September - November 2009
Riding the Range
Blast to Oblivion
Tyler Hatch and Twins
December 2008All Guns Blazing
Jim Bowden & Co.
Revolver ConversionsSeptember 2008
Power of the Premise
West on Wheels
Plot or Not Debate
Plotters and Pantsers
More Horse Talk
Peace at Any Price
Artist Michael Thomas
Judging by Covers
The Schofield Revolver
The Walker Colt
Sydney J. Bounds
Jake Douglas & Co.
Facts for Fiction
Writers and Money
Gunsmoke Writer's Trilogy
BHE's First Paperback Original
The Passing of the Classic Western
Write Words Wrong Words New Black Horse Westerns
Your comments and western news are always welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org
Fittingly, American writers have always
had a strong presence on the Black Horse Western list
published in Britain by Robert Hale Ltd. In early days, Lauran Paine
was dominant, contributing novels by the month under a raft of
pen-names. Other US authors who featured in the '80s and '90s, with
under famous bylines, were Ernest Haycox, Lewis B. Patten, Les
Savage, Jr and Max Brand.
Today, the tradition continues with fine original stories penned by
American authors including Terrell L. Bowers, Billy Hall, Lance
Howard and Matthew P. Mayo.
In this issue of the Extra, we feature two more present-day writers
whose work has received acclaim from BHW readers. Steve Hayes and Paul
Lederer (aka Owen G. Irons and Logan Winters) both live in California.
In our opening article, Steve, a gifted screenwriter with
a long career in Hollywood, shares
fascinating memories and some views on his BHW
Paul, who came to prominence in the 1970s, prefers to keep his life
private, but contributes a thought-provoking discourse on what he sees
as The Passing of the Classic Western.
Elsewhere, we move on to an important announcement about the
publication of an original western novel in paperback. Support for
this initiative could result in the book becoming the pilot offering
for a new series, supplementing BHWs. Older readers fondly remember the days when the
paperback original was a staple on the racks of every corner shop in
countries around the world. With the rising appeal of online shopping,
can the western ride this modern trail to a new golden age?
A promising sign was the recent huge pre-orders success of the June
BHW, The Tarnished Star. As recorded here last time,
author Gary Dobbs, aka Jack Martin, waged a magnificent campaign online
to show just what could be done.
Readers have been asking the obvious question for years: "Why aren't
BHWs – handsome library hardbacks – also available as
lower-priced, convenient pocket-book paperbacks
designed for the broader retail market?" The answer has been, "Because
there is no demand."
Other than by writing stories that capture the imagination of the
contemporary reader, the authors are in no real position to change the
situation. Only the
book-buying public can. But the first step, of course, is for someone
to publish the right books in an attractive format. Readers can't buy
what doesn't exist.
Please read the article BHE's First Paperback
Original with care and consideration. You'll find it immediately after
Hoofprints, the regular round-up of newsy items from the western genre.
To round off the contents list this time – as most other times –
Greg Mitchell loyally steps up with some cogent tips that will help the
writers among us while giving all readers an informed insight.
FREE excerpt here
||Hollywood veteran pens BHWs |
GUNSMOKE WRITER'S TRILOGY
Rebellious teenager Raven Bjorkman and her widowed mother, Ingrid, save
the life of Gabriel Moonlight, an outlaw dying from gunshot wounds.
While he’s recuperating, they learn he was shot by the son of his
enemy, a ruthless rancher named Stadtlander.
By the time Gabriel rides off, Raven and Ingrid care deeply for
him. But since they are moving to Old Calico, a California mining town,
to live with Ingrid’s rich brother, Reece, they don’t expect to see
Fate decrees that they will be reunited and Gabriel finds himself
in a perilous situation where only his gun-skills will save the day.
PUBLISHER Robert Hale Ltd had the 2007-2008 strike by the Writers
Guild of America to thank for bringing it a trilogy of excellent Black Horse
Western novels from Hollywood veteran Steve Hayes, whose talents it
would now sadly appear to have lost.
Steve is a Briton who went to Hollywood shortly after World War II. He
has written westerns for
years – either for the big screen (Escort West, Tomahawk River, etc)
for television (How The West Was Won mini-series, Gunsmoke, Bonanza,
Westerner, Men to Match My Mountains, The Seekers mini-series, etc).
When the screenwriters stopped work, Steve dug out an unused screenplay.
He says, "I got pissed with the goddamn WGA strike,
sat down and rewrote it as a novel and emailed Hale to say who I was,
and would they like to see the book? John Hale said yes. He bought it
changing a word. That never happens in Hollywood, pal, it’s the land of
collaborative writing. Hale then bought the next two books I wrote in
between doing my memoirs. So 2008 was a hectic but rewarding year."
Steve's BHW trilogy is: Guns for Revenge (September 2008), Packing Iron
(August 2009) and A Coffin for Santa Rosa (October 2009).
"The books that follow GFR deal with hero Gabe, a woman named Ingrid,
almost feral teenage daughter, Raven. And, of course, the horse,
considered introducing them in the first novel. But then I decided I
wanted to concentrate on and fully establish Gabe. The characters that
seem vague or come and go was deliberate. I tried to make them appear
like a backdrop – a visual aide to what Gabe is going through rather
than bother with who and why. I am quite a good artist and painter,
though seldom do it any more, and I’ve tried to treat characters like
central figures in a painting. Don’t distract from them with too much
going on around them."
the stallion charged and again the buzzards scattered and then returned for
their meal. With each charge the horse grew weaker. Finally, it stopped charging
and stood protectively by the man, flanks heaving, too exhausted to move.
The buzzards formed a circle around man and horse, and patiently began their
death watch. . . .
Guns for Revenge has a long and interesting history.
