September – November 2010
Imagination in the Saddle
Last word on Blurbs
Jack Martin #2
Justice and the Western
Faith and a Fast Gun
Sex and Violence
Gold Robbery Mystery
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
Joshua's Second Chance Hoofprints
Chasing Away Paperback Blues
Stories in Paint New Black Horse Westerns
As hardback books, few Black Horse Westerns sell directly to the
readers. The publishing company's stance for many years has been:
"This light fiction series in hardback is sold exclusively into the
public library system and not through the retail trade, where the
paperback rules supreme."
London writer Ray Foster (aka BHWs' Jack Giles whose career you can
read about in the Extra's June 2008 edition) notes at his Broken Trails
blog, "Once upon a time most books could expect a paperback deal to
follow. These days it is not so much the case."
The standard contract from publisher Robert Hale Ltd secures
from the writer "sole and exclusive rights throughout the world",
including paperback rights, which would seem to hold out promise that
they might be used. In the event, the admission is readily made: "The
[UK] paperback publishers do not want westerns at all, I am afraid. . . .
With the knowledge of this fact it is a waste of time and money
as well as an irritation to send paperback houses books that we ought to
know they would not want."
No way could be seen to counter the "blank refusal" of the paperback
editors, with whom the Hale subsidiary rights person carefully went
through all the company's publications. "I am sure you will appreciate that
there comes a time when you cannot politely tell your customer how to
run his own business."
Similarly, the BHW publisher has never held out hope of selling
subsidiary rights to publishers in the United States, for hardcover or
paperback: "I am not at all sure we can achieve anything with westerns
in the USA. We have for years tried . . . and quite frankly have been
wholly unsuccessful. I am unaware of any non-American western writers
being published in the USA, and with so much domestic material to hand
I suppose that is hardly surprising."
This sad history makes all the more remarkable what promised to be this year's most notable
achievement on the BHW scene.
In July, Ray Foster spread the happy news that
Matthew P. Mayo had reached a paperback deal with Dorchester Publishing
of New York, home of the mass-market Leisure Books paperbacks. "I was quite
thrilled and can only congratulate
him on this achievement. I think that Matthew P. Mayo is the first
Black Horse Western
writer to have his novels reprinted in paperback."
Leisure Books announced it would issue all three of Matthew's BHWs, beginning with Winters'
War in May 2011. But in early August came the shock news that Dorchester was pulling out of its traditional market, effective from
September. "The company will not do any more mass-market paperbacks for
Ray had said the word was Dorchester/Leisure were looking for authors
would like to see their books reprinted. "I hope some of the BHW
writers will seize the
day and take advantage of the opportunity."
For a proverbial
five minutes of wonder, BHW "guns" tried to jump on the Dorchester bandwagon
even as it was faltering. Company president John Prebich said that after retail
sales fell by 25% in 2009, Dorchester knew 2010 would be a defining year,
but rather than show improvement, sales had been worse. Dorchester had had
a difficult time getting its titles into stores as shelf space for the mass-market
format was reduced.
In our article "Paperback Blues" Matthew gives his vision
of what the future might hold.
In this connection, it should be remembered Hale said long ago,
"There is far less category publishing these days and by and large it
is the author rather than the type of story which makes impact."
Reviews of Matthew's novels have been laudatory without
exception. Matthew is an American citizen. He is a member of Western
Writers of America and was a finalist in that organization's 2010 Spur
Award for Short Fiction with his story Half a Pig.
He was also able to attend the WWA annual convention in Knoxville, Tennessee,
and enjoyed "yammering" in person with editors and fellow writers. "Like
old hens clucking away. It was great fun," he said at his website.
He has also noted that his literary agent "only signs folks she's met at conferences. In that respect, and many
others, attending WWA conventions has been time well spent for me."
And it's no detraction from Matthew's significant victory to
remind those desiring to emulate him of the message once given by
bestselling paperback author Terry Harknett (aka George G. Gilman)
about the "large percentage of very necessary luck". This Terry
detailed as partly "the good fortune to be in the right place at the
right time and to know the right people".
Hard work – he called it
perspiration – also came into it, but that was not enough to achieve the
goal: "Should you wish to tread this same path, I cannot teach you. All I can
offer are the [writing] rules ... with the proviso that they are no
guarantee of success, for what they amount to is merely that 49 per
cent of perspiration. You will have to get your own two per cent of
inspiration and keep your fingers crossed that Lady Luck will smile on
You can't add better to that, so to the writers everywhere ... good
Your comments and western news are always welcome at email@example.com
FREE excerpt here
|Chap O'Keefe reintroduces a series hero |
JOSHUA'S SECOND CHANCE
Paid to mind other folks' business, Joshua Dillard did it with a .45
Colt Peacemaker. But he also had a mission of his own, and when Butch
Simich and his bunch stuck up the stage from Tucson he swung into
vengeful action. Stirring it along came Dorothy-May Pennydale, spirited
daughter of a whiskey-soaked way station boss. And in the thick of it
from the start was Clement P. Conway from New York City, hack writer of
dime novels – a greenhorn with guts plunging out of his depth.
