Saturday, November 11, 2017



Spur award-winning writer Richard Prosch is a master of short-story and novella length Westerns and crime stories with a vicious twist in the tail. He also writes the adventures of sassy twelve-year old Jo Harper set in 1910, Wyoming, which are a delight for all ages. Richard is currently debuting his new contemporary series character, Dan Spalding, in the short-story Spalding’s Groove and a new novel, Answer Death

Having had the opportunity to preview Spalding’s brand of laidback, but tough enough style, I know Richard’s regular readers and new fans are going to get their thrills on in both tales. I was able to rope Richard into the interrogation corral for a few pointed questions...
If the Texas Rangers nailed up a wanted poster for Richard Prosch, what information would it contain?

Fierce advocate for the individual, for kids, and for an independent, western way of life increasingly on the wane. I grew up in Nebraska, lived in Wyoming and South Carolina, and was molded by all three—for the better. I’ve enjoyed a professional career in art and writing non-fiction and won some nice awards for my short stories, such as the WWA Spur Award. 

What drove you to become a writer?

I’m an only child, and during my teens I had long uninterrupted periods of time working on the farm. I passed the time spent on mundane tasks by making up scenarios in my head. I dabbled with pen and paper. As a young adult, I typed out mountains of professional nonfiction, but to pull off good fiction takes a kind of maturity I didn’t believe I had. Finally in my mid-40s, my wife kicked me in the butt and made me realize I’m a better person—for myself and everybody else—when I’m regularly writing stories.

Did you choose to start your writing career with short stories and novellas or did those forms of storytelling choose you?

They chose me. Fiction and nonfiction both, I’ve always loved the short form and those are the writers I read. Our grade-school library had those great Random House Alfred Hitchcock hardcover anthologies, and I practically owned them. I especially like Harlan Ellison because of the way he can move between short stories and personal essays. So those are the forms I started with.

Your character of twelve year old Jo Harper is one of my favorites. Where did she come from and what was your goal in developing her stories?

Dean Wesley Smith says writing is perhaps the only art people—for some reason—don’t think you need to practice. He thinks you must practice writing, and I agree. The Jo Harper series developed when my son was nine or ten years old and I told him stories about old Nebraska my grandpa’s aunt told me when I was a kid. She was in her 80s and 90s at the time. So, Jo’s stories let me practice writing fiction—more or less under the radar—while also locking in some of those family yarns for my son.

You moved effortlessly between the Western and crime genres. Do you prefer one over the other or is your genre decision based on what fits a given story? 

You phrased that well, Paul. It’s what fits a given story. All good fiction is driven by a good, often extreme, conflict. Crime, violence, the use of force, it’s all grist for the mill and most of the good westerns are good crime stories in their own right. 

Who are the western and crime genre authors who have influenced you?  

Tough one because I’m probably equally influenced by SF and nonfiction writers too. But in westerns, the top spots are—hands down—Ben Haas, Steve Frazee, and Elmore Leonard. In crime it’s Robert B. Parker, John D. MacDonald, and so many short story writers I can’t count them. David Edgerley Gates who does both genres so well is a favorite. Also Ed Hoch who wrote something like 900 short stories. 

A cool highlight of your new Dan Spalding stories is Spalding’s Groove, the record store Dan inherited from his brother. Did you grab the idea from the muse of inspiration or do you have a history with record stores, their diversity of stock, and their edge of slightly seedy desperation?

That’s a perfectly apt description of my favorite place! I’ve always loved record stores—nearly as much as book stores. Any new town I come to, I look for a book store, a record store, or an antique shop that might have books and records both. I also grew up at a great time, with anything and everything on vinyl and a mom who enjoyed listening to records. It’s something I do know something about, and I want to explore that with the Spalding series.

Did the character of Dan Spalding come to you fully ready for action or did he develop on the page?

Pretty much ready for action. I have a variety of friends my age in law enforcement and we tend to talk a lot about the culture, which leads to music. Spalding isn’t based on any particular person in real life, but more of an amalgam of these guys. Spalding is eventually able to live his dream of being surrounded by music, but he’s still got that warrior Sheepdog ethos inside.

Do you read mostly fiction or nonfiction or an even mix?

An even mix, though more nonfiction lately. I train in Karate and with society being what it is lately, I’m interested in essays on conflict and defense by writers like Rory Miller and Marc MacYoung.

Who are your current favorite authors in the Western and Crime genres?

I try to read everything Paul Bishop puts out—grin. In truth, your Lie Catchers broke new ground for me. Good stuff!  To the question, for westerns I go to Pete Brandvold and Wayne Dundee. For crime it’s Lee Goldberg, Brendan Dubois, a few others.

Where do you stand on indy vs. legacy/traditional publishing?

I’ve always thought of myself as a hybrid writer. I like the opportunities a good publisher can offer, but I value the control and experience of indy work. I think with the time frame inherent to traditional publishing, the only way to make a living as a writer is by going solo with part or most of your output.

Is there a specific book or author you find yourself recommending over and over?

John D. MacDonald. More than anybody else, he was able to combine personal observation with his characters so it didn’t feel forced or pedantic. He was a master at rich characterization and capturing the time and place of a scene. And what an output!

Is there a book you’ve returned to again and again?

Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine, which I first read as a teenager. It’s brilliant! Simple and complex. Deliberately nostalgic, yet sneakily timeless. Depending on your mindset, you can read it as a series of short stories, or a novel. I try to touch base with it every year.

What is the last book you read?

My last book was a re-read of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain, but the last new book I read was Double Wide by Leo W. Banks.

What is the last book you bought?

Beyond the Picket Fence by Mark MacYoung

What was the last novel to make you laugh?

Man, that’s hard because I don’t laugh easily. Probably Cat’s Cradle by Vonnegut.

What was the last novel to make you cry?

Easy one. Dandelion Wine and the story of The Happiness Machine. 

What’s next for Dan Spalding and Richard Prosch?

I’m working on the next Spalding novel, Flip Side, and a new western novel based on my short story in the new Best of the West anthology from Sundown Press. We’re also releasing my three John Coburn e-book novellas in a print collection next month, so that will be fun.
Thx to Richard for his answers and for the many great stories in his short-story collections, novellas, and novels...And for all of his great stories yet to come...


  1. Thanks, Paul and Richard for this background to the Spalding outings, which I've just read and enjoyed. Yep, John MacD is THE MAN!

  2. Great interview. I've known Richard quite a while but still learned some new things from this.


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