'Branded:' An Interview with Author Jon Armour
When novelist Jon Armour befriended his neighbor, Bob Harold Leach, over two decades ago, he unknowingly gained access to the story of a lifetime. Armour was shocked... and intrigued when the man he knew as charismatic and kind turned out to be "the most notorious cattle rustler of our time." The author's new release, Branded, is based on the true story about the longtime cowboy's exciting, colorful, and outrageous antics.
To learn more about the story behind the story, read A Good Book To End The Day’s interview with the author below.
Tell us a little about yourself and your journey to becoming an author.
I am a fiction author happily living in Magnolia Texas, with my wife Karen. I have a career in IT infrastructure managing industrial-type projects and I am looking to retire into writing in the coming years. My “journey” into writing has been a slow process. I started writing short stories and “creative writing” when I was a young kid in high school. My teacher put me to task writing about my day, events going on around me, and my perceptions of the world as I saw it. That resulted in some decent tales. I became hooked on telling stories via written prose. Since then, I have always wanted to be a novelist. But life caught up with me and I found myself with a full-blown career, a wife and kids, and just no time to catch up with my writing again. It wasn’t until about four years ago that I was able to clear my schedule and my mind and get back to what I love. Writing. But even now, it is still difficult to peg large blocks of time to focus and put thoughts to paper.
What compelled you to tell the story of Bob Harold Leach?
This project, the story of Bob Harold Leach, was set in my mind for a book, a biography, a little more than 20 years ago. I lived near Bob back in 1999-2001 and I befriended him and began doing work around his ranch in my spare time. It was intriguing to me to watch how they worked cattle and horses and ran a ranch. I was enthralled by the whole “rustic” cowboy and “wild west” atmosphere that was going on at the ranch. At times it was like being thrust back into the 1800s. In time, I learned to ride, rope calves, mend fences, work the cattle chutes and take care of the animals.
Bob was/is a colorful and charismatic character. He was modern, but at the same time, stuck in the last century. About five years ago, one person after another kept egging me on to put this story to paper. I received constant comments, “this should be a movie,” “that would make a great book,” etc. I decided to embark on this “journey” based on the excitement and energy that I created in verbally telling parts of the story.
Can you speak on your relationship with Bob then and now? What are his thoughts on the book?
Well, my relationship with Bob back then was one of neighbor, helper, friend, and sometimes confidant. It was fun and exciting. I spent much time with him on the lake in his boat, working the ranch, eating out often at his favorite Mexican restaurant, and drinking beers in the “love shack.” It was affectionately called that because of what went on in there when it wasn’t an office for the ranch hands.
There were a lot of things that I observed on the ranch, including a lot of promiscuity. It was Hugh Hefner’s place set in a rustic cowboy environment. There were guns pulled out, fist fights, wild rides, on and off the horses, and apparently a lot of stolen cattle. There were drugs, but Bob never partook in them and there were drunks, plenty of them, riding horses and showing off their skills whilst drinking beer and challenging each other’s talents. My relationship with Bob now is vastly different. Mostly because he turned out to be a hardened criminal which I did not know at the time. I talk to him at least once a week, sometimes more, but I keep him at an arm’s length so as not to become his next victim.
He is serving fourteen life sentences in a Huntsville, Texas, high-security unit. He hasn’t changed, it’s the same old “cons” as back in the day. Often, he will try to manipulate me into doing something nefarious for him, but I put a stop to it and remind him that if he wants to continue to have an “outside” contact, he’d better knock it off. He goes “radio silent” for a while and then reaches back out.
Does Bob like the book? Yes, he does. He thoroughly enjoyed the way I portrayed him. There is one exception, I depicted him a little on the short side in describing his performance in bed. He wasn’t too happy about that. But I told him I had two choices, either an eight-second ride or two minutes. Neither choice was to his liking. He says, “cowboy, I can go all night.”
While Branded is based on a true crime story, how much of the book is actually fact?
It is “based” on a true story but fictionalized to the point that none of the characters are recognizable in their true sense. The true parts are based on my personal experiences, stories Bob told me, and newspaper and magazine articles published about him after he was caught and convicted of various crimes. Any similarity of the characters in the book to a real person are considered coincidental, of course, but if you read the news articles, you can draw your own conclusions about who is who and if they are real or not. I am not saying one way or another.
What do you hope readers take away from the book?
It’s not so much the “take-away” as it is the feelings and emotions invoked while reading it. I believe it is captivating, exciting, fantastic, and unbelievable and each chapter moves you to want to read the next as soon as possible. The reader can live vicariously through the eyes of this cowboy gone bad and sense what he does, feel his pain, and pretend for a moment to be him. It’s not everyone or every day that you can live like he did, always on the edge of danger and the problems of too much cash, too many women, and being branded by his nemesis, Diamond Jim. Readers can live a little of this; get into his head and wonder, “What’s it like to be Bob?” The takeaway is, “wow, what a wild ride!” And then you return to earth and thank God you won’t have to live like he did.
Do you have any other projects in the works at this time?
I have around sixty-seven or so projects in the pipeline. But that pipe drips. Every day I wake up, and sometimes in the middle of the night, I add another title to chew on. I said earlier that I wanted to retire full time into writing, so, that number of potential writing projects will certainly keep me busy. I have full synopses for each work, and I am working on one at a time. I’m not out to break any book publishing records or the Guinness record for how many books a person can write in a year. I aim to publish quality novels, great reads. I am after the “epic” story that excites and holds readers’ attention. I want them to crave more. I think that is a goal of most writers. Perhaps for some, it’s a numbers game. Or, they have some formula for how many books to write that translates into a certain amount of residual income. But for me, it’s about creating a work of art, mastering my characters, and placing them in real environments people can relate to. That takes time to perfect. It cannot be rushed.
What does literary success look like to you?
Literary success looks a lot to me like publishing work and seeing it through proper PR and marketing. Getting it out into the world with wings so that the target audience and beyond can enjoy it and want more. I don’t mean throwing stuff out to see what sticks. I want to intentionally publish material that is relevant to the times or to the latest trends and fads in popularity. I think in that way, your work transcends across audiences and genres and you can gather more of a following in time.
Thanks so much for being part of the A Good Book To End The Day family! Is there
anything else you’d like to add?
Yes, Get BRANDED now!
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