Ol' Max has been gone two years now. Well, dead, anyway. A life force like Max Evans, one of America's greatest writers, is never really gone as long as people read his work.
Max died two days before his 96th birthday, and the amazing thing about this, to his close friends and family, was that he'd lasted this long. You see, in the midst of becoming a legend of literature of the American west, he had these little ... foibles? Sounds good, let's call them that. They included bar brawls, skirt chasing, drinking Hollywood producers under the table, and a few things we won't discuss. Why not?
Well, as Ol' Max told me, "There are some things that don't have a statute of limitations."
I met Max's work long before I met him. This was in a bunkhouse high in the Sierra in California, where those of us packing mules would take turns reading chapters out of his books. One of those guys was an antique cowboy named Grant Dalton, and his dad and uncles were famous for helping Jesse James make unauthorized bank withdrawals.
Grant's summation of one of Max's novels ... "He's been there."
And he had been, for Max Evans was the real deal. Years later, when I met him in Albuquerque over a lunch that lasted until closing time, I remember thinking "The hardest job in the world would be to write a boring biography of Max Evans."
So I didn't. I wrote "Ol' Max Evans, the First Thousand Years." I interviewed that old codger over lunches down at our favorite Mexican restaurant for more than three years.
My 35-plus year friendship with him is one of the highlights of my life. He was my mentor, my pal, and something of a father figure. I loved him. I miss Max every day. Everyone should have an inspiration like him.
We were wrapping up the years of interviews for the book, one day, and I asked him if he had any advice for writers just getting started.
He said, "Never hit a critic."
I sure miss him.