Today, Norm Goldman Publisher & Editor of Bookpleasures.com is honored to have as our guestJohn H. Manhold, author of El Tigre: The Life and Times of El Tigre Viejo.
Johnis a retired professor and scientific journal editor. He is the author of several textbooks, a lexicon in four languages and now novels that often require extensive research. He provides coaching on various types and phases of writing. He is active in Cowboy Action Shooting and Cowboy Fast Draw.
Good day John and thanks for participating in our interview.
I thank you, and am most pleased to have the opportunity to do so.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I really am not sure I ever have stopped to think about it. I realize that today there seems to be a great concentration on fitting a person into a specific niche, and there is an almost frightening desire to attain the status of ‘a published author’. This is fine, as long as it is enjoyable, and one is aware of the work that follows in marketing the product. But to answer the question, I go back a long way to when there still was belief in the Renaissance way of life. Writing was something that was part of my lecturing, researching and consulting. I enjoyed, and ‘just did it’.
What do you see as the influences on your writing?
I love action, sports, and history. They all influence my writing. I have actively participated in numerous sports up through college, and continued, mostly with golf and boating, beyond that time. Actually, I played quite a bit of golf on an international level until ‘maturity’ caught up with me. Then, I returned to an earlier sport of competitive shooting.
Can you share a little of El Tigre: The Life and Times of El Tigre Viejowith us?
During the Texas fight for freedom, one of men observing Johann’s devastating method of attack says, “Madre de Dios, El Capitain es un tigre,” thinking of the much feared and respected jaguar of the southwest territories that he knew so well, and the name sticks. Johann Heinrich von
Manfred is a product of the famous, or infamous, Kriegsakademie of the Prussian Era of European dominance. He enters school at 10 years of age, is forced to leave several years later after an unfortunate encounter with schoolmates, heads to France where he champions a band of gypsies, then, through the Pyrenees and on to Spain where he fights for Carlos, Pretender to the Spanish throne.
The Carlists do not do so well and he leaves for America where he joins Houston for Texas independence and stays on as a ranger. Texas runs out of money, so he heads to Old California, where he saves the life of a Don and his huge land grant properties. He marries the daughter, defends the hacienda in the Mexican War, discovers gold in ’49 and opens the second bank in San Francisco.
What was the most difficult part of writing your book?
Attempting to reduce parts of history to an understandable level that still would be short enough so as not to slow down the action one expects to find in a novel. The amount of data available leading up to the 1st Carlist war is huge, and the precipitating factors for the Texas fight for independence not only are many, but confusing as well.
Where did you get your information or ideas for your book?
The title was easy. I am a member of the Single Action Shooting Society (SASS) and each member must choose an alias that is accepted only after headquarters signifies that it is not a duplicate of any other. Once recorded, that alias belongs only to that person, and in all competitions, he/she dresses the part of the alias. I have spent considerable time in Mexico and in Spain, having owned property in the latter for several years. I have both Mexican clothes and those of Spanish Dons. My alias is El Tigre Viejo, or The Old Tiger.I also had a grandfather who was a graduate of the Kriegsakademie and received several medals for valor in the Franco-Prussian War, and two uncles who were gunfighters in the Nebraska Territory.
How did you develop the plot and characters? Did you use any set formula?
Actually, I do not like using a set formula, and am not alone. Every meeting one attends of western writers, or those of historical fiction, there is constant discussion about the need to find new plots and characters for the genres to survive. This is exactly what I have done. I have taken a Prussian aristocratic boy and placed him originally in several European settings before bringing him to America, where he still functions quite differently than in the usual ‘western’ story.
Do you agree that to have good drama there must be an emotional charge that usually comes from the individual squaring off against antagonists either out in the world or within himself or herself? If so, please elaborate and how does it fit into you novel?
I definitely would agree with you that the emotional charge is a must for most novels to succeed today. James Fennimore Cooper, Bulwer Lytton and others could provide a more leisurely pace in their day. By contrast, with the fast pace of life, TV, hand-held phones, texting, and the level of non-stop violence in motion pictures, today’s reader wants almost non-stop action.
An amusing comment made to me about El Tigre was that the reader was really hooked by the fist fight in the first seven pages.I am a little surprised, actually, that I have been able to include as much historical detail as I have in El T. But, interestingly, that actually has been most favourably commented upon by several reviewers. So, perhaps, we are being too harsh in our estimation of the today’s reader and his attention span.
It is said that writers should write what they know. Were there any elements of the book that forced you to step out of your comfort zone, and if so, how did you approach this part of the writing?
To be truthful, I avoided stepping out of my comfort zone. Having travelled and lived pretty much throughout much of the United States and the world, I know the terrain and only must be sure that I can describe it in the proper time frame. With respect to historical facts, my business for many years has been research. The opportunities to introduce intimate scenes, which often spice up a book today, were there, but I am of my generation that still uses restraint in this matter. So, I guess I didn’t have to deal with situations beyond my comfort zone, because I didn’t allow them to arise.
I noticed from your website that you have produced some beautiful sculptures that reside in collections both within and outside the USA. How would you compare the process of producing a sculpture to that of writing a novel?
Producing a novel and certain pieces of sculpture are very similar. Working with stone is completely different. A novel, you know where you are going and you are the director and have only a few things to think about. Sculpture, using clay or wax, is similar, but with a couple of other things to think about. You also must think about the patina (each requires use of different chemicals, heat, etc.) and about mounting. I remember doing a bust of an early pioneer woman on commission, and mounted it on a somewhat truncated base that completely spoiled the image. Fortunately, I was able to redo the mounting before delivery.
With stone, you never are quite sure what you will get. I began making the head of a Mandarin, with long beard and all, in a piece of steatite. The stone said no. I ended with a Ram’s head. Stone will have internal stress lines that can fracture. Also, pieces will break off from no noticeable fracture lines, and different types of stone have different characteristics. African Wonder Stone is very soft and works easily. Granite is so hard you only work it if you have obtained a sizeable commission.
Are you working on any books/projects that you would like to share with us? (We would love to hear all about them!)
I have a modern adventure/mystery manuscript that is scheduled to be published in October. It is titled The Elymais Coin, and is the story of a lawyer/private investigator who is hired by a very wealthy coin collector to buy a 3000-year-old coin. The coin leads to several murders and a chase that moves from New York to Paris, Andorra, Barcelona, and then Morocco, where there is involvement in a CIA sponsored attack on a secret cell of al-Qaida. Then the scene shifts to Mexico, and back to the United States. The investigator is able to obtain the coin, but more trouble ensues because it is involved in a subversive plan by a Muslim group to attack the United States from its very core – the Presidency.
I also have another historical novel that should be ready by next year. It is entitled LOBO. Itfollows the growth of a young Ohio farm boy who survives a massacre on the Oregon trail and servitude with the Cheyenne to be liberated by a visiting nobleman who takes him to England to be educated at Eton. Here, he is forced into a duel and kills a broker, who is important to the livelihood of members of the aristocracy who are bewildered by the changes in mores brought about by the Industrial Revolution. He flees to America, arrives in New Orleans where he becomes a fencing master, gains a beautiful Creole paramour and survives the pre-, during, and post- Civil War Era to emerge as an important member of the Reconstruction Era.
And, of course, El Tigre II, is about half done in its first draft.
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