The fight led into treacherous territory, up against rogue town
marshal Virgil Lyons and saloonkeeper Dice Sanders, whose greed for
women and money produced mayhem . . . and the most violent gun battle
the one-horse burg of Hellyer's Creek had ever seen!
Shootout at Hellyer's Creek
PUBLISHER Robert Hale Ltd probably never intended its Black Horse
Western line to become a vehicle for novels featuring a central
character who appears in more than one or two books a year. And it
By 1986, when the BHW brand was launched, publishers elsewhere had
largely decreed that new western series heroes should be house
written about by teams of authors hired to contribute using a common,
house pseudonym. The books involved had become inexpensive paperback
issued in quick, regular succession like the fiction magazines of old.
But Hale created no hero figure to be shared, and it presented each
of its BHW novels
as a standalone item in hard covers for library distribution. The
authors it took on board were limited to three books a year under any
The Hale books' livery stressed simply that a book was "A Black Horse
Western". Only on those occasions when a character's name was allowed
to appear in a number of titles was it apparent to readers that series
existed within the series. Even then, different covers would portray
the same character in completely different ways. Surprisingly, many
authors did create series characters. Some achieved popularity,
limited (unsurprisingly) by their manner of presentation and lack of
Western writers have written sequels since dime-novel days. Readers, if
not all publishers or writers, like them. An early
example was Deadwood Dick created for publisher Erastus Beadle by
Edward L. Wheeler in the late 1870s. The tradition continued through
the Clarence E. Mulford Bar 20 decades, then the Louis L'Amour Sackett
on to the already mentioned US house series of the latter part of the
last century and to the present day. For the writer, a
series hero offers both
benefits and drawbacks. All this has been discussed here
before, notably in "Heroes Too Good to Kill Off" (June 2009).
For the BHW line, I eventually found myself writing the Misfit Lil
stories, whose name always appears in the titles of her adventures. But
long before Lil came on the scene, there was Joshua
. . the trail dust clogged the creases of his brush-clawed clothes like grey
gunpowder and was gritty in the light blue of his far-seeing range-rider's
eyes. But he paid that and the searing heat no mind. He rode tall in the
saddle with straight back and square shoulders, and an air of competence
and dignity not lost in the apparent shabbiness of his garb.
By coincidence, January 2010 saw not one but three Joshua Dillard novels
issued in a single month. And it had been a long time since this had
happened to a western hero. Hale published the eighth Dillard book, Faith
and a Fast Gun as a BHW; Ulverscroft company F. A. Thorpe
seventh Dillard book, Blast to Oblivion, in a
large-print, Linford Western Library edition; Black Horse Extra Books
published via Lulu
distribution the ninth Dillard book, Liberty and a Law Badge,
as a pocket-book paperback original.
One way or another, via an online
bookseller or a local library, it should be possible today for the
reader to make or renew
acquaintance with Joshua Dillard. But for those who like to begin at
the beginning, the best news is that
Magna Large Print Books (another Ulverscroft imprint) is putting the
very first Joshua Dillard story back into print as a Dales Western trade paperback on
Shootout at Hellyer's Creek was my second Black Horse
in the (southern hemisphere) spring of 1992. It was received on 10
Robert Hale Ltd assistant editor Wendy Brown, who
promised the usual "prompt and careful attention". On 11 November, Mr
John Hale wrote, "I have read this and thought it an expertly written
and splendidly prepared novel which we would like to publish on the
same terms as for Gunsmoke Night. Because the novel is
presented I believe copy-editing would be a formality so we will send
the typescript straight to the setter."
I immediately asked whether the typesetters would like to have the book
on disk rather than have to copy-type the entire novel on their own
keyboards. Mr Hale responded, "I am sorry to say we cannot make use of
disks as one way and another the 'corrections' called for when using a
disk offset the savings. I know it doesn't sound logical but this is
the way it has worked out over a large number of disks."
The proofs of my early titles for Hale were riddled with inputting
errors and departures from copy made by the typesetters. Gunsmoke
had 160 corrections – the equivalent of more than one per page.
It wasn't until early 1994 that I managed to persuade the company to
set a book from a disk. Production director Mr Eric Restall
said, "Setting from your disk we made a saving of £80 on the
composition. We will propose to split the saving and will send you a
cheque for £40." This became a pattern, confirmed by Shirley Day in
1995: "For some time now we have discouraged authors from
supplying disks as supposed savings frequently backfired, in some cases
resulting in a larger composition charge than had we set from hard
copy. Your disks, however, are an exception and I am happy to agree to
a flat sum of £40 until further notice."
Today the very thought of
insistence on setting from hard copy, let alone extra payment for a
helpful author advocating an alternative, strikes us all as quaint. Such is
the advance of technology!
stage hurtled down trail on slewing wheels from the twin buttes that marked
the head of the pass and the place of its deadly ambush. The road dropped
with sharp turns and on perilous cambers toward the bottom of a gulch littered
with broken rocks and filled with sweltering heat like some ante-pit of hell.
Guttural cries pursued the stage's racketing passage. "Pull up, jehu! Lift 'em, mister – lift 'em!"
Whip O'Reilly knew he was a dead man.
