An Epic Western Classic: Lonesome Dove

call and mcrae

Recently Lonesome Dove was on television in its entirely, and even though I’ve seen it a dozen times or more, I watched a lot of it. It’s available on Netflix – and I have a DVD. What is it about these characters and their plight that draws us back again and again? Three-dimensional, well-drawn characters, backstories of Texas Ranger heroes and lost loves, a yearning for times long past and future hopes suck us right in. I’m still as mad today as the first time that Captain Call wouldn’t acknowledge Newt as his son.

Lonesome Dove, written by Larry McMurtry, is a Pulitzer Prize-winning western novel and the first published book of the Lonesome Dove series. Can you imagine the daunting task that native Texan and screenwriter Bill Wittliff took on when he adapted Larry McMurtry’s novel to film? First, he needed to rein in the sprawling 843 page story while still retaining its majestic essence. Wittliff’s work was also made more difficult because, in the novel, McMurtry uses the narrator’s voice to reveal information about characters and to describe events. To provide the same information in the film, Wittliff needed to create dialogue and provide visual cues that did not exist in the novel.

See an original costume sketch below:

costume sketch

A Southwestern Writers Collection is housed at Texas State and many of the original documents he used while creating this western classic can be viewed online at:

The web exhibit features storyboards, costumes, including Gus’s boots, and even Gus’s dead wrapped body.

The epic four-part six-hour mini-series focuses on the relationship of retired Texas Rangers and their adventures driving a cattle herd from Texas to Montana. McMurtry originally developed the tale in 1972 for a feature film entitled The Streets of Laredo (a title later used for the sequel), which was to have starred John Wayne, Henry Fonda, and James Stewart. That didn’t happen, but thank goodness, McMurtry later resurrected the screenplay as a full-length novel. It deservingly became a bestseller and won the 1986 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

The mini-series won six Emmy Awards and was nominated for 13 others.

Casting for this epic was pure genius. Who better to portray these multi-faceted aging Texas Rangers who to this day represent the epitome of courage, loyalty and everything we think of when we think “American West?”

Robert Duvall is Captain Augustus McCrae, co-owner of the Hat Creek Cattle Company, and considers himself the brains of the outfit. Generous, humorous, and lazy to the point of eccentricity, he serves as a foil to the more serious, practical Call. When not working, which he does as little as possible, Gus pursues his three chief interests in life: women, alcohol and cards. He is well known in the territory for his loud voice, superior eyesight and accuracy with a revolver.


Tommy Lee Jones is Captain Woodrow F. Call, Gus’s partner in the company. Less verbose and chatty than McCrae, Call works long and hard and sees no reason why others should not do the same. A former Texas Ranger, he served with Gus when both were young men. Though Call has utter disdain for lazy men who drink, gamble and whore their lives away, he has his own secret shame, which he hides carefully from his comrade. Call’s ability to manage unmanageable horses is also well known.

Danny Glover plays a magnificent role as Joshua Deets, an ex-slave and former Ranger. When the story starts he’s a ranch hand at the company. On the drive, he serves as scout. A remarkable tracker and morally upright man, he is one of the few men whom Call respects and trusts.

Before he hit the NY streets as a cop, Rick Shroder played Newt Dobbs, young orphan raised by Gus and Call. His mother was a prostitute named Maggie Tilton, who died when he was a child. He knows his mother was a prostitute, and has no idea who his father might be. Most other observers, notably Gus and Clara Allen, are quite certain that Call is his father. Call eventually comes to this realization privately, but is never able to admit it explicitly.


After watching her on the hit series SMASH, I love seeing the beautiful Anjelica Houston as Clara Allen, a former love of Gus’s. She declined his marriage proposals years ago, and now lives in Nebraska, married to a horse trader who is comatose, having been kicked in the head by a horse. They have two girls, though she is afflicted deeply by the death of her sons. Though separated from Gus by many miles and years, she still holds him fondly in her heart. In contrast, she has utter contempt for Call. When Gus arrives at her ranch their reunion is bitter-sweet.


gus and clara


Diane Lane is the lovely young Lorena Wood, a kind-hearted young woman who was forced into prostitution by her lover, then abandoned in Lonesome Dove. Lorena is silent, strong willed, and intimidating, refusing to submit meekly to her various admirers. Discontent with her line of work, “Lorie” hopes to leave the dead town and find her way to San Francisco. Gus is her champion, and who could ask for a better one?

