Victoria Bylin: Hero Hunt At High Altitude, or Where I Met Outlaw Pete

victoria_bylin_banner It’s good to be back on the blog. A family emergency sent me to California for close to a month.  Not an easy trip, but all is well.  I want to give a big thank you to my fellow Fillies who filled in the gap for me. Ladies, you’re the best!

Now that I’m home, I’m getting back to the business of writing.  Woooo Hoooo! I’m shopping for a hero! A lot of writing is work, but the hero hunt is just plain fun. I never know when the right man will show up. It’s usually out of the blue. This time his arrival was no exception. He came out of the Wild Blue Yonder . . . literally!  I was on an airliner, an Airbus 319 to be precise, in Seat 10B.

Has anyone here flown Virgin America? The cabin colors are purple and black. Instead of movie screens that drop down from the ceiling, each pavirgin-america-2ssenger has an individual entertainment system complete with movies, television, and music.  It’s about as far from the Old West as you can get, but somewhere over Nevada I programmed a play list and did some time-travel. Thirty-seven-thousand feet above fly-over country, Bruce Springsteen’s voice came through the headphones.

Outlaw Pete! 

Outlaw Pete!

Can you hear me?

I love this song!  It’s on Bruce’s newest album and it’s totally over the top.  It’s got outlaws, a bounty hunter, wild mustangs a Navaho girl, pistols, mountains and buckskin chaps. After a month of Los Angeles freeways, Holly-weirdness, and smog, I felt almost normal again.

The lyrics gobruce-springsteent me thinking . . . What is it about outlaws that’s so appealing? I’ve been thinking about this, because I want my next hero to be as bad as I can make him. He won’t stay that way, of course. And that’s what I think the real appeal is for an outlaw hero. By the end of the book, they’re redeemed. They might be bad to the bone, but they don’t stay that way. 

My all-time favorite outlaw hero is Johnny Cain in The Outsider by Penelope Williamson. When the story opens, he’s “a man killer.” He’s about as irredeemable as a man can be. Yet he’s the one who risks his life to save Rachel’s son. That’s another key to the outlaw hero. Bad men sometimes do good things. 


Keep in mind I’m talking about heroes in romances.  In real life, I’d have been terrified by the Wild Bunch or the Cole-Younger gang. Then again, there’s Doc Holliday. Granted, I see Val Kilmer when I picture him, but what really intrigues me is the complexity of his character.  That man was a loyal friend to Wyatt Earp. He was also highly educated, a dentist, and very good with a gun. It’s quite a mix. He may not count as a full fledged outlaw, but he captured the rebellion of thoutlaw-pete-silhouette1e West.

When I’m creating a new hero, the challenge is to balance darkness and light, good and evil. Maybe that’s why I like Outlaw Pete so much. It’s got all the highs and lows of real life.  A lot of outlaw heroes are at war with themselves. In the romance the good side always wins. I like that!

Does anyone else have a favorite “outlaw” song?  A favorite outlaw hero?  I can think of a bunch, but I’d love to have y’all add to my list.

And last . . . I’m giving away books from my backlist today. It’s good to be back at Petticoats & Pistols, so I’m celebrating.  Anyone who comments will be eligible to win a copy of either Midnight Marriage or Stay for Christmas.  These are two of my older HH titles.  Good luck!  

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49 thoughts on “Victoria Bylin: Hero Hunt At High Altitude, or Where I Met Outlaw Pete”

  1. Hello, Victoria! I’m glad to hear that all is well. Thanks for thinking of us with this book giveaway! My favorite movie song is the haunting theme from “High Noon”. The song follows the storyline of the film in which the marshall must face losing his new bride in order to put an end to an outlaw gang. Gary Cooper is my all-time favorite movie star. Have fun!

  2. Hi Virginia, I’ve got your name for the drawing! The music for High Noon *is* haunting. You’ve got to respect Gary Cooper in the film. He makes some hard choices.

  3. Hi, I am glad all is well. I love The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and the song with it. Those movies were great. I have to say High Noon is anothe favorite.

  4. Hi Debby, You’re in the cowboy hat for the drawing. You know, I don’t think I’ve seen “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.” How did I miss it? I’ll have to get the DVD. Right now, we’re packing for a big move. I’m looking forward to a movie marathon when we’re settled.

