March - May 2009

December 2008
All Guns Blazing
Jim Bowden & Co.
Revolver Conversions

September 2008
Western Noir
Power of the Premise
West on Wheels

June 2008
Plot or Not Debate
Jack Giles
Whitney Revolver

March 2008
Walt Masterson
Plotters and Pantsers
More Horse Talk

December 2007
Peace at Any Price
Dan Claymaker
Horse Sense

September 2007
Artist Michael Thomas
Judging by Covers
The Schofield Revolver

June 2007
David Whitehead
Realistic Ballistics
Plot Twists

March 2007
Crime/western fiction
The Walker Colt
Sydney J. Bounds

December 2006
Lauran Paine
Jake Douglas & Co.

September 2006
Misfit Lil
Greg Mitchell

June 2006
Marshall Grover
Facts for Fiction
March 2006
Jeff Sadler
Mike Stotter
Writers and Money


Blast from the Literary Past   Hoofprints
Twin Challenge to Tyler Hatch
  Night Herds and Stampedes
Walt Masterson's Sundown Ride   New Black Horse Westerns

Black Horse Westerns come in no one voice. The range of styles and approaches to what could be a very confining genre has remained so far a point of appeal for the fiction line published since 1986 by Robert Hale Ltd, of London. Thus a recent comment about imposition of "straitjackets" publishers of westerns would feel are necessary "in order to preserve our markets" is ominous.

In 2008, more than fifty different pen-names appeared on the 72 new BHW titles released, though some names concealed the identities of writers already represented on the list. Hale's standard Memorandum of Agreement specifies that "the Publishers shall not be obliged to publish any two novels by the said Author within six months of each other".

From the viewpoint of a prolific author, who at times might be producing a book a month, multiple pen-names are a sensible solution. Veteran Australian scribe Keith Hetherington springs to mind, writing BHWs as Jake Douglas, Tyler Hatch, Hank J. Kirby and now Rick Dalmas. Keith has roped in Dalmas to replace Clayton Nash. The latter name was used by a lately notorious Australian criminal; the new one, Keith tells us, is inspired by Raymond Chandler's detective character John Dalmas -- "a forerunner of my all-time favourite private-eye, Philip Marlowe."

For an author who wants, and has the talent, to produce westerns in different styles, it also makes sense to work under more than one name. An author with, say, a reputation for dark suspense might not want to spoil it with a book in which the major attraction is light-hearted, whimsical character studies.

But a plethora of lookalike bylines makes selection by a reader who cannot find time for 72 westerns a year a baffling task. How do you figure out that to read more of favourite Author X you must seek out books by Author Y? Also, it has been put forward that the same problem occurs in reverse. An author whose work does not suit your taste sneaks another perceived clunker into your pile of library borrowings -- by using a different pen-name on a book that for you has identical shortcomings and occasionally is a virtual repeat of a story you wouldn't have chosen to read again.

Some BHW authors do manage to stand out in a short time. Matthew P. Mayo, Eugene Clifton and Ross Morton have made their marks, each with fewer than a handful of books. The less than prolific writer told it might be "wise" to adopt a new name should think carefully, and maybe pause to familiarize him or herself with all facets of the business axiom "activity equals success".

International speaker and bestselling Penguin author Debbie Mayo-Smith says: "The sales you make today are generated from the marketing activity you have done in the past. What differs, industry by industry, is the lead time required for the activity to achieve results. Stop or change the activity and in a corresponding time in the future, sales will fall."

Perils can lie in abandoning an old pen-name, or producing one's own competition. Regular, savvy readers might catch on that the new name is an author known to them, but for many it will be diluting the impression the writer has already made. "Ah yes, Author A, there's nothing special about him . . . he writes little differently from Author B and Author C."

On the other hand, publishers and readers of genre fiction could argue they don't want authors who are distinctive, let alone have distinction.

Your comments and western news are always welcome at    

Sample Chapter


Arthur Conan Doyle
A BHW nod to Sherlock Holmes


Zach Skann came to Denver toting a deadly 12-gauge Greener shotgun. His mind was warped and sick from fifteen years in a penitentiary and it sought the palliative of vengeance against mines investor Ryan Bennett, the former Pinkerton detective responsible for his incarceration and the hangings of comrades.
    Subsequently, it fell to Joshua Dillard, gun-for-hire, to seek the truth about Bennett’s murder for his sister, icily beautiful Flora Bennett. She declared she’d been cheated of a bequest; that Ryan’s widow and his smooth ex-secretary knew more than they were letting on.
    To clear up the sorry mess of accusation and trickery, Joshua rode to a mining-town hell-hole. There the trail of inquiry became a trail of more blood!

Back cover
Blast to Oblivion

CHAP O'KEEFE writes:

THE first words in this book, after the title pages, are written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: "The old wheel turns, and the same spoke comes up. It’s all been done before, and will be again."

Black Horse Western readers who are also Sherlockians will recognize that quotation as words spoken by Sherlock Holmes in the second chapter of The Valley of Fear. The Holmes novel was serialized in Britain in The Strand magazine between September 1914 and May 1915. Along the way, the George H. Doran Company, of New York, gave it a  first book publication on February 27, 1915.

The Valley of Fear was the fourth and last of the Sherlock Holmes "Long Stories", and is set in 1875 and 1895. It's a short novel by the standards of its day, the page count being not very different from today's average BHW.

