December 2010 – February 2011


September 2010
Joshua Dillard
Paperback Blues
Remington Part 3

June 2010
Imagination in the Saddle
Last word on Blurbs
Remington Part 2

March 2010
Jack Martin  #2
Justice and the Western
Frederic Remington

December 2009
Ross Morton
Faith and a Fast Gun
Sex and Violence
Gold Robbery Mystery

September 2009
Steve Hayes
BHE Books
Paul Lederer
Accurate words

June 2009
Jack Martin
Series Heroes
Riding the Range

March 2009
Blast to Oblivion
Tyler Hatch and Twins
Night Herding
Walt Masterson

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

September 2008
Western Noir
Power of the Premise
West on Wheels

June 2008
Plot or Not Debate
Jack Giles
Whitney Revolver

March 2008
Walt Masterson
Plotters and Pantsers
More Horse Talk

December 2007
Peace at Any Price
Dan Claymaker
Horse Sense

September 2007
Artist Michael Thomas
Judging by Covers
The Schofield Revolver

June 2007
David Whitehead
Realistic Ballistics
Plot Twists

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

December 2006
Lauran Paine
Jake Douglas & Co.

September 2006
Misfit Lil
Greg Mitchell

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


Our Writers Recommend...     Hoofprints
Reading Impulsively and Compulsively
The Talking Wire   New Black Horse Westerns

This year Robert Hale Ltd will publish about 90 Black Horse Western novels. In years gone by, Hale published as many as 120, and with contributing authors limited to three books in one year under any one pen-name, many different writers' concepts of what constitutes entertaining fiction were represented.

The broad approach is that the identity of the writers is of less significance than the BHW brand. The books are read almost exclusively by public library borrowers. They are seldom reviewed in the general media. They are not promoted on the basis of authorship, or of the authors' own likes and interests. The latter are made known, if at all, only by way of the writers' personal blogs and websites, if they choose to have them.

In this edition of the Extra, we will try to present an informative picture of several BHW writers' preferences in reading matter. But as a prelude, we thought an illuminating sidebar could lie in a famous, much quoted essay on another genre of fiction that also had strong roots in the pulp magazines of the second, third and fourth decades of last century.

Pioneer hardboiled-crime writer Raymond Chandler, in The Simple Art of Murder, mentioned in his first paragraph Jane Austen's chronicles of "highly inhibited people against a background of rural gentility", and observed, "There is plenty of that kind of social and emotional hypocrisy around today [1950]."

He went on, "Add to it a liberal dose of intellectual pretentiousness and you get the tone of the book page in your daily paper and the earnest and fatuous atmosphere breathed by discussion groups in little clubs. These are the people who make bestsellers, which are promotional jobs based on a sort of indirect snob-appeal, carefully escorted by the trained seals of the critical fraternity, and lovingly tended and watered by certain much too powerful pressure groups whose business is selling books, although they would like you to think they are fostering culture."

Later, writing specifically about his own genre — though much the same could be said for any other — Chandler declared, "Hemingway says somewhere that the good writer competes only with the dead. The good detective story writer (there must after all be a few) competes not only with all the unburied dead but with all the hosts of the living as well. And on almost equal terms; for it is one of the qualities of this kind of writing that the thing that makes people read it never goes out of style. . . . It seems to me that production of detective stories on so large a scale, and by writers whose immediate reward is small and whose need of critical praise is almost nil, would not be possible at all if the job took any talent. In that sense the raised eyebrow of the critic and the shoddy merchandising of the publisher are perfectly logical."

Chandler said the "average detective novel" (which for present purposes we might substitute "average genre novel") got published whereas the average mainstream novel did not. "Not only is it published but it is sold in small quantities to rental libraries, and it is read. There are even a few optimists who buy it at the full retail price ... because it looks so fresh and new, and there is a picture of a corpse on the cover."

Apart from a couple of exceptions, Chandler confined his fiction writing to crime, but many of his pulp contemporaries — Ballard, Flynn and Gruber come quickly to mind — wrote westerns, too. Some ranged even further, into adventure stories, super-hero stories, love stories and what were then tagged "spicy" stories. Whatever they could sell, in fact.

Norbert Davis, of the magazines Black Mask, Detective Fiction Weekly and Dime Detective, who sadly took his own life at the age of 40, had one of his pulp western stories, A Gunsmoke Case for Major Cain (from Dime Western, October 1940), filmed as Hands Across the Rockies starring B western actor Wild Bill Elliot. Fellow fictioneer E. Hoffman Price recorded in a biographical sketch of Davis the following incident that fits right in with the precarious way of life led by the under-rated and under-appreciated creator of escapist fiction.

Davis as an undergraduate took a few writing classes during which an instructor roundly condemned one of his early pieces of fiction. Davis stood up in class —  "an imposing figure, if absurdly thin, at six feet five inches" — and pulled a cheque from his pocket. "Sir, this is a cheque for $200 from Argosy. The editor didn’t find much fault with my story." The instructor wasn’t impressed, pointing out that they weren’t in class to learn how to make money writing but to learn how to appreciate literary merit.

Read on to find out what constitutes merit in the eyes of today's BHW writers!

Your comments and western news are always welcome at

FREE excerpt here

Pic: Los Angeles Times

Nik Morton

Matthew P. Mayo

Gary Dobbs
A BHW campfire pow-wow


We are as much informed of a writer's genius by what he selects as by what he originates.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

WRITERS also read! This will be shock news only to the uninitiated, although many fiction writers wonder themselves how they find the time for reading these days. Reading must be fitted in amidst the struggles to find surviving markets, to learn the tricks of the new digital world, and to run personal promotion campaigns – sometimes with daily diary entries made not so much public as publicly available on the Net's ubiquitous blogs.

The Extra roped in three of Black Horse Westerns' liveliest new entrants of recent times for another in its occasional series of panel discussions – or round-the-campfire pow-wows if you prefer less formality. The topic of this debate: writers' choices in reading.

