Monday, May 13, 2013

Shakespeare's Julius Caesar - in the Old West

Many years ago I read that John Ford had wanted to do a western version of King Lear. He never got around to it, but someone else did: in 2002 TNT aired King of Texas, with Patrick Stewart as the patriarchal John Lear (with a screenplay by Stephen Harrigan.)

The bard had been brought to the big screen in chaps before- in 1956 Glenn Ford, Ernest Borgnine, Valerie French and Rod Steiger appeared in the film Jubal, adapted from the Paul Wellman novel Jubal Troop -a western re-telling of Othello.

Both those adaptations worked pretty well, and that's not surprising. I've said often that what I like most about the western genre is the opportunity for a storyteller to strip away the veneers and get at the most primal passions of the characters -and Shakespeare was a master at that. the combination, then, as not as incongruous as it might seem to most folks. In fact, it is a natural.

I decided to try the same thing, a few years before the Patrick Stewart novel came out, in a short story called "Judah King," which is a western retelling of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. Judah is a charming, ambitious psychopath, who has pulled the wool over the eyes of a western town's citizens -he has become the local lawman, and has set a trajectory for higher office... but his oldest friend Mark Brules is starting to think Judah has gone too far, and become too dangerous. But what can he do...?

You can check out the story as a 99-cent ebook single, or in the short story collection Red Trail (which has more than a dozen other stories, as well.)

Judah King

Red Trail


  1. I became intrigued by the use of Shakespeare's works many years ago when I read that his plays were the most popular in the Old West. Many old cowhands could quote Shakespeare (I have one in my current WIP), and they knew when the players messed up. Hence, Much Ado About...

    So of course I'm also intrigued by your short story. :) While I'm not saying anyone compares with old Will, your characterizations are also outstanding--this story has to be good!

  2. Thanks for the kind words! I hope I can match your expectations, measure for measure, and it's not just much ado about nothing!