Johnny Boggs was born in South Carolina, but the love of the west was in his heart from an early age.
Johnny Boggs was born in South Carolina, but the love of the west was in his heart from an early age. He described himself as a kid who "grew up watching Gunsmoke."
Boggs is a regular contributor to True West magazine, writing the features "Renegade Roads" and "Unleashed." He is also the author of more than 60 western fiction novels. Boggs was in town doing research for a couple of projects he is working on. The Globe was fortunate enough to share lunch with him Monday.
Boggs' first career was in the newspaper business. He graduated from the University of South Carolina with a degree in journalism and took a job as a sports writer for the Dallas Times. He got the job through a professor who taught copy editing. The professor had given Boggs the name of a contact in Dallas, saying "You want to go west. Write this guy and tell him you know me."
Boggs was still working at the newspaper when he wrote his first novels and began doing freelance work. He had been freelancing since the early 90's when he came home after a hard day and he told his wife he needed a change.
"It was July of 1998 and I came home and said, 'Let's sell the house and move to Santa Fe.'"
His wife made contact with a company in New Mexico and found a job and within a few months, they had moved. They still reside in Santa Fe where Boggs' wife works in real estate and he writes.
Of western characters he finds most interesting, Boggs said he finds Frank James intriguing, more so than Jesse, since the elder James brother lived to a ripe old age and outlived, to a degree, his negative image. He said he especially admires Buffalo Bill who made the wild west known to the entire world. Boggs said there is a photo of Bufflo Bill as an older man staring up into the sky at an airplane. Boggs finds that image important as a view of Cody's life spanning different worlds.
When asked how hard it is to select a subject for a project, Boggs said "Ideas aren't the problem. It's picking one that's difficult."
Sometimes he is asked to do a specific story, and finds the research is problematic.
"I was asked to do a story about Ten Bears, who was at the Medicine Lodge Treaty, but it seemed that speaking at Medicine Lodge was all there was to find out about him."
Boggs also says he has to remind people that he is a novelist, not a historian.
"There's a story about Jesse James jumping a chasm on his horse to get away from a posse at Devil's Gorge in South Dakota. When you see the gorge it's obvious that there's no way the horse and the rider could survive that jump. Later, I went to speak at a conference, and a historian asked why I put that story in my book when it obviously wasn't true. I said 'No way I am giving up a scene like that in a western novel.'
"That's why I tell people, 'don't quote me in your term paper.'"
When asked about the future of the west in books and film, Boggs says it seems to be growing. He said he has a group of friends in Santa Fe and they have "western movie night" about once a month. They were discussing whether or not a certain movie could be considered a "western." Boggs said he argued that it was.
"It was men with hats and guns bringing law and order to the west."