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Documentary details life of prolific author who boosted NM film industry

Max Evans is a raconteur.

That style has afforded the Albuquerque-based writer a stellar career in the literary world.

Max Evans holds his book “The Hi-Lo Country,” which was made into a movie in 1998.

In his 93 years, Evans has come out of every situation with a grand story – and he’ll tell you about them if you have the time.

Yet for a man whose brain swims with words, he’s at a loss when he talks about himself.

For the past couple of years, filmmaker Lorene Mills has taken on the task of creating a documentary about Evans’ life.

She worked with Paul Barnes and David Leach on the projects and will have a screening at 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 19, at the Center for Contemporary Arts in Santa Fe as part of the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival.

Max Evans has written dozens of books. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

On Sunday, Oct. 22, the documentary will screen at the KiMo Theatre at 4 p.m. The event is free.

“I’m very proud of what they did, and Lorene put a wonderful package together,” Evans says of the film. “To be honest, I am truly embarrassed. I just simply don’t feel like I deserve such a tremendous tribute film. I mean that with all my heart. So many people put so much into the little film, and the work is tremendous. It humbles you a lot.”

The worlds Evans creates are full of cowboy culture – one he is very familiar with.

Albuquerque author Max Evans has picked up numerous awards for his writing.

He was born in Ropes, Texas, where he learned about life on a ranch.

He’s a cowboy. He’s a miner. He’s a visual artist.

The dozens of novels he’s written include “The Rounders,” “The Hi Lo Country” and “The One-Eyed Sky.”

Each piece of work is of Evans. It’s a glimpse into a world where everything is on his terms.

“I can write a book as thick as 10 Bibles,” he says with a laugh. “Words come out in my head and are written through my arms. Knowing when to quit is the hardest thing. When I’m writing, I don’t care of what anybody will think. I will go live in that world that I created, until I decide to leave it – that’s when I write the end.”

Throughout his career, Evans has picked up many honors.

More than a dozen are displayed around his Albuquerque home – an oasis for the writer.

“You couldn’t ask for a better place to write,” he says while looking out a window to his patio. “All of my success has helped me get to this point in my life.”

Evans has received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Western Writers Association of America.

Despite all of the attention and accolades, Evans remains humble.

“I know how this will sound, but I have to say it,” he says. “Being able to help other struggling people – writers – that I believe in … being able to help them get published, that’s one of the most rewarding things to happen to me in my life. To say that I was there once and knowing how they feel when your back is against the wall. I know when I was trying to be a painter, I deeply appreciated the people who took me on, and getting help from them was immeasurable.”

With the documentary, Evans was able to revisit many parts of his life – some of which he didn’t remember.

“There are a few spans of years that I completely forgot about,” he says. “I guess life happened.”

Evans is also proud of two projects in New Mexico he was involved in.

The first is being part of the New Mexico Film Commission, which was started under the direction of former Gov. David Cargo, who served from 1967 to 1971.

Evans was a founding member of the commission, the first in the United States.

He was able to help out Cargo because of his Hollywood connections, thanks to his book “The Rounders.”

“I went to Hollywood alone and on my own dime,” he says. “I enlisted the help of my agent, (director) Sam Peckinpah, (director) Burt Kennedy and others. This resulted in a breakfast at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Fifty-seven major Hollywood producers and directors were there. Dave Cargo made a powerful speech about filming in New Mexico. He doesn’t get the credit he deserves when it comes to the film industry. The push for film in New Mexico started with him.”

The other project he is proud of is helping found the New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum in Las Cruces. The museum opened in 1998.

Former Gov. Garrey Carruthers and former state Secretary of Agriculture Frank DuBois wanted to start a museum in Las Cruces.

“Pat (his wife) and I, we drove from here to Las Cruces back and forth for 16 years to get the museum started,” he recalls. “We had to meet in a little office. Frank had an office, and there were too many people and we often stood for the meeting. Being able to bring the museum to life was a blessing.”

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