Later in this edition, you will also find the wisdom of one of our genre's stalwarts, an author of hundreds of westerns under his five BHW pen-names and even more as a contributor to Australian pulp fiction for longer than half a century. But first, our welcome and special thanks to Nik (aka Ross) Morton, Matthew P. Mayo and Gary Dobbs aka Jack Martin.

BHE: Nik, perhaps you would like to set the match to our campfire, please.    

Nik: Before I was a writer, I was a reader. The ability to read is a gift that we take for granted. Those who are illiterate and cannot read – or, worse, those who can read but choose not to – miss out on so much. As I learned how to write, painstakingly and through a correspondence course, I continued to read. I studied other authors and how they evoked emotions and created visual scenes. But in the main I read for pleasure.

BHE: And your opening thoughts, please, Matt and Gary.

Matt: Thanks for the invite to participate. . . . As I suspect is the case with most BHW authors and readers, I love reading. I read lots of books, both non-fiction and fiction, both for pleasure and for edification and work.

Gary: I read constantly, have always got something on the go, and not only westerns. I like a lot of crime writing and at the moment I’m finding Richard Stark (Donald Westlake) is colouring my own style. He was an excellent writer. But I think that to some extent I am influenced by everything I read.

Nik: Way back in the 1970s, The Writer magazine featured a section entitled "Writers Should Read". This contained book reviews, fiction and non-fiction. It held true then and it’s relevant now. No matter what genre you prefer to write in, as a writer you need to read outside that genre.

James Patterson 
It took me over twenty years to get round to it, but I recently finished Ken Follett’s tome, The Pillars of the Earth, and enjoyed it immensely. He knows how to construct a fictional edifice and people it with realistic characters, both good and bad. He learned with the guidance of his agent, Albert Zuckerman. See Writing the Blockbuster Novel, 1994, which delves into several drafts of Follett’s excellent novel The Man from St Petersberg.

After that, I tried something different – Special Relations by Tim Sebastian. While the concept was intriguing – the US President and the British PM were lovers before attaining high office – I felt that the storytelling skill and style were sadly lacking. Arbitrary change of tense and switching point of view mid-scene proved quite annoying.

Gary: You know, I despair of the book industry at the moment. I recently tried to read a James Patterson book and I found it poorly written and predictable with no characterization – and this guy is one of the best selling names in the world. He doesn’t even write his own books these days. He has turned his name into a brand like Coca-Cola – and yet readers snap him up. This wouldn’t have happened years ago – have we dumbed down this much? There is so much great writing out there but there seems to be a lack of taste with the average reader.

BHE: Nik, you mentioned two novels, neither a western. So why them?


Janet Dailey

Nik: Even though I’ve been writing for over forty years, I like to think I can always improve. Reading other works reinforces my own style or lights up new paths to tread. Before the Follett, I read Janet Dailey’s The Pride of Hannah Wade (1985), which was about a cavalry outfit and the abduction of an officer’s wife by Apaches. Dailey has a feel for the West and clearly conveys it through her characters and narrative. I even forgave her for switching point of view in the odd scene – usually when one character leaves.

In July, among other books, I read three BHWs – Matt's Hot Lead, Cold Heart, Hot Day at Noon by Elliot Long – July in Spain is hot! – and The Brazos Legacy by Tyler Hatch. Earlier in the year, I also read Matt’s interesting and enjoyable non-fiction book, Cowboys, Mountain Men and Grizzly Bears, which contains more than enough plots for several BHWs.

Sometimes, I’ll read choice fiction to get the feel of the period – whether I’m writing a Victorian story, a historical whodunit or a western. And of course there may be the odd nugget to mine – vocabulary, description of clothing, speech style, etc.

BHE: Matt, can you tell us about novels you've been reading lately?

Matt: My novel reading for pleasure tends to pinball a bit. Recently I've read western novels by Peter Brandvold (The Romantics), Alistair Maclean (Breakheart Pass), a collection of short stories by Alan LeMay called Spanish Crossing, Larry Sweazy (The Scorpion Trail), John D. Nesbitt (Trouble at the Redstone), and a pile of others.

R. B. Marcy

I've also recently read crime novels by Mickey Spillane, Richard S. Prather, Max Allan Collins, Lee Goldberg and Loren D. Estleman.

BHE: I know some of those author choices would be on your list, too, Gary. Can you fill us in?

Gary: I recently read Alan LeMay’s The Searchers for the first time. The movie made from the book is one of my favourites, and indeed I consider it the best western ever made, but I’d never read the book. I’m glad I have now – for not only is the story significantly different but LeMay really was a fine writer. I thought I knew the genre so well, but there are still so many old masters out there that are fresh to me. I liked LeMay’s writing style a lot.

BHE: Your blog The Tainted Archive regularly reveals some interests that would be quite foreign other than to British readers of a certain age. Can you expand on what to some might seem like oddities, and how they've also influenced your westerns?

Gary: I used to read a lot of comic books as a kid and recently rediscovered Battle Picture Weekly and a strip called D-Day Dawson, which was about a character who took a bullet on D-Day. The bullet is too close to the heart to be removed and will eventually kill the character. But in the best gung-ho spirit he vows to fight on until he drops down dead. This hardly original concept interested me and that’s the basic premise behind my next BHW, The Ballad of Delta Rose – this man has a bullet inside him that will eventually kill him and he wants to answer to the mistakes of his past before the cold hand of fate claims him. Of course, he soon realizes that he doesn’t truly understand the true extent of his past failings.

Robert Hale will publish Delta Rose next July. It will be my third book for them and one I’m particularly excited about. In fact, I think it’s the best thing I’ve written. John Hale called it an unusual and thrilling western – I was chuffed with that because I wasn’t even sure if Hale would like it, given that I’d messed about with the structure of the traditional western.

BHE: Please tell more!

