By Jim Varnado
My wife, Kathy, and I have obtained the licensing and copy-rite usage to write an old west novel named "Big Iron", based on three famed ballads created, written and performed by Marty Robbins. This includes publishing the lyrics of the ballads. These three ballads (story songs) are combined and melded into one homogenous story spanning fifty years and two generations. The three ballads are... El Paso... Faleena... Big Iron. The full Lyrics of these ballads are posted on the Lyrics Page.
After countless 2 AM readings, edits and progress, we have completed the task of expanding 5 1/2 pages of song lyrics into a 388 page old west novel. We have a publisher, Tate Publishing in Mustang Oklahoma, who approved our submission a full year ago, and our official release date is March 11th, 2014. Kathy had a near-fatal stroke on Dec 27th, 2012 and I write this on Dec 27th 2013. And 95% of what Kathy did to make Big Iron a reality was after the stroke.
This work was undertaken with the utmost respect for Marty Robbins' work and his skills, talents and genius. It occurred to me many years ago that with "El Paso", Marty Robbins has done nothing less than create a Shakespearean Tragedy in an old west environment that has broken the hearts of tens of millions worldwide. I am, to be sure, standing on his shoulders. My wife and I both have done many hours of research to answer questions and to verify locations, events and dates. Such as the fact that the 1882 Arizona Rangers existed for only two months. It was our desire to "nail down" facts ranging from the spelling and meaning of Felina's name to the location of Agua Fria.
We were very surprised how difficult it was to set a timeline, even though it is not to be published, due to the very limited time spans that Arizona rangers existed. Arizona rangers do not have a long continuous history like the Texas rangers. All of this is explained in detail in the Research page. But one example is that decisions made by the Confederacy before the civil war actually impacted our book because of the name Arizona, which was a relatively new name at the time. And you have to have Arizona before you can have Arizona rangers.
It is largely unknown that the confederacy controlled and split New Mexico territory into north and south halves, with the northern half remaining New Mexico territory and the southern half being named Arizona territory. Later, the union split New Mexico territory into the present day east and west, with the western half being named Arizona.
And there were questions to be answered...
- Why was Felina's lover guilty of murder when the "handsome young stranger" made the first move? Down went his hand for the gun that he wore.
- Why does Texas Red live in New Mexico?
- Why was an Arizona ranger conducting official business in New Mexico?
- Why was the legendary gunfight set for the unusual time of 11:20 in the morning? (Has to be the only gunfight ever set for 11:20 AM) So what was that all about?
- How did the posse know exactly when Felina's lover (whose name is Will Travis) would return to Rosa's Cantina?
- How did Felina find her dying lover so quickly?
- What are the birth names of Texas Red and the Ranger?
- Where is Agua Fria and why does it have to be where it is?
- What turned a genius-level college graduate into Texas Red?
- How long was Felina and Will together?
- How long was Will gone when he fled El Paso out to the badlands of New Mexico?
Another issue is that the central characters in Big Iron are in their mid to late 20's. So we downloaded a list of the most popular male/female names that were period correct. And we also downloaded maps of the US from 1830 to 1870. Not many changes in US geography after 1870.
And we installed story boards on the walls of a spare bedroom that Kathy immediately nicknamed "The Writers Cave". Then we hung 21 clipboards on the bottoms of the story boards, one clipbord for each chapter. We are taking this project, this work, very serious.
Jim and Kathy Varnado
Dec 27th 2013