Secondary threads with characters of July and Almira Johnson and Blue Duck are intricately woven into the plot and throughout the journey of the cattle drive. You can’t help but be enamored by the characters and caught up in their adventures. Watching the story unfold brings laughter and tears every time. The music that accompanies the panoramic scenes does a beautiful job of enhancing the grandeur of the vast landscape and feel of the untamed west. I often listen to the original soundtrack, composed and conducted by Basil Poledouris. Lonesome Dove spawned the follow-up miniseries, Return to Lonesome Dove.



Trivia facts about Lonesome Dove:

* Robert Duvall, who has appeared in over 80 movies, told CBS that Augustus McCrae, the character he played in Lonesome Dove, was his all time favorite role. We can see why.

* The characters of July Johnson and Roscoe bear the same names as the sheriff and his sidekick who track James Stewart and Dean Martin in the movie Bandolero! (1968). Also, the sequence where Stewart and Martin discuss Montana resembles a similar scene in Lonesome Dove.

* The book, and the character Gus, is mentioned in country singer George Strait’s song “That’s My Kind Of Woman.”

So, fess up. How many times have you watched Lonesome Dove? Did you think return to Lonesome Dove lived up to the first? Have you watched Streets of Laredo or Deadman’s Walk which precede the story?

If you’re a western lover and you’ve never seen this movie, well, I’m just sad for you. But your situation is subject to change. Head for Blockbuster or put it in your Netflix cue!

Leave a comment today for a chance to win a $15 e-Amazon card from Tanya Hanson.

Cheryl St.John: The Early Days

I had been writing and submitting for several years before I joined an RWA chapter and a local writers group. With the help of other more experienced writers, workshops and conferences, I learned and grew. Those first early projects are still in boxes in a storeroom—where they belong. I truly didn’t know what I was doing. After studying Dwight Swain and garnering the advice of great ladies like the late Diane Wicker Davis (Avon) and Barbara Andrews (Ecstasy – and Silhouette as Jennifer Drew with her daughter Pam Hanson) and also being with a critique group, the first book I wrote start to finish was Rain Shadow.


At a Minneapolis conference Pam and I attended, after spending the entire morning in the bathroom doing self-talk, I pitched the book at my first editor appointment. The editor asked to see it and later rejected it saying my hero was too unsympathetic.


I had submitted to agents about that same time, and one called me, saying with certainty, “I can sell this book for you.” I was thrilled, of course, and she did indeed sell it to Harlequin Historical. Forty-four books later she is still my agent. After some initial quibbling over my title, it stuck and RAIN SHADOW was released in 1993. Back then HH did what they called March Madness and introduced two new authors each March. I loved the cover, loved it loved it. Loved the Wild West Show on the front. Adored her fringe jacket. Blew up the image and admired it. The art department used the pictures I’d sent them, and even her gun is in perfect detail.


Question from shopper at one of my very first book signings: “Is this you on the cover?”


Note to self: At all times be prepared to answer very odd questions graciously.


My second sale followed right on the heels of the first because it was a book I’d written previously. It had been shopped around other publishers without success. My new editor, who continued to be my editor for the next ten years, agreed to look at Heaven Can Wait, then asked me to cut a hundred pages and take out a subplot. Which I did with a lot of help from my critique group. It’s difficult to be that brutal to your own work. The story was indeed better for that revision. So the books came out one after the other, but not in the correct chronological order, story-wise. The villainess in Heaven Can Wait is the dead wife of the hero in Rain Shadow. So whenever I talk to people who will be reading them for the first time, I suggest they read them in the correct order.


So there you have the inside scoop on my first two sales and how they came about. It’s still exciting to see a new cover for each current release. It’s always a thrill to know that the stories I’ve worked so hard on are bringing pleasure to readers. Nearly twenty years later, I’m currently revising those books to bring them out as digital releases. I’m working on Heaven Can Wait right now. Interestingly, I ran across a review by a reader who had never read the story before and had some very insightful comments. What worked in 1993 doesn’t necessarily work today—and there’s more freedom in the creative aspect when a writer publishes a book independently. So Jakob and Lydia are getting new life and the villainess of the story? Well, she has a new and improved persona.


