A screenplay novelisation …

A Million Ways to Die In The West by Seth MacFarlane

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.

5 thoughts on “A screenplay novelisation …

  1. writingbolt says:

    Yes, I always relate brilliance in creative talents to the frequent use of sexually explicit dialogue/lingo. The fact that he makes such consistent use of occasionally creative sexual dialogue detracts from my opinion/value of his intellect (if he has any). It just reminds me of classmates I had in high school who were not the sort I wanted to share my day. It reminds me of Jonah Hill blabbering in “Superbad” at such length I swore he had pubic hairs coming off his tongue.

    I think you found the book because, like Brian in Family Guy, Seth wanted to tackle yet another avenue of creativity. He needed to put out a book to check that item off his To Do list. I expect any plot he envisions to be thin and his foul mouth humor to be thicker than…well, you fill in the blank.

      • writingbolt says:

        Don’t get me wrong. The guy is talented. Or, rather, he has talent. But, what he chooses to do with it…and getting his father in on the bad jokes…it just turns my stomach. I initially liked Family Guy. And, I grew to like a few episodes of American Dad. The Cleveland Show sucks compared to The Boondocks. I have heard Seth sing, and he sounds good.

        I think he is one of those guys who fears getting called names if he doesn’t cuss and joke about sex. He doesn’t want to be called gay for singing, so he tells another whopper about a penis. It’s juvenile. And, joking about penises detracts from his ability to shine with a wider audience (I think). It detracts from the human ability to create more…pleasant things.

        • Annabel (gaskella) says:

          Loving this conversation! I never watched Family Guy properly or his other TV work, so can’t really comment (my heart belongs to the Simpsons). I agree, he’s old enough now to drop the butt and willy jokes and do something more grown-up!

          • writingbolt says:

            Strangely enough, me, too…and, me, too…on the convo and “The Simpsons”. When “The Simpsons” first came out, I wasn’t the biggest fan. Especially when I learned where they came from and what they did with some episodes/video games. So, for a few years, I tuned them out. But then I started meeting people who liked the show a lot and sat through a few witty episodes which lured me back. It’s not 100 percent great…but it is by far one of the most intelligent cartoons I’ve ever seen.

            Family Guy–and his not so famous cousins–tried to copy “The Simpsons” but used cut-away gags instead of weaving pop culture into the stories themselves. I initially liked Family Guy more than I liked it later on.

            American Dad started out a real sleeper. I couldn’t understand why it stayed on the air past one season. But, like so many of these animated shows, they improved the image quality (with shading) and brought in more interesting subjects. Some of my favorite episodes of the series include Steve getting revenge on the popular girls for humiliating his chubby girlfriend, Hayley breaking up with her bum of a boyfriend before they join Steve in a WoW computer game, Steve’s Vietnam war reenactment gone bad and the mock Bond film “Tearjerker”.

            The question is…is there such a thing as grown-up comedy?:P Should he do like lounge stand-up comics and cuss about men/women or some bad relationship experience? He already tried to surpass the Simpsons with a lookalike scheme.

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