Three Bad Men John Ford, John Wayne, Ward Bond by Scott Allen Nollen

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Growing up all three of these men were an integral part of my childhood. Specifically John “Pappy” Ford in the cinemas and of course John Wayne ‘Duke’ and Ward Bond as well, but Mr Bond had the added distinction of being in my folks’ living rooms each week as Major Seth Adams, in Wagon Train.

Of course, I saw all the films and television shows long after they were initially made. The films, I saw on Saturday night at the movies (usually accompanied by a huge bowl of popcorn and a tall ice filled glass of Coca-Cola) and the Wagon Train episodes I watched were the newer ones with John McIntire with the occasional re-run with Ward Bond in. Come to think of it, the McIntire ones were probably re-runs as well.

I do remember with perfect clarity that my family adored the John Wayne film Rio Bravo and we watched it every single time it came on the telly. The Searchers was another family favourite because it was a John Ford film with both Duke and Bond in it; not to mention Hank Worden as good ole Mose Harper. Another John Ford favourite was The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

John "Pappy" Ford.
John “Pappy” Ford.

This book, lovingly crafted by Mr Nollen, tells the warts and all story of this triangular “bro-mance” long before that phrase came into vogue. These three remarkably talented men had a love affair with one another that abided until death. Not in a sexual sense, although rumours persisted that Pappy might just have an inclination “that way.” But in a father and two sons sense. Ford often spent more time with his two adopted sons than he did his own children.

Besides taking an in-depth look at all three men, Nollen gives one of the best breakdowns of Wardell Edwin Bond’s career than any other book I’ve read. I never realised that on top of the television shows he made, Bond had over 271 screen credits in films alone. Besides this all-encompassing career breakdown, we learn more of Ward himself, what made the man tick and why, perhaps, he did some of the more unpopular things that he did.

I have long been a fan of all three men and it was delightful to see such an honest telling of these men’s relationship with one another and the myths that they built and embellished over the years. It is disappointing to lose that childlike reverence for great artists, but it is more important to have an adult’s respect for what they accomplished on-screen and off; good and bad.

Wayne, for all his American for all seasons hero, personally stood for political things that hurt his personal image. These same political stances also hurt others in the same industry. Bond had similar feelings and he too practised a very biased type of politics that, like Wayne’s, could be vengeful. It was surprising, to me, to find that John Ford didn’t agree with either of his “two boys” in the area of politics, for I’d assumed (wrongly) that politically all three were peas in the same pod.

John Fords The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.
John Fords The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

Nollen has given us a personal look at three legends of the silver screen, big and small, and talked to some of the people who worked right along side of them. For a fan of these three talented men, this is a gold mine of a book. I only wish I could have afforded the hardback version instead of having to buy the eBook version.

Not because the eBook is less readable, but for a book about such old Hollywood legends, it would be nice to have an old-fashioned book to hold and look at.

I cannot end this review without giving thanks to Colin over at Riding the High Country blog for making me aware of this book through his excellent review of it.

If you are into books about the entertainment business this will be a 5 out of 5 stars. Only the rules of math keep me from giving it a 6 out of 5.

Wardell Edwin Bond.
Wardell Edwin Bond.

ARBOREATUM by Evans Light: The Apple of His Eye

UnknownARBOREATUM by Evans Light is a novella length story about  two settler families who have branched off from their main wagon train because of the religious rantings of their self-appointed leader, Lemuel. He  claims to have had a revelation about finding the Garden of Eden in the middle of the prairie that they are attempting to cross.

After the two families get lost and are starving, they find a valley that looks like Lemuel might just have been right. Unfortunately their way is blocked by a non-welcoming party of four indians. This doesn’t stop Lemuel though, he immediately blows one of the “warriors” head off and his friend and follower Sam Jenkins follows suit.

After all four of the indians have been murdered, the families take possession of this apparent paradise, things go wrong very quickly and it looks like they’d have been better off listening to the “locals.”

At 75 pages this just taps into “novella” territory, but the story moves at a good pace and I do have to say that I was impressed by the storyline and the twist. I certainly did not see that coming. So in terms of plot and plot devices, I was very pleased surprised. Something that does not happen too often these days.

My only complaint was the dialogue and some of the sentence phrasing. It had too much of a twentieth century feel to it.

At the beginning of the story, young Micah Jenkins (son of Sam, and yes I only just caught that) is thinking about how the two families got stranded in the middle of the prairie. When he reveals that the reason they became separated from the main group is because of Lemuel “going all messianic;”  the phrase is way too “modern.” The time period when the story is set would not have featured such a turn of phrase.

Another part of the story has Micah recalling how he caught Lemuel’s oldest daughter Anna in the act of “fondling” her private parts; but, Micah uses a very modern term to describe the part of her nether region that she was touching. Both of these sentences had the effect of taking me out of the story. I am reasonably sure that the slang term Micah uses in the story was not in vogue just yet. So like the previous phrase, both of these instances (these were the most obvious) took away from Evans’ tale.

But, the overall story and the action almost made up for it. As I said it was a brilliant idea and one that certainly impressed me. Just for the plot alone, I’ve given the book a 3 out of 5 stars. In terms of originality, I personally think it rates much higher, but, again the dialogue did not ring true for me. So the modern phrasing of the characters knocked the final rating down.

I’ll definitely be reading some more from Mr Light. If the rest of his works are as original, I don’t think I’ll be too disappointed.

Evans Light. Photo courtesy of Goodreads.com
Evans Light. Photo courtesy of Goodreads.com