    I’m off to the day job . . . be back later!

  5. Outlaw songs:

    “I Shot the Sheriff” -Eric Clapton

    “I Fought the Law”-Bobby Fuller Four

    “Indiana Wants Me”- R. Dean Taylor

    Favorite outlaws- Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

    Loved that movie!

  6. Oops also remembered
    Bad Boys – Inner Circle

    The Cops show’s theme song.
    My son, Jason loved that show!

  7. Hmmm. I haven’t heard that Bruce S. song, Vicki. Where have I been? It sounds wonderful.

    When my kids were growing up we played the Marty Robbins album “Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs” incessantly. We all loved it. I think our favorite was “El Paso.”

    Good luck with the move.

  8. Hi Victoria-I saw your blog title and got excited-this is one of my most favorite topics-loveable outlaws!

    I have to say that Cain from THE OUTSIDER is absolutely one of my most favorite fiction outlaw heros!

    I have read others that I enjoyed-but can’t nail down the names at this moment!

    I do know that if a book has a gunslinger-Im definately reading it! Love those gunslinging bad boys that ride into a town like they own it-and I love watching them be brought to their knees by a good strong willed woman! One that I can think of is Johanna Lindsey’s character Chandos-from her book titled -A HEART SO WILD…now-he was definately a character that made me mad a few times …but also shed a few tears-those are the best!

    I love to read about an outlaw-especially the really bad ones who are redeemed—so I wish you the best of luck with writing yours-the badder, the better! 🙂

  9. oh and..BTW-did you ever watch the movie made from Penelope Williamson’s THE OUTSIDER?? I did watch it and while a few things were changed-I think they did a pretty good job with keeping with the book! I enjoyed the book better-as usual, but the movie was good too!

  10. My favorite outlaw is Billy the Kid. It might be the actors who have played him that I’m really fascinated with who knows.

    We are glad you are back. Glad to hear everything turned out ok. Have a great day.

  11. Favorite outlaws are Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
    Favorite outlaw song is Poncho and Lefty by Willie Nelson.

  12. Welcome back!
    You’ve asked a tough question for me. I rarely watch movies and it was tough trying to associate outlaws with songs I’m sure I’ve heard!
    I Googled some of the ones mentioned above to see if it sparked anything, and wow — lots of memories kept tumbling in. Many thanks to my fellow posters!
    I watched Eric Clapton perform I Shot the Sheriff. He could make any song sound good, and he didn’t fail with this one. It’s hard to believe he uses an electric guitar and gets “western” sounds out of it! (Thanks, Laurie G!)
    I watched the Bobby Fuller Four perform I Fought the Law. I’d never seen this group before, but wow, Bobby “ain’t too shabby on the eyes”! I used to enjoy that song quite a bit! (Thanks again, Laurie G!)
    Indiana Wants Me by R. Dean Taylor brought back lots of memories too. (Thanks one more time, Laurie G!)
    When I realized The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance was Gene Pitney, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. I remember listening to my sister’s old albums of his 30+ years ago. (Thanks for those memories, Debby!)
    As for movies, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was indeed a favourite. I rewatched “the bicycle scene” with Paul Newman and Katharine Ross. What a hoot seeing that again! (The musical score was Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head by BJ Thomas.) I miss Paul Newman these days. Always remember him going on Jay Leno’s show and racing around the studio with him in motorized go-carts (or something like that). Again, what a hoot!
    Thanks for all the memories!!!

  13. I love Christmas stories,they are my all time fave,an I read them all year round so I can keep that nice warm feeling I get when I read them,My favorite westerns are the ones with Tom Selleck in the Sackets,I dont remember the music tough,but I figure if the film isnt any good,it dont hurt just to watch him an dream a little,lol,an heck he still looks good even in his 60s,thanks

  14. Hi Vicki,
    Glad to hear things are getting back to normal. And you think there’s Hollyweirdness here? NO! I’m so surprised. 🙂

    Cain from the Outsider sticks in my mind. He was sooo bad and so in need of redeeming that you just loved him. A truly unforgettable character.

    When I saw 3:10 to Yuma with Russell Crowe as the outlaw, you couldn’t help but like him. Of Course, these are all fictionalized characters that in real life, we would all shudder and run away from.

