My friend, Red Shuttleworth, is in the wonderful habit of sending me real letters on real paper. The other day he sent me a few lines about I, QUANTRILL.
"You gain sympathy for Quantrill," he says. "Back in playwriting school, there was an exercise called Villian's Worst Deed: the point was to wrtie a sympathetic monologue for someone beyond redemption. Few writers can pull this off. You carried Quantrill into the landscape of the tragic, for he was morally equal to his adversaries... your Quantrill has an equal legitimacy to exist. That took splendid writing."
He also says some nice things about some minor characters, including Blue Fugate and Mary Culhain.
"Great work," Red says. "No straw men or straw ideas. Just straight-ahead great, daring writing."
Praise indeed from Red, who is no slouch when it comes to writing.
His praise includes: Best Living Western Poet -- True West, 2007. 1st Spur Award for Poetry -- Western Writers of America, 2001. "Like Cormac McCarthy..." -- Kirk Robertson, 2000. "Shuttleworth emerges as the true Western hero." --Las Vegas City Life, 2000. "Red Shuttleworth is a phenomenon among literary figures of the American West." -- J.V. Brummels, 1997. Red Shuttleworth is the author of the Spur Award-winning Western Settings and numerous poetry chapbooks, including Backtrack, Brief Lives, and Doc Holliday's Skeleton Takes a St. Patrick's Day Walk, Leadville, Colorado, 1887. Red's plays have been presented at the Utah Shakespearean Festival, Sundance Playwrights Lab, the Sun Valley Festival of New Western Drama, the Churchill Arts Council (Nevada), and at many other professional and academic theatres. Red's poems have appeared in over 200 journals, including South Dakota Review, New Letters, Ontario Review, Blue Mesa Review, True West, Concho River Review, Prairie Schooner, Rattle, Flyway, Elysian Fields Quarterly, Aethlon, Hubbub, and Suisun Valley Review.
By the way, Lawrence residents will have a chance to take another shot at me at the River City Reading Festival on Sept. 27.