This is the cover of the eBook reissue of my 1975 biographical novel. The book was originally commissioned by 20th Century Fox in conjunction with Delacorte Press. They wanted a writer who could write a book and then adapt it to film, and at the time I was one of a few who were doing that. I took some time before agreeing. After initial research it became clear that Tom Mix made up his life as he went along and many contradictions comprised his life story. I said I would do it if I could do a biographical novel instead of a straight biography, though I had never done either to that point. What sealed the deal was my discovery that my son’s pre-school teacher was Tom Mix’s granddaughter. She introduced me to her mother, who had emigrated to New Zealand, in large part to escape the excesses of her Hollywood upbringing. She agreed to work with me and provided pictures and letters and her own childhood memories.
I created a sidekick for Tom, Kid Bandera, who narrates the story. After the book was published, and I was invited to the Johnny Carson show to promote it, I wrote the script, the longest film script I’d ever done, over 200 pages. Paul Newman and Robert Redford were looking to team up again after their success with “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” and all efforts were directed in that pursuit. It never was decided who would play Mix and who the sidekick. The budget, pre-Computer Generated Images, went through the roof, and everyone went on to other things. Over the years there have been rumors of it coming back to life, but I’m not counting on it.
The title demands an explanation. While I was researching in a small Oklahoma town where Mix had once served as sheriff, I came upon an old and weathered water tower. Someone had taken the time and risk to climb up and spray paint along its side: “Tom Mix Died for Your Sins.”