    So glad you got your inspiration for your outlaw in the friendly skies!

  15. Hi Vicki,

    I am so thrilled you done this blog today. I have to say Doc Holiday from Tombstone is my all time favorite but I also say Russell Crowe caught my eye in 3:10 to Yuma.

    I would also like to mention I am doing interviews with all the fillies. I would love the chance to interview you. Please drop me an email
    I will send you the questions
    Thanks and your post is wonderful


  16. Vicki, you’re a woman after my own heart! I love outlaw heroes. I also LOVED The Outsider. Wow! Such a classic western. I fell in love with Tim Daley as Johnny Cain. He sure makes my heart go pitter-patter. Have you seen the Desperado movies that came out in the 70’s and 80’s I believe? Alex McArthur played a very sexy outlaw. And then, there’s Kevin Sorbo who played a preacher/outlaw in Avenging Angel. He’s so good in that role. If you haven’t seen it yet, I urge you to look for it. It comes on the Hallmark channel pretty regularly.

    Glad you found your outlaw hero and that the search is over. Sounds like a great story. Can’t wait for you to get it written.

  17. Welcome back! There is just something about the “bad boy”. It’s not so great in real life (learned the hard way) but in movies and books they’re just my favorite!!

  18. Hi Vicki, so glad your heart is healing.

    I totally love the redeemable bad boy. Actually my first book’s hero was a cousin of baddie Jesse James.

    Val Kilmer’s Doc Holliday does it for me every time, but there’s nothing, sigh, quite like Sundance’s “teacher lady” scene. Of course I always picture Robert Redford, not the real Sundance when I think of the Wild Bunch.

    Both 3:10’s to Yuma were awesome movies. We saw the original at the same time as Russell Crowe’s version, yowza!

    I can’t think of a suitable outlaw song right now, but anything by the Boss rocks my world.


  19. I remember in Louis L’Amour books, Louis would often say, “There were men who would shoot another man for a silver dollar but he’d die protecting a woman.” Stuff like that. Even the outlaws had a code.

    In my book Petticaot Ranch my outlaw’s side kick, stopped someone from killing a woman and little girl. This bad guy was truly bad, but he had his own code and he lived by it, even when might cost him his own life.

    So this bad guy is in no way the hero, the romantic love interest, but he’s redeemed by his final sacrifice…I’m being vague here, this isn’t exactly the end, but c’mon maybe some of you have yet to read it!!!! I can’t wreck it.
    Welcome back, Vickie. Glad you’re through the last hard weeks. I know it’s been tough.
    God bless you.

  20. Okay my favourite outlaw has to be Ringo in Stage Couch. The original with John Wayne..
    But then there is Butch and Sundance, who could not love love Robert Redford and Paul Newman together..
    Yep these are my kind of outlaws..

  21. Hi Laurie G, I like your list! Some of the songs are familiar. Others I’ll have to check out. Some of my favorite outlaw music is the soundtrack to Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid. Love it!

    Hi Elizabeth, I grew with Marty Robbins, too. “El Paso” is a classic. A few years ago I borrowed my son’s iPod for a car trip. Would you believe he had “El Paso,” “Running Gun” and “Big Iron” mixed in with his other stuff?

  22. Hi Melissa, We’re of the same mind. I love it whe a hero starts off bad to the bone. You *know* there’s a story there . . . I’ll have to check out the Johanna Lindsay book. What a great title! About “The Outsider” movie . . . I thoroughly enjoyed it, but you’re right, the book’s better, especially the ending.

    Howdy Roberta, I’m fascinated by the relationship between Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett. Friends or foes? Or both? The movies I’ve seen had very different takes on Billy’s

    BTW, I’ve got you, Melissa and Laurie G in the drawing.

  23. Hi Crystal! I almost blogged on “My Five Favorite Outlaw Songs.” “Poncho and Lefty” would have been on that list. The CD with Willy Nelson and all those duets is a long-time favorite. I’ve got in you the drawing!

