If you loved Godless...
If you’ve polished off the Netflix’s western limited series, you’re probably looking for a new fix of gunslinging and horse thieving. Luckily, Scott Frank, the writer-director of Godless, shared the list of books that influenced him in reaching the show.
When Frank set out to write Godless, he wanted to embrace the cliches of the genre and ultimately deliver something new with that form. A quick look at the books he read researching the western shows that he stuck to the classics, but how they factored into the finished show might surprise you.
The Virginian by Owen Wister
This is it, the ur-western. Often cited as the original example of the genre, Wister’s 1902 novel is as classic as they come. “It’s very dated today,” Scott said, “but you kind of see the beginning of it.”
Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey
Little Big Man by Thomas Berger
Frank used Berger’s picaresque western as an inspiration for the kind of tone he wanted for Godless. “It’s sort of the Catch 22 of westerns for me,” he said.
Brules by Harry Combs, The Scout by Harry Combs
“The great thing I learned from Harry Combs is that he has an incredible love of horses,” Frank said. “There’s a lot of detail about horses. There’s a lot of vocabulary in and around horses, breaking them and riding them. The description of horses was fantastic.”
American Massacre by Sally Denton
Jeff Daniels’ villainous Frank Griffin in indebted to Sally Denton’s historical examination of the Mountain Meadows massacre, when Mormon settlers killed over 100 men, women, and children in Utah.
“[American Massacre] was full of religious ideas that I had never heard and language from that period, from supposedly very religious men, the way they spoke,” Frank said. “That all informed Frank Griffin for me. There are quotes in there that I flat-out gave to Frank Griffin, just really interesting ways of looking at religion and religious life.”
Jesse James: Last Rebel of the Civil War by T.J. Stiles
Deadwood by Pete Dexter
“The dialogue is spectacular,” Frank said. “It’s the same story as the HBO series, but I think the series owes a lot to the novel. It takes you away from the standard way of thinking about western dialogue.”
Desperadoes by Ron Hansen
“Ron Hansen is another one who wrote incredible dialogue, just the tangiest most fun dialogue,” Frank said about this fictional account of the Dalton gang.
Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
There was one novel that Frank intentionally avoided during the making of Godless. He hadn’t read Larry McMurtry’s Pulitzer Prize winner before beginning to write and waited until after he finished to sit down with it.
“I was worried that it would be so good that it would discourage me from the task,” he said. “I knew how good it was going to be. I hadn’t read it. I wanted to read it. And I thought, I shouldn’t read it now. I should wait until after I finish.”