John Duncklee is one of a kind, a renaissance Westerner from hat to boots.
Whether he’s working as a teacher, author, horse breeder or cattle rancher, he always feels strongly about what he’s doing. You could say he’s crazy, funny and compassionate, all rolled into one.
Duncklee’s knowledge is broad and ranges from coyotes (both the two and four-legged kind) to buzzards, and from kids to burros. And he deftly articulates life’s lessons in his passionate stories.
“I’m a dreamer,” Duncklee says. “I also have an imagination that tends to invent people based on who I have known in my life. Stories seem to just happen.”
Although Duncklee has 10 books and numerous published articles under his belt, the stories just keep coming.
Duncklee’s love of the West is rooted in the loss of his mother when he was 10 years old and living in New York. It was a time when he avidly read Will James and dreamed of becoming a cowboy. Eventually, his father took the young dreamer to the World Championship Rodeo at Madison Square Garden in New York City, where Duncklee discovered that cowboys “wore more than their bare bottoms under their chaps.” His desire to be a cowboy was cemented.
An ivy league education was not in the works for Duncklee, as he instead served in the Navy during the Korean War. After his discharge, he moved to Arizona and endured the gritty, back-breaking life of a cowboy. Raising cattle in the 1950s was doubly difficult as Arizona had its worst drought in 400 years.
Through the decades, Duncklee has learned a lesson about coyotes—the human variety. And he wrote a book about it, titled Coyotes I Have Known.
He takes his life experiences to heart and shares the lessons he has learned with readers of his nonfictional and fictional stories. Whether it’s his colorful, gritty fiction, such as Graciela of the Border or Genevieve of Tombstone, or his nonfiction, like Good Years for the Buzzards or Coyotes, he connects his readers with the real West, both past and present.
“Duncklee is the equal of the best storytellers about the Old West,” Western author Preston Lewis says. Author Jim Woolard adds, “John Duncklee knows his Western women, men, horses, cattle, and terrain.”
And does Duncklee ever deliver. At the beginning of Graciela of the Border, readers meet Jeff Collins, trussed up like a chicken for trying to retrieve stolen horses, and Graciela Mendez, a prisoner on her own Mexican rancho. Readers are immediately drawn into the tale, as Duncklee’s method of storytelling shines from the first page to the last.
Duncklee does most of his writing in the morning, although he’ll occasionally continue throughout the day, if he’s on a roll. He attributes his well-developed characters to the biographies he writes for each one. “More often than not, my characters carry the story,” he says. “I develop these people and they seem to take over even when I argue with them!”
Don’t argue with your characters too hard, John, they’re doing just fine.
Peggy Bechko writes Westerns, fantasies, romances, travel articles and screenplays.