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Into the West

Actor and martial arts star Chuck Norris loved Westerns as a boy. He's read all of the works of Louis L'Amour, and some episodes of Norris's long-running Walker, Texas Ranger TV show were set in the 1800s. Now, after three autobiographies and several books on martial arts and fitness, he's co-authoring his first novel, the first of a planned series set in the Old West.

The Justice Riders--to be written by Norris, Ken Abraham, Norris's brother Aaron, and Tim Grayem--is due out in January from evangelical Christian press Broadman & Holman. The book features a band of heroes led by Ezra Justice, a character modeled on Norris. B&H editorial director Len Goss described the series, which begins just as the Civil War is ending, as a cross between The A Team and The Lone Ranger. He believes the book will appeal to Chuck Norris fans, Christian fiction readers, followers of B&H Westerns author Stephen Bly, and general readers hungry for "clean" fiction.

Ken Abraham has worked on some 45 books, including Let's Roll (Tyndale, 2002) with Lisa Beamer and I Was Wrong (Nelson, 1996) with Jim Bakker. He described The Justice Riders characters as "openly Christian but not overtly Christian."

Norris wants the novels to convey the same moral values that made Walker a family show. He spoke with BookLine while taking a break from shooting a two-hour Walker movie that will air Oct. 9 on CBS. Norris revealed his difficult, impoverished childhood and alcoholic absentee father in Against All Odds (B&H, 2004), written with Abraham. He noted that movies were his escape, and cowboy heroes like John Wayne were "a surrogate father to me."

The idea for the novels had "been in the back of my mind for several years," Norris said. "I've just been too busy to do it." He wrapped up the Walker series in 2001 after eight years on the air to spend more time with wife Dena and their twins, a boy and girl who turn 4 at the end of August. (From previous marriages, the Norrises have a total of seven children and nine grandchildren.)

Norris said once The Justice Riders is finished, he intends to start shopping the story as a TV movie, with himself playing Ezra Justice.