After my stellar performance on Public Radio this week, folks have been asking where they might hear A Sidekick Christmas in its entirety. So here it is, with the following Christmasy proviso, that it is under copyright © 2012 by Andrew Ward, and may not be reproduced, performed, or broadcast without my written permission. That being said, Happy Holidays, and here's the link:
A Sidekick Christmas (48 minutes)
A Note on the Recording
It took Andrew Ward a year and a trip to the local bijou to find the right actor to read A Sidekick Christmas. “It wasn’t until Tommy Lee Jones drove up to a shack toward the end of No Country for Old Men and introduced us to a wheelchair-bound ex-lawman named Ellis that I knew I’d found my man.”
That man was Barry Corbin, whose monologue about the harshness of life in the American West is the pivot on which No Country turns. “When he closed his account of a murdered lawman’s burial, and his voice trailed off into a kind of rasping sigh, I was completely transfixed, and entirely sold.”
Barry Corbin is one of America’s most distinguished character actors. Originally a Shakespearean actor, he has appeared in Urban Cowboy, War Games, Any Which Way You Can, among many other films. He has been a fixture on such TV series as Northern Exposure, One Tree Hill, and The Closer. But perhaps his most touching portrayal was the hapless, ill-fated Deputy Roscoe Brown in Lonesome Dove. A Texan born and bred, he brings an eerie authenticity to his portrayals of the men of the Old West.
A quick perusal of his biography helps to explain this affinity. Born in Texas in 1940, Corbin always wanted to be an actor, but as a boy he realized he was not developing into matinee idol material. He might have given up on his ambition but for the sidekicks he used to follow in the old serials. They demonstrated that no matter a man’s physiognomy or diction or abdominous dimensions he could find his place on stage and screen. Besides, the actors who played sidekicks always seemed to him to have more fun than the leading men who played their honchos.
If Corbin owes his career to the example those character actors set, it is a debt he has amply repaid with his own portrayals, and now with his reading of A Sidekick Christmas.
Barry Corbin was recorded under contract with Andrew Ward on September 5, 2008 by Jeff Miller at Eye Ear Dallas in Arlington, Texas. The recording includes musical excerpts by John Doan; Michael Martin Murphey; Cody McCoury, Darrin Vincent, Rob Ickes, Scott Vestal & Stuart Duncan; Lewis and Edward Ross, and Paul Martin.Copyright © 2010 by Andrew Ward. All rights reserved. This recording is for demo purposes only, and may not be broadcast
A Note on the Book
Andrew Ward has written almost a dozen award winning novels and histories numbering thousands of pages: books that took him decades to research and write. But he is just as proud of A Sidekick Christmas, his brief but pungent encapsulation of his childhood fascination with the Old West. Ward’s previous short stories about Christmas – O Tannenbaum and A Moveable Feast -- have appeared in many a Yuletide collection. But A Sidekick Christmas comes closest to expressing his take on Christmas, friendship, manhood, heroism, and life.
“I had recently turned sixty when I wrote it, and it seemed to come out of the blue. I’d been immersed in 19th century material for over a decade, researching books on the Civil War and slavery, and reading thousands of interviews with former slaves. I guess I must have internalized a lot of those voices, because suddenly I was writing in the voice of an aging sidekick from the Old West and spouting all sorts of beliefs I never knew I had. So the story is haunted by a lot of what I absorbed about the 19th century, and animated by the liberation of writing, for a change, in the voice of an imaginary but somehow familiar character.”
As a boy, Ward wanted to be an artist, and he did ultimately study painting at the Rhode Island School of Design. “But a lot of good it did me. All of the artistic conventions were up for grabs, and no-one would teach me anything, only urge me to express myself.” In the end he gave up painting for photography, and, eventually, writing, at which he has excelled for forty years. But as he wrote A Sidekick Christmas, specific images kept coming to him, and he soon found himself picking up a marker and a pad and trying to set them down.
“Before I knew it I had truly regressed, back through art school and all the way to my boyhood, when I used to listen to the Lone Ranger on the radio or watch Hopalong Cassidy on our tiny TV screen and draw picture after picture of roundups, showdowns, range wars, and holdups.
Ward has sprinkled the charming results throughout the pages of A Sidekick Christmas. “I don’t know if I draw any better now than I did back then,” says Ward, “but I hope these images will help carry readers back, as they did me, to the Old West of my imagination.”