Sean Howe
March 28, 2008 AT 04:00 AM EDT

It’s a banner year for cult author Rudolph Wurlitzer. Two films he wrote, 1971’s Two-Lane Blacktop and 1987’s Walker, were just issued as deluxe DVDs. And this month, his novel The Drop Edge of Yonder hits stores. The psychedelic adventure of a mountain man named Zebulon traveling through 19th-century Mexico, Panama, and California is Wurlitzer’s first novel since 1984. But its roots go back even further. In the late ’70s, he wrote a script called Zebulon, which attracted the interest of stars like Richard Gere and directors Sam Peckinpah and Hal Ashby. (”Richard said the screenplay encompassed all the noble truths of Buddhism,” laughs director Alex Cox, who was attached to the property in the ’90s.) After many false starts, Wurlitzer, 70, says he abandoned the film and poured his decades of research into the ”more substantial” Drop Edge. Ruminative and rip-roaring at once, it’s earned early raves from critics. ”What once seemed like a disaster,” he says of the aborted script, ”has evolved into something quite interesting.”

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