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Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Making of The Magnificent Mendozas

The story of The Magnificent Mendozas runs something like this:

Southern Colorado, 1879. The gringo town of Conejos Blancos has just hosted the Mexican circus; no sooner do they move on to their next venue when Hart and over thirty desperadoes take over the town – and the adjacent silver mine! The sheriff is slaughtered and many of the citizens are held hostage.

            In desperation, two boys escape from the locked-down town. They recruit seven Mexican circus performers, the Magnificent Mendozas: the troupe comprises Mateo, the leader, and his wife Josefa, both expert knife-throwers; José, younger brother of Mateo, a trick rider who lusts after Josefa; Antonio Rivera, sharpshooter; Juan Suaréz, gymnast and trapeze artist with his companion Arcadia Mendoza, who is also expert with bow and arrow; and Ramon Mendoza, escapologist. In order to penetrate the cordon of sentries and free the hostages, the troupe employs their many skills.

            Not everything runs smoothly, however. Soon, it’s a battle of wits between the Mendozas, Hart and his men and the townspeople. There’s betrayal, bravery and plenty of quick-fire action… and death on both sides.

If you read yesterday’s blog (Magic Seven), you might have a strong inkling how I was influenced to write this book.

A few years ago, I was intrigued by the Mexican government’s objection to how Mexicans were perceived in several western movies. So, I thought, why not turn the idea on its head?  Instead of gringos coming to Mexico, why not have some Mexicans helping out a gringo town?  Then I had to decide who these Mexicans were going to be. I didn’t want to slavishly copy the original western (though that was a copy, as we know, of a Japanese movie). So, I would not make the Mexicans gunfighters. Then, after I’d done a little research, it came to me in a blinding flash.

Many circuses toured the American West in the latter half of the nineteenth century, and several were Spanish or Mexican. Before I began writing The Magnificent Mendozas, I noticed a little film had been released and for an instant my heart sank. Was The Warrior’s Way (2010) going to ruin my storyline? Would I have to make adjustments to avoid copying? (Synchronicity in creative work crops up a lot, more than plagiarism, and that will make a blog one day, too!) The Warrior’s Way is a fantasy where East meets West and although it features a circus and fairground, it is happily nothing like my storyline: it is weird, colourful and quite spectacular, however.
So, now I had to knuckle down and create a circus troupe who would in effect be the magnificent seven. Like the movie characters, each would possess a skill that would prove useful. [I felt that the skills of the seven men in the movie were underplayed at the end, but that might have to do with the rushed script and filming as much as anything else.] That’s one of several unwritten laws about character creation – if your character has a skill, she or he should be seen to use it.

I enjoyed plotting the book, and writing it. I was a little daunted by the number of subsidiary characters (who had to be named), but noted that most genre films of this type would have a similar number in the cast. Here, I purposefully mention ‘films of this type’ while referring to this book, as it was my intention to write cinematically as much as possible, while still sticking to character point of view for particular scenes.

Initially, I wanted my seven to avoid killing since they were not hired gunmen though they had experience at killing in their past; a small departure from the shoot ‘em up perception of westerns. Inevitably, the action ramps up to a point where that becomes impossible and the killings do begin… At risk are not only the seven, but the townsfolk held hostage. And there will be deaths and loss on both sides, as the blurb promises…
Tomorrow, I’ll post an excerpt and continue with this analysis.

You can obtain a hardback copy of The Magnificent Mendozas

From the book depository, post-free worldwide here
From Amazon UK here
From Amazon COM here


Jack Strandburg said...

Nik- good article and very interesting premise!

Nik said...

Thanks for the comment, Jack. Appreciated!