52 Pick-up 2.0, #26, 6/23/2020
Terry Badgett Cooper: “Some of my favorite threads in your books deal with the spirituality of the Cheyenne Nation. Would you consider featuring Virgil White Buffalo in a (new) book? I’d like to know more about the deep connection between Walt and Virgil.”
Interesting that you should ask that question in that I’m writing a portion of a novel that deals with that in the book that’s due out in 2021. Henry is kind of Walt’s touchstone to what we might call the supernatural, but that to the Cheyenne and Crow is a phenomenon that surrounds us every day, whether we choose to recognize it or not. Walt and Henry’s views on these types of things are pretty well exemplified in the second novella, The Highwayman, where Walt, being a detective and an advocate of empirical data, refuses to believe what’s happening and comes up with multiple scenarios to explain the haunting of Wind River Canyon by the ghost of Bobby Womack. Henry’s response, “You have answered this difficulty in every way, but the one that would explain it all—that he’s actually here.”
Another is the character of Virgil, who was first developed in Another Man’s Moccasins and then reintroduced in Hell Is Empty. Virgil, alive or dead, became emblematic of the mysticism that pervades Walt’s life. Personally, I think the world is an incredible, wonderous place, and like most of our limited perception, we’re only witness to a small percentage of it. Unlike Walt, I love being surprised but maybe that’s because surprises to a writer and those to a sheriff can be two very different things.
The adventures that both Walt and Virgil participated in in Hell is Empty had a long-lasting effect on both of them, and the results of that have yet to be fully played out in the books. Virgil has turned out to be something of a spiritual guardian for Walt, but what happens when Virgil or the spirit of Virgil becomes imperiled by an antagonist from a more mystical realm? If there’s good on that domain, then for a balance there has to be evil, and how does that manifest itself? What can Walt, as a human being, be able to do about it? That’s kind of what I’m working on now, with Daughter of the Morning Star.
In one form or another, I don’t ever see Virgil being absent from Walt’s life whether he’s really there, or a manifestation of something Walt himself can’t bring himself to believe.
I hope that’s part of the enjoyment of the novels; that there are different layers and that they’re not just page-turners… Of all the terms I dislike, that may be the one I find the most repugnant. I’m not saying that a novel shouldn’t have good pacing, but why in the world would I spend an entire year of my life working on something I want you to leaf through at Mach speed and never pick up again? I also think that you have to challenge yourself or the writing gets stale, you need to venture out into that frontier, whether it’s a geographical, professional, personal, emotion or spiritual boundary.
Living where I live, I don’t think it’s unusual to be affected by those things; the Rocky Mountain West, and especially the part in northern Wyoming gives me a solitude that maybe raises my antenna a bit. Proximity to the Rez is another telling point. Whenever I sit down with my friends Marcus Red Thunder or Tiger Scalpcane or Leroy Whiteman, I can hear a sensitivity in their words that allows for another perspective on reality. Afterall, my kind of people have only been here a couple of hundred years, whereas they’ve been here for thousands.
Take it from the 7th Cavalry, bad things happen when you stop listening to your Indian scouts in this part of the world.
See you on the trail,