Slow West

Okay so Slow West should be on your radar. It’s a masterful, reinvention of the Western. Gorgeously shot, too.



The first thing that came to mind when I saw it was, This is the Western film the Coen Brothers never made. But you know, that’s kinda not fair to first time director John Maclean. He nailed it.

And the music. And the colors. And the sardonic view of Frontier mythology. Yes.

New story “Where We Bury Our Dead” at Third Point Press

My (short!) story “Where We Bury Our Dead” is in the first issue of Third Point Press:

When I was sixteen and we were living in the split-level with Ray, things between us got real bad so I ran away, hitched with a trucker named Bicho who smelled like menthols even though I never saw him smoke once in the week I was gone. He asked me where I was going and I said south to the land of giants and he smiled like he understood, said, “Sure, Miss Lydia, wherever you want.”

Love these guys. Sleek and beautiful design, an incredible line-up for a first issue…they’re doing it right. Check ‘em out.

Black Angel

So, I’ve been hearing about the short film Black Angel for as long as I can remember. It was shown theatrically before The Empire Strikes Back and then disappeared—or lost, or whatever—but they (whoever they are) found the negatives and, seeing as this is 2015, now the whole thing is online. Yay technology!

But this is pretty great. It’s weird. And brooding. A dark fantasy wonderland with some gorgeous settings and cinematography. Definitely worth watching (and it’s only 27 minutes). Also: I could really get into short films being shown before movies again. What a neat idea they should bring back.

New story “Fire Starter” at LossLit Magazine

I’m honored to have my story “Fire Starter” in Issue One of the wonderful LossLit Magazine:

And it was always the same story, her strategy never changing: get the girl she was fighting in a headlock, pull out her busted-up blue Bic gas station lighter, and set her hair ablaze. Granted, it never lasted long, someone always put it out, but no onlooker, no matter how much they hated her, would every try to intervene when they saw Katie pull the lighter out—as if daring her to do it again, to prove she still had it in her. She always did.

A hearty thanks to LossLit editors/founders Aki Schilz and Kit Caless for allowing me to a part of this. What they’re doing, trying to define (and redefine) what “loss” is in literature, is a marvel. Also love that they’re asking contributors to, as they put it, “nominate an existing, published book that they think deserves to be recognized in a new canon of literature driven by loss.” My nomination: Dybek’s Coast of Chicago. Definitely check these guys out. They rock.

The Missing

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2003’s The Missing—starring Cate Blanchett and directed by Ron Howard—is a mighty, mighty film. Flew very under the radar. And a huge inspiration for a new novel I’m working on. Billed as a Revisionist Western, it’s stark and well-paced and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since I first saw it. Gets under your skin (like a good film should).

New story “Dead Dogs” at Revolution John

My story “Dead Dogs” is up at the fantastic journal Revolution John, a story about drugs and borders and mothers and sons:

So Blake studies the sky, dawn quickly fading to night, stands and surveys the river. Alone, he unwraps the blanket, admires the dog—a mutt, looks like he has some Rottweiler in him—then the stitched-up gash running along its breast, black string glistening from the leaking fluids, its eyes already turning the color of milk. Blake sniffs, loud, then spits out into the river, picks up the dog and tosses it overboard. Once in the water he waits, watches it float back to the surface, and with his fishing net he pushes it west, southeast toward Detroit, and watches as the water carries it gently forward, bobbing amongst the waves toward the other side.

Thanks to Eric Boyd and Sheldon Lee Compton at Revolution John for taking this—so honored to be included.

Mesilla: Synopsis and stuff

September 2015 will see the release of my Western novel Mesilla. I am beyond excited about it. I’ve loved Westerns nearly my whole life, and working with Dane Bahr and Dock Street Press has been an absolute dream. I’m also excited to officially unveil the back-of-the-book synopsis:

1863, New Mexico Territory. Shot full of holes and on the run from the relentless pursuit of his one-time friend now intent on retribution, Confederate deserter Everett Root finds himself navigating the brutal desert headed to the town of Mesilla, where he believes salvation lies. But when Everett stumbles on a cache of silver, and a young girl who’s lost everything, he is forced to take stock of his past and his future. Full of sprawling landscapes and wild gunmen, Mesilla is a story of one man’s resolve to rectify the wrongs he has committed and make peace with his place in the world.

And it’s already received some advance praise from Matthew Gavin Frank, author of the incredible Preparing the Ghost:

“In a mounting gush of sumptuous prose, Robert James Russell’s Mesilla scrubs bare the elements of the classic Western—the wounded, questing hero, the damsel in distress, the shoot-outs, the relationship with the horse, the murderous, phantasmal villain in hot pursuit—and reinvents them as existential meditation.”

You can find the full quote from Mr. Frank here. I’m beyond delighted he enjoyed it so.

September 2015 can’t come fast enough.