  24. Hi Laney, I’m glad the blog sparked some memories for you. Music has a way of bringing back all sorts of things. Isn’t “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” a great movie? I miss Paul Newman, too! Your name’s in the cowboy hat for a book from my backlist : )

    Hi Vickie, Tom Selleck makes a great cowboy. I liked him in “Quigley Down Under.” I’ve written two Christmas novellas, both in the spring / summer. I play music while I write, so I was listening to Christmas carols in 90 degree weather. Being from Los Angeles, that felt normal to me! I’ve entered you in the drawing!

  25. Hi Charlene, There may be Holly-weirdness in Los Angeles, but Washington DC has it’s share of craziness! I’ll take Holly-weird any day of the week. Better weather, and you’ve got In-and-Out Burger : )

    Re: “The Outsider,” for a long time I kept a copy of that book on my desk for inspiration. I love the entire story.

  26. Hi Melinda, I couldn’t decide which lead I liked better in “3:10 to Yuma.” Christian Bale was aweseome, and his backstory was so poignant. Russell Crowe, though, stole the movie with the ending. I’d like to see it again, maybe this weekend?

    We’ll see. Also, I’ve got you in the drawing. Good luck!

  27. Hi Linda, I haven’t thought about the Desperado movies in ages. I thought Alex McArthur was great and always wondered why he wasn’t a bigger star. Those movies show up on CMT now and then. Every time they do, I’m hooked. I haven’t seen “Avenging Angel” yet. I’ll have to look for it at Blockbuster, or maybe we’ll finally join Netflix.

    Hi Jeanne, You’re so right about bad boys in real life. The thing that makes outlaws such strong heroes in romance is that we know they’re going to turn the corner. In real life, getting involved with a “bad boy” can lead to the worst kind of heartache. I’m always optimistic though. I really do believe people can turn their lives around. I guess that’s why I write romance : ) Also, I’ve got you name in the hat!

  28. I can’t think of any songs or movies in particular, but I had a thought. I think what I like about outlaws is that we women always have a desire to “save” him. To be the reason he settles down. They are wild and exciting! But when they give up their wicked ways to settle down with you…well..

    Oh, and they are handsome of course…why bother to be an outlaw if you are not good looking?

  29. Hi Tanya, We like the same kind of outlaw heroes. I love that bicycle scene in Butch Cassidy. That whole movie is great.

    Hi Mary, Ooooh! I love that quote from Louis Lamour. Isn’t that the essence of the outlaw persona? At its heart, the romance genre is about redemption, and outlaws give us a lot to work with.

    Howdy Kathleen! I saw “Stagecoach” in a college class on cinema and was amazed by it. That movie is timeless. I’ve got you in the drawing!

  30. Welcome back and I am glad things are okay at your end. The first song that popped into my mind was “Desperado”. Then the theme from the Good the Bad and the Ugly which I don’t think has words. Bruce S kind of makes you think of an outlaw doesn’t he! LOL. I always like the outlaws who turn out to be good guys!

  31. Give me any of Willie’s western songs, even if they are not about bad guys, he makes them sound that way! One favorite: Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys.

    My youngsters loved the Cops Theme, we all used to
    sing it together! Add me to the Butch & Sundance
    list, they are my absolute favorites! I still tear
    up thinking about “that scene.”

    Pat Cochran

  32. Hi MarthaE, “Desperado” is a classic. Did hvae you seen the “Seinfeld” episode where Elaine has new boyfriend, and she decides “Desperado” is going to be there song? Every time I see it, the song sticks in my head. Springsteen’s music definitely has an outlaw feel to it, especially the “Born to Run” album. (I’ve got you in the drawing!)

    Hi Pat! That mention of Willie Nelson reminded me of “Electric Horseman” with Robert Redford and Jane Fonda. It’s a great song! I’ll put your name in the cowboy hat : )

  33. Yes, outlaws are fun in books and movies. And I also love the quote from Louis L’Amour. I remember a wonderful Zane Grey outlaw, Buck Duane, who I suppose wasn’t a real outlaw because he’d been forced into it against his will but always hated it. And Willie Nelson’s ‘Seven Spanish Angels’ is the song that says ‘outlaw’ to me.

  34. So glad things are well with you and that you are back. I have always loved outlaw songs but when I want to think of one in particular, my mind goes blank. I think that one that I have always liked is “Seven Spanish Angels”. Know that as soon as I hit send, all kinds of titles will come to mind.

