Johnny D. Boggs
Nine-Time Spur Award Winner
Winner of the Western Heritage Wrangler Award
Booklist has called Johnny D. Boggs “among the best western writers at work today.”
He has won the prestigious Spur Award from Western Writers of America a record nine times: for the novels Camp Ford, Doubtful Cañon, Hard Winter, Legacy of a Lawman, West Texas Kill, Return to Red River, Taos Lightning and A Thousand Texas Longhorns and the short story “A Piano at Dead Man’s Crossing.” His novels Summer of the Star, The Hart Brand, Greasy Grass, Northfield, Killstraight, South by Southwest, And There I’ll Be a Soldier, Poison Spring and Ten and Me, and short stories “The Cobbler at Spanish Fort,” “Legend,” “Comanche Camp at Dawn,” “Umpire Colt,” “The San Angela Stump Match of 1876” and “The Cody War” earned Spur finalist honors. His novel Spark on the Prairie won the Western Heritage Wrangler Award. In 2020, Boggs received the Owen Wister Award for lifetime contributions and was inducted into the Western Writers Hall of Fame.
Born in 1962, Boggs grew up on a farm near Timmonsville, South Carolina. He knew he wanted to be a writer at an early age. “Kids my age would want to play characters from a popular TV show or movie like Steve McGarrett or Cool Hand Luke,” he recalls. “I was too busy making up my own characters and playing them. I wrote my first story in third grade and was hooked. I also started writing stories — super hero or detective stories mostly, not Westerns — and selling them to my classmates for a nickel or dime. My royalties were a lot higher then.”
After receiving a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of South Carolina in 1984, Boggs took a job in the Dallas Times Herald sports department, working his way up to assistant sports editor when the paper folded in 1991. In 1992, Boggs joined the Fort Worth Star-Telegram sports department and was again an assistant sports editor when he left in 1998 to concentrate on his novels and free-lance writing.
More recently, he has started writing film histories. “I’ve been a film buff for as long as I can remember, and took a number of film and theater-speech classes in college,” he says. His nonfiction film studies include American Newspaper Journalists on Film: Portrayals of the Press During the Sound Era (McFarland, 2023); Sports on Film (ABC-CLIO, 2021), Billy the Kid on Film, 1911-2012 (McFarland, 2013) and Jesse James and the Movies (McFarland, 2011).
As far as his interest in the West is concerned, Boggs explains: “I remember watching Gunsmoke on Monday nights with my dad and grew up during the tail end of the TV Western era. The Virginian. Bonanza. High Chaparral. I was a fan. I also once played hooky to watch John Ford’s Fort Apache on television. I was always interested in the American West and as I grew older and discovered the true West as opposed to the Hollywood West, I became even more fascinated. When I discovered the Western fiction of Jack Schaefer and Dorothy M. Johnson, I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”
A prolific writer of short nonfiction, Boggs has written about all aspects of the American West: travel stories, environmental issues, fashion news, apparel industry trends, history articles, reviews and celebrity Q&As and profiles (including James Arness, Val Kilmer, Chuck Norris, Wes Studi, Randy Travis and his friends rodeo legend Larry Mahan and the late Western writers Elmer Kelton and Max Evans). He is a frequent contributor to True West, Wild West and Western Art and Architecture magazines. He’s also an accomplished photographer whose works have appeared alongside many of his articles.
What’s the future of the Western genre? “Publishers and filmmakers might be fickle from time to time,” he says, “but there will always be an interest in the West and our heritage. The West was, and is, vast, and there are many stories that haven’t been told, and many stories that deserve retelling. Besides, I’ve always believed that the West isn’t as much of a physical place as it is spiritual. The West is how you feel it.”
Active in Little League and other community and youth activities, Boggs lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico with his wife, Lisa Smith; son, Jack.
Novel: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
Book: A Rumor of War by Philip Caputo.
Short Story: I Woke Up Wicked by Dorothy M. Johnson
Movies: The Searchers; Casablanca; It’s a Wonderful Life; To Kill a Mockingbird; Them!; The Grapes of Wrath; The Seventh Seal; Yankee Doodle Dandy; Lonely are the Brave; Seven Men from Now; 42nd Street; Westward the Women; Key Largo; Elmer Gantry; Gold Diggers of 1933; The Wind; Double Indemnity; Green Pastures; The Story of G.I. Joe; The Last of the Line; A Walk in the Sun; The Best Years of Our Lives; Devil’s Doorway; Sullivan’s Travels; Field of Dreams; Murder, My Sweet; Spartacus; White Heat; Border Incident.
Newspaper Movies: Five Star Final (1931); The Fabulous Ferguson Case (1932); Picture Snatcher (1933); Hi, Nellie (1934); They Won’t Forget (1937); His Girl Friday (1940); The Story of G.I. Joe (1945); Call Northside 777 (1948); Shakedown (1950); Ace in the Hole (1951); Deadline — U.S.A. (1952); All the President’s Men (1976); Spotlight (2017).
Writers: Mark Twain, John Steinbeck, Alexandre Dumas, Charles Dickens, Hampton Sides,
Raymond Chandler, Jack London, William P. McGivern, Russell Banks, David Morrell.
Western Writers: Jack Schaefer, Dorothy M. Johnson, Fred Grove, Will Henry/Clay Fisher,
A.B. Guthrie Jr.
Western Novels: The Big Sky (A.B. Guthrie), Lonesome Dove (Larry McMurtry), White Fang (Jack London), Shane (Jack Schaefer), My Pardner (Max Evans), The Time It Never Rained (Elmer Kelton), Monte Walsh (Jack Schaefer), Not Between Brothers (David M. Wilkinson), The Unforgiven (Alan LeMay), The Hanging Tree (Dorothy M. Johnson).
Song: Will the Circle Be Unbroken by A.P. Carter.
Singer: Johnny Cash.
Album: Live at San Quentin by Johnny Cash
Walter Edgar’s Journal:
Walter Edgar interviews Johnny D. Boggs about growing up in the South and becoming a nine-time Spur Award winner. (February 21, 2022)
Start Spreading the News interview:
Yes, Johnny D. Boggs, Kansas City Royals fan, talks baseball, Westerns and writing on a New York Yankees fan program with NYY experts Dr. Paul and Dr. Fagan! (January 17, 2022)