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Author Q&A with Jeff Guinn

During a book tour visit to the Quail Springs Barnes & Noble in Oklahoma City, Guinn sat down for an interview with The Oklahoman. This is an edited transcript of that interview.
by Glen Seeber Modified: May 23, 2014 at 6:48 pm •  Published: May 25, 2014

Some readers may recognize Jeff Guinn as the author of “The Autobiography of Santa Claus” and two popular Santa-related sequels, or as the author of “The Last Gunfight: The Real Story of the Shootout at the O.K. Corral,” “Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson” or “Go Down Together: The True, Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde.”

Now he has given readers another opportunity to learn his name, this time as the author of a new series of Western novels beginning with “Glorious,” newly out in stores.

During a book tour visit to the Quail Springs Barnes & Noble in Oklahoma City, Guinn sat down for an interview with The Oklahoman. This is an edited transcript of that interview:

Q: In what way is a book tour different when the book is fiction instead of nonfiction?

A: My last several books have been nonfiction for Simon & Schuster. And the last couple made the New York Times list. When you have a nonfiction book people come out because they’re interested in the subject. With fiction, people come out if they feel like they have some connection with the author or the series. I was told when you have the first book with a series, don’t expect a big turnout.

Q: “The Last Gunfight” tells about events in Tombstone, in southern Arizona, and “Glorious” takes place in central Arizona. Did “Glorious” spring out of “The Last Gunfight”?

boldA: “Glorious” was almost accidental. I had written “The Last Gunfight” and it got a good reception, which I’m glad about. In all of my books, I am trying to capture an era in American history. I got a call from the Ford County Historical Society in Dodge City. They wanted to know if I would come up and do a program for them about Wyatt Earp in Dodge. Of course I would — they’d been so good to me when I was working on the book. I drove up. To go from Forth Worth to Dodge City, basically you don’t have to worry about steering. I was just starting to drive and my phone rang. It was Ivan Held, who is president at Putnam. Ivan said he’d read “The Last Gunfight.” He thought that there was a good series to be written — historical fiction involving the frontier — and wondered if I would be interested in writing one. I said, “I have about 12 hours to drive, let me think about it while I drive, and if I think of something I’ll call you back.” By the time I got to Dodge City, I had already figured some things out that I’d like to do in a Western fiction series, so that’s how I came to write “Glorious” and at least two other books in the adventures of Cash McLendon. It has been fun!

Q: Did you go to the area where “Glorious” takes place?

A:boldEverything you read in the book, pretty much, I tried myself so I could write about it accurately. I think if you ask people to spend $27 for a book, let alone put in the hours they need to read it, then they deserve to know that, if they’re reading historical fiction, it’s accurate. If there’s a golden age on the American frontier, it’s about a 10-year period: 1872 to 1882. After 1882, really, everything’s getting pretty civilized and by 1890 the government is saying there is no more frontier to settle. Around 1872, parts of Arizona Territory were just opening up to prospecting and mining. The Apache were being driven to the southeast part of the territory — Cochise, the Chiricahua — and for the first time prospectors were getting to look for silver in the Pinal Mountains. I wanted to set this book in some little, tiny, startup town to show how people would gather trying to find silver, and what would happen. So I basically got in my car and drove all over until I found the exact place I described in the book, and by golly, I got a hammer and I went up and tried to do silver prospecting, which is a lot harder than it seems. When you read about Cash McLendon falling down the side of a hill, bumping into a saguaro cactus, that was me. I sure didn’t find any silver but I definitely found how hard it is looking for it.

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