Gary: There’s not really a beginning, middle and end. I feel that that the book skips the first two stages and goes straight to the latter, as if the reader is experiencing one long climax. Of course, that presented a problem of all the back story, because I didn’t want to slow things down and yet I needed to make the characters real enough for the reader to care. My answer to this was to drip feed snippets naturally amongst the action.

I think it worked rather well, but only the readers can say for certain and I’m going to be chewing my nails waiting for the first reviews.

BHE: A few moments back, Nik mentioned reading that gave him a feel for a period. Let's turn now to a more detailed look at research reading. Nik?

Nik: A large private library of reference books is useful, though probably not essential. I may only cull an occasional word or phrase from a particular book. I find The Prairie Traveler by R. B. Marcy very useful: I applied the river crossing in my Where Legends Dare short story Bubbles based on information from this book.

The Civil War Book of Lists is handy for identifying typical names from the period. The Swedish chef featured in The $300 Man is inspired by a real person in the book of lists.

Mark Twain

Elmer Kelton

J. G. Ballard

I’ve made allusions to a couple of books of the period in my westerns, thanks to Snodgrass’s Encyclopedia of Frontier Literature. And Mark Twain’s Life on the Mississippi is a little treasure trove, too, especially on stagecoach travel.

I continually refer to the books in the Time Life series of The Old West: I used The Townsmen as a guide for my BHW, Blind Justice at Wedlock, due out in 2011; and I’m currently accessing The Miners and The Railroaders for my half-completed BHW. The contemporary photographs in these books also provide insight and perspective.

The hard part in research has to be knowing when to stop – all these books are interesting and demand re-reading, but there’s never enough time to be so pleasurably diverted. Indeed, the problem is finding time to read when I’m not writing. The other day I read that on average, the British take two to three weeks to read a book. If you believe in averages… Last year I managed to read only a book a week, this year I’m four or five behind that.

Over the years I’ve amassed quite a large private library, buying books because I intended to read them "one day". Aware of the short shelf-life of most new books, this seemed like a good ploy, though now with Internet shopping it’s likely that somewhere most books I hanker after reading could be found via inquiries through the ether.

Matt: I'm ploughing through a ton and a half of books as research for my next non-fiction book, Sourdoughs, Claim Jumpers & Drygulchers: Fifty of the Grittiest Moments in the History of Frontier Prospecting (2011, TwoDot/Globe Pequot Press).

My most recent book, released in October, is Bootleggers, Lobstermen & Lumberjacks: Fifty of the Grittiest Moments in the History of Hardscrabble New England (Globe Pequot Press).

BHE: The word "influences" often comes up when writers discuss their work. It was mentioned a moment or two ago by Gary. What influences are recognized here?

Gary:  For plotting I like the crime masters like Raymond Chandler, for characterization I think Elmer Kelton is hard to beat, and for pace and excitement Ian Fleming is the top banana.

Nik: As I read widely, I’m not aware of any author influences in my writing. I certainly believe that J. G. Ballard, John Le Carré, Anthony Burgess, D. H. Lawrence and Graham Greene are not only superb craftsmen but also writers’ writers, because you can savour their use of language while being immersed in their creations. Somerset Maugham’s writing seems effortless, but it isn’t. I’m in awe of Joseph Conrad. Charles Dickens is so adept at characterization and description. For me, first-person narrative comes alive with John D. MacDonald and Hammond Innes. I was strongly affected by the scope and power of storytelling by Gladys Mitchell in her Gone With the Wind. And if I want to know how to work a twist or two in my novel, I couldn’t do better than be shown how by Jeffery Deaver. Chandler lets us know that the past has an uncanny knack of biting back, and I’ve used this in a number of my westerns. And for sheer verve in the description of action, Bernard Cornwell is hard to beat.

Matt: In addition to reading for pleasure, I read lots of books for review in the publications I write for. For example, most recently I read and reviewed Fur, Fortune, and Empire: The Epic History of the Fur Trade in America by Eric Jay Dolin; Bound Like Grass: A Memoir from the Western High Plains by Ruth McLaughlin; Blindsided: Surviving a Grizzly Attack and Still Loving the Great Bear by Jim Cole; Junkyard Dogs (A Walt Longmire Mystery) by Craig Johnson; The Pony Express: An Illustrated History by C. W. Guthrie; and Charlie Russell and Friends by the Denver Art Museum.

BHE:  Ah yes, Matt, it's not hard to see how some of these would tie in with your "grittiest moments" books. What else do you have coming up for the readers?

Matt: I also have a western short story out in November, in the DAW Books anthology called Steampunk'd, and I'm writing a few shorts for other anthologies. There's other western fiction news that I'll be able to talk about in a couple of months, and I have three different non-western projects on editors' desks. Fingers crossed! Best way to see what I'm up to is to visit my website.

BHE: And Gary and Nik both have new BHWs on the way – Gary's Delta Rose has already been described,  and in May there will be the new Ross Morton novel, Blind Justice at Wedlock. For other news, as it breaks, readers can't  do better than Matt suggests and visit your websites or blogs:,, and

One last, quick observation, anybody, on an area we haven't covered?

Nik: In my westerns I also like to insert the occasional meal detail, courtesy of a number of books. Taste – in all its guises – shouldn’t be neglected, I feel. Which seems a good closing comment for a campfire chat.