In the event, Shootout at Hellyer's Creek was published
in May 1994,
after my third
story for the BHW series, The Sheriff and the Widow
"excellent"), had been published in the January. Why the third book
leapfrogged the second in the publisher's schedule no one was able to
explain. Mr Hale: "I don't quite know how the order of these books got
reversed but I am glad that it raises no problems with you."
Both books benefited from excellent cover illustrations by Salvador
Shootout at Hellyer's Creek also made the front page of
newspaper in Auckland, New Zealand, the North Shore Times. Why the
special interest? Because the "real" Hellyer's Creek is a tidal
estuary of the Waitemata Harbour. I overlook it from the windows of
most rooms in my house. It's not too often a
landmark in another country is adopted as the name for a fictional,
Wild West town. You can see a picture of the New Zealand Hellyer's
Creek accompanying the article "Writers and Money" in the March 2006
Black Horse Extra.
Another New Zealand newspaper, the Sunday News, also came to the
promotion party with a feature called "Westerns Ride Again" (funny how
many revivals the western seems to have!). Ten copies of the novel
were offered as prizes in an accompanying contest.
Robert Hale Ltd kindly provided the books free of charge. Hundreds of
people sent in entries. I figured out the New Zealand Post received
more income from the stamps than I did for writing the book.
Although this was before online
bookselling through the likes of Amazon and the Book Depository had
spread around the globe, my
hope was that with so much interest, at least some of those who didn't
win Shootout at Hellyer's Creek would want to buy a
copy. But it wasn't to be. Hale had just changed its New Zealand
distributor. The book wasn't readily available. The records I have from
the government department that administers the NZ version of Public
Lending Right payments show that at no time have the country's
libraries – the natural market for hardcover books – held more than
In 1994, Hale was publishing 10 new
BHW titles per month. Once a book had sold out its print run to the UK
libraries, that was that. On to selling the next month's selection! Shootout
Creek became one of those BHWs sometimes listed by
secondhand book dealers and on auction websites at silly prices beyond many
I hope the new Magna Dales trade-paperback edition will stay in print longer and chalk up
larger sales in New Zealand and elsewhere, particularly to the public
libraries. Another three Dillard reissues are in the Ulverscroft large-print pipeline
for next year.
pore li'le innocent man [Clem Conway] needs protectin' from wicked Western
ways," Dorothy-May said. "By crackity! His head were scraped by a bullet!
'T ain't no wonder his reasonin's gone wrong . . ."
Her drunken father Ezra smiled maliciously, baring
his broken teeth. "Shore yuh ain't gotten sorta sweet on the feller?" he
Dorothy-May scoffed. "Men! I ain't got no time for
'em. All the spec'mens I sees is ornery, two-timin', bone-idle, low-down
rats! Ain't no real man ever set foot aroun' Hell'er's Crik! Howsomever,
I figger it's like I says. A blind man c'd see Mr Conway needs proper directin'."
There was more soliloquising, muttered and mental,
along these lines, so that eventually Dorothy-May was convinced she would,
for shame, be failing in hospitality and public duty not to saddle up and
set off pronto in the tracks of her fallen literary idol.
Joshua Dillard, a lone rider with an ex-Pinkerton background, came on
the scene in the opening lines of chapter two of Shootout at
Hellyer's Creek, which was headed "The Hired Gun". I had no
intention at the time that he would be the central character in a
series of stories. Nor for that matter did I consider him a more
attractive creation than other characters in the book's cast. From an
author's standpoint, the dizzy, lively heroine,
Dorothy-May Pennydale, and the greenhorn dime-novel author, Clement P.
Conway, were at least as
Dorothy-May – with a mop of carrot-red hair and virulent oaths "that would
have blued the air in a Tombstone bar-room" – was in hindsight a kind of
prototype Misfit Lil. She and Clem also supplied the romantic interest seen
as a worthy feature in a traditional western of the kind approved by the
In earlier years I had read a number of the novels of Frank C.
Robertson. These were published in the UK by William Collins Sons &
Co Ltd, first in library hardcover, then in printing after printing as
White Circle and Fontana paperbacks in the 1960s and '70s. I've later
learned that many
of Robertson's books, like The Noose Hangs High, Getley's
Gold, Man Bait and Crooked
Water, began life as serials in the US pulp Ranch
Romances. Robertson was writing for this long-lived magazine in
the 1920s and was still contributing in the 1950s. I like to think the
first Dillard book captured a little of the same flavour.
for Joshua Dillard himself, he was thinking he'd have to resign his commission
and settle for the measly hundred dollars advance on account of his expenses.
He could save Clement P. Conway from the hardcases,
but he was damned if he could rescue him from the toils of a designing woman.
Aw, well, maybe Wells Fargo would make him an ex gratia payment.
That was something for him to dream about as he rode on out of Hellyer's Creek.