Steve says, "Originally, it was going to be a two-part episode on
Gunsmoke, then I
expanded it for a short-lived mini-series called Men To Match My
Mountains (I’d already written an episode for them), and when that show
went down the tubes, I told the story to Borden Chase. He was a famous
writer for magazines and films like Red River. He loved it and wanted
co-write it with me for Universal and James Stewart whom he knew well
from the movie The Man From Laramie. But Stewart wasn’t available and
Borden got hung up with Viva Gringo, made into a great movie called
Vera Cruz with Gary Cooper and Burt Lancaster. So I put it on the
back-burner and wrote two shows with Ron Bishop for How the West Was
Won (The Enemy and The Gunfighter). I then got a call from William
Bowers, whom I’d known for years. Bill wrote one of the best western
movies, The Gunfighter with Gregory Peck. I agreed to co-write the
Bill, but he hit the sauce pretty good and though we started off well,
couldn’t keep him sober . . . and so and so on…."
Steve is a great raconteur and goes on to tell us about other famous
western writers he has known and worked with, including James Webb, Leo
Gordon . . . and Louis L'Amour!
"I was friends with Louis L’Amour before he wrote Hondo, and
was considered a short story writer who wrote about the sea and sailing
ships and skippers, as well as a few westerns. He wrote, as you know, A
Gift From Cochise which later became Hondo. I will add that Louis got
immense help from the screenwriter James Edward Grant who actually
changed the hero’s name to Hondo and created the role of Sam the dog,
But once he got going, Louis never looked back.
"Louis was a good guy who twice a day came into a very famous coffee
shop, Googie’s, that was located next to Schwab’s on Sunset near the
start of the Sunset Strip. I was an actor-writer then who managed
Googie’s. Thanks to the large number of famous movie stars and
celebrities – Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Rod Steiger, Bob Middleton,
Calhoun – it was the hit place to go in the early '50s. Louis lived in
a building nearby called the Andalucia Apartments which I and my first
wife, Gloria, lived in previously. Later, after his marriage, Louis
lived there with his wife Kathy, to whom I still
"Louis and I
hit it off because we both shoot from the hip and don’t weasel out when
it comes time to keep our word. Also, I introduced Louis to Ava
Gardner, whom I’d dated for a while in 1949, and Louis was nuts about
her. Join the long line, buddy, I told him.
had shot him? Did he have a wife or a family? Was he, as Raven had said,
an outlaw? Was he on the run from a posse? If he were, it would explain why
he’d been shot. And most importantly, she
wondered, why did she have a strange feeling about him, a feeling that told
her he would become a vital part of her and Raven’s lives?
"I’ve recently had published a two-volume
memoir, called Googie’s, Coffee Shop to the Stars, that includes some
very rare photos, including a great picture of Louis before he hit it
big. Published by BearManor Media, it’s
available at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, and several Hollywood
bookstores like Skylight Books. It deals with my early years in
Hollywood (1949-59). During those years I was
friends with almost every major star and knew Ava Gardner, Lana Turner
Jayne Mansfield intimately. I was also buddies with Clark Gable, Tyrone
"I lived at Flynn’s house as his guest for a while in 1950
and became well-known as his watchdog when he went out and got
falling-down drunk. The book also deals with my experience in Cuba in
1958 when I knew Ernest Hemingway and ended up fighting for Castro in
Revolution. Both volumes have sold well and I’m delighted with the
Steve has written and co-written in many genres. "One of my best
a sci-fi movie with Malcolm McDowell and Mary Steenburgen, called
Time After Time."
He has also written other books. The Third
Invention – How the Bow and Arrow Extended Mankind is selling on
Amazon as a rare book. "In the late '50s and
through the '60s, I was a world-class target archer and hunter."
And he once wrote a mystery-political thriller called Osprey Dilemma
(Dell/Delacourt). "It did
fairly well, criticism-wise, but I
irritated one gal producer at Universal who wanted to buy it and then
change the ending. (I’m still pissed that Bob Redford had the balls to
change the ending of that brilliant book The Horse Whisperer). When I
wouldn’t do it, she had Lili Zanuck offer to option the book – but I
found out by happenstance that the two knew each other and just in time
turned them down.
"I can recall Lili saying how she didn’t understand
why I didn’t want to change the ending: 'It’s just a movie.' I said
because if I’d wanted it changed I would have never written it that way
in the beginning. 'God,' she snapped, 'you’re my worst freaking
nightmare – a goddamn writer with money!'
‘This ain’t about coffee, Mrs Bjorkman. It’s ’bout the blood on the
floor of your barn.’
‘I already told you about that, Sheriff. Remember? I said I knew the man had been shot—’
‘So you let him change shirts in your barn?’
‘I’m a widow,’ Ingrid said indignantly. ‘Where would you have him
do it – in my bedroom, perhaps?’
"Fortunately, I have done very well financially and
garnered a certain degree of respect in the industry as a screenwriter,
as well as a writer/producer of several successful
offshore TV series: Acapulco H.E.A.T, Tarzan and Conan, which you may
Steve began writing in 1957.
"I had a writer friend, or mentor,
called Herb Nicholls. He wrote screenplays and short stories. I had no
knowledge of writing, or grammar having left school at 15, and being
more interested in sports. Also, because of my looks, I was keyed into
becoming a movie star more than thinking about writing. Herb had one
remark he hammered into my head: 'Show me, don’t tell me.' Took me
to eliminate the 'telling' parts from my writing, and then I went into
TV and movie writing where it’s all showing, so I never had much chance
to tell a story or take a moment to wander from the thrust of the
"TV, especially, is grim because you have only a certain number of
pages to work within. You have to make every word or scene not just
count, but be irreplaceable, or it will be cut. Herb chose some writers
for me to read. Stephen Crane and Hemingway were two, and I remember
reading Crane’s The Open Boat and A Farewell To Arms – Hem’s best
in my opinion – and for the first time realizing what Herb meant.
Kipling was another great 'show me' advocate – and in later years, I
think Cormac McCarthy does a good job at it,
despite his Faulknerish lack of punctuation."
