Honouring a Western Star from Decades Ago

I’ve written many stories, so I’ve used a lot of names. My fantasy novels contain dozens of characters and while I try not to use the same name twice, I sometimes do.

While looking for a name for one of the soldiers who served at Casa Royal, Ravencroft, County Regal, in my latest novel, Natural Selection, my youngest son was talking about a few of the stars from old western films he had watched. The name Jack Elam came up and while my son prattled on, I considered the name. Yeah. That sounds good.

While many won’t know who this man is, those familiar with old westerns will recognise it immediately.

William Scott ‘Jack’ Elam was born November 13, 1920 in Miami, Arizona, USA. He’s best known for the villains he played in western films. Later in his career, he turned to comedy.

Some of the dozens of films he appeared in include Rio Lobo (Mr. Phillips, alongside John Wayne), The Battle at Apache Pass (Mescal Jack), Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (Tom McLowery), Once Upon a Time in the West (Snaky), Support Your Local Gunslinger (Jug May, alongside James Garner), Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (Alamosa Bill), The Cannonball Run (Doctor Nikolas Van Helsing).

He also made several appearances on television shows, including The Rifleman, Rawhide, The Lone Ranger, Have Gun – Will Travel, and Bonanza.

Viewers may remember Elam as the man with the odd eye. As a boy, he had lost sight in one eye when he was stabbed in the eye by a fellow Boy Scout during a scuffle. His mother had died when he was three years old, and he lived with his father, step-mother and older sister in Arizona. He grew up picking cotton, then worked as a bookkeeper and an auditor before serving two years in navy during the Second World War. After the war, he returned to his accounting job, then eventually turned to acting in the late 1940s.

Elam died October 20, 2003 in Ashland, Oregon.

The character Jack Elam plays a small part in Natural Selection. He’s not a villain but a loyal man to the leader of Ravencroft. He does, however, ride a horse.


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