Joshua's failure to make money from the cases in which he involved
himself became a defining characteristic. It allowed him to proceed
tenaciously from exploit to exploit never bettering or changing his
situation, but providing – in a credible way, I hope – the returning
detective character it's handy to have in a story with a strong crime
element wherever it might be set. It hardly needs to be repeated here
how westerns are strongly related to the crime genre, sharing murder,
robbery, guns for hire and other
In Blast to Oblivion (Hale 2009; Linford large-print 2010) Joshua actually tackled a
case based on the one which confronted Sherlock Holmes in the Conan
Doyle classic The Valley of Fear. The book was
critically well received by the Holmes societies on both sides of the
Atlantic and by followers of both the western and crime genres. You can
read an excerpt from the novel here, and about its writing in the March
2009 Black Horse Extra.
Reviewing the paperback original Liberty and a Law Badge
(2010), writer James Reasoner, a prolific and respected contributor to many western series, has said, "Joshua
Dillard is a very likable hero, tough and
competent enough to handle just about any situation, despite his
occasional self-doubts, but not a superman by any means. I’m ready to
read more about him right now. . . ."
Joshua's unprofitable life was originally shaped as a kind of wry
mirroring of the BHW writer's plight; an in-joke at the expense of myself and the other authors. Mr Hale told me in a fax very
early in my association with his company, "By and large writing
westerns for the British market, at least in hardcover form, is no
decent way of making a living for a professional writer and
journalist." He also commented in 1994, "Sadly there seems to be
virtually no difference in sales between these westerns and I have no
evidence that westerns which I think are better sell more copies. Very
sad. The price we pay is dictated by the sales revenue we achieve, not
alas in relation to merit."
So we have Joshua, who always brings his adventures to the best of
conclusions, confounding the villains and producing the answers to
everyone else's satisfaction, but is obliged to ride on with no money in
his pockets. Bringing true
justice to the Frontier West in an honourable fashion, giving your all
to a task, was seldom profitable. And telling the Dillard stories has
been a fun way of sharing latter-day financial frustration. "Me too, buddy!"
Keith Chapman, aka Chap O'Keefe, whose rare BHW
at Hellyer's Creek is reissued in a new edition.
Back in circulation.
|Making a mark on the western scene
Indefatigable BHW writer (as Jack Martin) Gary Dobbs is also a
historical-crime novelist, television actor, well-followed blogger and
taxi driver. Now he has turned part-time "literary agent" to put the
famous, bestselling Edge novels of the 1970s and '80s back into
circulation as ebooks. In early July he tipped off Hoofprints that he
had exciting news. "Remember I told you I'd had permission from Terry
[Harknett aka George G. Gilman] to try and bring the Edge series back?
Well, I've done it." Before the month was out, Gary announced details
at the Tainted Archive blog, and the ebook of the first novel in the classic UK-originated
western series was listed on the Solstice Publishing website. A long-time fan of the cult collectibles, Gary
said, "The Edge books are like spaghetti westerns on steroids. No
western series has ever punched harder or with more style." He has
organized fresh covers from artist Tony Masero, too. "I love the new
look ... by combining two of his original paintings Tony has created an
all new look for Edge's foray into the digital world."
AMC cable television network is developing Hell on Wheels
, a western series
revolving around the building of the Transcontinental Railroad, says the
Hollywood Reporter. The rail line, considered one of the biggest achievements
of the presidency of Abraham Lincoln
, was completed on May 10, 1869, forever
changing the American West. It accelerated the populating of the West by
white homesteaders and freed slaves, while contributing to the decline
of the Indian culture in the regions it served. The railroad, considered
by some to be the greatest technological feat of the 19th century, was constructed
by two private companies: the Union Pacific Railroad, which built the line
westward, and the Central Pacific Railroad, which built eastward. AMC first delighted western fans with the mini-series Broken
starring Robert Duvall
. Production of the pilot for Hell on Wheels
was scheduled to begin in Alberta, Canada, in August. The main character is Cullen Bohannan
, a former Confederate soldier. Joel Stillerman
, of AMC, said,
"The epic setting provides the perfect backdrop for the early industrialism
and corruption surrounding the project; the incredible immigrant experience;
and the good, the bad, and the ugly of what it took to get this railroad
built." The pilot's director is David Von Ancken
, who knows the genre
and the period well. He co-wrote and directed the 2006 feature Seraphim Falls
starring Liam Neeson
and Pierce Brosnan
, which was set in the 1860s and featured,
among other supporting characters, a rail crew.
Former BHW writer Bill Spence
today writes historical sagas of
adventure and romance as Jessica Blair
. No fewer than six of them will
be reissued in paperback (Little, Brown) with new covers on November 10. But Bill
hasn't forgotten the western fans who knew him as Jim Bowden
. He recently made the two-hour drive from his rural English home to Long
Preston, Yorkshire, the address of Magna Large Print publishers.
"I sold large-print rights in 12 more of
my western novels, written in the '60s and '70s, so that was good,"
Bill says. "Also
got treated to a very nice lunch by very nice people!" Bill's latest
Floyd Rogers reprint, The Stage Riders
, was issued by Magna in May.
"The original hardback was published in 1967. The new cover
was provided by Gordon Crabb
who has done numerous book covers for all
genres as well as artwork in many other fields. This, I think, is one
the best seen on my books. Some might think that a western
cover needs more action, but here we see three people who are very much
alive. Their stance is so expressive of their feelings for each other
and for the situation they are facing. What is it? They know. And we
want to follow their gaze out of picture to find out.... Thanks,
Gordon, for a wonderful cover." New readers can catch up with Bill's
fascinating and multi-faceted life story in the December 2008
The California State Railroad Museum has a new exhibit titled Rails and Reels: Hollywood, Trains and the
Making of Motion Pictures
. It features a variety of railroad-related artifacts, such as
scale models of train cars used for special-effect crash scenes in the
1939 epic Union Pacific
, a full-size smokestack and headlamp used to
"backdate" steam locomotives to represent the Old West, station
signs used in movies including High Noon
, and a costume from the 1979
television movie Orphan Train
– plus sheet music, movie posters, lobby
cards, original film scripts and other Hollywood-themed promotional
items from railroad-related films dating from the early 1900s. In the early days of
motion pictures, America was fascinated with westerns. Locomotives
often starred alongside leading actors and actresses such as Gary
, Grace Kelly
and Paul Newman
. The opening of the new exhibit in Old Sacramento coincided
with the completion of restoration of the 1891 steam locomotive
Sierra No. 3 at Railtown 1897 State Historic Park in Jamestown,
California. A star in its own right, Sierra No. 3 (also known as the
"Movie Star Locomotive") has appeared in more than 100 movie
and television productions.
Rails and reels.
Old wine, new bottle.
is a friend of BHWs and their writers, including Terry
, Jack Martin
, Chap O'Keefe
and Lance Howard
. She is also the
grand-daughter of writer Paul S. Powers
(aka Ward M. Stevens
), who was
a contributor to many now bygone and enthusiastically collected pulp
magazines. In July, Laurie relaunched the Pulp Writer
introduction said, "During
the 1930s and 1940s, Paul was a prolific and successful pulp fiction
writer, writing over 400 stories for such pulp fiction magazines as
Wild West Weekly
, Weird Tales
, Thrilling Western
, Texas Rangers
more. Later Paul wrote a successful and acclaimed Western novel, Doc
. Paul was a skilled craftsman who wrote in many genres,
including horror, noir, animal, and historical non-fiction. Paul is
also the author of Pulp Writer: Twenty Years in the American Grub
. This memoir gives insight into a period of little-known
American history: pulp fiction during the Great Depression." The new
website is a must-visit place for western fans new and old.
Reader Leigh Alver, of Perth, Australia, follows up on points raised last issue by writer David Whitehead:
"Just a quick note of thanks for Black Horse Extra, it's a great read and
very professional in the wide range of topics that it covers. I love a good
western, mostly in the gritty style with the imperfect hero who is faced
with tough decisions and short odds. I see debate touches on whether the
western can rise to (mass) popularity again, and the answer is, who knows?
Isn't that the same for all genres? So the vampires and wizards are popular
today, the western yesterday, and maybe action heroes tomorrow. Each new
generation will determine how and when they will allow themselves to be seduced
by the fashion of the day. And trying to figure out what, where and when
that will be is anyone's guess.... I think a good story well told will find
a readership that extends beyond its genre. My favourite of all favourite
westerns is True Grit, not because it is a western but because
it is a great, great story, with wonderfully drawn characters, a super plot
(quest) and reads off the page like music to the ear – it is an absolute
joy. In fact, I would put it up there with the great classics like Moby Dick and Treasure Island,
and they are almost without peer as stories of individual character and adventure....
Keep up the good work. We might be a small band of devotees but popularity
was never a true reflection of either quality or value."
Let's drink to WF!
A new writers' group has emerged for the genre. Western Fictioneers
describes itself as an "organization of professional authors of
traditional western novels and short stories". President Frank Roderus
, who has had books available as BHWs, said its intention was "to promote western fiction in general and to
recognize outstanding work in this field that we love. Membership is open to writers of fiction published in the western
genre, novels, novellas or short stories taking place in America's old
west." Books self-published, or paid for by the author to be published
by a vanity press, would not count as qualification for membership or
for entry into WF's planned annual Peacemaker Awards for Best Novel,
Best First Novel and Best Short Story. Go here
for all the info and a
link to the WF blog. It's full of enjoyable essays and tips. For fun, and to
spread the word, you can even treat yourself to a WF mug or shirt.
B-movie storylines that strike no chord with modern audiences take some of
the blame for the general public's poor perception of the western. But for
a minority the "oldies" are a nostalgic delight. The Western Film Preservation
Society is "a nonprofit organization established for the purpose of preserving
and promoting the memories and ideals of western movies and classic television".
Each year it sponsors a three-day Western Film Fair in North Carolina. Invited
guests who appeared in feature films and television are honoured for their
contributions and dedication to the genre. More than 80 16mm movies and TV
shows are screened in three different rooms. Dealers sell memorabilia room
at about 100 tables. A highlight is a big awards night banquet with live
entertainment. Mark Burger of Yes! Weekly reported, "Many of the organizers, to say nothing of the attendees, are getting up there in years –
an observation that does not go unnoticed by younger people in attendance,
who most definitely comprise the minority." The latest fair, at the Clarion
Sundance Plaza Hotel, Winston-Salem, marked the event's 33rd birthday. "It
may well be one of the last, and yet another bit of nostalgia will vanish
from the landscape, galloping off into the sunset." Mark said one organizer
joked, "Our kids think we’re crazy."
Projecting a passion.
Tale of mystery man.
Queensland BHW writer Keith Hetherington (aka Jake Douglas, Rick Dalmas, Hank J. Kirby
and others) writes of the last Extra, "You keep the standard high! I don't
know where you get all your content, but to me it's like a magazine off the
newsagent's shelves – only one helluva lot cheaper. Variety is the keynote,
I think – provided it's interesting variety – and you sure hit the bull's-eye
with your efforts. Who wouldn't look forward to Paddy Gallagher's
articles? A very knowledgeable man who obviously reads a lot – a lot! – and
is passionately involved in his subject(s) – backed by a lot of obvious first-hand
experience: the very best kind of article. Candy Proctor always contributes stuff that's pertinent and knowledgeable, again backed up by plenty of experience. Dave Whitehead
has plenty of info and suggestions on forward-looking subjects that make
a lot of sense. I'm not bulling, you can be proud of your efforts each quarter
and I hope they are appreciated, because this, to me, is the definitive voice
of how things are in the World of Westerns right now. Not great, maybe ...
but markets rise and fall. A good time to take heed of Dave's article...."
Keith has two new BHWs on the shelves this quarter, Renegade's Legacy (Dalmas) and Hangtree County (Kirby).
BHW authors Gary Dobbs (aka Jack Martin) and Nik Morton (aka Ross
Morton) joined writers taking to the ebook trail. Gary's book was A
Policeman's Lot, an intriguing police precedural novel set in Wales in
1903 and involving Jack the Ripper and Buffalo Bill. Nik's new ebooks
were Spanish Eye, a collection of short stories featuring Leon Cazador,
a half-English, half-Spanish private investigator who fights "the
ungodly" (shades of the Saint?), and A Sudden Venegeance Waits, which
Nik calls "a modern vigilante novel". All three books are on the list
of the new company Solstice Publishing and can also be bought from
online retailers. Keep the westerns and print books coming, too, fellers!
No waits for ebooks.
No women, no guns?
BHW publishers Robert Hale have discouraged western cover art featuring
women – especially the more shapely and revealingly clothed – for years.
Now from other quarters comes word that guns, too, might soon be "out"
for book covers in our politically correct times. At the Killer Covers
blog, publisher, editor and author Charles Ardai
was questioned by J.
. He said, "Today, a lot of books are sold in large
chainstores that make their
money primarily by selling packaged goods ... and these stores take
great pains to ensure they won’t offend
any of their customers. Not a problem when your product is bologna or
potting soil; the packages for those products are unlikely to stir any
controversy. But book covers (and magazine covers, for that matter)
might. And these retailers won’t stock books whose covers contain
elements they feel might be risqué enough to cause some fraction of
their customers to write nasty letters or start a boycott or simply
start shopping at the next store over." Max Allan Collins
, whose books feature
on Charles' Hard Case Crime list, added, "Things have turned weird. We
were told, flatly, that there couldn’t be
a gun on a Mike Hammer
cover. No gun. And my pleas for a beautiful
woman on the covers have fallen on deaf ears, except for the wonderful
(if retro) covers of the Hammer collections at Penguin [US]." Will it be
goodbye to the BHW's Colts and Winchesters?
Hoofprints is hearing a new word for what used to be known as crossover
fiction, in which an author established in one genre introduces
elements from another. The website io9.com said, "Mashup novels are all
the rage right now, mixing zombies with
classic lit or scifi with westerns. Last week, at the [San Diego]
Comic-Con, a panel of
writers including Naomi Novik talked about the
best and worst of mashup lit.
Novik, whose Temeraire books inject dragons into the Napoleonic
wars, said what she likes about mashups is that they 'feel familiar,
but bring you the pleasure of something new'... Justin Cronin, author of
current bestseller The Passage,
said he 'jumped the rails from mainstream literary fiction, [which is full
of] novels where people have lots of earnest conversations over kitchen tables'.
With his new novel, which is about post-apocalyptic vampires, he said his
goal was to mix the genres he loved as a kid, 'post-apocalyptic novels of
the Cold War, westerns, thrillers and horror novels'." Some writers have
been doing mashups for years, of course, and finding little or no market
West in "mashup".
Plus smashing cover.
At 400 pages, Beat to a Pulp: Round One
promises to be the fiction anthology of the year. Its 27 stories run the
gamut of crime fiction, noir, sci-fi, hardboiled, western, literary, ghost
and fantasy. Plus at least one mashup. Extras are a foreword by Bill Crider
and a history of pulp by Cullen Gallagher
. You Don't Get Three Mistakes
by Scott D. Parker
is a fast-paced western with a twisty ending. The Wind Scorpion
by Edward A. Grainger
features revenge in unexpected forms along with the return of Cash Laramie
, who made his first appearance in the Express Westerns collection A Fistful of Legends
. A third western – if you favour the genre turned upside-down and inside-out – is Chap O'Keefe's
pigeonhole-defying The Unreal Jesse James
, which sends everyone's favourite outlaw through space and time. Meanwhile, Nik
(aka BHWs' Ross
has an eerie, cautionary sci-fi piece about literally spending an arm and a leg, and I. J. Parnham
puts on a swashbuckling hat to find strange booty in a stimulating pirate adventure. Robert J. Randisi
brings his detective Miles "Kid" Jacoby
back in a case involving the paparazzi, and James Reasoner
takes us to Pearl Harbour where a beautiful nurse carries a deadly scent in a haunting yarn. Laurie Powers
kindly supplies an unpublished story, The Strange Death of Ambrose Bierce
, by her grandfather, pulp legend Paul S. Powers
. For full information on the anthology's release, check the blog
of its busy editor, David Cranmer
|Matthew P. Mayo's breakthrough
CHASING AWAY PAPERBACK BLUES
THREE-TIMES successful BHW author Matthew P. Mayo
became the toast of the Black Horse community in mid-July with a
BHW writers have long been told that no market exists for
reprinting of their books as mass-market paperbacks, while writers who
tried to reach the pocket-book audience using the Lulu system
for print and distribution have been held back by costs and the high
mark-up in selling price.
The good news from Matthew was: "I received word
last week from my agent that she has struck a deal with Dorchester
to reprint my three Black Horse Westerns as mass-market paperbacks
all over the US (and beyond!) as part of the Leisure Books line. This
grand news for me, as it will significantly broaden the reach and
of my books. The first, Winters’ War, is due for release
in May 2011, followed in roughly six-month intervals by Hot
Lead, Cold Heart and Wrong Town.
"The books will appear in print, audio versions, various ebook formats,
possibly foreign-language versions. Hopefully, all of this, plus new
(perhaps sporting the words Spur Award Finalist!) and major
will add up to stellar sales. Keep ’em crossed! Plus, this is also
good news for my friends writing for the exceptional BHW line, as it
be possible for them to pursue a similar course of action."
But in early August, news broke that Dorchester was dropping
its traditional mass-market publishing business in favour of an
ebook/print-on-demand model, effective immediately.
MATTHEW P. MAYO generously gives us his inside take on
the twists and
turns of publishing fortune:
OBVIOUSLY from my own selfish point of view, I am disappointed
only in the fact that Dorchester's announcement means my novels won't
appear as mass-market paperbacks in the Leisure line. They will
appear as trade paperbacks in the Leisure line, as well as in all the
other formats already discussed: various ebooks, audiobooks, possible
foreign language versions.
It's not really that Dorchester is
"going digital" – it has already offered such versions in its line-up.
Rather it's placing more emphasis on newer, emerging
technologies and cutting-edge methods of publishing books.
it work? Probably, but it depends on their overheads.
Are ebooks the
be-all and end-all? Not by a long shot. They're just another method of
conveyance. Right now they account for only a small, albeit growing,
percentage of books sold. But the interesting news is that people seem
to enjoy reading ebooks. I'm not yet one of them, but I no doubt will
become one sometime down the line. (And when that time comes, I'll want
an ebook reader that does much more than give me a black-and-white
version of colourful publications! Ahem, Mr Bezos, ahem, ahem.... )
[The standard Kindle ebook reader presents content only in
black-and-white; Jeff Bezos is founder and chief executive of
Amazon, the retail juggernaut that dominates the ebook industry. Ed.]
decision on Dorchester's part to do away with mass-market versions of
its books makes sense fiscally for them. And I sense it will happen
sooner or later to all publishers, as trade paperbacks seem to be the
newer, more widely accepted format, be they Print On Demand or printed
traditionally. I don't mind that in the least, especially since my
books will still get in front of so many more people than they would
have otherwise. Dorchester's decision will also help indie booksellers,
who do not stock mass-market books with nearly as much frequency as
they do trades.
All in all, it looks to be a
sound decision by a progressive publisher in the midst of an industry
that is being forced to reinvent itself.
I wish Dorchester the best,
and I look forward to a fruitful relationship with them ... in many
|Greg Mitchell on an artist's view of the Old West |
REMINGTON'S STORIES IN PAINT
Part Three of a BHW novelist's examination of the paintings of
Frederic Remington (1861-1909)
– world renowned for
life in the Wild West.
FREDERIC REMINGTON tells a good story in
paint and it is a rare picture of his that fails to show some unusual
feature that the casual observer might miss. They are almost snapshots
of the Old West and much of historical value can be learned from what
some art experts would dismiss as background trivia.
Writers, too, will
find storylines and characters aplenty to stir the imagination.
Remington's painting called "Smoke Signal" depicts three Plains Indian
braves and their horses. It is summer and the ponies are fit and
well-fed. The warriors are all armed with the Winchester 1866, .44
rimfire, rifle. These were the first to bear the famous Winchester name
and are easily distinguished by their brass receivers.
Neither men nor
horses are painted for war and their intentions could be strictly
peaceful but the signs are contradictory. A red handprint is visible on
the grey pony's rump and this indicated a significant deed in battle
but other signs of warpaint are missing. The animals' tails are
knotted, a practice used in both war and hunting, but it might also have
been used sometimes for general riding.