One of Steve's favourite stories is Shane ". . .because of
the brilliant way Jack Schaefer hardly told us anything about Shane.
vague and mysterious was mind-boggling when you consider how everyone
else always goes to great lengths to describe the hero’s past. I don’t
know if Jack realized how unique and smart that was – but it was. And
thank God George Stevens, the movie's director, kept faithfully to the
"Having written many mini-series I’ve learned that viewers – my
will accept what is placed before them so long as it keeps their
interest. In the early days when I wrote for TV it was like writing
miniature plays. Playhouse 90, Lux
Video Theater – I mean, the men and women involved were
truly craftsmen. It was brilliant writing done by great writers like
Paddy Chayefsky, Woody Allen and Rod Serling. But later it all became
very commercial and the great
writers gradually returned to theatre.
"As for being financially successful in an ever-diminishing writing
world, one has to suck up one’s pride and keep in mind at all times
that just because you’re talented doesn’t mean someone
less talented won’t change your work – despite the fact that the work
is lessened in quality and creativity with heavy-handed control.
"I wrote a great two-hour script for How The West Was Won. Co-writer
Bishop only worked on dialogue – at which, by the way, he was by far
best of anyone I’ve ever known. The script was called The Gunfighter.
the producer, loved it but asked his story editor, Cal Clements, to
trim it a
little. Cal, a nice guy but not a great writer, flattened out both
character and dialogue to an extent John didn’t like the script
any more. He considered dumping it. Writers still get paid in these
circumstances, but I protested vehemently – something people in my
industry are not
accustomed to, and complained to the WGA.
"I told John I’d rewrite it ten times, if necessary, but I wasn’t going
to have schlock out there with my name on it. He wasn’t used to people
standing up to him. He said okay, let me see your next draft, which I
did for free. He approved it and it turned out to be a good show that
James Arness really liked.
"On the other hand, my boss at Keller Entertainment, the TV production
company who did offshore series, insisted on having the last word even
though she couldn’t write a freaking letter – and as a result three
shows eventually went down the tubes. But I got wealthy because I
decided that this would give me freedom to write anything I wanted from
then on. But the angst at seeing dreck getting on TV – fortunately my
boss allowed me to use pseudonyms – almost gave me an ulcer.
"So there you have it. As Hemingway once told me: what you win on the
swings in Chicago you lose on the roundabouts in New York."
Stadtlander raised up on one elbow. ‘You arrogant pup! You really think you can just ride out of here?’
‘That depends on Sam, here.’ Gabriel turned to Sheriff Akins. ‘When we
get outside, I see any of your deputies or Stadtlander’s men pointin’ a gun
at me, I’ll put a bullet in your spine. May not kill you right away but you’ll
surely wish it had.’
Why is Viva Gringo!, Steve's fourth western, to be published in the US by BearManor Media and not in the UK by Hale?
"John Hale does not feel that Viva Gringo! fits the mode of western associated with BHWs."
Steve was told
at length about how good this was and that was, and how brilliant the dialogue
and characters were. Then he was given the publisher's opinion that it was
not written the way BHWs were written.
"My reply was: 'Fair enough. Best, Steve.' I never argue with
anyone – producer, publisher – who does not leap at buying my work. I see
no point. Why should I try to persuade someone who doesn't see its merit
at first glance? Too often, because of money, writers sell out and weaken
or destroy their work because they have to obey a producer or editor. I am
a writer with money and integrity. I do not feel I have to make changes
or explain why I did this or that. Nor will I make changes that damage the
integrity of the material."
Steve also had
issues with BHW cover illustration – the author is not generally allowed
input – which were resolved, and was unhappy with the long interval between publication
of linked books.
After a mile or so the pass widened and became a bowl-shaped canyon sheltered
by towering red cliffs. In the moonlight the cliffs looked silver; but in
sunlight they glowed like the fires of hell prompting the Mexicans who originally
discovered the area to call it: El Cañon del Diablo.
Steve remembers an incident following a production meeting about the TV series The Incredible Hulk.
head of Universal, Lew Wasserman, a very powerful man in the industry, who'd
had some comments about my script, said, 'You don't seem too intimidated
by me, young man.' I replied, 'I have been bombed on a daily and nightly
basis by Nazi bombers, I've come through the Cuban Revolution and the Congo
Revolution unscathed – what can you do to me that would intimidate me?'
didn't say it rudely, but he looked at me, then at the others and shook his
head. 'I think I've just been put in my place, gentlemen.'
leads up to my feelings about Hale's Black Horse Westerns. I've read a few
that make me think 'I stopped writing like that after Hopalong Cassidy and
Roy Rogers TV scripts.' "
But Steve says some of the writers deserve better and
more respectful treatment. "That's not arrogance; that's a fact."
And it's why he "rebelled" and wouldn't discuss changes that would "screw
up" Viva Gringo!
Art-ful editor of 1962.
|Impressions of a diverting kind
been asked to explain the difference and the similarity between the BH Extra
logo and Robert Hale Ltd's Black Horse Western logo. BH Extra is produced
independently of Hale Publishing whose website is at www.halebooks.com
and includes a western section. The difference in
branding is intended to reflect this while doing "extra" to promote the
BHW books. The BHE logo is not a copy of the BHW one, which first
appeared in 1986. It was in use 24 years earlier and was created – on a
table! – by a staff member of a now long-defunct UK company, Micron
Publications Ltd. A logo was required for a new, companion series of
pocket comic-books to Western Adventure Library, to
be called Cowboy Adventure Library. The editor – who was also an
all-hours scriptwriter, art assistant and much else in the manner of
the era's backstreet publishing – traced the figure of a horse
and rider from a Micron book on to Bristol board, tidied it up
filled in the outline in Indian ink to produce a silhouette. This was
reproduced in yellow within a black triangle on the CAL covers. It also
appeared, in its simpler form, in the cross-advertising
that appeared twice a month on the back covers of WAL books.
