Book review: A Million Ways To Die In The West


A Million Ways To Die In The West

Seth MacFarlane.

Published by Canongate.

Here’s a poser: Which is harder? Writing a funny book? Or writing a funny film or TV show?

I would have thought writing a funny book would be the easier of the two, but in my experience, this doesn’t seem to be the case. For while I’ve seen countless sitcoms and movies which have made me laugh, the number of books that have amused me to that extent remain very few.

If anyone can write a funny book it should be Seth MacFarlane. As the creator of the animated series Family Guy, he has arguably produced one of the funniest shows of the century so far. His film screenplay Ted (in which Mark Wahlberg is accompanied by a foul mouthed, sleazy teddy bear which came to life during his childhood), was a hit too. Even his lesser successes (the animated show American Dad which he co-created and his supposedly poorly received Oscar ceremony hosting gig in 2013) have been good.

This is MacFarlane’s first novel and is based on the screenplay for the forthcoming film in which he also stars which he co-wrote with Alec Sulkin. Set in the Wild West of the 1880s, it centres on Albert Stark, a sheep farmer who (rather like Wahlberg’s character in Ted) has girlfriend trouble. In this case, the problem is that the supposed love of his life Louise has deserted him in favour of the local moustache merchant. Albert soon finds himself becoming sucked into a typically western experience, namely a life of duels, shoot outs and out of body experiences with a tribe of Native Americans.

Is it funny? Well, it’s certainly mildly amusing. I suspect the dialogue isn’t totally authentic to the 1880s setting (”when I sit down and go to the bathroom, it feels like there’s a madman trying to punch his way out of my asshole”) but there’s some touching scenes between Albert’s sweet natured friend Edward and his fiancée Millie, a terrifically promiscuous prostitute who nevertheless feels it would be sinful to consummate her relationship with Edward before their big day. There’s also a song about moustaches.

It’s fine. And I expect the film will be the best comedy western since Blazing Saddles. Perhaps better. But maybe you should wait to see at the cinema? Because, for some reason, I expect it will end up being much funnier on the screen than it is on the page.

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