When the four Holmes novels were collected and published in one volume for the first time, Conan Doyle wrote a Preface dated June 1929.

It began, "The following stories paint Mr Sherlock Holmes and his activities upon a somewhat broader canvas where there is room for expansion. This expansion must express itself in action, for there is no room for character development in the conception of a detective."

Joshua’s territory comprised the Frontier West, which was the kind of place that attracted the bold and self-sufficient man and quickly gave he who was neither the message that he was best advised to light out, promptly and headlong, for safer haunts.

Conan Doyle's view of "action" in fiction is rather different from what later generations have come to expect. Of The Valley of Fear he also said, rightly, "Holmes plays a subsidiary part in this story."

When the book was released as a movie in 1935, retitled The Triumph of Sherlock Holmes, the screenplay by H. Fowler Mear and Cyril Twyford gave the detective a livelier role, especially in the closing scenes. The evil Professor Moriarty also made an appearance and lines of dialogue and plot elements were added from other Holmes stories.

Holmes was played not for the first time by British stage actor Arthur Wontner. Before being cast as Holmes, Wontner had performed as the similar but more active detective Sexton Blake -- sometimes dubbed "the office boy's Sherlock Holmes" -- in a live theatrical production.  In The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1933), Chicago journalist, book critic and pulp fiction writer Vincent Starrett said, "No better Sherlock Holmes than Arthur Wontner is likely to be seen and heard in pictures in our time."

Wontner had the look of Strand artist Sidney Paget's Holmes and the actor received a congratulatory letter from Conan Doyle's wife for his interpretation. A decade later, he was largely forgotten when more lavish, Hollywood productions of Holmes stories had promoted Basil Rathbone as the definitive cinema Holmes.

But all this strays a little from the intention here, which is to explain how The Valley of Fear, a classic detective novel, comes to be quoted at the front of a western novel released in 2009.

To be honest, I don't remember exactly when the notion of  using elements of the Holmes novel  in a western  first occurred.  It could have been  while watching the Wontner movie on DVD. In his 1929 note on the novel, Conan Doyle also wrote that the story "had its origin through my reading a graphic account of the Molly McQuire [sic] outrages in the coalfields of Pennsylvania, when a young detective drawn from Pinkerton's Agency acted exactly as the hero is represented as doing."

Looking for a catalyst that would set in train the plotting for my seventh novel to feature Joshua Dillard, an ex-Pinkerton detective and freelance troubleshooter, I thought, "Hmm. .  . ." (the way you do), briefly researched the historical facts of the Molly Maguires, as Doyle must have done, and a storyline quickly came together.

‘Six months past, my brother’s head was blown apart by a blast from a shotgun in the presence of his wife and Joseph Darcy, his private secretary. Mr Darcy was Rye and Jennie’s good friend as well as an
employee. He was playing the piano accompaniment and Jennie was singing a light air for their mutual entertainment when an intruder broke into the house, burst upon them, and shot Rye dead.’

James McParland


Conan Doyle's story had some features that readily could be adapted for an action-packed western and others that could not. To go into all the details would require "spoilers ahead" notices for Blast -- possibly for Valley, too, assuming some readers of BHWs may not have read it and will wish to. So I'll avoid a few, particular lines of potential discussion.

The real-life Pinkerton agent James McParland became John Douglas in Valley; Ryan Bennett in Blast. In both books, they have become very rich men in their post-Pinkerton lives.

Elsewhere, you can read how Conan Doyle, on an ocean voyage, met William Pinkerton, son of detective agency founder Allan, and grew fascinated by the "singular and terrible narrative" of the Molly Maguires. Their friendship later ended "over the rendition of some Pinkerton exploits in fictional form". Patrick Campbell, a relative of one of the executed Mollies and author of A Molly Maguire Story, speculates that the break came because "Pinkerton must have disliked how close the novel was getting to the truth."

Many of the differences between Valley and Blast arise because they are written for different audiences in different times. Valley was presented for a detective story readership; Blast is presented for a western story readership.

William Pinkerton

Unable to check the frenzied horse, clinging on to the saddle but liable to slip any moment, Joshua feared he might eventually be dragged or that the horse would fall, roll and trap him by the leg or more. So he let his left foot out of the stirrup, too.
Immediately his boot left the stirrup, he went headlong out, sideways and down. It might indeed have proved the best course he could have taken but for the terrain. It was rough and the horse was moving too fast and too erratically for him to make fine calculations.
He crashed into a small, lichen-splotched boulder. He hit it head on.

Much of Valley is told in the form of a flashback. The book is of fourteen chapters and an epilogue; the flashback occupies chapters 8 to 14. Holmes's role is confined to the first seven chapters and the epilogue's couple of pages at the end.

The "story within a story" was a familiar and acceptable literary device in Victorian and Edwardian fiction. Doyle had used the identical technique for his first Holmes novel, A Study in Scarlet. I think if a two-part treatment like this was employed for a BHW submission, the author would be courting almost certain rejection. The hero, as well as solving the problems, must be a participant in the body of the story and in its action.

As in Valley, the story in Blast really has its beginning in a gruesome shotgun killing. But in Valley, Holmes does his trademark deducing.

At the outset, Holmes impresses by deciphering a coded message, warning of the killing. The code involves a specific page of  a book, in this case Whitaker's Almanack. One commentator has reported that the idea was picked up by Doyle from French detective story writer Emile Gaboriau's Monsieur Lecoq (1869).