Commenting about the title on the article about himself in our last
, new BHW writer Gary Dobbs
, aka Jack Martin
, says: "The
Phenomenon from Pontypridd . . . and
I thought Tom Jones
had the copyright on that phrase! Seriously,
great issue and not just because of the feature on me – although I
liked reading that and have sent the link to friends everywhere. I
found the round-table chat on heroes too good to kill off to be both
humorous and fascinating. Hoofprints, too, is essential reading,
especially if I can crib bits for The Tainted Archive blog. And the
piece [on cowboys and horses] was wonderfully informative. All in all, another great issue."
BHE hits mark.
Award to publisher.
Author Jan Jones
took this rare picture of publisher John Hale
February when he received the Romantic Novelists' Association Lifetime
Achievement award. Jan writes romantic comedy (because she thinks
people need to laugh out loud once in a while),
Regency historical novels,
young adult SF and fantasy, poetry, and short stories for women's
magazines. Her next book from Hale will be Fortunate Wager
She says, "We were only in the office for 20 minutes or so, but my impression
was that Mr Hale is charming, slightly shy, astute, witty and ageless." As
BHW writers can confirm, he is also invariably prompt and courteous in replying
to their submissions – which is far from a publishing industry norm. The RNA
gave John Hale the award because of his outstanding commitment to publish
good romantic fiction and to encourage new voices in an industry where the
"next bestseller" was too often seen as king. As the only British publisher
prepared to publish original western novels on a regular basis, Mr Hale has
also had enormous influence over the shape of the western genre. Its future
exercise, however, is controlled by supposedly staid, nanny librarians whom Mr Hale
says are the final arbiters of the themes and content allowable
in westerns. To many observers, this appears to let the genre in the UK fall
under unfortunate new restrictions not imposed on other adult fiction.
, a short-story writer and blogger, who was born in
Hartlepool but lives in Poland, writes, "I'm a regular reader of Beat
to a Pulp and have been very impressed by the contributions from the
Black Horse writers." David Cranmer's
website for short fiction has
included contributions from BHW authors Gary Dobbs
), Nik Morton
) and Keith Chapman
). Paul favours noirish crime stories and one of his own yarns,
, has appeared on the site. Beat to a Pulp covers the field –
action/adventure, crime, hardboiled, noir, horror, science fiction and – pleasingly – western.
BHW writers praised.
David Whitehead (aka western writers Ben Bridges, Matt Logan and
others) checked out the last edition of BHE and emailed, "By Jove,
you've done it again! A terrific
issue, with lots of good stuff in there, thoughtfully illustrated and
as always very reader-friendly. I particularly enjoyed the references
to Blast to Oblivion. I'm about two-thirds of the way through reading
it right now and am thoroughly enjoying it. And since I had made an
unsuccessful search for Paul Lederer just the day before yesterday
(because I have his Owen G. Irons story Six Days from Sundown on my
reading pile) it was good to see that you had actually tracked him
down. . . . Incidentally,
I have the large-print edition of the mentioned Irons book, and to my
surprise I see it features a slight variation on the same
cowboy-on-horseback from Blast to Oblivion. Anyway, bottom line –
another superb issue and one BHE should be justly proud of."
The greatest TV western series of all time is Gunsmoke, says Western
Writers of America, an organization of more
than 600 professional writers, including some BHW contributors, that
was founded in the 1950s. The WWA announced the
Greatest TV Western Series, Mini-series and Movies of All Time during
its annual convention in Oklahoma City. Gunsmoke, which ran for 20
years, from 1955 to 1975,
came in ahead of Maverick (1957-62) and Rawhide (1959-66). The top five
series was rounded out by Bonanza (1959-73) and Have Gun, Will Travel
(1957-63). A more recent hit, HBO's Deadwood, placed 11th. The list of
top TV movies or mini-series was headed by Lonesome Dove,
an Emmy-winning 1989 CBS production based on Larry McMurtry's Pulitzer
Prize-winning novel. It was followed by The
Sacketts, Conagher, Monte Walsh and Disney's Davy Crockett.
Happy anniversary, cowboy!
Steve M has been filing many more fine reviews of new Black Horse
Westerns at his blog, Western Fiction Review. We told veteran
Australian BHW writer Keith Hetherington about a review of one of his
books under the Tyler Hatch byline. Keith responded, "Many thanks for
to the blog and the review of Rawhide Ransom. Very gratifying. I've
not read many reviews of my stuff over the years. Did a few
books-of-the-film some years ago (Patrick, Chain Reaction, Snapshot,
etc.) and had some fairly encouraging remarks – some from the US where
they were released along with the films." Keith also mentioned that
continuing health issues had meant a real push was needed to finish
his western Renegade's Legacy. "Finished editing it on the 53rd
anniversary of Rita
and I meeting. A mate of mine had arranged a blind date with two nurses and
one couldn't make it, so the other, his girl, asked Rita. She had just arrived
from Scotland a couple of months earlier and was interested to meet an 'Aussie
cowboy' – my mate's description of me! He didn't tell me and, unknowingly,
I turned up in checked shirt and denim jeans. But it couldn't have been too
disappointing – we celebrate our 52nd wedding anniversary in September."
BHE's congratulations, Rita and Keith!
F. A. Thorpe, publishers of the popular and excellent large-print Linford Western Library,
which reissues many, many BHWs, released their edition of A Gunfight
in June with a fine new cover. The conversation at BHE went,
"Hey! Isn't that Russell Crowe
on the cover? " "Yeah, you're right.
Just like in 3:10 To Yuma
. Do you suppose they'll have to pay him?" "I
hope not. What's more, folks were picking Sam Elliott
for the part of
. Much more suitable! Who is Crewe playing – gun-handy
bounty hunter Herb Hopkirk
?" Another Chap O'Keefe
BHW, Misfit Lil Hides
released as a Linford large-print in July, and Misfit Lil Cleans Up
due in the same series in October, with a new cover by favourite Lil
artist Michael Thomas
, who was a Linford discovery in the book-jacket field.
