No one knows Texas Rangers quite like Jeff Gulvin.
Despite the fact that he holds a British passport, Gulvin has been fascinated with the American West for years–he and his British wife even got married in Idaho and had their reception at a local bar. This passion led to his thriller series featuring John Quarrie, an old-school Texas Ranger living in the late 1960s.
In the first installment of the series, titled The Long Count, Quarrie delves into a twisted case of family secrets and murder after a child’s skull is discovered along the banks of the Red River. Gulvin's eye and feel for Western tropes made The Long Count a hit, and led to a sequel, 2017's The Contract. We asked Gulvin to share where he gets his American West inspiration.
1. Lone Star
In this modern-day Western that Gulvin hails as “one of the best ever,” Texas sheriff Sam Deeds (Chris Cooper) investigates an apparent murder after a body is uncovered at a job site. Soon he suspects his deceased father–and beloved former town sheriff–in the crime, unraveling a web of deceit surrounding his imposing old man.
2. No Country for Old Men
Although it reached fame as a Coen brothers-directed film, the story–about a man who steals abandoned drug money and the events he set into motion–was the brainchild of Pulitzer Prize–winning author Cormac McCarthy. Set along the Texas-Mexico border, this thriller was McCarthy’s first after the conclusion of his acclaimed Border Trilogy of All the Pretty Horses, The Crossing, and Cities of the Plains–all titles Gulvin recommends.
A lot can happen in a lawless, South Dakotan gold-mining town, including good old-fashioned brawls, murders, and mercy killings. But don’t expect HBO’s historical fiction series to end with a perfectly tied bow; it got cancelled before creator and writer David Milch could wrap up the story line. Already binged on all three seasons? Gulvin cites Hell on Wheels–a story set in the work camps along the Union Pacific Railroad–as another favorite. Readers can also prepare themselves for the hotly-anticipated Deadwood movie, which recently, and finally, began production.
Related: “Some Mysteries are Best Left Alone”
4. Coogan’s Bluff
Clint Eastwood plays small-town Arizona deputy sheriff Walt Coogan, who has to track down a fugitive in the Big Apple. This 1968 police thriller marked the first time Eastwood and director Don Siegel teamed up (they went on to make Dirty Harry in 1971). Coogan’s Bluff stylistically influenced Gulvin, who says he imagines his own main character to dress like Eastwood’s rough-and-tumble sheriff.
Featured still from 'No Country for Old Men' via Paramount Vintage