Cliffhanger is Coming: A tip of the hat to Johnston McCulley

It is a neat time that we live in, years ago when I first found the old Johnston McCulley novel, The Curse of Capistrano, I considered it a real treasure. Actually, I still do. But these days with the simple click of a mouse you can not only find the book, but you can have someone read it to you, which is the case in the below video. I have always loved that novel for its expressive language and colorful expose of righteousness. I didn’t understand when I was younger why critics ridiculed McCulley so intensely—but have since learned that a progressive push was well underway in the second half of the 20th century to steer society away from tradition and into something else. That something else I simply despise and it has been quite an ordeal for me to find entertainment that I enjoy because of it. So it is a treat to revisit McCulley’s work whenever I can and relish in his pulp fiction.


There was obviously a time in our history when that kind of writing was all the rage and considered masterful. These days it’s out of fashion, and ridiculed so nobody makes the attempt. But in McCulley’s day, many westerns were made to emulate his style which defined early cinema. Being the type of person that I am, a person who loves traditional American western arts, there just isn’t much that impresses me in regards to entertainment from music to movies. My love of the Star Wars films and books could be simplified by attributing that they are simply westerns set in space. The old western values started by Johnston McCulley are there, which is the key reason that they are so popular—because people now are the same people as they were in 1919, 1419, or 0019—they essentially have the same hopes and dreams as they always have and from Johnston McCulley, his character of Zorro epitomized those values.

In recent years those values have been under attack, and those assailants know that people have values in line with tradition—so their solution has been to kill tradition. They have entered publishing, movie making, television broadcasting, music, commercial art—virtually every category with the sole intention of destroying American tradition—an aspect of American life that I enjoy. So I have taken this slight quite personal, as is in evidence by my many words upon these pages

I am in a unique position as opposed to Johnston McCulley to add to these traditions of westerns even in a modern context. Most writers are good with the pen but shrivel up in real life at the slightest drizzle of rain upon their skin. So they tend not to be men of action. I am the opposite; I have developed a writing ability as a natural overflow of my life of action. I have been all over and done virtually everything and associated with people at every level of society. So my perspective on things is unusually hands-on which carries over directly into my writing style and content.

The villains in the old McCulley novels were corrupt governors and big government statists aligned through crony capitalists to exploit the efforts of the innocent. However, times these days are more complicated so a similar story dealing with the same type of material would naturally involve government labor unions, diabolical politicians, and grand conspiracies involving sacrifice to supernatural beings. These will be the types of stories that will flow from the upcoming Cliffhanger stories offered under the banner, The Curse of Fort Seven Mile.

For years I have put up with the political messages with a liberal/progressive slant in movies and music, so I expect the same respect from that sector of the population when they see that the type of villains in my stories are the heroes of theirs. Surely they didn’t expect that the flow of artistic enterprise would move in only one progressive direction? But my hunch says that they did, and they will find Cliffhanger repulsive. I’ve been through the meat grinder of progressive influence in entertainment and am in the very unique position to have never compromised with them—which means that the Cliffhanger stories will have a uniquely authentic attribute that is innocently filled with righteousness—in a similar way that McCulley’s work was when it first appeared. America was a more innocent place then, so people like McCulley were a little more common. But today, there is no innocence left; most people fall in either a category of being intellectually damaged, or naively removed from reality. In my life, I have managed to have neither infliction which gives quite a lot more thrust to my prose. Within that thrust there will be familiar themes that will likely incite the political left. I can only say to them that they’ll have to live with it. Their sensitivities are not something that society should be molded around—and they won’t be as far as I’m concerned

It’s taken quite a number of years for me to solve the riddles of these upcoming chapters in The Curse of Fort Seven Mile. I had a pretty good ideal what Cliffhanger was all about when he was first introduced in 2004, but I had some more living to conduct before I felt comfortable with the philosophical assertions that were to be made. I still had young children at the time, money to make, and political navigation to understand. For those who follow me here at Overmanwarrior’s Wisdom you have seen much of that first-hand. But it was always my desire to take those experiences and place them into a story context involving the character of Cliffhanger.

A lot of people have been patiently waiting for my next Cliffhanger additions, and now is the time. So it will be with great fun and fanfare as soon as we figure out the distribution channels which accommodate all the modern tools that Cliffhanger will return to print quite audaciously. But it should never be forgotten that the tradition of Cliffhanger is a direct tip of the hat to Johnston McCulley and his character of Zorro. Zorro was needed in the 20th century to define values—and he did that. But for the 21st century, a new hero is needed, someone who can deal with all the strange new influences indicative to the modern times. That character is Cliffhanger, and he is coming.

Rich Hoffman