Covered by Russell Crowe.
It's Misfit Lil
everywhere! Her newest BHW adventure is Misfit Lil Robs
, out in September from Hale. The Book
Depository is listing the book for
pre-order, with its usual splendid offer of free delivery worldwide. Misfit
the Bank was originally titled Misfit Lil and the Mesmerist,
but publisher John Hale
is opposed to outré angles in traditional westerns. "Material of this
kind is not, I feel, at all what readers have come to expect.... The essence
of a western is the presence of clear-cut issues and to introduce mesmerism
or anything of that nature is unacceptable." So Chap changed the title –
no problem. And thankfully a compromise was reached, meaning the author's
careful research didn't go to waste after all, leaving it easy to guess how
Lil was motivated to rob the bank. And isn't the cover's dark-clad rider
nicely suggestive of the evil Dr
François Guiscard? Late of a Paris hospital infamous for the
experimental treatment of madwomen, the nasty doctor is hired by Lil's
long-suffering cowman pa to cure his daughter of her behaviour problems. Stand
by for lively reaction from the gal Gary Dobbs describes at the Tainted Archive blog as "O'Keefe's daring babe of the West" !
TV and Hollywood historian Tommy Garrett, writing in the LA Canyon
News, alerts us to the book Television Western Players of the Fifties:
A Biographical Encyclopedia of All Regular Cast Members in Western Series from
1949-1959. Tommy says author Everett Aaker, who lives in the UK, has
done an amazing job with such detail and description that even he learned from the thoroughly
researched 600 pages. "The feeling you get reading this book is one of amazing depth in what made some of our television
western icons worldwide figures. Each entry and subject in this book is
described in great biographical detail and family details, accounts of
how the subject first broke into show business as well as details of
roles played. The author even delves into what co-stars thought of
the stars featured." The appendix lists 84 television westerns with
dates, show times, themes, and stars, and stretches to the likes of the long-forgotten
shows Laredo and The Lawman. "No one
is left out of this amazing book. What I like about this tome is the
fairness the writer offers in his opinions. You get the clear idea that
he’s a huge western genre fan, but you can’t get a clear look at who
his favourites were, because he covers them all with in-depth knowledge,
research and respect." The book is from McFarland Publishing.
|And now Black Horse Extra presents. . .
OUR FIRST PAPERBACK ORIGINAL!
REPEATEDLY, and most particularly during the campaigns for Gary Dobbs'
inspired Wild West Mondays, readers have asked why Britain's seven-books-a-month
Black Horse Western series is available only in expensive
library-hardback form, while the broader retail market has for years
been dominated by the ubiquitous pocket-book paperback.
Readers of other genres – especially romance and crime – can buy new
reading at most bookstores. Harlequin Mills & Boon, for example,
have for decades sold vastly more copies of their books as slim
paperbacks than as hardback editions.
But western readers in many countries must rely on a trickle of hard-to-find US imports,
classic titles, like those of the much-reprinted Louis L'Amour, which
older hands have already read.
Author Ray Foster (aka Jack Giles) recently informed BHE, "If writers
like Chap O'Keefe, Elliot Long, Jake Douglas and David Whitehead were
in paperback, then I think the face of the western would change. .
. . I have that rebellious streak which says if something isn't right,
then something has to be done about it. In this case, the bulk of
western paperback output is owned by two companies – Penguin and
Transworld Publishers (Bantam in US and Corgi in UK) – and neither puts
westerns on the shelves. Apathy in the retail stores and with
distributors is a result of nothing new being offered. The old manager
at my local Waterstone's gambled by ordering in a couple of authors
that I suggested. Those books, in his words, just flew off the shelf.
It took a lot longer for the two Louis L'Amour novels to sell. Sadly,
his head office was not as impressed as he was. What I draw from that
is that new, fresh material sells – not the old-timers."
He was far from the first to have made similar observations and had a
could as well have
been watching a movie as reading a book. . . O'Keefe writes
with the coolness of a hired gun."
– New Zealand
In Black Horse Westerns, we have original westerns but not original,
westerns. Does that matter?
We believe it does.
Regular readers of the Extra and BHWs will be aware
that publisher Robert Hale Ltd believes it is under increasing
about the content of its library-targeted novels. Until recently, and when
appropriate, the stories were allowed to touch upon very real social
issues, such as prostitution, incest, bad parenting or spouse abuse. Readers knew, and
the recorded history of the times, that these aberrations
were as present on the Frontier West as they were in other places
during the hypocritical Victorian age.
In this respect, the books were no different from other fiction. They
neither gloried in sleazy detail nor presented a ridiculously sanitized
view of the world in which they were supposedly set.
Hale now believes its
hands are tied by its customers as to what can – or rather cannot –
be accepted in a western. To all intents and purposes, this boils down
to nothing that would have been unacceptable in a pre-1950s western:
"Our customers are not the public as such but public librarians
needless to say that is why [US library publisher] Avalon insists on
their books being squeaky clean. They have an even more demanding
public library system than we do. One can just imagine what some of
their Bible-bashers from the South would say. . . ."
Well, maybe . . . but evidence from other sources – including the leading
British western book collector and several respected authors – proves that
few British public librarians conform to the outmoded Mrs Grundy stereotype
of thick stockings, thick glasses, bottom planted securely on a cushion while
she wades through westerns looking for "dirty" bits to make her tut.
For instance, the explicit US series featuring Longarm, the Trailsman and
similar heroes are on the shelves of many UK libraries.
Lil . . . . What a terrific name for a character, eh?
This book belongs to an endangered species:
the western. As for the
story: totally professional, as you would expect, and a lot of
fun. By my
count, Misfit Lil Fights Back is the author's
sixteenth book, so he knows how to do
the job. Ms Lil has appeared
before, and doubtless will again."
