I’ve been writing a couple of western horror novellas over the last month or so, and my reading has turned toward that genre. George Gilman’s Edge series has been a favorite (at least, the books I can find on Apple Books have been), but the all-time western champ for me is Matt Braun.

From range detective Luke Starbuck to real-life personalities like Wyatt Earp and Doc Holiday, Braun’s characters and stories are vivid and entertaining. 

Today, I want to look at one of my favorite Braun books, Dodge City, about frontier lawyer Harry Gryden and his flamboyant efforts to ensure justice is served. 

Braun weaves a narrative with plenty of familiar western faces: Wyatt Earp, the Masterson brothers, and Doc Holliday, and tells the story in a fundamentally entertaining way. With that in mind, there are three things I want to look at:

  1. Create a character that brings the story together.

The events of Dodge City only work through the eyes of Harry Gryden and his legal practice. If a different protagonist was chosen, it would change the story completely. 

While the story revolves around the courtroom, the events outside the court are just as important, if not more important.

  1. Don’t be afraid to make your character unpopular

Gryden takes the cases no one wants, including him. We see him get a murderer off on a technicality, a move that makes him rather unpopular among the citizens of Dodge City. Was it the right decision? That’s debatable, even in the real world almost 150 years after the supposed events took place!

  1. Know Your Stuff

Braun succeeds because his research is impeccable. He knows the history of the west and the people who lived it backward and forward, and you can see it in his books. Details are the difference between good and great, and Braun is great because he knows his stuff.

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