As readers ourselves, writers know the delight of finding a new author, of becoming lost in a story, of falling in love with appealing characters. Being able to write those stories for others is a joy and a satisfaction beyond measure.


What we remember when we think back on a story isn’t always the specific details of the plot or even the character names. What we remember is how the book made us feel. If we were swept away, excited, intrigued, riveted, saddened, we recall those feelings. I’ll bet you remembered the way the first romances you ever read affected you on an emotional level, and you probably remember the stories today.

Which romances did you first read that have stayed with you forever?


Addendum to this blog post:

As soon as Kristin Burns saw this announcement come across Facebook, she went to her bookshelf and got books out to take this picture and send it to me. It’s foreign editions of these two books. Fun – thanks!

Kat Martin’s All time favorite movies

Since Academy Awards Night is one of my favorite evenings, I thought it might be fun to talk movies.  Old favorites, new favorites, worst picks of all time.

Let’s start with the positive.  Who doesn’t love ETStar WarsGone with the WindWizard of Oz?  They’re classics, never to be forgotten.

Sometimes I look back and realize some of the books I’ve written were probably inspired by films I had seen and loved.  Gone with the Wind, at least the pre-civil war time in the South, elegant hoop skirts and Georgia mansions led to Captain’s Bride and Creole Fires.  I went on to follow Creole Fires with Savannah Heat and Natchez Flame.  Actually stayed in a gorgeous old plantation house inNatchez built in the 1840’s.

I’m a Star Trek fan, a total Trekie.  Maybe that’s how I got interested in UFO’s and wound up writing Season Of Strangers.  I did a ton of research for that one and was amazed to find myself convinced there’s a very good possibility UFOs are real.

I love Western movies.  Quigley Down Under with Tom Selleck is a personal all-time favorite (if you haven’t seen Tom in a pair of chaps you are really missing out!).  There’s a scene in my book, The Secret, a modern-day Western set inMontana, that was definitely inspired by the movie.  I’m excited that the publisher is re-issuing the book next year.

I loved True Grit, both versions, love some of the great old Westerns like Wagon Master, Wagons West, Brigham Young.  My husband, who still writes Western novels, and I belong to Western Writers of America.  We love attending the conferences and plan to be in Albuquerque, New Mexico mid-June this year.

I love high action adventure movies.  Old ones like The African Queen with Humphrey Bogart and Kathryn Hepburn, new ones like Taken, with Liam Neeson.  The plot for my new book, Against the Night, may have developed from the abduction theme of the movie.

Against the Night is Johnnie Riggs’s story, a fish out of water tale about a kindergarten teacher who braves the LA underworld to find her missing sister.  Its clear Amy needs help, and John Riggs is just the man for the job.  Unfortunately, Johnnie is more interested in Amy’s luscious little body than the money she can’t afford to pay him.

It’s a romp that starts on L.A.’s Sunset Strip and travels all the way to the tropical jungles of Belize, a fast-paced, high-action, hot-blooded adventure I’m hoping readers will enjoy half as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Here’s the back cover copy:

He knows what goes on in the dark.

She’s got the face of an angel and the body of…well, isn’t that what he’d expect from an exotic dancer? But there’s something about this girl that Johnnie Riggs can’t shake. The former army ranger is hot on the trail of an elusive drug lord—and suddenly very hot under the collar, as well.

Amy’s got her own agenda to pursue: her sister is missing and Amy seems to be the only one who cares. She’ll enlist Johnnie’s help and do her best to ignore her growing attraction to finally get some answers. But when the two trails begin to converge and reveal something even more sinister than they imagined, their mutual desire is the least of their problems. They’ll bring the truth to light…or die trying.

Johnnie is a hunk and the cover of the book looks just like him.  I hope you’ll watch for Against the Night and other of the books in my AGAINST series.  Out the end of May is AGAINST THE SUN, Jake Cantrell’s story, another fast-paced, heart-pounding tale.

In the meantime, have fun and happy reading.