  35. I like Waylon Jennings song The Devil’s Right Hand. And Merle Haggard had some outlaw songs but I can’t think of the titles now.

  36. I love The Outsider. Tim Daley was awesome. He really did a great job. The only song that comes to mind is “She’s A Good Hearted Woman” by Waylon, I don’t know why it just popped in there.

    The best bad guy in a movie would have to be Bruce Darn. Henry Fonda was an awesome bad guy in Once Upon A Time In The West.

  37. Hi Estella, Not only is “El Paso” a classic outlaw song, it’s got romance too. Seriously, that song has been in my head since I was five years old. No wonder I wanted to write western romance. I’ve got your name in the hat : )

    Hi Jennie, Willie Nelson has a lot of great outlaw songs. I like “Seven Spanish Angels,” too. Adding your name to the drawing . . . Good luck!

  38. You know the 3:10 to Yuma was the best western I have seen in a long time. Val Kilmer’s Doc Holliday part is totally awesome!!

    Loved Steve McQueen as Josh Randall and of course Clint Eastwood had some pretty bad rolls.

  39. Hi Connie, I’m glad to be back, too. I’ve got a lot of catching up to do, but things are slowly coming together. I’ll add your name to the drawing.

    And Joye, Hello! I like your taste in music. Got your name on the list : )

    Hello Jackie, You’re right about Waylon Jennings and Merle Haggard. I don’t own any of their music, except for Waylon on the “Highwaymen” albums, but they’re got some great songs. Your name is in the hat for a title from my backlist!

    Hi Sherry, I remember thinking the same thing about Henry Fonda in that movie. He surprised me. Talk about going against type! I always think of Henry Fonda as the guy next door. Good luck in the drawing : )

  40. Hi Victoria, glad to see you back in the saddle again! I was always real fond of Marty Robins songs. They always told a story of some outlaw. I picked up an old CD awhile back and listen to it quite often. It has El Paso, Streets of Laredo on it, both great songs.

  41. Oh who doesn’t love a badboy turned good!!! Everyone has such great answers/favs! I have always loved listening to “I Fought the Law”… 😀

  42. I love stories about the redeemed outlaw. Like you said though, the real thing doesn’t always jive with the romantic image. One outlaw that I found interesting–and apparently somewhat redeemable by a good woman, was Clay Allison of the Colfax County Wars. He never saw himself as a criminal–just someone defending his own sense of right and wrong and that meant going up against the a big land grant syndicate who was trying to edge out small ranchmen. He just meted out his justice with a gun in hand. He had a temper but he was also, tall, dark and by Old West standards, good looking. Loved reading everyone’s comments!

  43. Hi Sherry, I’m surprised no one mentioned Clint sooner. “Unforgiven” is almost unbearably dark, but the role he plays is phenomenal. I’m adding your name to the hat!

    Hello Quilt Lady! My favorite Marty Robbins songs are the gunfighter ballads, but I like a lot of his then-contemporary music as well. Very romantic stuff! So much of it’s about commitment. Adding your name to the drawing : )

    Howdy Colleen! Redeemed bad boys are irresistable to be sure. They’re my favorite kind of hero to write. Good luck in the drawing.

    Hello Anne, Clay Allison’s story is particularly interesting. Right now, I’m doing a story about a group of vigilantes. Old West justice took some not-so-good turns. Your name’s in the drawing : )

  44. Glad you are back. Sorry you had to deal with a family crisis.
    “El Paso” by Marty Robbins again. I think it is THE outlaw song.
    As for bad guys, I was thinking of the old TV series Paladin. It has been a long, long time since I watched it, but I remember having the feeling he wasn’t really a good guy. He just did good things. I could be way off base on that one.
    Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were certainly outlaws, but you had to love them.

  45. Hi Patricia, Thank you for the kind thoughts. It’s been a difficult summer, but I’m blessed with a great family, both here in Virginia and in Los Angeles. I sure prefer the weather in LA to the Washington DC humidity! I’ve added you to the drawing.

  46. Hi, Vicki! Great to see you back! It sounds like it’s been a rough few months, but it’s wonderful to see your return 🙂 As for outlaws, I’m not sure I know any songs! And I’ve watched precious few movies lately! Gotta add some of everyone’s suggestions to the Netflix queue 🙂

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