In Blast, the central character, Joshua Dillard, is drawn into the case, more ordinarily perhaps, by Ryan Bennett's spinster sister, the beautiful Flora. "His decision to take up the affair came down to the bedrock of the original considerations that he was near flat-broke; that Flora’s brother, like himself, had served with and quit the Pinkertons; that Flora was someone who’d known his lost wife."

Also in Blast,  the main action isn't incorporated  in a flashback in Vermissa Valley. It begins in what I've tried to present as a very real Denver (despite the publisher's inevitable misgivings) and ends up in a raw Colorado mining town called Silverville. Everything happens to or around Joshua as he does his investigating and the story develops contemporaneously: the questionings in parlour houses, ambush, abduction, rescue, saloon gunfight, a second killing and so on, in exciting BHW style, till we reach the horrific climax inside a building which houses a stamp mill for the crushing of ore.


Joshua moved forward into the gloom, away from the slanting grey light through the door, feinting in one direction yet taking another. He felt sweat trickling down his spine, caught a hint of movement from where he’d last seen Bud . . . a blur of darker, shifting shadow.
He reacted by pure instinct. He twisted, turned and triggered as Bud fired at him. But his own snapped shot failed to hit Bud and the flare from his
gun’s muzzle pinpointed him for Skann.
‘I got you now, Dillard, you sonofabitch!’

Martin Edwards
I think, however, the echoes of Valley of Fear are ringing loud and clear when we come to the dénouement. And Blast to Oblivion does have a three-page epilogue, too, though not headed up with that word and quite delightfully different in character as Flora fulfils a commitment she made to bestow on her successful detective a very private reward.  And yes, the ultra-cautious publisher did let it stand in a BHW!

Last year, British crime writer Martin Edwards posted at his always perceptive blog "Do You Write Under Your Own Name?" as follows:

"It’s desperately difficult to be truly original when writing a novel, no matter how hard one tries. There are a few landmark books that do seem to pass that test of originality – yet, on closer inspection, doubts may set in.

"One example is Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. The ingenious solution caused outrage (misplaced, surely) when the book came out in 1926. Yet Christie had made a gesture towards the same plot device in an earlier book, The Man in the Brown Suit. And later it came to light that Anton Chekhov, no less, had written a book with a similar twist called The Shooting Party, back in 1884. . . .

"There are all kinds of similarities that can be found in superficially very different books. The device in Christie’s The ABC Murders has often been used, for instance by writers as different from her as Ed McBain and Lee Child. But this is definitely not a sign of lack of originality, in my opinion – it’s a challenge for any writer to breathe new life into an old idea, and very satisfying when it comes off, as it did when McBain and Child spun their own variations on the basic theme."

I hope a similar verdict will be voiced by any Sherlockian readers of the new Joshua Dillard adventure.

-- Keith Chapman, aka Chap O'Keefe. A free excerpt from
Blast to Oblivion can be read online here.



Horse of a different colour.
Impressions of a diverting kind


BHW authors are always appreciative of effective cover art, like the fine example seen on Comanche Country, to be published by Hale in April. Horseman Paddy Gallagher (aka author Greg Mitchell) writes from his home in the Australian Capital Territory, "I would not complain about that cover. It is eye-catching and well painted. Just a bit of trivia . . . that horse's colour is what we used to call a taffy. They were common when I was a kid but now are rarely seen. I suspect the mares were used to breed palominos, which are a much lighter, more golden colour, and the taffies gradually died out. I don't know what a cowboy would call that colour but I have seen the odd one in movies. I hope you had a very happy Christmas and that 2009 is a great year for you. Thank you for your support and helpful advice." And thanks to Paddy for his regular contributions to the Extra, generously packed with information for reader and writer alike!

After her children had watched The Magnificent Seven, columnist Helen Mead told the York newspaper The Press: "As far as I know that was their first taste of westerns. This is quite the opposite to my youth, when children were raised on a diet of cowboy films. Scarcely a day went by when there wasn’t a Wild West movie or series on the TV – High Chaparral, Alias Smith and Jones, The Virginian. . . .  As a result every boy, and a fair few girls, played cowboys and Indians – charging around gardens, whipping guns from holsters and dodging arrows, recreating scenes from the Wild West. The kids of today think the Wild West is the Cumbrian mountains and a saloon is where mum gets her hair done. I haven’t seen children playing cowboys and Indians for a long time. It’s not because guns are taboo – you see plenty for sale in toy shops, although they are more Terminator than Gunfight at the OK Corral. I don’t think it’s anything to do with the now frowned-on use of the word Indians instead of the politically correct Native Americans. It's simply because children don’t see it. Westerns used to be aired at prime viewing times, from early evening onwards. Watching men on horseback gallop through canyons, pursued by Indians – or the other way around – was as familiar as car chases are today. Everyone knew about Wild Bill Hickok, Dodge City, and Deadman’s Creek. My daughters don’t, and I find that sad. Short of strapping them to the sofa and making them watch every film John Wayne and Co. ever made, I don’t know what can be done."

Missing television's Wild West.

