It’s safe to say that a lot of Westerns — be they movies, books, or games — haven’t been based in fact, or even inspired by it. But in the following email interview with writer John L. Lansdale about his newest Western novel Broken Moon (hardcover, Kindle), he explains how this story does have its roots in the truth.
For starters, what is Broken Moon about, and when and where does it take place?
Broken Moon is about a young mixed white and Cheyenne girl raised by her white father. She sets out on a journey in search of her tribe with two companions from Kansas to Montana in 1876 when she’s twenty. She can’t speak the Cheyenne language and knows very little about the people she is looking for. She’s riding her paint pony Bittersweet, who plays a major role in the story that has amazing consequences.
Where did you get the idea for Broken Moon, what inspired it?
A real-life Cheyenne woman warrior named Pretty Nose was the inspiration to write the book. She killed and mutilated Custer at Custer’s Last Stand and became a warrior chief who lived to be 103 years old.
I assume that’s why you made Billie Jo Dobbs’ mom a member of the Cheyenne tribe as opposed to another tribe…
I used an actual event for the setting. The Union Army and the Northern Cheyenne had a battle in Colorado in 1864. In the beginning of the book, Billie Joe is seven. Her father takes her from the Cheyenne and raises her white, teaching her to be a sharpshooter. The 7th Cavalry under Custer’s command forced the Cheyenne to move to the Rosebud reservation in Montana in 1876. That sets her journey in motion.
Broken Moon sounds like a classic Western story. Is that how you’d describe it?
Broken Moon is a classic Western fiction novel set in historic times with no connection to any of my other Western novels.
Speaking of your other novels, two of them — Shadows West and Hell’s Bounty — were cowritten with your brother, Joe, who is also an author. Did working with Joe or reading his books have any influence on Broken Moon?
He had no knowledge or influence on any of my novels.
How about movies? Hollywood has made a lot of Westerns over the years.
I have always loved movies. As a seven year-old I walked three miles to Lindale from my grandma’s house almost every Saturday during the summer to watch serial Westerns all day long. That made a big impression on me.
Do you think Broken Moon could work as a movie?
I think all of my Western novels should be movies.
And if someone wanted to make that happen, who would you want them to cast as Billie Jo and the other main characters?
I’d want Hailee Steinfeld [True Grit] for Billie Jo, and [Nightmare Alley‘s] Bradley Cooper for Judge Fuller, the other main lead.
So, is there anything else you think people need to know about Broken Moon?
The title comes from Billie Jo’s Indian name.
Finally, if someone enjoys Broken Moon, they’ll probably read your other Western, The Last Good Day. But once they’ve done that, which of your other novels would you suggest they read next?
I would highly recommend Slow Bullet. It’s a page turner for everyone. A couple reviews show why:
“Slow Bullet is a straight-ahead thriller…it’s about action, and there’s plenty of that. Check it out.” — author Bill Crider
“Mickey Spillane fans will welcome this page-turner…Lansdale effectively delays revealing the novel’s big secret until the end. Those who like their thrillers with a heavy dose of violent action will be satisfied.” — Publishers Weekly review of Slow Bullet