My friend and fellow author Eric Bishop just published his debut novel, The Samaritan’s Pistol. (Click here for my review.) We’ve had long conversations that have twisted and turned like an old cow trail about writing, literature, and ’80s rock bands. One of my favorites is our Dude vs. Chick Lit debates. Eric graciously wrote some of his thoughts on this topic.
Me: Dude vs. Chick Lit. Is there such a thing and if so, what are your favorite he-man titles?
Eric: Dude vs. chick lit? I think there is, or at least used to be, such a thing. As for my favorite he-man titles I really don’t have any, but I’ll offer an explanation. I’ve never seen any data to support it, but I think boys read more as teenagers in the eighties. Even as an author, I read less now than I did then.
Janilee and I have four daughters. The oldest is twenty-one and my baby is fourteen. They’ve grown up on the Twilight, Hunger Games and, of course Harry Potter series to become voracious readers.
Their reaction to Katniss was similar to my experience reading Louis L’amour in the eighties. We all love tough resilient heroes and heroines, who problem solve their way through some crucible. The western stories I read as a teenager tapped into something primal. The heroes were usually in their twenties or early thirties. I related in a personal way, wondering who I’d become. Would I grow up to be capable like the protagonists who cleaned up a corrupt town or chased down the runaway herd?
Eventually, I tired of Louis L’amour’s formulaic stories. The names and towns changed, but there was the same tough loner cowboy, fighting a stacked deck in the form of a corrupt sheriff, rancher, or crazed killer. I still like stories with these elements, but as a middle aged guy, I want something more than formulaic good and bad reflected in what I read. I’ve wondered what Louis L’amour’s protagonists would do with a biker gang who was trying to extort them, while going through a custody dispute with their third wife, some way of showing me the complexities of life.
While I enjoy the work of lots of different authors, The Samaritan’s Pistol is the story I look for in book stores but can’t find. I wonder if there isn’t an untapped market right now for guy or dude fiction.
Some say teenage boys don’t read because books can’t compete with over the top action and graphics of video games. I wonder what picture a great action author could put in the reader’s head if “Tour of Duty” or “Grand Theft Auto” was in paperback. Done right, I think teenage boys will read again in droves. Just like I did in a decade long, long ago!
Me: Rock on, Eric. I think you can define Dude Lit as more adrenaline action and less sparkly vampires and there’s a real need for that in bookstores and libraries. Like Harry Potter proved, kids (and guys) are willing to read good fiction that sparks the imagination and speaks to the secret inner hero in all of us.
By the way, if you’re looking for the perfect read for the hardworking, rather-be-fishing, what-these-moody-vampire-kids-need-is-a-job man in your life, The Samaritan’s Pistol fits the bill.