Warmest, Kat


Miss Kat is giving away a copy of AGAINST THE NIGHT to one lucky commenter. Join the conversation to be entered to win.

The Greatest Western Song of All Time

The title for this blog is a bit of hyperbole, but I think it’s true.  El Paso by Marty Robbins has been my favorite song for years.  It came up at P&P a few weeks ago, and I haven’t been able to get it out of my head. For those who haven’t heard it, I’m included a YouTube video from the 1970s. I recommend ignoring the white jumpsuits. It’s hard to believe we ever thought they were a good idea.   

Here’s El Paso.


And now for some trivia . . .

The song was written by Marty Robbins in almost less time than it takes to sing the 4-1/2 minute long version.  He said in an interview that it came to him almost like a movie and he just wrote it down.

The song is unusual in that there’s no chorus and no repeated lyrics.

El Paso was released in September 1959 and went to No. 1.  In 1961, it won the Grammy for Best Country and Western Recording.

The Grateful Dead did a cover of  El Paso.

El Paso appeared on Gunfighter Ballads & Trail Songs.  Today on Amazon, there are 107 review that break down like this: 5 Stars — 100.  4 Stars — 6.  3 Stars — 1. The solo 3-Star reviewer didn’t like the  change in the order of the songs on the digitally remastered CD.

The City of El Paso named a park after Marty Robbins.

The song on the flipside of the old 45 was Running Gun.

The Glaser Brothers supplied the harmony, and Grady Martin played the Tex Mex style guitar that gives the song so much character.

Marty Robbins’ real name was Shane Dawson. He was born September 26, 1925.  He passed away December 8, 1982 from a heart ailment. He had a twin sister.

And now here are the lyrics that first made me love western romance . . . 

El Paso by Marty Robbins

Out in the West Texas town of El Paso
I fell in love with a Mexican girl.
Night-time would find me in Rosa’s cantina;
Music would play and Felina would whirl.Blacker than night were the eyes of Felina,
Wicked and evil while casting a spell.
My love was deep for this Mexican maiden;
I was in love but in vain, I could tell.

One night a wild young cowboy came in,
Wild as the West Texas wind.
Dashing and daring,
A drink he was sharing
With wicked Felina,
The girl that I loved.

So in anger I

Challenged his right for the love of this maiden.
Down went his hand for the gun that he wore.
My challenge was answered in less than a heart-beat;
The handsome young stranger lay dead on the floor.

Just for a moment I stood there in silence,
Shocked by the FOUL EVIL deed I had done.
Many thoughts raced through my mind as I stood there;
I had but one chance and that was to run.

Out through the back door of Rosa’s I ran,
Out where the horses were tied.
I caught a good one.
It looked like it could run.
Up on its back
And away I did ride,

Just as fast as I

Could from the West Texas town of El Paso
Out to the bad-lands of New Mexico.

Back in El Paso my life would be worthless.
Everything’s gone in life; nothing is left.
It’s been so long since I’ve seen the young maiden
My love is stronger than my fear of death.

I saddled up and away I did go,
Riding alone in the dark.
Maybe tomorrow
A bullet may find me.
Tonight nothing’s worse than this
Pain in my heart.

And at last here I

Am on the hill overlooking El Paso;
I can see Rosa’s cantina below.
My love is strong and it pushes me onward.
Down off the hill to Felina I go.

Off to my right I see five mounted cowboys;
Off to my left ride a dozen or more.
Shouting and shooting I can’t let them catch me.
I have to make it to Rosa’s back door.

Something is dreadfully wrong for I feel
A deep burning pain in my side.
Though I am trying
To stay in the saddle,
I’m getting weary,
Unable to ride.

But my love for

Felina is strong and I rise where I’ve fallen,
Though I am weary I can’t stop to rest.
I see the white puff of smoke from the rifle.
I feel the bullet go deep in my chest.

From out of nowhere Felina has found me,
Kissing my cheek as she kneels by my side.
Cradled by two loving arms that I’ll die for,
One little kiss and Felina, good-bye.  


Who Introduced You To The Joys of Reading?