Surprises for Kit.
Author Kit Prate responded with surprise from the farm country of mid-southern Wisconsin to last time's Hoofprint about her first BHW, Jason Kilkenny's Gun. "Most surprising was the information the book had actually been published in England before by W.H. Allen (Star). Always find it amazing when something like that gets picked up . . . especially from my viewpoint as the author! Sometimes, life is not so funny." Later, she added, "Seriously, I was surprised when Black Horse accepted it, with a request for more, newer stuff; even more surprised when I received the PDF proofs. They actually did a great job of editing. They still prefer their sex, or hints thereof, ending at the bedroom door, but the book has remained pretty much intact. Greg Tobin was the editor at Tower [the original, US publisher] at the time; he accepted the MS with very, very little editing. No one was more surprised than I. But then again, he suggested I try something more 'adult' -- it paid better. I complied with Hot Night in Purgatory under the name Steve Travis. My mother was still alive.... Funny thing is the pen name I chose turned out to be the real name of a fundamentalist preacher who was pastor at a friend's church in Seattle. That was kind of embarrassing! But fun, truth be told."

Texan Glenn Dromgoole informed the Go San Angelo website, "If you spent a lot of Saturdays at the local movie theatre watching westerns on the big screen, you should thoroughly enjoy Michael Barson's new book, True West: An Illustrated Guide to the Heyday of the Western (TCU Press, Fort Worth).  Illustrated by hundreds of rare and colourful movie posters, magazine and book covers, comic books, record albums and advertisements, True West is a delightful trip back to yesterday, when the good guys wore white hats, shot straight and probably could sing pretty well, too. . . . A book like this you would expect to be written by a Texan, or maybe someone from Montana or Arizona. Not so. Barson, author of more than a dozen books on popular culture, grew up in Massachusetts and lives in New Jersey. But he knows his western lore. In one chapter, Barson summarizes 101 great western films, and in another chapter, he chronicles 100 years of western literature, from Louis L'Amour and Zane Grey through today's Larry McMurtry, Elmer Kelton and Cormac McCarthy. Another chapter focuses on songs of the open range, beginning with Bing Crosby. Western comic books merit a chapter, as do the western TV shows." And the book has a foreword by bestselling author Robert B. Parker, who calls the US vision of the West and the Westerner "a national state of mind."

Way-back-when in pictures.

From tanks to horses.
It's never too late. . . . Ray Foster (aka Jack Giles) revealed at his Broken Trails blog that Albert Hill's first BHW, The Man from Shiloh, written under the name Elliot Conway, was published in 1987 when he was aged 65 years. The 44th Conway book, The Death Shadow Riders, will be published in July. The octogenarian told Ray he left school with hardly any qualifications and earned a living as a bill poster. During the Second World War, he served in tanks, but his first book, about his experiences in Burma, did not find a publisher. "Albert writes in longhand and then types it up on an old electric typewriter," Ray said. "He does not own a computer." He lives in Darlington, County Durham, and is a member of Western Writers of America.


Misguided commentators, from celebrity critics to newspaper reporters, have an annoying habit of sneering at the western and its writers. Maybe poking fun at "little cowboy books" is seen as a quick way to demonstrate intellectual sophistication and greater knowledge. How far from the truth! David Whitehead, aka BHWs' Ben Bridges and Glenn Lockwood, writes, "I had a Christmas card from B. J. Holmes, who commented on Gillian F. Taylor's recent appearance on British TV's Mastermind, and reminded me that he had actually appeared on the first-ever episode of the old Jimmy Tarbuck vehicle, Winner Takes All, back in the mid-1970s. This in turn reminded me that Mike Stotter appeared on Top of the Form back when he was about 11 or 12 years old. So already we have three BHW writers who've appeared on TV quiz shows. I wonder if there are any others out there?"

In hot seats.

With Hollywood insight.
If you thought Steve Hayes is a name that sounds like it might belong to an old-time movie actor, you'd be on the right trail. As well as writing a BHW, Steve is the author of Googies: Coffee Shop to the Stars, an entertaining, two-volume memoir in which he looks back fondly on living in Hollywood during the 1950s as a small-time actor and manager of the coffee shop, and on the many famous and not-so-famous stars from the era he befriended. Errol Flynn, Robert Middleton, Ava Gardner, Sterling Hayden, Steve McQueen, Ernest Hemingway and Marilyn Monroe were just a few. As well as acting, Steve also scripted westerns for movies and television, including How The West Was Won mini series, Gunsmoke and the screenplay of the John Jakes book The Seekers. Steve says, "The reason I started writing westerns was because I was friends with William Bowers (The Gunfighter), Borden Chase (Red River) and Louis L’Amour. I was an actor under contract to 20th Century Fox and hung out on the Sunset Strip and was manager of Googie’s, where Louis also hung out." Gun for Revenge is the first book in a BHW trilogy. Packing Iron will be published in August and A Coffin for Santa Rosa in November. Steve lives in Huntington Beach, California, with Robbin, his wife of twenty years. The Extra will be bringing readers more of Steve's insider memories.

Helen Ogden joined the publicity department of Robert Hale Ltd last September, replacing Katy Williams who after two years announced she was moving on to pastures new: "I will be the PR executive for Egmont UK, children’s publishers, which I am very excited about. It has been a pleasure working with you all and I wish you the best for the future." Helen said, in her first Hale newsletter, "It is irrefutable that the face of publishing is changing with the rise of social publishing and the sense of an increasingly technology-driven era; 2008 has been a fascinating year in terms of the digital age . . . . It is clear that books must be regarded as a ‘product’ and positioned and marketed in the digital world; 2009 will bring further changes and developments and with this in mind all authors must be thinking about blogs, online reviews, websites and MySpace pages in order to increase their chances of success and to keep up with the digital changes." Any BHW writer who still hasn't dipped their toe into this water is welcome to make first contact via . No "signing up" or payment is involved -- Black Horse Extra is here both to help you and to offer a free, unrestricted platform.