Inspired by reality.
Making a mark on the western scene


Ideas come to Eugene Clifton (who is also crime writer Jean Rowden) from all over: "Take the Oregon Trail was unusual in that I felt the need to change tack, and began thinking of old TV westerns, which led me to Wagon Train and the variety of stories that arose from journeying across an unknown land to a new life. I consulted a few books without obtaining any great inspiration, until I happened to find The Plains Across by John Unruh in the local library. To anyone remotely interested in American history this book is an essential read, though I confess I hadn't heard of it before serendipity brought it into my hands. John Unruh went to original sources, using government statistics, newspapers, personal diaries and letters, and the result has to be as close to the real experience as possible. I tried to make events in my book faithful to reality. White Indians, men who used native dress to hide their identity, really did plague the trails. Whole wagon trains perished exploring new routes. Some facts were too unpleasant to contemplate, including crimes committed by white men upon their own kind. Yes, I admit it, I'm squeamish. Other facts were so far removed from the romantic wagon train image we hold in our heads, that they wouldn't fit in a western novel; truth really can be stranger than fiction.... As the journey became arduous, horses and oxen died, and the wagons' loads had to be lightened. Belongings would be abandoned, and the trail could become one vast rubbish heap, even without the waste huge numbers of people and animals left behind,  the diseases that went with it. Years later, the routes could still be seen, marked by the detritus. The more I read, the more fascinated I became, but I think I've given you a taste. Sadly, John Unruh died before he could see his work published, and never realized what a wonderful job he had done. What was intended to be another western became my tribute to a great work."


Only one in twenty book readers read westerns, says Harris Interactive, making it the least popular among recognized fiction genres. The US pollster and research house said, "Reading used to be simple. One would get a book, either purchased or taken out of a library, and read it." But options now included a third option: downloading  a book on to an e-reader. "Right now, fewer than one in ten Americans (8%) use an electronic reader device of some kind, so any real changes may take a while to detect, but some small ones are noticeable now." Among those who said they read at least one book in an average year, eight in ten had read a fiction book in the past year (79%), while a similar number said they had read a non-fiction book (78%). Among those who read fiction, almost half (48%) read mystery, thriller and crime books, while one-quarter read science fiction (26%) and literature (24%). One in five said they read romance novels (21%), and one in ten read graphic novels (11%). But less than one in ten read chick-lit (8%). And westerns? Damnit! They came bottom as a choice for just 5%. America’s favourite author was horror/suspense bestseller Stephen King. He was followed by mystery writer James Patterson and legal thriller author John Grisham.

Tops and flops.

Swallow with wine.
As part of its drive to cut public spending in Britain, the new Conservative Liberal Democrat coalition has floated the idea of merging pubs with public libraries, reported the Economist newspaper. It also said the growing British taste for wine has dented sales of beer, the pub's staple product. "A chardonnay or pinot noir with that Black Horse Western, sir?" Hmmm, we wonder! Other news reports suggest visits to libraries for print-and-paper books will be supplanted by ebooks and no need for visits to the pub-cum-public-library at all. The BBC said Surrey County Council's scheme already allows members 24-hour access over the internet to hundreds of electronic versions of published titles and audio books. Once it has been downloaded, users can read or listen to an item for two weeks before it becomes inactive. It can also be downloaded on to a computer, mobile phone or MP3 player. For libraries, books that never wear out may well succeed expensive, bound books that have to be replaced on a regular basis. In turn, publishers whose business model is based on library sales, and readers who build collections based on cheap library withdrawals, could need to do some fast rethinking.

Black cowboys are seeking their place in history, says Voice of America. "Thanks to Hollywood, the word cowboy conjures up tough, independent men: solitary, weather-beaten and ... white." But historian Joe A. Stout has recorded that "one in seven" of the Old West cowboys were African-American. Each October for the past 36 years, the Black Cowboy Parade in Oakland, California, has celebrated the role they played in settling the West after the Civil War. Many black cowboys had been slaves on Texas ranches; others had moved west to escape the constraints placed on blacks by local Southern governments in reaction to the North's Reconstruction policies. Wilbert McAlister, who estimates almost one-third of range cowboys were black, is president of the Oakland Black Cowboy Association, the parade sponsor. He says the term cowboy was coined by the Southern plantation owners before the War. "You had the house boy that work in the house and the field boy that work in the field. But the barns that houses the cows and horses – someone had to go out there and clean up. So then they had to have another boy to take care of the cows, take care of the horses, to sleep with the cows out on the prairies because they didn't have any fences. So them boys there, they were called 'cowboys'." The association is doing its best to rectify the omission of the history books and the old TV westerns that barely recognized the black cowboy. It runs educational programmes for schools, churches and neighbourhood groups.

Cowboy roots.

Bargain idea fails.
BHW authors have noted their internet friends would jump at the chance to buy a brand-new BHW for less money than the normal £13 or more, which other than for a lending library is a prohibitive price for a short novel. Black Horse Extra put up an idea for publishers Robert Hale Ltd to sell its surplus stock of a couple of two-year-old BHWs via the Extra. The proposal was that readers could order copies at the website, using that site's secure shopping basket and a special "coupon code". The code would be supplied in the current Extra and entitle the user to a substantial discount on the list price for the book at the checkout. It was further suggested that the special price could be set to include a margin that would cover average postage, a system used successfully by at least one online bookseller. Thus the offer could be made with "free worldwide delivery" while supplies lasted. A helpful Hale sales assistant, Ruby Bamber, passed on the idea to her bosses. She reported back that the idea "has been the subject of much discussion here. However, sadly, we have come to the conclusion that this wouldn’t really be feasible." No reasons were given, although it is generally appreciated that Hale fiction of all kinds is intended primarily for the public libraries.


Some good news! Robert Hale Ltd has stepped up its BHW schedule from seven to eight new titles a month, all priced at £13.25. As previously, we have been unable to ascertain how public libraries with standing orders will make their selections if requirements or budget constraints do not allow purchase of eight (or seven) new westerns per month. The brightest covers perhaps? Or warehouse dispatcher's choice? Regular BHW readers will be pleased to know that favourite authors featured on the list for the first six months of 2011 include Henry Remington (The Vengeance of Boon Helm), Terrell L. Bowers (Ambush at Lakota Crossing), Steven Gray (Bloodshed at the Broken Spur), Logan Winters (The Lost Trail), Owen G. Irons (The Predators), Corba Sunman (Violent Men),  and Ross Morton (Blind Justice at Wedlock). In late November, Hale also hurriedly announced it would launch BHW ebooks in January with a "Four for £10 bundle" through Faber Factory. Managing director Gill Jackson said, "The arrangements had to take place fast in order to take advantage of the hoped-for spike in orders of ebooks in January following anticipated sales of devices at Christmas." Later, individual titles would be added to the BHW ebook list, probably priced at £3.99 - £5. But Ms Jackson warned authors, "No one is going to get rich on ebook downloads until the proportion shifts substantially from physical books to electronic ones."

