‘Gunslingers’: La Jolla resident’s first book uses Old West setting to explore ‘modern sensibilities’

"Gunslingers," a Western novel, is La Jolla resident Kendall Roberts' first book.
(Kendall Roberts)

Pediatrician Kendall Roberts says he’s moved from writing as a hobby to a part-time career.


“Westerns can have a lot of interesting moral complexity,” says longtime La Jolla resident Kendall Roberts, whose first novel, “Gunslingers,” explores modern themes set in the Western frontier.

Roberts, a pediatrician for Children’s Primary Medical Group in San Diego, published “Gunslingers” in December. He calls it a classic Western and “hero’s journey” set in a fictional version of the American Southwest.

Protagonist Will Covington is “thrown into seeking to avenge what’s happened to his family,” Roberts said. Characters’ backstories are explored within the theme of “the image we present to the world.”

The principal characters struggle with how their pasts affect their futures while the book also digs into “modern sensibilities” of the treatment of women and indigenous people, Roberts said.

Though this is Roberts’ first published book, he has enjoyed writing since he was young, often composing “grand ideas [that] lasted three pages and I never went back and picked it up,” he said.

Kendall Roberts, a pediatrician, says he has always enjoyed writing.
(Provided by Kendall Roberts)

Roberts, an avid reader of science fiction and fantasy books (along with pediatric magazines), moved from writing as a hobby to a part-time career after feeling he had a solid premise for “Gunslingers.”

Westerns contain fodder for examining notions such as independence and “being outside the law,” he said.

“The end of the book … occurred to me first,” Roberts said. He then explored how the characters arrived there.

Inspired by watching Western movies and traveling around the Southwest as a child, Roberts wrote the entire book in about five months, working evenings after his pediatric shifts.

“I had a routine where I would come home and I had a goal of 700 words a night,” he said.

Through the process, Roberts became increasingly intrigued by many of the supporting characters and their motivations, leading him to flesh them out more.

Will’s love interest, Janie De Casas, “became a much more powerful, much more interesting character” as the book developed, Roberts said.

Janie’s evolution led Roberts to begin writing her story as a sequel to “Gunslingers,” his current project.

That book weaves more of the fantasy genre into the story, delving “into the [idea of] multiverses,” he said.

He said he might extend “Gunslingers” into a trilogy.

Roberts, who has a son in college and a daughter at La Jolla High School, said he would love to be a full-time author.

“There’s always ideas, [but] whether they go anywhere or not is always the thing,” he said.

“I don’t have the ending to [a third book],” he said, noting that stories for which he had the beginning sorted out first “are definitely ones that seemed to fizzle out quicker because … I didn’t know where to go with it after that.”

To purchase “Gunslingers,” visit