 I’ll never forget a particular trip to the library. My mom heard about the summer reading program and off we went.  It was quite the adventure!  The Granada Hills Branch of the Los Angeles Public Library had just opened, and it was right next to Petit Park, another brand new facility. I walked out of the building (which at the time seemed huge) with my own library card and a stack of books that included Carolina’s Courage by Elizabeth Yates.

Carolina’s Courage is about a young girl who leaves her New Hampshire home to travel west with her family.  They’re part of a wagon train, and Carolina’s most beloved possession is her china doll. Somewhere in the story she reluctantly trades it with a little Indian girl, and it’s that trade that leads to peace and safe passage for the entire wagon train.

Carolina’s Courage was the first “western” I ever read.  I’m so glad my mom took me to the library that summer. At summer’s end I’d read 25 books, each noted in my little-girl block printing and acknowledged with a stick-on gold star. That first summer reading program led to many others, and I will be forever grateful to the librarians who made it such fun. I discovered Laura Ingalls Wilder at the library.  Same with Jack London . . . Later I moved on to Willa Cather’s My Antonia and O Pioneers.

Both of my grandmothers also encouraged my love of books.  I was about ten years old when Nana Bylin bought me my first Black Stallion book.  I read it fast, and then I read it again.  Every week for the next few months, she had a new book waiting for me.  When we finished the Black Stallion series, we launched into Nancy Drew. That was good for a year of reading! 

My other grandmother played a different role in my love for books. She was a writer at heart.  She never ventured into fiction, but she wrote wonderful letters. She lived about 400 miles away when I was in middle school, and we wrote weekly.  I wish now she’d written her memories in a journal. I don’t have the details, but she and her family traveled to New Braunfels, Texas in a covered wagon. 

The other individuals who encouraged me to read were elementary school teachers.  My fifth grade teacher put Caddie Woodlawn  into my hands and I loved it.  Every week when we went to the school library, I found something new and intriguing. For a while, I was hooked on biographies. I discovered Sacajawea  on the biography shelf and read it many times.

Has this blog jogged your memory?  What books do you remember reading as a child?  Do you remember the very first chapter book you ever read?  Books have always been magical to me. They still are!

My Favorite Retro Cowboys

I’m late to the party, but I finally signed up for Facebook. Somewhere in my travels to Walls and Like buttons, I ended up on a Fan Page for my all-time favorite TV series. Did anyone else watch Paradise? It was also called Guns of Paradise. It starred Lee Horsley as Ethan Allen Cord, a gunfighter who becomes responsible for his sister’s four children, and Sigrid Thornton as Amelia Lawson, a lady banker with smarts and great clothes.

I’m a total sucker when it comes to redeemed outlaws, and Ethan was classic. He gets in plenty of trouble, but mostly because his past keeps catching up with him. He has no idea how to raise his orphaned niece and nephews, but he does his best. And the romance!  The sparks that fly between Ethan and Amelia nearly caught the TV on fire.  Without a doubt, Ethan Allen Cord is my favorite TV western hero.

No. 2 on the list would be Johnny Madrid from Lancer.  The show was set in the San Joaquin Valley in the 1870s. It’s definitely an oldie, but it sure caught my little-girl imagination. The premise of the show involved two brothers returning to their father’s ranch. Scott Lancer was blond, a Harvard graduate and a Boston gentleman. Johnny Madrid was a rebel, drifter and gunslinger.  The actor who played Johnny Madrid was James Stacy. His life changed dramatically in 1973 when he was struck by a drunk driver while on his motorcycle. Tragically he lost his left arm and leg and his girlfriend was killed. He continued to act and was twice nominated for Emmy awards.

My No. 3 TV cowboy is from High Chaparral. Manolito was played by Henry Darrow. He was the brother-in-law of John Cannon, the owner of a ranch called the High Chaparral. The series was set in Arizona Territory in the 1870s. What I remember most is that Manolito had a bit of rebel in him. I’m detecting a pattern here . . . my favorite TV cowboys are all bad boys, rebels, gunfighters, etc..

There’s a tie for the No. 4 slot on my list.  Does anyone remember The Quest with Kurt Russell and Tim Matheson as brothers looking for their sister? The series only ran for 15 episodes, but I didn’t miss a single one.  Kurt and Tim played Morgan and Quentin Beaudine.  Morgan had lived with the Cheyenne for eight years and was also called Two Persons. Quentin was a physician from San Francisco. Together they were searching for their sister. The series ended in part because interest in westerns faded in the 1970s, but it also had the bad luck to run opposite Charlie’s Angels.