Coming attraction.

Ebook initiative.
More good news for 2011! Westerns will have their own ebook imprint with close BHW associations. Inaugural chief editor for the Solstice Westerns was Gary Dobbs, better known to BHW readers as Jack Martin, author of The Tarnished Star and Arkansas Smith. He said, "I'm looking for traditional and non-traditional westerns and that includes cross-genre westerns. So authors should not be afraid to push the boundaries. I want this to be an exciting, vibrant list." Then in early November Welshman Gary, a busy TV actor, announced, "I was excited to work on the list but a job opportunity will see me going to Africa for six months at the end of December, and I have not got the time that the Solstice Westerns demand." He handed over to his helper on the series, Nik (aka Ross) Morton. Nik has been a professional writer in many genres for more than 40 years and is the author of four BHWs. He has designed an attractive series logo and told us, "I'm busy editing a very good western set in 1910." Among early contributors to Solstice Westerns is BHW author Charles Whipple (aka Chuck Tyrell). The plan is that Solstice ebooks will also be printed as trade paperbacks ten months after original release.

John Creasey was a prolific British writer of crime stories for several decades last century. Not so well known is that as well as his many hundreds of thrillers, he wrote about thirty westerns. Most appeared under the pen-names William K. Reilly and Tex Riley, but two, One-Shot Marriott and Roaring Guns, were bylined Ken Ranger, as was reported in the Black Horse Extra of March 2007. In a late response, Richard Robinson, of, emailed us, "I was doing a random Google search for items about John Creasey and found the article by Chap O'Keefe about Crime and Westerns. Amazingly, I am quoted in there! Also there is a low-resolution scan of an interesting letter from Creasey, which proves once and for all the link between JC and the author Ken Ranger.  I was never 100% sure that this was indeed Creasey.  Could you possibly pass this email on to Chap, with a hope that he can supply me with a better copy of the document for my collection?" O'Keefe, who corresponded with Creasey as Keith Chapman, a boy fan of his stories in England in the 1950s, was happy to oblige with a sharper copy of the handwritten note in which Creasey claimed Ranger as one of his many names. Richard said, "Many thanks, that's wonderful.... Much appreciated!"

John "Ranger" Creasey.

Tracking a train.
Could you call it "The Train with No Name"? A train that starred in various guises in countless spaghetti westerns, including The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, came out of retirement to make a series of special trips from Madrid to Aranjuez, said the Olive Press, Andalucia's foremost English-language news site. Originally built in Bilbao in 1928 by US company Babcock & Wilcox Construction, the Baldwin steam locomotive chugged around southern Spain for well over half a century and made a dramatic last appearance in 1989 in Stephen Spielberg’s film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Then it remained out of the limelight until July, when the locomotive, more than 80 years old, was given a once-over and put back on the tracks. Thanks to the Museo del Ferrocarril, the train ran every weekend until mid October. It followed the first railroad from Madrid to Aranjuez, on the so-called "Tren de la Fresa" run.

"Western romans" blogger Dirk de Loor, from the Netherlands, wrote to the Extra about cover art. "I always thought that the copyright of the cover paintings of western novels was owned by the publisher of these novels and therefore only reused by the same publisher," he said. "In the past I have collected a lot of novels by the German writer G. F. Unger and I noticed that his publisher (Bastei) reused the cover paintings by Prieto Muriana and other Spanish illustrators on different novels. Only recently have I discovered the BHW novels, and I was a bit surprised to find out that cover paintings of some Unger novels were used for BHW novels. Do these Spanish artists sell their paintings to different publishers? And when I compare the covers I see little differences. On the Unger cover there is always a bit more to be seen. The BHW cover is a part of the Unger cover, and sometimes things are missing that can be found on the Unger cover.... Have you ever done some research about these cover paintings?" We have indeed, Dirk – in particular for "Judging Books by Their Covers" in our September 2007 issue. We noted then a tendency for Robert Hale Ltd to delete women characters from BHW covers, especially those scantily or revealingly clothed. For example, among the many cover scans Dirk kindly sent us is the one shown right. When the same art was used in November 2001 for the BHW Panhandle Drifter by Alan Irwin, there was no frightened young lady behind the gunfighter. She'd been "painted out", leaving a dull expanse of blue sky!

What the eye didn't see...

Smile time.
Odd facts department: Hopalong Cassidy toothbrushes were all the rage in the 1950s. From Baltimore, Maryland, we hear an exhibition called "Open Wide! Toothy Toys that Made Us Smile" will be on view at the National Museum of Dentistry from November 6 to January 30, 2011. The museum's executive director, Jonathan Landers, said, "Times change, and toys reveal what was important to us in our history." Mary Alward, at, said a friend had told her that while Roy Rogers was definitely the King of the Cowboys, Hopalong Cassidy is the King of Cowboy Memorabilia. Hoppy, as played by William Boyd, drew more people to the theatre than Donald Duck or Mickey Mouse. Mary's friend had a Hoppy stainless steel chow set in the original box, in mint condition and valued at $350.  Other prized Hoppy items: a blue lunchbox and matching vacuum bottle (warranty and instructions intact, valued at about $700); cups that once held Big Top peanut butter ($60 each); the toothbrush; soap still in the original wrapper; a puppet bought from a collector for $900 and appraised at $1500. "These items have, thus far, been collected for nostalgic reasons, but recently collectors have been snapping them up as investments. It's astounding when you realize a Hoppy laundry bag that sold for 49c is now worth $1,200. A Hoppy alarm clock that sold for $2.49 now brings $1,400." Biggest buy of all? A Hoppy bicycle, complete with toy guns and holsters, sold at auction for $8,060.

