A Million Ways to Die in the West

Originally published March 2014

So, yeah. I saw Seth “Family Guy” McFarlane on The Daily Show talking about his new book, “Seth McFarlane’s A Million Ways to Die in the West”—a book based off a screen adaptation of his upcoming film, and thought, “Well, that’s sure be a fun book for the boys to read.”

Now I am trying to figure out where I can hide it.

Not because it’s a bad book. Quite the opposite—it’s a humorous break from reality. No, I’m just rethinking my “I want the boys to read more” strategy because I’m not ready to get the phone call from the dean asking why I would allow my kids to bring to school a book that graphically depicts whorehouse behavior. Not graphic as in “the correct use of anatomical terms.” Nah, it’s more in line with graphic-but-funny descriptions of new and unusual sex acts as performed by a local whore. While her boyfriend waits patiently in the saloon. Because he loves her—even if she will screw everyone else in town except for him. She’s waiting for marriage, yo.

The Seth McFarlane book tells the tale of Albert Stark, a hapless lifelong denizen and general hater of the Old West, and his hometown Old Stump, where people die for myriad reasons, from snakes to exploding cameras to barfights to crushing blocks of ice. In fact, it was a brush with near death in the form of cholera that brought together Albert and his true love, Louise—his only reason for living. Well, her and the sheep he tends unsuccessfully. Albert remains fairly cynical yet content, until Louise pulls a “It’s not you, it’s me” and leaves him for the local purveyor of all things moustache, a jerk named Foy.

Yep, Albert is the George Costanza of Old Stump, clinging only to what’s left—his misbehaving sheep, his equally grumpy parents and his friends Edward and Ruth, the prostitute with a heart of gold. Yep, Albert is ready to bust loose, until he meets the mysterious Anna—think the J Law of the Old West—stunningly beautiful, can relate to the guys, will drink you under the table, teach you how to shoot and look like a motherflipping lady the entire time. It’s Albert’s journey with Anna that leads to the climax (not Edward and Ruth, though he does get lucky) of the book—a high noon showdown with the West’s most dastardly dude, Clinch Leatherwood. Did I mention Anna’s last name was Leatherwood? Yep.

So back to my dilemma—should my 16- and 18-year-old boys read it? Oh hell no. But chances are they will whether I like it or not. This might just get placed on the shelf without comment, and we’ll see if they ferret it out. But you—should you read it? If you are even close to remotely offended at glancing descriptions of depraved sex acts—if you would never conk out your bad boy ex-lover and leave him bare-assed in the middle of the desert with a flower sticking out of his arse—if you can’t laugh at the vision of sheep wandering onto your roof instead of grazing in the field—then you need to turn around and run fast. On the other hand, if you can appreciate witty raunch, and are in the mood for a quick read (clocking in at 211 pages), you should get a kick out of the book before the movie hits the theaters this year. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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