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LAWLESS is a highly entertaining western anthology that deals with outlaws and and those who brush up against them. Editor Russell Davis made a point to get a balance of established names like Joe R Lansdale and Johnny D. Boggs and writers who deserve more attention. It carries highest consistency of quality in any collection I've read lately. Mr. Davis was kind enough to take some time to discuss putting it together.

SCOTT MONTGOMERY: I speak from experience that editing an anthology is a lot of time and work with little money and glory. What made you want to do Lawless?

RUSSELL DAVIS: LAWLESS is the fourth western anthology I've done, and while you're right in that there's a lot of time and work and little money and glory, I've never gotten tired of doing them. The American West is both history and myth, but the western genre itself is the only purely American genre of fiction. At its best, it informs us about our past (good and bad) and opens a window into the people and places that still influence us, and our view of ourselves, today. At its most basic level, it at least entertains. Ideally, it does both. LAWLESS was an opportunity for me to explore the outlaw trope in a unique way.

S.M.: What did you enjoy the most about the project?

R.D.: Probably how surprised I was by the stories themselves. I tend to do my best not to box authors in with projects like this, but there's always a surprise or two in every anthology. LAWLESS contained more surprises for me than usual, in terms of the kinds of stories that the authors wrote. As an editor, that's always a treat - the unexpected story that's not only good, but takes you in a direction you hadn't imagined. 

S.M.: Was there any requirements or mandates you had for the authors?

R.D.: Only that the story had to center on an outlaw and that I had to keep track of any famous outlaws being used, as I didn't want to have more than one story about any one known figure. 

S.M.: Did you notice if there was anything the stories had in common?

R.D.: The stories really do vary greatly, which was part of my intent from the beginning. There are little brushes with history, but I think most of the authors took advantage of the open subject go really write about characters and stories that might not show up in a more traditional anthology.

S.M.: Did any author surprise you with the type of story they turned in?

R.D.: I'd be remiss if I didn't mention James Ciccone's story THE MADMAN OF UNION COUNTY. I think I read it three or four times, before I fully grasped the genius of how he was handling different dialects. It's really a masterclass in how subtle that particular skill can be. Obviously, Joe Lansdale always delivers, but I wasn't expecting a story involving Edgar Rice Burroughs! I think all of the stories deliver at a pretty high level, and that's not just a treat for me, but a testament to how skilled they all are as writers.

S.M.: What has been most rewarding about doing Lawless?

R.D.: I'm always happy to be a part of adding to the western genre. It's an honor, really, to work with both established names in the field, but to give an opportunity to publish stories from people like Katrina Carrasco or Melissa Lenhardt, who may not have been exposed as much to western readers. Given the resurgence of westerns on television and in film, I think anything I can do to show that from a literature perspective, there are many more stories to tell is very rewarding. 


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