BHW writers are a versatile bunch whose other projects pop up in places both expected and unexpected. For example, Keith Souter (aka Clay More) has written ten medical books and eleven novels, and is a member of the Society of Authors, the Crime Writers' Association, International Thriller Writers, the Historical Novel Society, Western Fictioneers and the Medical Journalists' Association. One venue western readers should know about, and where they can meet BHW authors wearing different hats, is the website Beat to a Pulp, edited by David Cranmer. Every week BTAP offers new stories in the pulp-fiction tradition. A recent entry was Outback Gothic by Chap O'Keefe, described by veteran, multi-genre paperback writer James Reasoner as "a really nice blend of crime story and horror yarn". You can read it here. In an introductory note, Chap told BTAP followers, "The westerns might be due for a rest, but I have several lined up for reissue in trade-paperback large-print editions, which should keep the library market satisfied." A Dales Western edition of Doomsday Mesa will be published in January by Magna, and can be ordered by lending libraries and others at the Ulverscroft websites. It's also available for pre-order at Amazon UK. Good, used copies of the book's original 1995 BHW printing are hard to come by. At the time of writing Amazon US was listing one only – priced by its seller at $74.93.

Back in print.

R. M. Ballantyne
Looking over a grandmaster's shoulder


When does a decent, law-abiding man turn into a bounty hunter? When a forest fire wipes out his horse ranch and he's left with nothing but small change in his pockets and an empty belly.
   That's how it happened with Chet Rand: he came across the outlaw Feeney with a $1,100 reward on his head, and it seemed like a gift from heaven. Unfortunately, others wanted a piece of the action as well – outlaws from the Cherokee strip, tough men from the local saloon and a greedy sheriff. Rand was all that stood between them and the $12,000 Feeney had stolen – a more pressing matter than the bounty itself.
   So it was inevitable that when guns were drawn, blood would flow and men would die....
Back cover
Dead-End Trail

Few readers of BHWs and the Linford and Dales Western series are unaware of Jake Douglas, Tyler Hatch, Hank J. Kirby, Clayton Nash and Rick Dalmas. They are all pen-names used by Australian genre fiction veteran KEITH HETHERINGTON. BH Extra readers will remember our article on his stunningly prolific career which you can find here. We asked Keith to fill us in on what catches the reading eye of one of the busiest writers of all time. He supplied us with the following clues and, coincidentally, a delightful memoir or two....

I WRITE a lot. I also read a lot: books, sauce labels, letters, mailbox junk, the backs of lottery tickets – if it's got words printed on it, I'll read it. I'll even read (or try to decipher) some graffiti.

I've  been like it since I was a kid. If we were given a book for study, say, for one school term, or longer, guess who was first in the class to finish that book? Sometimes a couple of hours after it was distributed – especially if it was written by R. M. Ballantyne or Percy F. Westerman, names that have long disappeared from the library shelves and are probably almost impossible to locate except by a bibliophile.

Nowadays, I'm pretty much the same. My reading is wildly various: factual stuff about World War II, lone ocean voyagers, recovering sunken treasure, stories of survival in remote places; in the fiction line, just about anything, though I will have a run on, say, private-eyes, particularly a re-read of Raymond Chandler's works, or it may be Westerns (that capital W is important I believe!), or John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee, or Elmore Leonard's various works, or new books about the Mutiny on the Bounty.  I have quite a collection on that last subject.

I also like to get into research, dig out my set of six or seven Time-Life reference works on the  Old West – about the cowboys, the gunfighters, the loggers, the rivermen, the townsmen. I read them over and over, and usually find some snippet of odd info that I try to put to use in the current work or one that follows soon after.

I have Stagecoach by Philip L. Fradkin – which is a very good book on Wells Fargo – Civil War and the American West by Alvin. M. Joseph Jnr; an encyclopedia of knives; another on antique guns.

Dee Brown's The American West is very interesting and entertaining, while reliable magazines like Guns Of The Old West are always full of good stuff. I also value a couple of articles on the old-time screen cowboys and their present situations – in this world or the next.

What I'm trying to say is, if I have no fiction that really grabs me, then I grab one of my reference works and, as I said, most times I find some hidden gem to use or just to admire for its interest. I'm never short of something to read, which is just as well, for I am compulsive! Doctors' and dentists' waiting rooms, bus stops, anywhere there's a queue and waiting time, out comes the book, or the pamphlet or – well, whatever.

Boring? Yes, sometimes, but if you want time to pass quicker and more pleasantly, I can recommend grabbing just about anything within reach that's got words on it and READING!

It runs in the family – my father was an insatiable reader – and I think I've passed it on to my kids. Eldest son Geoff is never without some kind of text in his hands, daughter Chris runs more to magazines and outdoor recreation stuff, even my handicapped son, Rick, who can read only a little finds plenty to occupy him. He writes words from anywhere and fills notebooks with them, then in a short time, he's reading and spelling them.... Gotta be some good in the recreation, surely!

I don't read as many Westerns now as I used to – mostly because my favourite authors are long out of print – but as a corollary of reading, I haunt the book exchanges weekly and always search the shelves for my old acquaintances: Luke Short, Frank C. Robertson (I read most of his work in Collins' White Circle editions and my father shared my liking for him). And I had at one time copies of every book Louis L'Amour wrote. The collection has since been dispersed for no one reason – moving house perhaps, or having to "make room". At such times I like to think I should  be ruthless in my paring-down, and always regret it afterwards!

There's something about the Western writers of 50-odd years ago that appeals strongly to me. Maybe it's that touch of authenticity that always crept in so subtly that you didn't even notice until you thought about it afterwards. A lot of those guys had been ranch hands at one time or another.

