Wednesday, June 21, 2006

A Few Random Thoughts on the "Gun Ghetto"

I apparently started this morning at a deficit...i.e., I overslept. Let me just say that I never oversleep...I am far too over-stressed to oversleep. But I did, which means I couldn't minister to the needs of the parrots like I do every morning, because I had a very important phone meeting.

The net result is that every person and every animal in the house is mad at me...hell, even the goldfish seem pissed off.

Oh well...I suppose I'll survive. I've been thinking, though, about the "Gun Ghetto," but first I want to tell you about my current reading list. One of the greatest things about the Internet is that it allows me to quickly and efficiently find and buy books. Lately, I've been beefing up my gun library. I mentioned that I reread the new edition of Ed McGivern's FAST & FANCY REVOLVER SHOOTING (1938). Through Amazon, I've been able to run down original editions of Elmer Keith's SIXGUN CARTRIDGES & LOADS from 1936 and a newer edition of SIXGUNS BY KEITH.

Through Amazon UK I was finally able to get a copy of Peter Robins' GENTLEMAN & WARRIOR: THE LEGEND OF W.E. FAIRBAIRN, which I've been looking for a long time. I added the Robin's bio to my copy of the Fairbairn/Sykes SHOOTING TO LIVE and the Michael Janich/Col. Rex Applegate BULLSEYES DON'T SHOOT BACK.

Okay, you're asking, why would I waste perfectly good money on old books about shooting? I already have a pretty impressive library of firearms-related book — many of them signed, I'm pleased to say — so why scour the Internet for more?

There are a bunch of reasons, I suppose, not the least being that this is my chosen field. I like the history, the antecedents, the back-story on what we all take for granted these days. It's fascinating to me (and apparently only to me...LOL!) that Ed McGivern coined the phrase "practical shooting" in the mid-1930s and that Rex Applegate and W.E. Fairbairn pioneered and in many way perfected the style of shooting we think of as "the modern technique" long before WW2.

I grew up reading Keith, Bill Jordan, Skeeter Skelton, Jeff Cooper and that most unrepentant of sinners, Charlie Askins, and like a lot of kids of that time period, I dreamed of their adventures; to borrow a phrase from Ed Bruce's The Last Cowboy Song — "wished to God we could have ridden their trail."

Of course, the irony is that the world I was growing up in — the one where kid could ride his bike with a Winchester 62 pump strapped on it to the hardware store for .22 cartridges; the one where farmers paid a bounty on snapping turtles and water moccasins and plinking was a perfectly socially acceptable activity — was in the process of vanishing forever.

My old friend AMERICAN HANDGUNNER Editor Roy Huntington and I were at Thunder Ranch a few years ago sharing one of the bunkhouses with a few other people. Roy and I were up late (ED NOTE: you prudes cover your eyes for the next few words) drinking assorted adult beverages when Roy said something that stuck with me: "Do you ever think that maybe we're the ones who inherited the legacy of Keith and Skeeter and Jordan and those great guys? That we're the ones carrying it on. Doesn't it just completely humble you?"

No, I don't think I can hold a candle to Saint Elmer (although I would argue that Charlie Petty could), and Skeeter Skelton was indeed one-of-a-kind (although I believe Frank James comes darned close to that personal superbly competent style). People like Walt Rauch, the formerly famous gunwriter Dean Spier, Mas Ayoob, Craig Boddington, Tom Gresham and others are carrying those big torches, and I'm just happy they tow me along with them.

But let's talk about the "Gun Ghetto," a phrase we use when talking about writing for the gun magazines as opposed to, say, Esquire (from an economic standpoint, that's the difference between a $500 story and a $4500 story..ouchie!).

I've been doing some consulting lately with high-speed sorts — people who wear suits — in New York and Washington. Whenever I interface with the world I used to live in, there's always the implied question, "Good lord, Michael! What have you done to yourself?" What got me thinking about that implied question was a call from a producer friend of mine about his new show, which wasn't about guns or hunting...he's no longer in the ole Gun Ghetto, so I suppose there's hope for me.

Ironically (there's that word again, and unlike Alanis Morrisette, I actually know what it means), I've spent most of my adult life working my way into the Gun Ghetto, and I can't for the life of me imagine anything I'd rather be doing (except, of course, finishing the sequel to ALL NIGHT RADIO, if only for the steamy sex scenes). We are carrying on a great legacy, and we are fighting for the most important of human rights, and damned if it's not fun, too!

So on that note, I'm going to the range and blast off some .44 Specials...maybe a few .22s and the occasional .45 ACP.

And heck, I think I'll end this with a Garth Brooks song:

He said last night I ran on to Jenny
She's married and has a good life
And boy you sure missed the track
When you never come back
She's the perfect professional's wife

And she asked me
Why does he ride for his money
And tell me why does he rope for short pay
He ain't a'gettin' nowhere
And he's loosin' his share
Boy he must've gone crazy out there


Anonymous said...

Good thoughts on the Gun Ghetto. Like you, I've been re-reading some of the classics, like No Second Place Winners, and Fast and Fancy Revolver Shooting. There are some great gun MEN around today, but different in style from the old days.

I can agree with most of your "torch carriers," but Dean Spier? Telling people that you know everything, or acting like you know everything, is in no way the equivalent of actually knowing ANYthing.

Anonymous said...

Please finish the sequel to All Night Radio. Please or please.

Michael Bane said...

Grumble grumble...I told you it's impossible to write sex scenes on airplanes, a fact I discovered after I heard this little girl behind me saying, "Mommy...what's a [fill in the blank]?"

I'm having some trouble getting back to FIVE TO GO. I think it's some of the best writing I've done, but I'm afraid I might have painted myself into a plot corner. Normally, the way I'd get out of this is go to one of those Mystery Writers of America conferences and bounce ideas off other writers, but I don't have the time or inclination to give up 3 days for something that isn't work or time with my Sweetie.

I'm 150 pages into the book. I read it a couple of weeks ago and "I" wondered where it was all reads quick and I'm really happy with the pacing, and the sex scenes work.

I'm thinking aboutposting a chunk of it on my website, which nobody ever visits...