♪ …a man who hated horses and the pig iron on his hip… pig iron on his hip ♪
This novel was the conclusion of a kinda “what if?” conversation my dad and I had about Marty Robbins’ epic song “Big Iron,” and it started as a screenplay, then at some point became a short story, then a knock-knock joke, then a novel, then a dare, then finally ended up as a song. Thanks to Harley and Gabi Ferris for singing the hell out of my lyrics, and adding some flourishes that continue to crack me up:
I had some fun throwing Pig Irons around all summer, doing some interviews here and there, like when I talked to these crazy guys at The Oatmeal Raisin Conspiracy, and answered 10 Questions over at LitReactor, and then 10 more over at The Western Online. I also did one of Spinetingler Magazine’s new “Western Wednesday” interviews.
We had some contests, gave away some western-themed goodies like the highly addictive “Cowboy Bark” pictured below, and artist/designer Dyer Wilk attached warning stickers and old-timey price tags and then shot the hell out of Tony McMillen’s amazing now-bullet-ridden artwork on some Advance Readers Copies. You know, shootin’ up books to save lives, like you do. I also attached the usual eyeballs…
Over at Do Some Damage, I stopped by to talk about the strange devolution of Pig Iron (again), how it started out as a song, became a movie no studios wanted (westerns remain a tough sell, though one of them did request an alien/western hybrid scripts instead. uhhh…), how the concept eventually became the short story “Three Ways Without Water (or the Day Roadkill, Drunk Driving, and the Electric Chair Were Invented),” was expanded back into a novel, then filtered back down to a song all over again, like a prospector shaking the water out of his pan, but only if dead, pancaked bullets were left rattling around in the pan instead of gold, of course.
A roundup of Pig Iron reviews below:
- Booked. Podcast with another “ten stars” divided by two, or the grand total of all the points on both their sheriff’s badges.
- Do Some Damage always asks the important questions, like, “What the hell is Pig Iron? Part absurdist western, part goof, part homage to western movies, part fleshing out of a Marty Robbins song… a highly imaginative, highly original, highly fantastical western that is, at its best, a lot of fun.”
- Elizabeth A. White Reviews said it’s “a perfect book for those who love Westerns, as well as for those who don’t… both the white and black hats are here, it’s just that Keaton takes pleasure in poking a little fun at who’s wearing them, and why, and does it all with tremendous flare and more than a few made-up words and turns of phrase in the process – there’s even a handy glossary included that is as entertaining to read as the story itself.” p.s. you can also get her excellent genre reviews in the Savanna Morning News.
- Dead End Follies ponders, “What has David James Keaton done to the Western genre exactly? He has drained as much meaning as he could from two stereotypical figures without rendering them meaningless… the mad scientist of genre fiction. He creates new things out of dead stuff.”
- Pulp Fire decided it had “a real, kind of bizarro-cinematic quality to it,” and recommended it “for anyone who’s into something a little different. Even if you don’t like westerns. Hell, especially if you don’t like westerns.”
- Weird Westerns gave it four and a half stars out of five, which is almost all the stars.
- Ginger Nuts of Horror had a double review with Pig Iron and my zombie collection (the undead-y short story “Three Ways Without Water” in Stealing Propeller Hats for the Dead sorta/kinda became Pig Iron), and John Boden seemed to enjoy visiting “a place where water is worth more than gold and guns are not all they’re cracked up to be.” He said not to worry, that it did “have some of the age-old templates of the western trope, there’s long lost love and revenge, brawlin’ and shootin’ and spittin’.” So breath easy.
- Dirge Magazine was all about it, and Tony McMillen violated all the rules of respectable journalism by reviewing the very same book he did the cover art for. His completely impartial review said things like, “I don’t know where Keaton will go next. His themes revolve around the hollowness of authority and the unreliability of reality itself — the highest authority… Pig Iron took me to church and made me a believer. Believer in what, exactly? A believer in the often threatened new Golden Age for weird westerns that indie lit is inundated with every ten years or so.” Dude’s smart, bashes authority, and he can draw? A triple threat.
- The Pulp Chronicler a.k.a. Craig McNeely went one step further into the void, destroying the book that gave him so much joy, then burning down the website for good. You might notice some pictures missing from this post. This is where they went all “town from Footloose” on my book. It was an act of love though, don’t worry, and one picture remains.
(words and music by Arty Stealins, based on the song “Big Iron” by Marty Robbins)
To the town of Agua Fria rode some strangers one hot day
A man who hated horses to avenge a friend named Gray
The other stranger was a smartass prone to sarcastic quips
who knew the Ranger would be doomed with that pig iron on his hip
Pig iron on his hip
It was early in the morning when they proceeded into town
Where water had grown scarce and fires raging all around
“Who the hell hates horses?” Came the whisper from each lip
And can a man even fire from a pig iron on his hip?
Pig iron on his hip
In this town there lived a psycho by the name of Texas Red
Befriended by dead dogs in a well, all were left for dead
He was vicious and confusing and rode a horse that wouldn’t die
Though he’d taken his own pistol and shot it in the eye
Shot it in the eye
One of the strangers started talking made it plain to all their ears
He was an Arizona ranger in the twilight of his years
He’d come to get his sister, after killing Texas Red
Always thought his shelf might look nice with that motherfucker’s head
Wasn’t long before the story found its way to Red’s young gang
They killed the Ranger’s final friend, vowed to see the Ranger hang
But weren’t as worried about the Ranger as they’d seen him make the slip
Carried a gun made of pig iron that exploded on his hip
Exploded on his hip
The morning passed so quickly that everybody beat their feet
No doubt it was around noon time when they walked out in the street
Heads hung heavy and they swore the Ranger would be mourned
But a boy had found Red’s holster and filled it full of thorns
Filled it full of thorns.
It was fifty feet between them but who could really say
And the swiftness of that fire is still talked about today
Red had not cleared leather as those thorns held him fast
And a Ranger’s middle finger pointing was the thing that he saw last
Thing that he saw last
Not a single shot was fired and the folks all gathered round
The burning body of the outlaw laid out upon the ground
He may have gone on being crazy but he made one fatal slip
When he fought a man who hated horses and the pig iron on his hip
Pig iron on his hip