Changes at Hale.

Vardis Fisher
A BHW writer's tale of the uncanny. . .

Although he had lived among whites for thirty years there was still a lot of Indian in Jim Santee. Combined with his gunspeed and ready fists, it made him a good and loyal friend -- or bodyguard. Governor Burdin blessed the day he hired him. That was until Santee failed a crucial assignment.
  To put matters right, Santee tore the territory apart, but when he finally ran the killer down there were shock developments that raised serious doubts . . . and no gunfighter should reach for his guns if he isn't sure of his target.

Back cover

"TWINS are prominent in fiction . . . Many of the mysteries of twins have not yet been solved. These are problem children indeed, though the modern view is that if they are brought up separately they will suffer no handicap. Twin girls have been known to refuse to marry because of the separation which would follow. The unusual sympathy between twins is often uncanny. These are fiction situations, ready-made for use when you have studied them properly."

These statements from Lawrence G. Green in a manual popular with British and Commonwealth writers in the promising years for light fiction after the Second World War make an excellent starting point for a look at the new Black Horse Western from veteran author Keith Hetherington under his Tyler Hatch pen-name.

Twins play a small but crucial part in Wildcats.

When Keith mailed off  the book from his home in Queensland, Australia, for the consideration of publisher John Hale in London, he wasn't worrying about the twins element.

"I wrote Wildcats and submitted  it with a good deal of trepidation," he says. "Oh, I thought the storyline was okay, but I was concerned that right down on the nitty-gritty where motivation and character-building thrive, I had -- shock horror!-- a homosexual rape. Don't race out and buy the book with the hope of getting clinical details because there are none. Actually, I thought I'd done a fairly good job of handling the subject, but I knew from corresponding with other Black Horse writers that John Hale might not approve. . . .  I've always pictured him about my own age. He told me once he edited his first book, Mountain Man by Vardis Fisher, in 1943."

In fact, dates given for Mountain Man -- A Novel of Male and Female in the Early West range wildly. Fantastic Fiction offers1920, but various US bibliographic websites say the first edition was published in New York by William Morrow in 1965. It sounds an interesting novel and somewhat un-Hale-like:

"Moving close and reaching into the water, he put his right arm under her knees and his left across her back and brought her up. He waded ashore and stood in full sun, holding her dripping body, looking at the beauty of her bronzed Indian skin; at her breasts, which he thought perfect; at her lovely throat and shoulders; and at last at her eyes. What he thought he saw in her eyes he had no word for. He guessed that was what love meant. Kissing over her, he moved her back and forth with such ease that she seemed weightless. She was his wife, his woman, his mate, his companion on the trails as long as there were trails for free men to ride on; through the valleys until they were choked with cabbages and people; and up the mountains to the highest peaks, as long as men felt compelled to seek God. He sat her down and they began to dress."

Mountain Man was also published by New English Library in 1967 and became the basis for Sydney Pollack's film Jeremiah Johnson, nominated for a Golden Palm Award at the 1972 Cannes Film Festival.


But let's return from that little sidetrail to Keith's equally fascinating story -- and to twins.

"I need not have worried! Wouldn't you know? Mr Hale totally ignored the homo-rape thing, so maybe I did handle it pretty well after all. (Ouch! Hurt my arm patting myself on the back then.) Anyway, he thought Wildcats was, I quote, a 'rattling good western'. I was pleased with that, till he brought up the subject of  'introducing twins into a  western'."

Evidently twins in fiction are another matter for which Mr Hale doesn't share Lawrence Green's or anyone else's enthusiasm.

Keith continues, "He felt that they seldom if ever worked. 'Never successful' was the summing-up. As the introduction of the twin was negligible, and at the end of the story, I wrote Mr Hale, letting him know that my wife is a twin. Rita and her late brother, Ken, came from Scotland, but later he lived for many years in Canada and my wife in Australia. And they had a mystic rapport that bridged the miles, kilometres or what have you. They had some sort of psychic hook-up. One got sick, say, in Canada, and the other, wherever they might be, got similar symptoms, and vice versa."

Some examples were unforgettable.

"Briefly, my wife was in labour for 27 hours -- yeah, you hear it right, 27 hours -- with our first son. She was in Brisbane and at the time Ken was also in Australia, but working out in the Simpson Desert as health officer on the Pintubi Aboriginal Reserve. He was rushed from the reserve by Flying Doctor to Alice Springs Hospital with undiagnosed abdominal pains. He stayed there until 27 hours from their onset the pains disappeared -- at the same time as my son entered the world."

Other incidents occurred all through the years. In early 2007, Rita was suffering ill health and having tests and treatment while Ken was in hospital in Canada.

"We were led to believe it was mainly his heart; he needed another by-pass but artery walls were too weak to take it. Then they diagnosed a bleeding ulcer and he had eight transfusions and went on dialysis, as his kidneys were giving out. As you can understand, this did nothing for Rita's own problems -- indeed, for mine, either. I'm a born worrier and  I knew how this must be affecting her.

"When Ken died in Canada, Rita sat up in bed in Australia at that moment -- we checked later -- and said 'Ken's gone!' Mysterious, but not unusual where twins are concerned."

