Sunday, April 5, 2020

Book Blog Tour - Destiny's Way: A Novel of the Big Bend by Ben H. English

DESTINY'S WAY
A Novel of the Big Bend
by
Ben H. English

Genres: Historical Fiction / Suspense
Publisher: Creative Texts Publishers
Date of Publication: January 18, 2020
Number of Pages: 363
Kate Blanchard woke up one morning in a dream home she could no longer afford, with a young son who needed a man’s influence, and not a friend among those who had claimed to be prior to her husband’s mysterious disappearance.

About all she had left was a ramshackle ranch along Terlingua Creek, sitting forlornly in the desolate reaches of the lower Big Bend. It was the only place left she could go. There she finds a home and a presence of something strange yet comforting that she can’t put her finger on or fully understand.

With that ethereal presence comes Solomon Zacatecas, a loner with his own past and a knowledge of her land near uncanny in nature. He helps her when no one else can and is honest when no one else will be, but she suspicions that he is not always completely so.

Yet her quiet, unassuming neighbor proves to be more than capable in whatever situation arises. That includes when standing alone against those who would take everything else that Kate had, including her life as well as her son’s.
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PRAISE FOR DESTINY'S WAY:
This is one of those rare books that you simply can't put down. Ben English 's writing style is pure magic. He really brings this historical fiction book to life. Immediately, you are drawn to the main characters Kate and Solomon and feel as though you are right there next to them, experiencing what they are experiencing. Destiny's Way is one that would do well on the Silver Screen.” -- Catherine Eaves, published author

Ben does a superb job with this book! Excellent characters, true-to-life environment that is part and parcel of the story, twists and turns enough to make you wonder what is going on, and a slice of life down in Big Bend that rings true. That area has historically been full of 'characters' throughout its history, and Ben brings those characters into the book, raising the hair on the back of your neck. Highly recommended!” -- J. L. Curtis, author of the Grey Man series

Ben, I love how your words and your memories reach out and connect the past with the present and touch so many people along the way. You are the connector! Bravo Zulu, my friend.” -- Matt Walter, Museum of the Big Bend Curator

Ben H. English is an eighth-generation Texan who grew up in the Big Bend. At seventeen he joined the Marines, ultimately becoming a chief scout-sniper as well as a platoon sergeant. Later he worked counterintelligence and traveled to over thirty countries. 

At Angelo State University he graduated Magna Cum Laude along with other honors. Afterwards Ben had a career in the Texas Highway Patrol, holding several instructor billets involving firearms, driving, and defensive tactics.

His intimate knowledge of what he writes about lends credence and authenticity to his work. Ben knows how it feels to get hit and hit back, or being thirsty, cold, wet, hungry, alone, or exhausted beyond imagination. Finally, he knows of not only being the hunter but also the hunted.

Ben and his wife have two sons who both graduated from Annapolis. He still likes nothing better than grabbing a pack and some canteens and heading out to where few others venture.

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TOP FIFTEEN CLASSIC WESTERN MOVIES FOR THE BIG BEND
(Because there was no way I could keep it at ten…)
by Ben H. English


Motion pictures and television shows of certain genres have given guidance as well as inspiration for my writing, and no more so than the classic Western. Please note the use of the word “classic” as nothing truly noteworthy seems to have come along in some time now. In fact, the creative juices of this industry have gone so stale as to only offer simple rehashes of movies and TV shows from a half century ago, and usually not that well done.

But be that as it may, there are plenty of films from the past to keep those like myself entertained. Below is a list of fifteen, with comments as to why they made the list. I know I looked over at least a hundred more, but I tried to give as wide a scope of stories, actors, and backgrounds as possible. Enjoy.
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1. Ride the High Country (1962): Director Sam Peckinpah’s first movie and partially penned by him, and to me his finest. Everyone in this was or ended up being a recognizable Hollywood commodity, and none of them were ever in better form. Headlined by an aging Joel McCrae and Randolph Scott, it is a memorable story of integrity, courage, and friendship. In my opinion, it is an absolute masterpiece.

2. The Good Old Boys (1995): The great Elmer Kelton from Crane, Texas, wrote the novel, and it was screen-adapted by none other than Texas-born Tommy Lee Jones. Filmed mostly in the Big Bend area, it portrays true-to-life characters that only a real West Texan could ever fully understand. A poignant turn-of-the-century tale of changing times and those having to cope with those changes.

3. Lonely Are The Brave (1962): A little known and less appreciated black-and-white film starring Kirk Douglas, this is the only “modern” Western on my list. The theme of the individual from another era trying to fit into modern society has seldom been better done. This is a story for the ages, and perhaps even more timely now than when made nearly sixty years ago.

4. Valdez Is Coming (1971): This is the only “Spaghetti Western” allowed into the group, though in actuality it was filmed in Spain. Headlined by Burt Lancaster, this movie originally opened to mostly critical reviews but has since steadily increased to almost cult-film status. It is also one that has stayed in my mind over that time, and the astute viewer will see certain strands also found in Destiny’s Way.

5. The Professionals (1966): Starring Lee Marvin, Burt Lancaster, Woody Strode, Robert Ryan, Jack Palance, and Ralph Bellamy, this is a wide-open Mexican Revolution-era film that has more than one surprise along the way and a host of one-liners that made movie history. The weapons are authentic, the stunts and special effects first rate, the mountains and desert well selected, and the story is explosively on edge from beginning to end. Two thumbs up!