– Grumpy Old
Just a couple of months ago, Chap O'Keefe received word from Hale about
latest yarn in the very popular Misfit Lil series: "I can see no way in
which we can accept this for publication in our Black Horse Western
series. Quite apart from any merits the novel may have the subject
matter rules it out completely."
The "subject matter" was, as usual for a Lil story, ninety percent
traditional western with a spicing of what one reader has called
"friskiness" plus some serious themes and characters drawn from more than one sector of humankind.
Not one to rule out that he could have misjudged, despite
having written and edited fiction for publication since the early
forwarded the e-copy of his book to several author colleagues. They
were unanimous in saying they could find nothing offensive.
David Whitehead (aka Ben Bridges, Matt Logan and Glenn Lockwood) said,
"First of all, let me say that I'm shocked that John Hale could reject
a western from one of his most regular and indeed most accomplished
contributors. I will certainly read Misfit Lil Cheats the
Hangrope over the weekend and let you know what I make of it."
And within hours:
"Well, it's 4:20 on a chilly, wet Saturday afternoon – you'd never
mistake it for what we used to call flaming June – and I've just
finished reading Misfit Lil Cheats the Hangrope. It is a
eminently ACCEPTABLE western, beautifully written as always, with a
nice line in dry humour, good characterization, a whole string of neat
and imaginative sequences and a mystery that certainly baffled this
reader right to the end. Are we really to understand that in this day
and age a certain element of the story would shock most BHW readers? On
the contrary, I found it a refreshing and bold move, because it truly
confounded expectation. It takes western fiction in an exciting new
direction and this, I believe, is a major selling-point. Whatever
happens, we need to get this book into print one way or other!"
Lil makes for an engaging lead character."
David had already encouraged and assisted Mike Linaker (aka Neil
Hunter) to continue with his Brand series of westerns, which was
similarly dropped by Hale. Mike writes for the top-selling Mack Bolan
paperback adventure series and is still lauded for his
tough Bodie westerns written in the Piccadilly Cowboys era, which was
the high point in sales of British-written westerns.
Also, David has collaborated with Steve Hayes, subject of our lead
article, to write and publish a psychological suspense thriller, Feral,
and a second is on its way.
Ahead of several others, David now set about encouraging Chap O'Keefe
to put the Misfit Lil book on the market using the Lulu distribution
reluctance to be associated with a project some might see as
carrying the stigma of "vanity" or "subsidy" publishing was overcome
by an assurance that upfront money did not have to be paid by the
author for a stock of unwanted, over-priced books.
Within days, David had shown how the book could readily be put into type
for publication and an unfussy but stunning cover was designed. Second-rights artwork was
generously contributed by Michael Thomas, one of Britain's busiest producers
of book covers, who said, "If things take off, I'm always available for
. .the quintessential action-packed western."
It was decided the cover "look" had to reflect western fiction written
for an enlightened reader of today. Just as DVD covers for the likes of
Deadwood and Appaloosa
differ from those for reissues of classic western movies, the covers of modern
paperback westerns should be given a distinctive "period" look, while still
having echoes of the BHWs it's hoped they can supplement. The result was
run past David, Keith Hetherington, Ray Foster, Steve M, Paddy Gallagher
and Gary Dobbs. Everyone was delighted: "a beauty" . . . "classy" . . . "fabulous".
. . "I like" . . . "very eye-catching".
But we still have a long way to go. Black Horse Extra Books, this website's
latest and most ambitious venture, will need many, many readers'
to succeed. If you care about the genre and its resurgent
possibilities, please consider buying a copy of the first book through
Lulu or another online seller. It could
become a collectors' item! BHE also
needs voluntary representation to get the book into stores. Showing
your copy to independent bookshops, not linked to the major chains, might
be particularly useful at the present stage.
Unaltered repetition and nostalgic celebration of the plots and stories
ago is destructive to the western genre. A healthy interest in the past
has always been encouraged by the Black Horse Extra, but it needs to be
matched by an equally healthy interest in fresh and exciting
Writing and publishing westerns today is harder than
readers, let's back our contemporary writers in worthy ventures. It's
as much in our interest as theirs!
pardners . . . Chap spins a mighty fine yarn that should send
yuh moseyin' on
down tuh yuh local bookshop pronto. This excitin',
fast-paced, quick-drawin' book
is jest thuh thing for puttin' in the
cowhands' Christmas stockings."
– NZ Rural Press
Be in to win! Buy
Misfit Lil Cheats the Hangrope
at Amazon or Lulu and you will qualify to enter the Wild West Monday Competition
for a worthwhile money prize. Just keep the emailed receipt from the seller
you have purchased from and watch for the detailed announcements at The Tainted Archive
during the month of October.
Gary Dobbs (aka Jack Martin), says, "The book is now listed on Amazon. com
priced at a very reasonable $15.22. It's a lovely looking paperback
original. Not only is it a good read but as the first BHE Book it could
prove highly collectible."
A tip for bargain-hunters! Amazon.com is also currently listing O'Keefe's Ride the Wild Country
in the Dales edition for the special price of $10.01 (instead of $23.99). Buy it with Misfit Lil Cheats the Hangrope
and you qualify for Amazon's FREE Super Saver Shipping.
For readers in Britain, Misfit Lil Cheats the Hangrope
is also listed at
at a price of £11.50 "Delivered FREE in the UK".
Alternatively, approach your usual online supplier or bookstore, quoting title, author and ISBN 978-1-4092-8943-2.
Lulu offers discounts for bulk purchases, beginning at 20% for 24 copies.
The opening chapter of the book, plus some endorsements, are available FREE here
Man of mystery speaks his mind
THE PASSING OF THE CLASSIC WESTERN
Kendo was looking for salvation as well as retribution. Of these two
retribution was the simpler to exact.
Losing Frank Pierce's horse herd
to raiding gunmen had not been his fault, but it was bound to ruin
Kendo's reputation which had already been severely darkened by past
failure. Left alone and afoot on the open plains by treacherous
companions, he needed to track down the outlaws and recapture the
horses, the sale of which Pierce was banking on to save his small
That alone was a vast challenge and Kendo couldn't know how much
worse it could get before he encountered the beautiful woman who was
intent on building an outlaw empire in the far country.
Beyond the Crimson Skies
BY his own choosing, Paul Lederer is a mystery man among western
"Reclusiveness is my nature. In the olden times, when I was
ten-thousand a month and people knew my name, I used to actually hide
from readers. My wife Annie thought that was quite amusing."
Suffice it to say that Paul has led a tumultuous life, both in North
and South America – "a long and sordid tale if you weren't there" –
and he does not feel that his readers need to hear his life history.
"Please! No requests for
anything autobiographical. It has been a hard life, and I don't like
Paul was much happier to tell BHE about his last BHW, The Outpost,
which was published at the end of June.
"The book is about a varied group
of people trapped in an uncertain situation – an abandoned fort on the
frontier. A pair of young lovers, an aging gunfighter and his
long-time love, a soiled dove."
The book was also the subject of an enthusiastic notice at the online
Western Fiction Review. Steve M said, "Owen G. Irons is fast becoming
one of my favourite BHW writers."
Although at the time of writing Paul, who lives in La Mesa, California, was
re-establish his New York City publishing contacts, he has been a
regular contributor these past few years to the BHW series, both as
Owen G. Irons and as Logan Winters.
Beyond the Crimson Skies, his next BHW, will be published
at the end of
September. Leading up to its release, Paul was happy to give us his
views on what he describes as "The Passing of the Classic Western".
One thing that concerns me these days is the decline of interest that
major American publishers display concerning the classic western –
as most of my readers know, is the field I prefer to work in. Why this
should be in the country where the genre was created is beyond me. I
could speculate as to the socio-political tendencies among the new wave
of editors and publishers, but it would be only that – speculation.
new theory seems to be that they simply do not have enough buyers to
justify resources on this sort of novel, that women are the prime
purchasers of books, and that anyway the Western is passé.
I have to argue their premises on several points: First of all, I
have received far more mail from female readers who seemed to enjoy my
books than from men. Maybe women are just more inclined to write to me;
could be. Secondly, I have many people from Oregon to Texas
that they cannot find new "straight" westerns on the market.
true. I wonder, after the amazing success and popularity of Louis
L'Amour how New York can, following his death, consider the genre
passé. Perhaps none of us is writing well enough to fill the void his
passing left. I wouldn't know. Could be, I suppose, but I know when
these publishers get behind a book and push it, it will sell.
The wave of "adult westerns" published in a rush of imitation on the
heels of Jove's highly successful Longarm series led to the further
dismantling of the art and craft of writing the western novel. A lot
of writers needing the money – and I was one – jumped on board that
to hack out page after page of stuff as ridiculous as a Bonanza
In effect, both we and the publishers were victims of our own
greed or simple need to survive in a tough marketplace. I was pulling
down ten-thousand a month in those times, and I guarantee you that Ruff
made more money that Owen. G. Irons' Windstalker
defence, I had a family to support, and some times "a man does what a
man has to do".
To change the subject entirely – I hope – does anyone read Luke Short
any more? He was far superior to another author of that era, Max Brand.
Why? In my estimation, it was because he wanted to be a western writer
while Brand (Frederick Faust) wished to be a poet. There again, I
speculate, but I prefer Luke Short. And I have to admit that I can no
longer read Zane Grey; his prose is too stilted and convoluted for me.
Myself, I try to keep the plot moving along, but in the short novel,
this also leaves little space for character development. It's a
I have been asked to say something about my upcoming Black Horse
Western books. Let me think . . . I liked, and hope readers will, Hangtown
Winters (coming in October) which concerns two misfit desert rats who
"inherit" a deserted
ghost town which does not remain deserted for long as a band of
troublemakers, the US Army and a man called Laredo arrive along with a
wagonload of pesky females.
And, yes, if anyone thinks that Laredo seems familiar, he is a
crossover character from an earlier Owen G. Irons novel –
the only time I can remember Owen G. Irons and Logan Winters sharing a
I have also been asked to say something about Beyond the Crimson
. This is simply a tough, broad-shouldered book about a
needs to find redemption for his past lapses and requires heart, soul
and sheer guts,
with the love of a good woman to achieve it – the essence of the
classic western which, as I have said, is the kind of book I try to
write, and the only kind I care to read.
– Paul Lederer
With 250 published novels, Paul says he is "lucky if I can recall any
of the titles
let alone what they might have been about.
Sorry if I sound vague, but I suppose I am a vague person."
Some of Paul's career highlights BHE mentioned in a Hoofprint in
last edition. Comparing his profile with the "amazing success and
popularity of Louis L'Amour", we can offer as explanation only that
L'Amour was never elusive or enigmatic. He was a personality in his
eyes, with a biography presented at the back of
most of his paperbacks. This was further cultivated in the
introductions and notes he wrote for
his short-story collections. That is possibly part of the "void" no one
L'Amour was presented as a rounded person,
large as the life he'd lived. He cultivated his fans. We know of
at least two who went on to
become BHW writers. Louis invited them to dinner, paying the restaurant
bill! Such gestures make huge and lasting impressions.
In the decades since L'Amour's death, many publishers of westerns have
concentrated on promoting their own imprints, giving them prominence
over author names. The brand comes before the hands that sustain it.
And western heroes, once created, have frequently become the property
of the publisher, to be written about anonymously under house
pen-names. But readers – and especially collectors, of course –
seldom choose their books by imprint.
As we have here, they continue to hunt down the
identities of the writers who produce fiction that pleases.
|More wisdom from Greg Mitchell|
WRITE WORDS, WRONG WORDS
A raid on a money shipment in the town of Appsley leaves a sheriff and
a guard dead and another man wounded. Lawman Pete Hewitt is sent to
keep order until the town council elects another sheriff.
discovery convinces Hewitt that someone in town could also be involved
in the raid and a storekeeper's murder confirms his suspicions though
most believe the events to be unrelated.
Problems escalate when Hewitt
antagonizes a gunman called The Count, and when it looks as if he can
unmask the villains, his life is in great danger. Can he survive long
enough to run the law-breakers to ground?
A leader's a good thing to follow
Through scrub or through life
But don't follow too close behind
'Cause you might get the swing of
Maxins, W. H. Ogilvie
MY contribution for this edition is from
a reader's point of view and not an author's. I have had considerably
more experience in the former category and as such I am sometimes
disturbed by writers who merely copy the hackneyed and often wrong
expressions of others.
I am not implying that many writers are copycats. Some combinations
of words come to writers' minds because we have read them so often. At
the time they seem to fit but on closer examination they might prove to
For example, the grips on a hero's Colt .45 are described
frequently as being "well-worn". But sometimes, rather than adding
authenticity, the careless use of such a description can destroy
the story's credibility. The well-worn description could apply to
wooden-butted guns that had been around since the 1840s, but the time
element must be considered in relation to the Colt .45.
went on to the market in 1873 but due to army contracts, did not reach
most civilians until the the latter part of the 1870s. Because these
were relatively late-model weapons in the Wild West era there would be
little wear on grips. The latter were made of hard-wearing material
such as wood, hard rubber, ivory, mother-of-pearl, or even silver. For
Colt .45 handles to be showing signs of wear during the settings of
most stories would indicate a degree of abuse that any self-respecting
gun owner would avoid. Other parts of a well-used revolver would show
wear long before the grips.
We all need to think carefully about words that spring to mind
because we have read them so often.
Too frequently we hear of people being shot with "shells", but
unless western gunman had taken to using artillery pieces, that could
not happen. Bullets are not shells and the shell remains in the gun
after the bullet has been fired.
During the American Civil War, General, later President, Grant was
asked why he never swore. He replied that there were sufficient words
in the English language for him to express what he wanted to say.
Unfortunately, this message is sometimes lost on writers who feel they
must invent new, anatomical verbs for simple actions. No longer do
riders rein, turn, wheel or spur their mounts. Now cowboys "heel" their
horses. Do they really nip at the horses' heels as cattle dogs do?
Riders too frequently are described as kneeing, heeling or even
hipping. I wonder how long it will be before some hero ankles his
horse. One writer using such terms is original but they become
repetitious and boring when when several others do the same.
Fictional heroes are given a wide variety of guns, some of which
are totally inappropriate for the time line of the story. Then they are
modified in a way that would affect their safety, reliability and
accuracy. There is no evidence that the famous gunfighters of the Old
West had elaborate modifications made to their sidearms. The better
weapons were very effective as they came from the factories and few
westerners tampered with them. It is true that some hideout guns were
drastically modified, but many were older weapons that had been cut
to make them easier to conceal. There is nothing wrong with arming a
character with a different gun, but be sure that you are not continuing
claptrap perpetrated by a previous writer's wild imagination.
We are all influenced by other writers but even the best can make
mistakes. It pays to test another writer's expressions against the
situation we are describing to see if they really work.
As one who has been reading westerns for at least 60 years, I
have a lot of other writers' words running around inside my head. Some
unkind souls would even suggest that there is sufficient room in there
for several marathons. However, these often-read words are the first in
my imagination to volunteer for any descriptions I happen to be writing
and sometimes, upon reflection, they prove inappropriate.
The time line can be a real trap for those who adopt a "cookie
cutter" approach. Arming a hero with a .45 Peacemaker could sound
authentic but it is ridiculous if the story is set before that model
was invented. Similarly Walker Colts and Dragoon Colts were so
cumbersome and inferior compared to metallic cartridge models that they
were out of style by the 1880s.
It is better to use general descriptions or do your own research
rather than weaken good work by taking someone else's words to fit into
your situations. Never underestimate the reader. Many, because of
or practical experience, can spot an absurdity, and their respect for
the writer drops accordingly. Be yourself and don't continue someone
else's error because it sounds catchy.
All westerns are based on a limited number of situations. Original
treatment of these situations can be overshadowed by writing that
already sounds too familiar to the reader. Imitation might be the
sincerest form of flattery but it is not
always the sign of a creative mind.
– Paddy Gallagher, who writes his BHWs as Greg Mitchell. His
latest, to be published in September, is The Raiders.
Published by Robert Hale Ltd in August, September and October
||0 7090 8779 3
7090 8780 9
7090 8783 0
|Guntrail to Condor
7090 8786 1
7090 8787 8
|Hank J. Kirby
7090 8789 2
7090 8806 6
|Beyond the Crimson Skies
Owen G. Irons
7090 8748 9
|Gillian F. Taylor
7090 8781 6
|Shootout at San Lorenzo
7090 8790 8
|Dead Man's Range
7090 8791 5
|Death Comes Riding
|Terrell L. Bowers
7090 8796 0
|Misfit Lil Robs the Bank
|0 7090 8801 1
7090 8807 3
|A Colt for the Kid
7090 8792 2
7090 8795 3
|Sweep of Fury
7090 8799 1
|The Battle for Skillern Tract
7090 8800 4
|Iron Eyes Makes War
7090 8810 3
|The Staked Plains
|0 7090 8813 4
|A Coffin for Santa Rosa
|0 7090 8845 5
Misfit Lil Cheats
978 1 4092 8943 2
Horse Westerns can be requested at public libraries or ordered at bookstores. They can be bought online from the publisher at www.halebooks.com,
or from other retailers including Amazon, Amazon UK, WH Smith, Blackwells
and The Book Depository ("free delivery worldwide").
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