Though "knocked for six" Rita eventually found some sort of closure when her twin's ashes were brought to Australia and placed in a  special garden bed she had prepared and planted with roses and other colourful flowers. His son and other relatives were present and Keith read a tribute he had written.

"The point I'm making is that in the story Wildcats I used a twin who felt something had happened to her sister and despite desperate hardship, came to investigate. Hence the plural title. It had started out singular -- Wildcat.

"Actually, the identical-twin character inspired by Rita's bond with Ken appears in less than three pages out of 150 and does not actually impersonate her dead sister, but moves around amongst the suspected killers to throw them off their stroke. But Mr Hale did fasten on to it before finishing with the comment, 'The story reads very well and is written in your usual professional manner.'

"So, writing westerns can lead us down some very twisted trails, as I'm sure other writers can attest.  In a later story called Six for Laramie, there was another place where I could have used a character's twin very well but thought, nah, better not push my luck . . . .

"Adios, amigos!"

Greg Mitchell's authentic backgrounder


Joe Kelly bought a half share in Travis Neal's ranch in an area reputed to be Comanche territory. While searching for his missing partner, Kelly encountered a Comanche war party, three former Confederate soldiers fleeing a killing in Mexico, the Mayne family and a renegade gang. The arrival of a self-promoting US marshal added to his problems.
  Kelly and the Maynes had to face hostile Indians, white murderers and a fanatical lawman before they could claim their respective ranches. Then, when the troubles appeared to be behind them, another problem arose.
  Suddenly the danger was that friends would fall out. More lead would fly before the situation was resolved!

Back cover
Comanche Country

EVERY cowboy coming up the trail from Texas with cattle could be sure he would spend plenty of time in the saddle on night-herding duties. There were no days off when travelling with big herds of longhorns. They had to be watched at all times and at night were particularly dangerous. Cattle from the open range were wild and suspicious and would stampede at the slightest provocation.
Depending on the size and nervousness of the herd, one man or possibly two rode around keeping watch on them after they had bedded down for the night.

If the trail boss was a good one and conditions were right, the cattle were permitted to spread out and graze in the late afternoon. This allowed them to move on to the bed ground with a feed inside them so they were more inclined to lie down and chew their cuds.

The length of night watches, or "guards" as they were often called, varied according to the number of cowboys in the camp. Mostly they were between one and a half and two hours for each man. Everyone took their turns except the nighthawk who looked after the loose horses, and the cook. But in emergencies, all who could grab a horse rode out to the cattle.

The horses for the watches were carefully chosen for their good sense and superior night vision. By day, they might not be considered the best animals in the remuda but, when the light was gone, good night horses were worth their weight in gold. When things went wrong, the cowboy had to trust his horse to see the logs, stumps, gullies and low tree branches that he might not be able to discern.

Traditionally, the man on watch would sing as his horse plodded quietly around the sleeping cattle. Some would whistle and occasionally a night herder might play a harmonica. The continuous sound told the cattle that all was well. A rider looming silently out of the darkness was enough to startle nervous cattle into running.

Another reason for singing was that it kept the cowboy awake. Cattle droving does not afford much time to sleep and after a couple of weeks, drovers get very tired. Experienced riders find that it is easy to fall asleep on a horse that is walking quietly. It is also easy for a sleeping rider to lose balance -- awaking with a start, the risk is always that the rider might be too far gone to prevent a fall. This, in the vicinity of wild cattle is guaranteed to set them running.

It is hard to sing continuously for a long period and a drover needs a good repertoire of songs. In Australian droving camps, I have heard countless parodies of most old songs and not all could be sung in polite company. It has been said, rather unkindly, that some stampedes occurred because the cattle were trying to get away from a particularly bad singer but usually they were not music critics!

Where possible, the bed ground for cattle was selected in fairly open country so that, if a rush started, hazards would be fewer to men, horses and cattle.

The camp was established some distance from the herd to reduce the chance of the animals being frightened by voices or accidental noises. But it had to be close enough for riders to reach the cattle in a hurry if necessary. Noise was kept to a minimum and nobody walked between the campfire and the cattle. Spare horses were kept saddled just in case things went wrong though these were not too close to the sleeping stock. The rattling of saddle flaps if a horse should shake itself could be enough to set a herd running.

Many stampedes started quietly with a few rogue cattle walking out into the darkness when the watchman was not close to them. Gradually more stock would join in the movement and the pace quickened. At this stage an alert night herder might be able to turn back the escapers but at other times they suddenly all rose to their feet and took off. Sometimes cattle would wheel in a massive circle before taking flight. The noise and dust made the scene an ominous one, yet if enough riders arrived before they actually bolted, there was still a chance of holding them. Some cattle might "wind up" a couple of times but not stampede, while others gave no such warning and were suddenly up and running.

Hollywood gives a false picture of stampedes in that you hear the cattle bellowing as they rush. But mostly stampeding cattle run in silence. There is plenty of other noise; the pounding of thousands of hooves, the rattling of horns and the smashing of timber and dead wood as the cattle carry all before them like a great flood.

Machin, or Marlowe as he now called himself, finally found the small bunch of cattle he had been seeking since early morning. He had been in the saddle since the trail herd had stampeded. While others held most of the regathered cattle on a good patch of grass, a few riders had been sent to find small bunches of steers that had split off during the rush and were scattered away from the main herd. The cattle had taken a long time to settle down at dusk and the previous night had been only one of the several occasions that they had stampeded. Taking wild steers up the trail from Texas was not a job for a man who liked his sleep.

