sixty nonfiction articles and short stories, which have appeared in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine; The Adventure of the Missing Detective: And 25 of the Year's Finest Crime and Mystery Stories!; Boys' Life; Hardboiled; Amazon Shorts, and several other publications and anthologies. He lives in the Midwest with his wife, Rose.

Here Sweazy dreamcasts an adaptation of Escape from Hangtown:
A few things come to mind about my dream list of actors for Escape to Hangtown. First off, the new book is a continuation from the first book in the Lucas Fume series, Vengeance at Sundown. It is a two-book western series that is compact and capable of being viewed as one story. Since this is my wish list, I’m going for a miniseries rather than a movie. Or a movie in two parts (no need to string it any longer than that—you hear that Peter Jackson?). The first thing I would do is travel back in time when Westerns were at their heyday and start with Sam Peckinpah as the director. The books have a gritty thriller element, and I think Peckinpah would have mastered the storyline, boiled it down to its essentials without losing the emotional center that is a requirement in all good Westerns. A nourish black and white feel would be perfect (I would pick Lucien Ballard as the cinematographer).

Lucas Fume, the main character, is a fiery hothead with Scottish heritage, so Robert Mitchum would be my first pick to play him. Think Cape Fear or The Night of the Hunter with a few adjustments; a man on the edge, nearly a sociopath since he has been unjustly imprisoned, but with a good heart and a passion for justice. Mitchum excelled at madness, but could flash a soft side at the most perfect, necessary moment.

Lucas’s sidekick, Zeke Henry, is a free black man big in stature and heart, but rightfully suspicious. The obvious choice would be Sidney Poitier, but I don’t think that works here. Poitier acted anger and compassion beautifully, but Zeke is a little devious, much smarter than he lets on. I think Moses Gunn works better or a young John Amos. You might have to Google Mr. Gunn. He wasn’t a marquee name, but was a classically trained Shakespearean actor, who had the chops, I think, to tackle the complicated role of Zeke Henry.

Finally, for the third main character, the beautiful and conniving Charlotte Brogan, I would hands down pick Susan Hayward. Moody, intelligent, unpredictable, along with the capability of being sexy without having to try, makes Hayward the perfect choice for the conflicted Charlotte. So there you have it. My dream Western, directed by Peckinpah, starring Mitchum and Hayward, with a surprising and deep performance by Moses Gunn (or a young John Amos), with the cinematography by Lucien Ballard (he was the cinematographer for The Wild Bunch). I can only hope Escape from Hangtown the movie would have become a black and white classic, playing on Saturday matinees through eternity….
Learn more about the book and author at Larry D. Sweazy's website and blog.

Writers Read: Larry D. Sweazy.

--Marshal Zeringue