Still fighting my way back.

Hi,

We’ve made a lot of progress, completed a few articles, and am working with my assistant Tess to finish my second Book of Books – but the blog is defeating me.

Parkinson’s has not only robbed me of my hands but has affected my voice. The changes throughout the day are simply too much for the dictation programs I’ve tried so far. They simply can’t understand what I’m saying consistently enough to make it anything but frustrating.

I will keep trying.

Thank you for all the support I’ve received from friends and blog readers. Bear with me while I find a way back to posting regularly.

Steve

Steve at work at table with computer
Steve at work in better times

New – a Donate Button & more…

I’m not proud. I’ve spent my whole life as a writer and now, at 71 with Parkinson’s it is tougher to get the words on paper.

I’ve added the donate button and have linked (well, Tess* is linking) my books, and books I’ve reviewed to Amazon, where I will be getting a small amount for each purchase you make. (Tess calls this having multiple income streams.) Apparently I have to let you know the following…

“As an Amazon Associate I earn money from qualifying purchases.”

If you love my writing, help me make more of it!

– Steve

*Tess is the fingers I was able to hire with your donations, thank you.

Maurice R. “Monty” Montgomery, 1938- 2017: RIP

My friend Monty was always a slightly elusive presence, even in his autobiographical sketch in Amazon, written by himself:

“M. R. Montgomery, known to the various government record keepers as Maurice R. Montgomery Jr., and to all his acquaintances as Monty, was born in eastern Montana in 1938, raised partly in California, and now lives near Boston for reasons that he cannot quite explain. Over the past twenty-five years he has written for the Boston Globe on every subject except politics, a clean record he hopes to maintain until retirement. Other than fishing and a little bit of gunning, he has no obsessive hobbies, although he has been known to plant the occasional tomato and a manageable number of antique rose varieties, these for the pleasure of his wife, Florence.”

He was sort of the unknown best writer I knew. ALL of his books were good, but two in particular, Many Rivers to Cross, about native trout, and Saying Goodbye, about eastern Montana and fathers and sons, are absolute classics. Saying Goodbye is the best book on eastern Montana I know.

Monty could write about anything. Though I didn’t get to know him until the 90s, I first wrote to him for advice on bird dogs in 1970s — he replied with a column called “Find a Gentleman With a Bird Dog”. He also wrote columns I remember on rutabagas and November.

In the end I couldn’t even find his obit in the Globe. Monty was erudite, kind, and generous as well as an undervalued writer. He will be missed.

Here is a fine tribute by Corb Lund about their mutual country.

Hemingway’s Guns– new edition

Silvio Calabi and Co. hav come out with a new ed of the already- good Hemingways’s Guns that adds the Cuban guns from the Finca Vigia (a uniformly ruined unshootable lot BTW) to the already good scholarship of the first volume. Two things are  particularly notable. First, most American rich folks back then shot good versions of the same guns as their less well- off contemporaries, not aristocrats’ or Best guns. Hem shot a Model 12, some 21’s, a Springfield, many Winchesters, and a humpback Browning; so did my father, and I have owned them all. The only real “Best” he ever owned was the Westley .577, and he disliked shooting it.

And though Patrick H debunked it long ago as a myth propagated by “Miss Mary” (I believe): Hemingway not only didn’t shoot himself with a Boss; he never owned a London Best shotgun! Calabi has done real detective work here, finding the remnants of the W & C Scott lock from the fatal gun.

For all fans of Hem and guns, (except perhaps those put off by the NYRB article that called the book “sick fetishism”– !)

And on another gun matter, congratulations to reader Phil Yearout, who just got published in Shooting Sportsman!

PS : Pauline shot a Darne 28!

“Great Unknown”?

John Muller’s fine piece on me in  NM magazine is out, graced by the photos of Hans Wachs, and soon to be online.  It is called “The Great Unknown”–  meaning me!– and uses this photo as a lead, which will have to do until I have a link.
UPDATE: Here
is the link, thanks to David Zincavage and others.

William “Gatz” Hjortsberg, 1941- 2017

Chris Waddington, my old editor at the Minneapolis Star Tribune and now a happier man in his belovcd New Orleans (even though Katrina flooded his house) emailed to tell me that our mutual friend Gatz Hjortsberg died at his home in Livingston after a “short illness” i.e. pancreatic cancer (it’s a bad one; it’s the one that took down Bob Jones after he survived prostate cancer.)

As I said to Chris, our friendship was cordial, but not particularly close. Still, we were part of the same Montana scene and went to the same parties, where Michael Katakis would groan “Oh God, Gatz and Bodio are both here — nobody else will be able to get  in a word.” Probably true, and I think they’re all the better for it.  He was always known as “Gatz”, never Bill or William, apparently because of a youthful infatuation with the work of Scott Fitzgerald, especially The Great Gatsby. Besides, he wore all those cool hats.

He was utterly intrepid.He was one of Pat’s boys” at Sports Illustrated, and his first assignment was to ride a BULL.He did it, too.

