Ol’ Tony Hillerman told me one time, ‘Max, you know, if you option a novel, you’ve got to hope they don’t make the movie. Because then you can’t option it again.’ He was giving me advice long after the horses had entered the corral.” Legendary Texas-born cowboy, artist and author Max Evans—who is 93 and still writing—recalls, “I lived off options for a long time.”
His first novel, The Rounders, was published in 1960, and became a hit movie in 1965. His second novel, The Hi-Lo Country, was published in 1962, and despite being optioned repeatedly, didn’t reach the screen for 37 years—it was a contemporary story when he wrote it, but a period picture when they fi lmed it. Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the release of the fi lm version of The Hi-Lo Country, Evans talked with True West about his Hollywood adventures.
“I’d read everything from Shakespeare and Balzac to dozens of shoot-’em-up write about what I really knew. So, I decided to write post-World War II. When I left for that war, ranchers were working cattle mostly from horseback. After I got back, the West was changed forever by pickup trucks replacing the horse.”
The Rounders, the comical adventures of two down-at-the-boot heels cowboys, reinvigorated the careers of stars Henry Fonda and Glenn Ford, and established Burt Kennedy as a top Western write