Weird West Author Spotlight: William Winckler

Welcome, William!

During his prolific career, William Winckler has written, produced, and directed nearly fifty feature films, several TV series, pilots and English language Japanese movies and anime.  Select credits include; Tekkaman the Space KnightGaiking, Danguard Ace, Starzinger, The Double-D Avenger (reuniting the Russ Meyer film stars), the award-winningFrankenstein vs. the Creature From Blood Cove, Capcom’s Zombrex: Dead Rising Sun based on the famous zombie video game Dead RisingUltraman X the Movie (the 50th Anniversary film of the iconic Japanese Ultraman superhero character/brand), Ultraman Ginga S the Movie, and Mega Monster Battle: Ultra Galaxy (a Warner Bros. Japan release).  

Winckler has also authored several works of fiction, including the western-horror novel Demon Head of Tucson, and the humorous titles The Double-D Avenger Meets the Horny Howlers and The Double-D Avenger and the Dirty Movie House Mystery based on his cult film classic The Double-D Avenger.  He currently resides on the east coast of the U.S., after spending most of his life in Southern California. 

About the Book Demon Head of Tucson

When a young Native American woman is stalked by a horrific disembodied head out to kill her, a wandering cowboy helps escort her to the safety of a Christian reservation.  On the way, they must battle and ultimately destroy the monstrous demon before everyone in the Arizona territory is wiped out by it!  An exciting, chilling, western-horror tale loosely based on the Native American legend of “The Rolling Head.”

Interview with William Winckler

Tell us about yourself – what is something readers would be surprised to find out? 

My late father, Robert “Bobby” Winckler, was a well-known child star in the 1930’s  ~ ‘40’s, during Hollywood’s  “Golden Age.”  Dad worked with many cowboy movie legends like Gene Autry, Wild Bill Elliott, Johnny Mack Brown, Tim McCoy, Bob Steele, Bob Baker, George Houston, George Montgomery, Smiley Burnette, Raymond Hatton, etc. I enjoyed watching my father’s westerns when they were rerun on TV, and I’ve loved the genre ever since.  Once you get into the classic action westerns of Republic Studios, Monogram, RKO, Universal and PRC, you’re hooked for life. 

As for my own career, for the past thirty-six years, I’ve been a working writer/producer in Hollywood, writing over one-hundred and sixty half-hour TV episodes of English anime.  I’ve done a ton of other work, including writing/producing successful live-action movies, but now I find myself writing more fiction novels, especially weird westerns.  

What is it about the Weird West genre that draws you to it? What are your favorite aspects or examples of this Under-appreciated genre? 

There’s something magical about mixing classic horror elements with action westerns.  The two genres combine or blend together beautifully if done right.  For example, an old, abandoned, cowboy ghost town is the perfect setting for a ghost story.  I remember seeing Universal’s classic 1950’s western horror film Curse of the Undead, and loved every minute of it.  That black-and-white film, along with the fun 1966 movie Billy the Kid vs. Dracula, starring John Carradine, are two of my favorites!  

In Southern California, the iconic Calico Ghost Town themed amusement park, Knott’s Berry Farm, always holds its annual Halloween Haunt, which draws millions of people.  There’s many other competing Halloween haunted houses in California, but I believe Knott’s old cowboy/ghost town setting is what really attracts the huge crowds.  They love western horror!       

What inspired you to write this story?

As a writer, I’m always trying to come up with completely new, fresh, unique stories.  I stumbled upon a fantastic Native American legend that I never saw translated to books, comics, or films before . . . so I immediately developed it into a new dramatic story.  That was the genesis of my western horror novel Demon Head of Tucson.  It was as if I’d discovered the new subject of zombies, and wrote the very first zombie novel.  

If you were living in the Weird West, what kind of character would you be?

I’d probably run a stagecoach line, and as soon as one of my drivers went missing or was mysteriously bushwhacked, I’d meet with the Sheriff to investigate . . . only to discover some supernatural monster was behind it!  

Are there any other writing projects you’re working on?

Yes, I’m currently starting up a new weird western book series.  Once again, like Demon Head of Tucson, the premise is truly unique and different.  There’s never been anything like it, really.  I’m excited.   

What are you reading right now? 

Believe it or not, I’m reading Col. Harland Sanders biography, Life as I have known it has been “finger lickin’ good,” published in 1974.  Sanders is known for starting the famous Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants, and for creating his iconic “eleven herbs and spices” chicken seasoning recipe.  He was born in 1890, and spoke in a charming, old-fashioned manner, “don’t ya know!”  When I write my westerns, I try to use as much actual, vintage dialogue as possible, without losing my readers.  Harland Sanders spoke like someone straight out of the 1880’s, even when doing commercials and making personal appearances throughout the 1970’s.  I love bringing back lost or dying vocabulary words and phrases.   

Favorite weird west movie/book/comic/etc. and why?

I’ve already mentioned the two classic films, Curse of the Undead, and Billy the Kid vs. Dracula, that are favorites.  As for novels, although they’re not one-hundred percent weird westerns, I really love the Edge book series by George G. Gilman (a.k.a. Terry Harknett).  Gilman/Harknett was one of the famous “Piccadilly Cowboys” of London, who wrote super violent, action westerns.  The Edge novels were promoted as “the most brutal and violent series in print!”  They’re so “over the top,” like Clint Eastwood’s surreal “Man with No Name” films on acid, I think they stray into weird western territory.  Real page turners!  Entertaining and highly recommended.  They were written in the early 1970’s, and I’ve got close to fifty of them in my personal library!

I must also mention the late, great Richard Matheson!  I have all his wonderful books, and think he was probably the best horror author I’ve ever read.  Hell House, Duel and Nightmare at 20,000 Feet, are masterpieces.  Matheson also did a marvelous job with the teleplay for The Night Stalker, based on Jeff Rice’s novel of the same name.      

Anything else you’d like to add about writing or the Weird West?

The old west is really the foundation of our country . . . and the traditional cowboy is truly a one-of-a-kind American creation. The cowboy is the ultimate hero or anti-hero, and there’s no better action vehicle than a strong, powerful horse.  Mix these western elements together with classic horror, the supernatural, the macabre, and you’ve got a dynamic, chilling, spine-tingling story.  The dusty, old west atmosphere is perfect!  I’ll always love weird westerns, and I’ll continue writing them until I physically can’t write anymore.   

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