Gatz was undervalued as a writer of books, perhaps because he was a writer of genre books in a  literary field. He followed his friend Tom McGuane to Livingston from grad school, because McGuane was the only writer he knew who fished. Among the schools he attended was Stanford, where like McGuane, he was a Stegner  Fellow; that is, someone whom Wallace Stegner abused. This was good company to be in; among the other people Stegner called bums, hippies, beatniks, and worthless were Robert Stone, Ken Kesey, and the lesser known but fascinating David Shetzline, who wrote one of the only two good novels I know of about  forest fires. Among Gatz’s books were the dark fantasy Alp and the darker sci- fi Gray Matters in the early years, and the Mexican thriller Manana recently. But his best knows was Falling Angel , which was made into a movie starring Mickey Rourke. He also wrote Nevermore where he wrote the following wonderful inscription in my copy:

He also wrote a puzzling biography of “Poor Old Richard” Brautigan, which took him about 14 years and was rejected by its first publisher. In the end it ran to 862 pages, any 100 of which were brilliant. I can’t help but think that Richard’s own words might apply: ” In this world, where there is only a little time to spend, I think I’ve spent enougth time on this butterfly.” *

No matter. Gatz Hjortsberg was a gentleman and a writer, and he will be missed.

*The quote about the butterfly is a close paraphrase. I’m not going to look it up at this hour!

Tom’s tour- and Book

A friend in Alberta snapped this photo of Tom Russell and Ian Tyson in fine form at a concert up there.

My informant said that he told a story of bringing his Swiss Father-in-law over the Continental Divide at night to visit us and our hounds and hawks. It could have been a fraught scene — “Poppi” says that his only English was “Fuck you, cowboy”, which as Tom said “went over real big with a bunch of drunk cowboys demanding encores of “Tonight We Ride”, but our French wine, our posole, and our animals disarmed him, not to mention my ability to speak French, and he now sends us German articles on falconry.

This story and many others are in Tom’s wonderful new collection of essays Ceremonies of the Horsemen. There are portraits of Johnny Cash and Marty Robbins, of Hemingway and Ian Tyson, Charles Portis and John Graves, and a piece on J P S Brown, a hard old man we both know who may be the best unknown cowboy novelist around. There is also that story about me and falconry, one about Gallo del Cielo (the “damn chicken song”) and the only English cockfight corrida I know, which will teach you all you need to know about cockfighting (and I don’t mean that sarcastically). It is a tragedy with laughs around the edges, although Tom has been known to claim that he wrote a version with a happy ending in which the rooster buys the Golden Spur Bar.
In the weirdest of these stories Tom ends up in the Swiss castle of Balthus’ widow, discussing their mutual admiration for Tex Ritter’s “Blood on the Saddle”. Buy this book! Nobody but Tom could ever have written it.

Recovering

Libby is doing well, although the broken rib really hurts when she she coughs, and she is going to a dentist today to plan tooth repair.

To certain complainers: I did not publish unattractive pics of Lib without her permission; I did ask, before I took the photos, and she gave it gladly, in the interest of the story. She is the least vain, most un- self- conscious person there is. I am the one who dreads most new pics, feeling like half of them make me look like I were on chemo (I will publish a couple today, as it is only fair). What makes anyone think i would EVER hurt Libby’s feelings, or that in a four- room house that she would be ignorant of it for more than five minutes?

The Cooper’s material was necessary to keep the new woman from sending the Feds or the warden after us. We’re perfectly legal, but an “invalid” with a book contract and deadlines, as well as the walking wounded, don’t need the extra hassle of official visit and explanations. I thought I would put all the facts, biological and legal, up front as a preemptive strike…

The justified (and funny) critic was Jonathan, who wrote in part that the post “…non-sequiturs into a thousand-word exegesis on urban raptors, then – oh yeah – completes the story about Libby!” I have always digressed, or as I say defensively, been “non- linear”, and I am getting worse. I’m just glad that someone who is currently in Tel Aviv, heading to Lebanon with his bicycle, is reading the blog.

Why I may NEVER be rich…

What’s that? Oh, a Jack Unruh illo, for a piece I had published, that I sent in un- asked for, “over the transom”. In SI. In 1980. When Pat was still editor. And I didn’t follow up.

Because I didn’t know how. Thank God Gray’s was only a subway stop away….

Tom McGuane on Raptors

Novelist Tom McGuane, while noted for his horses and pointing dogs, has always had a feel for birds of prey,  notices them, and on occasion writes lyrically about them. There is a vivid set piece in the novel Something to Be Desired, in which which the protagonist, LucienTaylor,  takes his young son, who does not live with him, to lure a Prairie falcon in to trap on a pigeon, using a falconry practice to band the bird to study. The child is frightened, startled  by the bird’s falling from the sky like a hammer onto the  luckless bait bird, but Lucien is ecstatic, with the emotions of a true hawk trapper.
“There were feathers everywhere, and the hawk beat in a blur of cold fury, striking at Lucien with his downcurving knife of a beak and superimposing his own screech over the noise of James. “We’ve got him, James!” James, quiet now, looked ready to run. The hawk had stopped all motion but kept his beak marginally parted so that the small, hard black tongue could be seen advancing and retreating slightly within his mouth. ‘It’s a prairie falcon. It’s the most beautiful bird in the world. I want to come back as a prairie falcon.’ “

This is a man who has been there. Here is another lyrical piece, from the more recent Driving  On the Rim: