Albert Stark is a cowardly sheep rancher who finds himself strangely out of place in Old Stump Arizona in 1882. A Million Ways to Die in the West by Seth MacFarlane is a western / comedy / feels like a time travel book, but really is not.
Albert is so very aware of the discomforts and dangers of the west that you would really believe that he was dropped out of 2014. Albert has sensibilities that you would normally expect to see in someone accustomed to 21st century hygiene and medicine. He makes mental lists of all the potential threats that are likely to kill you – animals, drunks, disease, minor injuries, weather, doctors and so on. He relates to the story of one schoolmarm, who was a good marm, who met her end due to tumbleweed abrasion. Any number of seemingly innocent every day events can kill you in 1882 and Albert Starks lives in fear of all of them.
When we first meet Albert he has suffered public humiliation when he refuses to fight a local bully over damage Albert’s sheep has done to his land. As a result his girlfriend dumps him and he falls into a deep depression, and there he remains until a mysterious young woman, Anna Barnes, shows up in town. She bolsters his confidence with her affection and her gunfighting lessons. Unbeknownst to Albert, Anna is also married to notorious and terrifying thug Clinch Leatherwood, who is not going to take kindly to Albert sniffing around his woman. Add into the mix Albert’s hapless friend Edward and his prostitute girlfriend Ruth (perhaps one of the best characters in the book – a prostitute so earnest, hardworking and awkward – who is “saving” herself, much to Edward’s dismay, for her wedding night).
So this one made me laugh. And laugh again. And during one memorable anecdote about one of Albert’s sheep, I laughed for several minutes. Bear in mind this is Seth MacFarlane of Family Guy, so expect a raunchy, inappropriate yet engaging little treat for a Saturday afternoon. The movie is slated for release this month and I think it will be hilarious to see Ruth the earnest prostitute being played by Sarah Silverman.
And other parodies for your enjoyment:
Fifty Shames of Earl Grey by Fanny Merkin
Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bible by Jonathan Goldstein
Let Me Off at the Top: my classy life and other musings by Ron Burgundy