I’m giving the No. 5 slot to . . . Decisions! Decisions!  My first thought was Little Joe Cartwright from Bonanza.  It just doesn’t seem right to leave him off the list, but my real choice is Tom Hart from Broken Trail.  He’s not as retro as the first four picks, which is one of the things that appeals to me.  Broken Trail proved that westerns are still relevant. Honor, independence, courage and loyalty never go out of style.

I can think of a lot of shows I didn’t mention. Dr. Quinn is at the top of the list.  Then there’s The Virginian and Gunsmoke and The Rifleman.  I also loved pioneer-themed shows like The Monroes.

What shows would you add to the list?  Which characters were your favorites?  Westerns may be more retro than trendy, but I will always love them.

Cowboy Wisdom


My blog day sneaked up on me and I find myself short of words, so I figured this would be a great time to share some cowboy quotes that made me smile (hopefully a few you haven’t heard)…and a little visual inspiration can’t hurt 🙂

Cowboy Wisdom

  • Never approach a bull from the front, a horse from the rear, or a fool from any direction.
  • Don’t squat with your spurs on.cowboy-wow
  • Don’t judge people by their relatives.
  • Behind every successful rancher is a wife who works in town.
  • When you lose, don’t lose the lesson.
  • Talk slowly, think quickly.
  • Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.
  • Live a good, honorable life. Then when you get older and think back, you’ll enjoy it a second time.
  • Don’t interfere with something that ain’t botherin’ you none.
  • Timing has a lot to do with the outcome of a rain dance.
  • It’s better to be a has-been that a never-was.
  • The easiest way to eat crow is while it’s still warm. The colder it gets, the harder is is to swoller.
  • If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop diggin’.
  • If it don’t seem like it’s worth the effort, it probably ain’t.
  • It don’t take a genius to spot a goat in a flock of sheep.
  • Sometimes you get and sometimes you get got.
  • If you get to thinkin’ you’re a person of some influence, try orderin’ somebody else’s dog around.
  • Don’t worry about bitin’ off more’n you can chew; your mouth is probably a whole lot bigger’n you think.
  • Always drink upstream from the herd.
  • Generally, you ain’t learnin’ nothing when your mouth’s a-jawin’.
  • Tellin’ a man to git lost and makin’ him do it are two entirely different propositions.cowboyrosery
  • If you’re ridin’ ahead of the herd, take a look back every now and then to make sure it’s still there with ya.
  • Good judgment comes from experience, and a lotta that comes from bad judgment.
  • When you give a personal lesson in meanness to a critter or to a person, don’t be surprised if they learn their lesson.
  • When you’re throwin’ your weight around, be ready to have it thrown around by somebody else.
  • Lettin’ the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier than puttin’ it back.
  • Always take a good look at what you’re about to eat. It’s not so important to know what it is, but it’s sure crucial to know what it was.
  • The quickest way to double your money is to fold it over and put it back into your pocket.
  • You can’t tell how good a man or a watermelon is ’til they get thumped.(Character shows up best when tested.)
  • Never miss a good chance to shut up.
  • If lawyers are disbarred and clergymen are defrocked, shouldn’t it follow that cowboys would be deranged?
  • There never was a horse that couldn’t be rode; Never was a cowboy who couldn’t be throwed.


John Wayne

“Talk low, talk slow, and don’t say too much.”

“Courage is being scared to death – and saddling up anyway.”

Inscription on Mr. Wayne’s headstone:
“Tomorrow is the most important thing in life. Comes into us at midnight very clean. It’s perfect when it arrives and it puts itself in our hands. It hopes we’ve learnt something from yesterday.”

Hard to beat The Duke for some great cowboy wisdom and inspiration…just love that inscription.

How about the rest of y’all–any favorites from the list? Have any to add?