I have included a couple of Frederic Remington's pictures of stampedes in full flight. The rider on the roan horse has a bit of space around him and could be riding hard to turn the leaders. But the rider on the grey in the other picture is in a position where no cowboy wanted to be caught; directly in front of a stampede. Now his life depends upon his horse's speed, stamina, good sense and ability to negotiate the ground.

Once in full flight, a stampede on a wide front is difficult to stop. After they have galloped a while, the front narrows as the slower animals fall back. The riders must all stay on one side of the herd, otherwise they only keep them galloping straight ahead. At the right time, a rider must move in on the leaders and attempt to turn them from their course. This is a perilous situation as the horsemen are right in front of the cattle. Cowboys often fired their guns to frighten the stampede into turning away from the sound. A mistake by horse or rider at this stage could be fatal. Other riders had to back up the leading man to prevent cattle moving out behind him and continuing on their original course. The idea was to turn the herd back into itself. Once they started "milling", the men could take control again.

Then the bellowing started. Cattle made strong friendships with their mates on the trail and began calling for them as soon as the panic died down. Particularly jumpy cattle might stampede or try to stampede two or three times in a night. But midnight and just before dawn seem to be the most dangerous times.

Cattle that escaped during stampedes nearly always tried to return to their home ranges. They have a great homing instinct and will travel hundreds of miles if they get the chance.

Once a stampede had been halted, the drovers would hold them where they were until morning. At various times, riders might be allowed back to camp to finish dressing or get fresh horses or even a meal. When daylight came and all visible animals collected, the cattle were strung out between a couple of riders and counted. Drovers would then try to pick up the tracks of those that were missing.

Horse stampedes were reckoned harder to stop than rushing cattle. Horses had more speed and staying power and the farther they went, the harder they were to stop, which is in direct contrast to stampeding cattle.  Though this author has seen cattle stampedes, I have never seen a horse stampede and must rely upon credible accounts from those who did.

Stampedes, or "rushes" as we called them, were common in Australia's north fifty years ago and were guaranteed to satisfy the most avid thrill-seeker. Racing through the dark and hoping that the horse could see what the rider could not held little appeal for those who had to do it. Similarly, the long, monotonous periods of night-herding had few attractions. Those who had the task were usually tired, cold or wet or just plain bored. The best part of all was to lie in your blankets and hear the songs of some other unlucky soul as he rode about and to know that all was well.

-- Paddy Gallagher, who writes his BHWs as Greg Mitchell. His
 next, to be published in April, is Comanche Country.

Call of the higher trails


When grasping landowner Morgan Fetterman hired a professional gunman to get rid of lovely Jemima Penrose from her remote ranch in the mountains of Arizona, he made a bad mistake by choosing Luke Horn for the job.
   Horn didn't like what he heard about Fetterman, and despite a disabling wound in his right arm, assisted in getting the rustlers brought to justice. Could Horn bring Fetterman's plans tumbling down?
   Rustling, plotting and plenty of gunplay followed in Horn's fight for freedom.
Back cover
Left-Hand Gun

WALT MASTERSON will not be riding, stirrup to stirrup, with his Black Horse Extra colleagues again. In October, he told us he'd be "back on his mustang and raring to go" in a week or so. But he wasn't letting on to those who couldn't see him what he'd been told three months earlier.

A couple of weeks before Christmas, I learned from Helen Kenworthy that Chris, who wrote his latest novels as Walt Masterson, had gone. And lover of all things western that he was, I pictured him riding his mustang on higher trails than any of us here can know.

Helen emailed, "Sad news. My wonderful husband, Chris, lost the battle with leukaemia on Sunday the 7th December. He died in the Royal Marsden Hospital at Sutton where the staff who had got to know him -- and those who hadn't! -- fought like wild mountain lions to hang on to him. His loss has left me completely devastated although we knew he was ill."

Helen divulged that Chris Kenworthy had presided over his own wake in July, when he was given only a month to live.

"It was an excellent party which he enjoyed to the full.  There is to be another in the local pub which is what he wanted, following his cremation. His ashes will be scattered equally by the sea, which he loved, and then somewhere in Arizona, later next year. Monument Valley, perhaps?"

Chris was an email friend of comparatively recent times. He contributed generously and informatively to BHE in March and June last year. If you are fascinated by the romance of the True West, please re-read his well-chosen words -- you will find a fellow spirit! From those writings and his emails, I felt in a small way that I knew Chris, although I never met him.

He told of his love of the American South West, which he visited regularly, and of his meetings with famous writers during his 46 years in journalism, 25 of them with top-flight London newspapers. For me, his insight from the latter background -- journalism -- cemented a quick and shared understanding of what we try to do here and when writing our westerns for Hale.

He would say, "Let me know in due course how much you need and when by, and I'll be there." And: "By now you must have realized that if you give me a space I will fill it."

As a professional researcher, his interests extended to social conditions in Charles Dickens's London, the frighteningly fast-growing area of wildlife crime and law enforcement, medieval armour, and John Paul Jones, father of the American Navy.

In addition to western fiction, he wrote four sea-going adventure novels in the C. S. Forester, Hornblower tradition: In the Dark of the Moon, Ride a Dark Tide, A Storm in the Dark, and Against a Dark Shore.

