There’s no denying it – Seth MacFarlane is very talented.
Apart from being very handsome, he’s an award winning animator – having worked for Hanna-Barbera after college, he’s the creator of Family Guy, co-creator/producer of American Dad, the comedy film Ted, and he acts/voices many characters. He sings too (wonderfully – I’ve seen him with John Wilson’s orchestra) and had a hit album of standards. Now he’s written a book – sort of…
When I saw his name attached to a comedy western novel A Million Way to Die in the West, I pre-ordered a copy – in fact I forgot I’d pre-ordered it and bought it again – so I have a spare. It wasn’t until the book(s) arrived, that I found out that the novel is based on a screenplay by MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild for a movie of the same name. A little searching brought up the film poster below – it’s released in May.
It’s the tale of a mild-mannered sheep farmer called Albert Stark who’s fed up with life on the American frontier. It opens just past high noon and Albert’s been waiting for the guy who challenged him to a duel to turn up. He’s late, Albert’s a coward and he uses his opponent’s tardiness to wriggle out of the duel which would have meant certain death.
Louise is the object of Albert’s affections – she promptly dumps him after the non-duel for Foy – the extravagantly bewhiskered and over-dandified owner of the town’s moustachery.
Albert’s one friend Edward isn’t much help. Edward is a simple and happy soul who is engaged to Ruth, a Christian whore who doesn’t believe in sex before marriage, (apologies in advance for the quotation below):
‘Where’s Ruth? She coming to church?’
‘No, she has a ten o’clock blumpkin,’ Edward answered matter-of-factly.
Albert stared at him, confused. ‘What’s a blumpkin?’
‘It’s when a man receives fellatio while he’s making stool. They just invented it in Italy, and it’s become popular here.’ Edward smiled with pride in his awareness of world affairs.
‘Receives fellatio? You make it sound like a Communion service,’ Albert said.
‘Well, it’s just the process.’
‘So, a guy gets his dick sucked while he’s taking a shit.’
‘Albert, don’t use those words, Edward said with indignation. ‘It diminishes Ruth’s work. She takes a lot of pride in doing a good job.’
Yes, this is the level of the humour in this story.
What can Albert do to get Louise back? A mysterious lady stranger may hold the answer – when Albert rescues Anna from danger in a bar-room brawl, they hit it off, and become friends. Anna turns out to be a regular Annie Oakley, and teaches Albert how to shoot. But before he can put his new-found skills to use, Anna’s past catches up with her when the notorious outlaw Clinch Leatherwood, the deadliest gunman in the west, comes to town…
I think the movie is going to be hilarious – sort of like Deadwood done for laughs – it has an all-star cast and looks great from the publicity photos.
The book though, because it was written up from a screenplay, is a little thin, not enough added to it to make it entirely successful as a novel. It has it’s moments – there are some great funny gags, and even a reference to Homer’s Odyssey, but there is an awful lot of toilet humour – the film I imagine being aimed at late teens and upwards audience.
There was nothing wrong with the novel, it entertained and was very easy to read, it just lacked a bit of substance. This is one occasion when I can say – I’m sure the film will be better than the book, and as a lover of westerns, I will probably go and see it. (6.5/10)
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Source: Own copy. To explore further on Amazon UK, please click below:
A Million Ways to Die in the West by Seth MacFarlane, pub March 2014 by Canongate, 208 pages, hardback.