Another Kind of Alpha Hero

victoria_bylin_bannerAlmost two years ago my husband and I adopted a dog from an organization that rescues abandoned animals. His name is Hartley and he’s a Jack Russell / Beagle mix. He’s a tad bit . . . odd. He licks furniture (gross), and he’s terrified of little girls. Little boys don’t bother him at all. The poor dog doesn’t know how to chase a ball or play “Fetch,”  but he plays  catch by pushing the ball with his nose for a distance of about a foot. We roll it back anHartley&Misc029smalld he’s happy.

More than once, my husband has looked at our beloved mutt and said, “Hartley, you’re no Rin Tin Tin.”

That got me thinking about the famed German Shepherd who starred in the 1950’s TV show, “The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin.” In the show, Rin Tin Tin belongs to a boy named Rusty who’s been orphaned in an Indian raid. The boy and dog are adopted by the soldiers at Fort Apache and the adventure begins.

Rin Tin Tin TV ShowThe series was only one of Rin Tin Tin’s Hollywood credits. His fame goes back to films from the 1920s when he stared in several movies, many of them with western settings.  His continued to star in movies up through the 1940s, then moved to television.

The first Rin Tin Tin has quite a story. He was born in Lorraine, France in September 1918 in the thick of World War I.  He was just five days old when Lee Duncan, an American serviceman, rescued him from a bombed out war dog kennel along with the pup’s sister.  Duncan named the dogs Rin Tin Tin and Nenette after French puppets given to WWI soldiers for luck.

Duncan was fascinated with the abilities of the new breed known as a German Shepherd, and he became acquainted with the man who’d trained the dogs. He worked regularly with the dogs to teach them to perform on command.  When the war ended, Duncan took the two dogs to Los Angeles. Sadly, Nenette didn’t make iRin Tin Tin Moviet. She died en route from distemper.

Duncan returned to his job as a clerk in a hardware store, but his interest in dogs continued and he took Rin Tin Tin to dog shows. In February 1922, Rin Tin Tin amazed the audience at the  Shepherd Dog Club by jumping a phenomenal 11 feet 9 inches. Quite by chance, a man named Charlie Jones asked if he could try out his new camera that made moving pictures by filming Rin Tin Tin. Duncan said yes, and a film company later offered Duncan $350 to film the dog in action. 

It took a while for Rin Tin Tin’s career to take off. Duncan tried to a sell movie script starring his dog, but he found no takers.  It wasn’t until he happened on a film company struggling to shoot a scene about a wolf that Rin Tin Tin got his big break.  Duncan said his dog could do the scene in a single take, and that’s what Rin Tin Tin did.  The producer hired him for the rest of “The Man From Hell’s River.”  The success of that film saved the studio making it from financial ruin.  The name of that littlle studio on the brink?  Warner Brothers Pictures.

Rin_Tin_Tin_005-01The first Rin Tin Tin made 26 movies before he died in 1932. Warner Brothers didn’t want to lose their star, so the mantle was passed to the Rin Tin Tin’s son, known as Junior. The two dogs weren’t identical in appearance, so a publicity campaign began. Junior was the first dog to fly in a commerical airplane.  Duncan and Rin Tin Tin No. 3 later particiated WWII by training 5,000 soldiers and dogs for the war effort.

Thanks to protected breeding, the legacy of Rin Tin Tin continues today.  Every dog that has ever played Rin Tin Tin is related to the original one.  The most recent is Rin Tin Tin #11, born July 8, 2009.  May the legacy of Man’s Best Friend continue!

Western Theme Songs and Cowboy Ballads


I heard a song on the radio the other day that took me way back to the days when westerns dominated the movie screen and the television airwaves.  The song was The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.  Hearing the song immediately put me back in front of the screen reliving scenes from that great movie. 


Cowboy Ballads

Got me to thinking about other Cowboy/Western ballads I love – not all of them movie related – and I thought I’d do a list of my top ten favorites for this post.  And for those of you who want to hear them again (or for the first time), I’ll post links to videos that feature them as well.


The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

High Noon

The Streets Of Laredo

El Paso

Come A Little Bit Closer

Big Bad John


Big Iron

Johnny Reb

Ballad Of The Alamo



And as a bonus, I thought I’d include my 10 favorite western TV classic theme songs as well



Have Gun, Will Travel


Bat Masterson

Wyatt Earp




Rin Tin Tin





So how about you – did I leave one of your favorites off of my lists?  If so – share!