6. The Unforgiven (1960): Not the overhyped and overrated Eastwood movie of some years ago, but rather a hidden classic detailing love, prejudice, and the clash of warrior-like civilizations. Headlined by such notables as Burt Lancaster, Audie Murphy, John Saxon, and the stunningly beautiful Audrey Hepburn, this was one of the earlier films that strived hard at authenticity in dress, weapons, structures, and the hard, sometimes brutal life found on the Texas frontier of the 1870s.

7. The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976): This was Clint Eastwood’s best offering ever as far as a Western, no matter what he did before or after. Taken from the novel Gone To Texas and set amidst the violence of the Kansas-Missouri guerilla fighting during the War Between The States, it trails from that locale to its final scenes, supposedly placed in the Davis Mountains. A great story, great acting, and a great finale.

8. Monte Walsh (2003): There were two versions of this film made, one in 1970 with Lee Marvin, and later a remake starring Tom Selleck in 2003. This is actually a rare case where I give the nod to the remake. Another story of the rugged individual trying to find his way through a world changing before his very eyes, Monte Walsh is a saga worth the retelling. A final word: if you possibly can watch both versions, the bronc ride in the Lee Marvin film is leather-tough poetry in the saddle.

9. The Shootist (1976): John Wayne in his final role as a dying gunfighter who has lived life the way he saw fit and now plans to meet death in the same manner. With a superbly written story line and an absolutely fantastic cast, this is a memorable Western. I believe that everyone, including the Duke, knew this was his final time around. They took extra care in making it a proper send off.

10. Barbarosa (1982): Though hardly known and heavily panned when released, Willie Nelson turns in his best acting performance ever as a bandit/gunfighter incessantly pursued by a large Mexican family. Almost entirely filmed in the lower Big Bend country, the scenery backdrop is well worth the admission itself. Gary Busey backs up Nelson as a farm boy trying to escape his own past. A rollicking yet poignant story, this is one of the best “sleeper” Westerns around.

11. Rio Conchos (1964): Another overlooked Western that few have heard of these days, it stars Richard Boone, Stuart Whitman, Jim Brown, Tony Franciosa, and Edmond O’Brien in a post-War Between the States drama where ex-Confederates attempt to refight the conflict by arming Apaches. Though not filmed on location, the movie’s title refers to the Rio Conchos that joins with the Rio Grande near Presidio. A special nod goes to Richard Boone, who is at the top of his game following his role as Paladin in the highly successful TV series, Have Gun Will Travel.

12. Conagher (1991): A low-key, made-for-television Western with Sam Elliot in the title role, the screenplay stays very close to the original novel by Louis L’Amour. It is a story with lessons of honesty and honor, “riding for the brand,” and what happens when someone violates that code. This movie was the last performance by the multi-talented Ken Curtis, who did everything from Festus in Gunsmoke to singing in the Tommy Dorsey band after Sinatra struck out on his own. The movie was dedicated to his memory.

13. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962): A John Ford production filmed in black and white, the choice in doing so only adds to the starkness of the story itself. Pairing John Wayne with Jimmy Stewart in lead roles, while Lee Marvin plays Liberty Valance, this was a collaborative effort by everyone involved to produce one of the great morality plays of its time. It also led to a very successful song by Gene Pitney, ultimately reaching the top ten on the charts.

14. How The West Was Won (1962): Proclaimed as one of the greatest movies ever, this film brings such a vast array of talents as to make the mind boggle at the scope. Basically five different stories with four different directors and accompanying stars to carry the plot along, there is no way that any such movie could be made now due to today’s Hollywood culture. It was so good that, in an unusual move, Western author Louis L’Amour wrote a novel adapted from the screenplay. If you decide to watch, do yourself a favor and view the film in its original widescreen format. You will not regret it.

15. The Magnificent Seven (1960): An all-star cast, a rousing action-packed tale of personal as well as professional ethics, and a musical score without peer, this movie was a classic must-see from the day it debuted. In the decades following, The Magnificent Seven spawned numerous sequels, spin-offs, parodies, imitators, and an unfortunate remake best described as an expensive joke. Supposedly based on the Japanese film The Seven Samurai, it goes its own way with a style that will never again be successfully emulated due to names such as Yul Brunner, Steve McQueen, Eli Wallach, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, Robert Vaughn, and others. You will walk away suitably powder burned, satisfied, and wondering why they can’t make ╩╝em like they used to.
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VISIT THE OTHER GREAT BLOGS ON THE TOUR:
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4/2/20
BONUS Post
4/3/20
Review
4/4/20
Excerpt
4/5/20
Top 15 List
4/6/20
Review
4/7/20
Playlist
4/8/20
Review
4/9/20
Author Interview
4/10/20
Review
4/11/20
Review
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3 comments:

  1. WHAT a list! Thanks for the post.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Especially Barbarosa and The Shootist! (Wonder if Amazon has "Conagher"?)

    ReplyDelete
  3. the colors for the cover really pop. great list. i've seen quite a few of them
    sherry @ fundinmental

    ReplyDelete