Legendary western writer Richard S. Wheeler pointed me to a great interview at the American Enterprise with Elmer Kelton, justifiably proclaimed by the Western Writers of America as one of the best western writers of all time.
Saturating Kelton’s work is his love of West Texas. Kelton is no
flowery panegyrist of the tumbleweed; growing up amongst men who regard
poetical expression as effeminate will stifle one’s urge to write odes
to cacti. But he loves his land just the same. As he writes in The Day the Cowboys Quit,
"Some people would never understand the hold this land could take on a
man if he stayed rooted long enough in one spot to develop a communion
with the grass-blanketed earth, to begin to feel and fall in with the
rhythms of the changing seasons. There was a pulse in this land, like
the pulse in a man, though most people never paused long enough to
Buck Kelton, Elmer’s father, "never was totally convinced that I was
making an honest living because there wasn’t a whole lot of sweat
involved. That’s how he measured work–by whether you sweated or not."
Writing 45 novels extracts its own measure of sweat. So, for that matter, does tracking down The Time It Never Rained. "The Western shelf is in the back of the store," says Kelton. "You gotta hunt for it."
Hunt for it. You’ll be glad you did. Elmer Kelton is a great American novelist–no "Western" modifier necessary.