Saddles were not liked for
buffalo hunting or warfare. The
saddle clearly shown on the chestnut horse, although of Indian
manufacture, is really a copy of the early military type brought west
with settlers and soldiers. The suspended rawhide seat, sitting high
above the horse's back, goes well beyond America's shores and came out
of the plains of Hungary in the early 18th century. What is often
described as an Indian design is really the Indian version of a very
simple European light cavalry saddle, using the materials most commonly
available to them.
In 1961 this painting was reproduced on a postage stamp to celebrate
the centennary of Remington's birth.
The next picture is a detail from a painting entitled "Rounded Up". We
see a hard-pressed cavalry force caught in the open and fighting
dismounted. There are casualties among both men and horses.
Government scout is there with his trusty Model '66 Winchester. Most of
Remington's paintings of civilian scouts show them carrying this
particular rifle although the more powerful and more reliable 1873
model would have been available at the time he was depicting. It could
be that the brass receiver adds a bit more colour to the painting.
Another possibility is that some scouts were still using revolvers
converted from cap-and-ball to .44 rimfire so the same ammunition could
be used in both weapons.
appears to be discussing the situation with an officer. The latter is
wearing a knife in an Indian sheath on his belt. These knives appear in
so many Remington paintings that the old cavalrymen must surely have
worn them. Again a mystery pouch of some kind is attached to the back
of the officer's brown, civilian, gun belt. I am guessing it
could be an Indian-style tobacco pouch. Both the scout and the wounded
soldier at the officer's feet are wearing moccasins and short leggings
instead of boots. The ordinary troopers are using what appear to be
Springfield .45/70 carbines.
Remington's painting entitled "The Indian Trapper" shows a different
character again. His trapper is astride a ewe-necked little mustang, a
much inferior type to the ponies shown in the smoke signal painting. It
is, however, typical of the hardy mustangs found in great numbers in
The rider wears a fox-fur cap and the blanket coat, or
capote, in a fashion favoured by the early French-Canadian trappers.
The trapper's rifle is a muzzle-loading one and the small of the stock
appears to have been bound with wire to fix or reinforce a crack in the
In Remington's day, the fur trade was almost dead and it is a fine
painting of a character about to fade from the scene.
An interesting subject shows up in the detail of "A Cavalryman's
Breakfast on the Plains". He is a civilian wearing a knife and
revolver on his right side. Around his waist is another cartridge belt
for longer rifle cartridges. The belt resembles the canvas belt often
worn by cavalry troopers to carry .45/70 ammunition, so we can assume
that there is a Springfield carbine somewhere for this man.
Remington sketches, he appears to be part of a cavalry pack train.
These men were mule-mounted civilians, fourteen of them for a
regimental train, and they looked after the pack mules. They were
mostly big men as a fair degree of strength was needed to hold some
packs in place until they were secured. On more than one occasion, the
packers helped out the troopers on the firing line.
Some might ask what was so different about Remington's painting "The
Puncher". At first glance it is just another cowboy on a horse. But is
it? Something about this rider is different. He carries
a rifle and saddlebags on his horse, so is more likely to be hunting
than looking for cattle. It was said that the working cowboy disliked
loading his horse with superflous equipment.
The rifle is different,
too. Enough of the
stock is showing for us to see that it is not the usual lever-action
Winchester and it appears a bit longer than most saddle carbines. The
horse, although better than that of the Indian trapper mentioned
previously, is a light, wiry type, very different to the solidly built
Quarter Horse types re-designed in the mid-20th century.
was dedicated to Howard Pyle, an artist friend of Remington's and was
meant to embody the spirit of the American cowboy, but was it executed
totally from the imagination? The
horse is true to a certain type and the puncher's rifle is different
from the carbines that were so popular. Even if painting from memory, Remington
might have had a specific person and/or a real horse in mind.
That's what I like about Remington's work. It has more depth to it
than is apparent at first glance. Many artists might be technically
but their works are reflections of their imaginations rather than
accurate depictions of long-gone times.
Henry Farny, Charley Russell and Charles Schreyvogel also did superb
depictions of the Old West that did full justice to their subjects. But
for that attention to details that told the viewer more of the story,
Remington was unsurpassed.
– Paddy Gallagher, who writes his BHWs as Greg Mitchell.
Published by Robert Hale Ltd in August, Sepember and October
|The Last Gundown
||0 7090 8937 7
|Dead Man Riding
7090 8944 5
|Railroad to Redemption
|I. J. Parnham
7090 8945 2
|Vengeance Rides the River
7090 8959 9
|The Vengeance Trail
|J. D. Kincaid
7090 8961 2
7090 8962 9
7090 8964 3
|Long Blows the North Wind
|Owen G. Irons
7090 8947 6
7090 8960 5
7090 8967 4
|Silent Woman Showdown
||M. C. Young
7090 8970 4
7090 8973 5
|0 7090 8975 9
|Hank J. Kirby
7090 8979 7
|Crossing the Bravo for Pueblito
7090 8976 6
|The Fighting Cowboy
7090 8982 7
7090 8983 4
|Across the Rio Grande
7090 8984 1
7090 8985 8
|0 7090 8987 2
|0 7090 8992 6
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