Mr. Erickson embodies the writer’s adage to “write what you know”, having been raised in the Texan panhandle and worked as a ranch hand. His quirky animal and human characters are based on dogs, horses, and people that he has known and they thrum with life.
And his stories are funny, funny, funny! Hank the Cowdog, as head of ranch security, takes his job VERY seriously. His sidekick, Drover, loyal and long-suffering, helps him out and doesn’t criticize Hank’s many bloopers.
Sixty-one great tales make up the Hank the Cowdog series at present. Even more impressive is the fact that John Erickson himself reads the stories for the audio books and he is GOOD. All the voices and accents!
For those of us who are aspiring writers, Mr. Erickson stands as a model for integrity, independence, perseverance and excellence. At the beginning of his efforts to bring his authentic, humorous stories to publication, no East Coast publishers would bite: “too provincial”, they said. Millions of copies later, they have eaten their cowboy hats.
Mr. Erickson, with the support of his good wife, Kris, started Maverick Books in his garage and the rest, as they say, is history. Viking/Penguin now publishes the books, while Maverick Books retains the audiobook manufacture.
More on this fascinating writing and publishing story is found in his book, Storycraft, published in 2009 by Maverick Books, a collection of Mr. Erickson’s reflections on faith, culture and writing.
I read it cover to cover this summer – riveting!
In the chapter “Hank and Theology”, he comments: “In humor, the impact of the message is never quite under the author’s control. When the audience laughs, we’re never sure whose face has caught the pie. This makes humor a risky medium…Humor is a gift from author to audience, and once it’s passed along, it can’t be called back. Writers who insist on controlling the message will never feel comfortable taking such a risk.” (p. 96, Storycraft. Perryton, TX: Maverick Books. 2009).
Don’t we crave good, wholesome humor? This series possesses it in spades, both for adult and child. I recommend the audio versions of the stories with original songs performed by the author. If you haven’t experienced this world yet, you are in for a treat.
Are you a bonus features fan like I am? If so, the author’s website will delight and amaze. It is chock full of audio commentary, author biography, links to articles by the author, games and contests for kids, and lots of colorful illustrations:http://www.hankthecowdog.com