There are more than a dozen forms of country music.  Who knew?   When researching this, because I LOVE COUNTRY MUSIC, I was amazed to learn it’s origin and how it has progressed through the decades.   Founded in the southern states, country music has its origins in the Appalachian Mountains and has roots in gospel, Celtic music, traditional folk music and old-time music.


Because “hillbilly music” was deemed too degrading, the name was changed to “country and western music” in the 1940’s.   Even the term “country and western” has been changed to simply “country” now.                                                


Think Elvis and Garth Brooks and you’ve landed on the two top selling artists OF ALL TIME.  Elvis was known as the “Hillbilly Cat” and was on the radio show Louisiana Hayride. Elvis, as you know went on to become a defining figure in rock and roll, while Garth Brooks continues to be the top-selling solo artist in US History. 


Early in music history, the Irish fiddle, German dulcimer, Italian mandolin, Spanish guitar and African banjo were the most common musical instruments. The interaction among different ethnic groups in the U.S. brought about string bands using primarily the banjo, fiddle and guitar.  


The first commercial recording of Country Music called “Sallie Gooden” by fiddler A.C. Robertson was made in 1922 for Victor Records and in 1924 Columbia Records began issuing records of “hillbilly” music.


The Grand Ole Opry aired on radio in Nashville in 1925 and continues to be a driving force today.  Their early stars were Uncle Dave Macon, Roy Acuff and Deford Bailey. 


Singing cowboys made their mark during the 1930s and 1940s and Hollywood films popularized their songs.  Gene Autry, Sons of the Pioneers and Roy Rogers were the most famous of the singing cowboys. Roy was my personal favorite. Who could forget the ending song on the Roy Rogers Show?


Happy trails to you, until we meet again.
Happy trails to you, keep smilin’ until then.
Who cares about the clouds when we’re together?
Just sing a song and bring the sunny weather.
Happy trails to you, ’till we meet again.


Oh that brings back good memories.



By the 1950’s and 1960s a blend of western swing, honky tonk and country boogie were played across the country, but “rockabilly” soon took over with Elvis’ Heartbreak Hotel, Johnny Cash’s, I Walk the Line and Carl Perkins’, Blue Suede Shoes. 


The 1970’s saw stars like Tammy Wynette and Charlie Rich emerge in a pop culture that morphed into Countrypolitan aimed for more mainstream audiences.

Ray Charles turned his attention to country music with the release of his song, “I Can’t Stop Loving You.


Country Rock was established after the British Invasion with a desire for some to return to the old values of rock and roll.  Contributors to this form of music were the Byrds and the The Flying Burrito Brothers (? I don’t remember them) The Grateful Dead, The Allman Brothers and The Eagles. I love The Eagles!  Also, believe it or not, but the Rolling Stones got into the act with their songs “Honky Tonk Woman” and “Dead Flowers”


Some other forms of country music that emerged during the years are Outlaw Country (think Willie Nelson and Waylan Jennings), Country Pop (Glen Campbell, John Denver, Marie Osmond), Neocountry disco music (think Urban Cowboy), Alternative Country, Truck Driving Country and Bluegrass. 


Wow! Like I said before, who knew there were so many forms of country music?  I was never into the twang, I have to admit and I loved Elvis Presley.  But today my tastes are more for the pop culture of country with stars like Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, Carrie Underwood, Brooks and Dunn, Rascal Flatts, Toby Keith, Martina McBride and George Strait.  BTW- George won the 2009 Artist of the Decade Award by the Academy of Country Music.  Yay George!


I find country music reaches deep into my soul.  It tells a story, most often a romance and the ballads can be heartbreakingly sincere and the upbeat tunes, just plain ole fun.  It’s just about all I listen to on the radio. 


So, what form of music do you like?  Were you an Elvis the Pelvis fan like me?  Did you like the singing cowboys?  Who are your favorites today? 


My book, not released yet in stores, has been an Eharlequin Top 10 Bestseller for the first three weeks in August!   To celebrate, one commenter today will win an autographed copy and a beautiful Brighton key chain, from my heart to yours.

 dsc00935 for more contests and fun stuff!