Thor Heyerdahl
I was lucky, too, in my teens, when I was beginning to write short stories that were publishable, to live next door to a Yank – name of Hubert Edison Wayne Miller, but known as "Buddy". He was from Fargo, North Dakota, a farm boy, drifter to ranches and all the way down to Mexico where he had a couple of knife fights which he described to me – reluctantly – and which I have drawn upon in several books I've written. He had the lingo and the drawl and the hard-drinking. His idea of a Cuba Libre was to open a bottle of Coke, drink a third or a half, top it up with raw alcohol (supplied by me as I worked days in a chemical factory at that time), and then add a squeezed lemon. Many a time I fell over – or through! – the loose paling fence between our properties in the wee small hours because of sampling his drinking concoctions.

But he gave me some knowledge of true ranch work that I found (find) invaluable. He tried his hand at writing about his adventures but didn't quite make the grade. Unfortunately, he had become more than dependent on those Cuba Libres and their various cousins and siblings....

Also, when I was about 12 or 13 I shared a room with an old bloke who had half of one ear missing. After a couple of days he told me a bushranger shot it off. He turned out to be one of the last surviving stagecoach drivers of the old, well-known Australian stageline, Cobb & Co. He gave me plenty of stories that I could call upon, including the goldrush days...

(Cobb & Co. are still operating, though, of course with a fleet of trucks now – described by one excitable journalist as "40 tons of terror, thundering down the highway". Very apt!)

But, back to my reading. Well, maybe I've said it all: I HAVE TO READ, that's what it boils down to, just as I HAVE TO WRITE. I've earned the title of "octogenarian"  now and I'm surprised almost daily that I have put so many years behind me. I know that if I don't keep writing in however many (or few) years lie ahead, I'll maybe deteriorate  and become bored and let the world pass me by, whereas now, the old brain's still active. The body's not entirely following suit, but no real complaints. Hey! It's another day, isn't it? Good, bad or indifferent, and I'm living in the present even if, really, I prefer the past.

But that's where the writing comes in: "past" being the Old West where, as they say, a man's a man, and had some morals and codes to follow. And even if there aren't so many of these things still viable in this wild and woolly world of ours, they are still viable in writing about the days when they set some men above others who looked up to them and often tried to emulate them. Standards are different these days, that's all, and that's why I find reading and writing about the old times  holds such interest.

I try to get some of the "good" traits into my heroes, though at times I enjoy making them perhaps show an unexpected streak of ruthlessness, and a sly callousness that is acceptable because their adversaries are deserving of such treatment.

But whatever I write has come from my reading over the years. And I admit to a secret fantasy that I would not have minded being a fast gun or top trailhand or frontier scout. Not having access to a time machine, I can still transport myself back to those fantasy times we write about by – you guessed it – reading about them.

I hope I can transport my readers back there for a short time, too. We have to exhort our fans to keep on reading, not just our works in print, but the works of others, no matter the subect, because without readers there would be no demand for books. Then what the hell would I do ?
SADDLEBAG EXTRA: Favourite book? Hard to say. I often have a "favourite" book by one author – say, Raymond Chandler, Peter Coriss (Australia's "Raymond Chandler", by the way), or whoever.

Right down to the nitty-gritty, it's a toss up between the Nordhoff and Hall Bounty Trilogy and Kon-Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl. I like most of Thor's works simply because I've always been interested in Polynesians and Incas. I would have loved to have been a crew member of Kon-Tiki. Yet another fantasy!

Of individual books, I tend to favour Stephen Ambrose's Band of Brothers. It's chock-full of characters and I find that whenever he introduces or returns to one, I can recognize him right away and not have to think about  it. Now that's a talent I wouldn't mind having!

– Keith Hetherington, whose latest BHW, Dead-End Trail
by Tyler Hatch, will be published in December.

Samuel Morse

John Hunt Morgan
Greg Mitchell on the history of the telegraph


"It sounds a bit too clever for me," Horace said. "It's gettin' so respectable crooks won't be able to make a livin' soon."
"Do you really think that's bad?" Wilmot asked incredulously.
"Don't worry, Larry. I'm sure smart crooks like you will always find a way to stay ahead of the law."

That exchange is in Hard Road to Holford, the new BHW by Greg Mitchell, which will be published next March. PADDY GALLAGHER (aka Mitchell) tells how the wires went west....

THE electric telegraph became a permanent part of the American western scene in 1861 and the days of isolation and slow communications were over. Within two days of the transcontinental line being completed, the Pony Express went out of business. No horse, or even a steam locomotive, could outrun the coded signals sent down a wire.

Outlaws and raiding Indians could no longer count on long periods before their misdeeds were known. Telegrams, as the messages were called, could travel hundreds of miles in the time that a rider took to travel ten.

The idea of an electric telegraph had started in Europe in the late eighteenth century but transmitting devices were cumbersome, reception was not good and range was limited.  Dr David Alter made the first American device in 1836, a year before Samuel F. B. Morse (1791-1872) commenced experiments, but it is the latter's name that will be forever associated with the telegraph.

Morse and Alfred Vail produced their system in 1837 and it has been said that Vail was the man who devised what was later called the Morse code. Morse was first a painter who dabbled in sculpture and photography but then decided to try his hand at long-distance communications. In 1843 the US Congress awarded Morse and Vail $30,000 to build a telegraph line from Washington DC to Baltimore, a distance of about 40 miles. The following year, Morse sent the first telegram, a long biblical quotation that left no doubts as to the viability of his system. Lines spread quickly, closely associated with the expanding railroad networks.

Sir William Fothergill Cooke and Charles Wheatstone set up the first commercial operation in England in 1845 using a system that indicated letters on a board, and in that same year John Towell became the first English murderer caught by the telegraph. He had been seen boarding a train and police sent a detailed description of him to their colleagues at his intended destination.

The military quickly saw the advantages of the telegraph and when the American Civil War erupted in 1861 both sides made good use of the technology. Though many towns were still not connected to the system, couriers rode swiftly to the nearest transmission points or  simply hooked transmission devices to the nearest wire they could reach. The Confederate raider John Hunt Morgan had a telegraphist riding with him and delighted in tapping into Union telegraph lines sending false information or derisive messages. A good telegraphist could send 40 to 50 words a minute. The Federal Military Telegraph Service did not need previously established lines. They carried batteries in wagons and could set up operations simply by running out the wire between selected locations.