Mr John Hale, chairman and managing director of Robert Hale Ltd, says, "He was a true professional and his westerns were always up to the highest standard."

Chris was a great supporter of this webzine and its aims, and delighted to contribute. After his autobiographical article appeared in the Extra with its quotes from Guns Along the Gila, he wrote, "I  loved the interleaved look of it and I am very flattered to be given so much room on the site. Incidentally, may I say how much I enjoy reading it all? Packed with information and authoritative comment, it is right up my street."

Even when another might be tempted to slacken up, Chris would battle on. At one stage, he fell and broke an arm, but gamely kept going. "I'm restricted  to the house and my right hand. . . . I would be delighted to contribute to the June Black Horse Extra, hopefully a good deal faster than I am currently replying to your message -- a reply which is being typed with one finger at a pace which would bore a snail with its ankle in plaster."

The next email I had came from Helen. "I'm Chris's wife acknowledging your information. Chris is currently in hospital having his broken arm plated! I will pass on the info and he will no doubt be back to you when he is home.

"Chris finished his last western with one hand, and has started the next in the same way. The working title is One-Hand Jack. Black Horse Westerns is a great site -- lots to be learnt from it. Many thanks. Chris will be in touch soon."

Later, Chris himself wrote, "Nice to hear from you, and what a splendid read you made of Black Horse Extra. I find it so useful, particularly the technical notes contributed by other writers. They all seem very knowledgeable and make me feel a touch 'umble! However, I gladly use their expertise and thanks very much for it. I enjoyed the debate you managed to make out of the Plot or Not contributions, and  was very interested in the other writers' views. I thought Keith Hetherington's comments very fair.

"Thanks for the good wishes. Yes, after a fair amount of engineering my arm is now bolted together and on its way to setting. What a palaver, though! And I still have a limp wrist which could be open to considerable misunderstanding  in certain quarters.
"However, at least my left hand is now back in operation, and the speed it has added to my typing is unbelievable, even though I am using only one finger of the left hand. Fastest finger in the West, I feel.
"Yes, the large-print editions seem to be going all right. I have yet to see one, though I think now that three of my titles are being  large-printed, and of course, any further developments will be very welcome around the old ranch house.
"Currently I am starting a new book about goldmine crooks in the Sonoran Desert, a favourite setting for me. If you want to see wild and dangerous, just try the Sonoran!"

In September I wrote to Chris inquiring if he had any news or opinions for publication in the BHE due in mid-November. He replied, "Nice to hear from you again. Yes, I am sure I have an opinion which will ring a bell. I'll come back to you with a couple of suggestions, and get your approval. Be in touch soon."
A month later, on 15 October, I heard from Chris for the last time. Although he knew -- had been told -- he was a very sick man, he was mindful as always of a deadline to be met and was maintaining his eternally brave approach.
"This is a letter of apology because I am going to miss out for this edition of Black Horse Extra. I'm doing some chemo treatment for my leukaemia, and find it very difficult to read and write this week. From experience, this will wear off in another week or so, and I will be  back on my mustang and raring to go. This brings me uncomfortably close to your deadline, and I hate to miss a deadline. So don't count on me this time, and I will file my piece on Women of the West -- for whom I have a great admiration --  as soon as I can be certain that what appears on the page is what I think I am writing. The effect, with which I am very familiar, usually fades quite quickly, so don't worry that you have lost a contributor!
"Sorry to let you down this time. Promise it will be the first thing I will write when I am back in full production. Best wishes, Chris."

But, of course, it was never to be. The worry of losing a fine contributor here is totally eclipsed by the tragic loss of a first-rate author of  Black Horse Westerns.
-- K.C.




Published by Robert Hale Ltd, London
The Shadow Riders
Owen G. Irons  0 7090 8613 0
Sharpshooters in the Hills
Ron Watkins
0 7090 8692 5
Blast to Oblivion
Chap O'Keefe
0 7090 8700 7
Lanigan and the Silent Mourner
Ronald Martin Wade
0 7090 8703 8
Long Road to Revenge
Eugene Clifton
0 7090 8704 5
Too Many Sundowns
Jake Douglas
0 7090 8706 9
Die This Day
Dempsey Clay
0 7090 8705 2
The Guns of Caleb Jones
Alan C. Porter
0 7090 8707 6
Left-Hand Gun
Walt Masterson
0 7090 8718 2
Guns of Virtue
Peter Wilson
0 7090 8721 2
Anderson's War
Jackson Davis
0 7090 8722 9
Daughter of Evil
H. H. Cody
0 7090 8723 6
War Smoke Michael  D. George
0 7090 8725 0
Comanche Country
Greg Mitchell
0 7090 8729 8
The Bullion Trail
Ed Hapgood
0 7090 8734 2
McGuire Manhunter
Scott Connor
0 7090 8735 9
On the Great Plains
Logan Winters
0 7090 8736 6
Rawhide Ransom
Tyler Hatch
0 7090 8743 4

A Gunfight Too Many
Chap O'Keefe
0 7090 8456 3


Black Horse Westerns can be requested at public libraries, ordered at bookstores, and bought online through the publisher's website,, or retailers including Amazon, Blackwells,
WH Smith and The Book Depository ("free delivery worldwide").

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Jack Martin and his amigos help a bunch of reluctant book-trade, library and media gents take seats for a Wild West Monday ride!
(Visit for details.)

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