In Hard Road To Holford I have invented a former Confederate signaller working for a Mexican revolutionary who uses fake messages to divert the US Army away from border crossings. As an army officer explained:

"Our friends got too smart for their own good. They were running us ragged with fake telegraph messages sending us away from where we should have been. One of our operators realized that there was an impostor on the line and the engineers figured out where he would be. By sending us where he wanted us to go, he gave a good indication of where he didn't want us to be."
Later the officer explained how  regular telegraphists, despite using the same code, could identify their colleagues by their transmitting style. This was possible even in World War II when German spies who had changed sides were still needed to send back fake messages. Their masters in Berlin would have been able to identify a strange hand on the Morse key.

Western Union  completed the transcontinental line across America on 24 October, 1861. Brigham Young, Governor of Utah, sent the first telegram advising President Lincoln that Utah had not seceded from the Union.

After the Civil War, the telegraph lines spread through the West with the rapidly expanding railroads but often did not reach into the more remote areas. It might take a day's ride to reach a telegraph station but then the message could be swiftly transmitted over hundreds of miles.

The telegraph played an important part in the Indian Wars, coordinating the movement of troops and sometimes cutting off the retreat of raiding parties. In 1877, the army used the telegraph to great advantage when pursuing Chief Joseph and his Nez Percé people who were fighting their way to the Canadian Border. It has been said that the Nez Percé did not realize the importance of the telegraph which enabled the army to intercept them 40 miles short of their goal.

When researching this piece I was unable to find any reference to hostile Indians destroying the telegraph lines, but it stands to reason that such incidents would occur. Even peaceful tribesmen on treeless plains in the dead of winter would be tempted by the amount of firewood in a telegraph pole and such skilled improvisers would find many uses for wire.

Chief Joseph

Henry Farny
Henry Farny (1847-1916) painted "The Song of the Talking Wire" in 1904. It showed an Indian hunter with his ear against a telegraph pole, listening to the wind in the wire and wondering how white men made sense of it.

Lawmen frequently used  the telegraph, wiring to their counterparts ahead of fleeing bandits or killers. Bank robbers and other villains knew that their chances of escape were much better if they picked targets that were not connected to the telegraph. They preferred to be safely through other towns before the news of their depredations became known.

Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch are said to have destroyed telegraph lines to hamper their pursuers but if reports are true, the electric telegraph played a major role in his demise with the Sundance Kid in Bolivia. In 1908, two Americans, believed to be Butch and Sundance, stole a silver mine payroll of 15,000 Bolivian pesos.  The pair made good their escape but an observant landlord recognized a mining company mule in possession of two foreign lodgers and a quick telegram to the relevant authorities brought retribution. There is argument that the outlaws killed were not Butch and Sundance but it is generally believed that they were.

It was peaceful use, however, that made the telegraph line such a boon to people in the West. Ranchers in Texas could be kept in regular touch with trail herds as they passed near towns on the long trail north. Travelling stock no longer disappeared for weeks at a time. Whole herds of cattle were sometimes sold by transactions conducted over telegraph lines. Settlers in isolated areas would gain important family news by way of a telegram.
Newspapers quickly saw the advantages of telegrams and used them as a source of information until the mid twentieth century.

The telegraph spread slowly through the world and did good business even when the telephone became commonplace, but both relied upon wires. But there were places the wires never reached and until the advent of the motor car, horseback was still the quickest way to deliver telegrams.  Senders paid a delivery charge and riders would be paid after delivery upon presenting a receipt from the addressee. They were expected to make all possible speed.

I knew of one case that happened in Australia in 1915. A considerable amount of money was offered for a telegram to be delivered urgently to a distant cattle run. A middle-aged character named Tommy, who was suspected of many misdeeds, volunteered for the job and galloped out of town on a nondescript old horse. I don't know the exact distance or time taken but, to everyone's amazement, the rider returned to town with the receipt in record time with his old horse very dusty but full of running.

Later he told my informant what had happened. After leaving town, Tommy stole the first horse that he could get without being detected and left his old horse in the paddock. A succession of stolen horses took him cross-country at a great rate and on the return journey, he simply returned the animals to their rightful places. The old horse on which he finished the trip was stronger than it looked because, with its owner, it took the whole town for a ride.

Some say it was the Winchester rifle that tamed the West. Others claim it was the Colt revolver or the wire fence. But long before telephones, radios and computers, the electric telegraph was conquering distances and bringing both a comforting and civilizing influence.

– Paddy Gallagher, who writes his BHWs as Greg Mitchell.

Butch Cassidy



Published by Robert Hale Ltd in November, December and January

Twin Rivers
John D. Nesbitt  0 7090 9001 4
Echoes of a Dead Man
Terry James
0 7090 9024 3
The Black Mountain Dutchman
Steve Ritchie 0 7090 9028 1
Iron Eyes Is Dead
Rory Black
0 7090 8993 3
Hombre's Vengeance
Toots J. Johnson
0 7090 9070 0
Hell Fire in Paradise
Chuck Tyrell
0 7090 9012 0
The Fighting Man
Alan Irwin
0 7090 9011 3
Take the Oregon Trail
Eugene Clifton
0 7090 9036 6
Blood Feud
John Dyson
0 7090 9026 7
Sean Kennedy 0 7090 9038 0
Blood on the Sand  
Lee Lejeune
0 7090 9037 3
Fool's Play
Carl Williams
0 7090 9030 4
Gunslinger Breed
Corba Sunman
0 7090 9034 2
Renegades Rule This Land
Dempsey Clay
0 7090 9013 7
Dead-End Trail
Tyler Hatch
0 7090 9052 6
Bleached Bones in the Sun
I. J. Parnham
0 7090 9048 9
The Venom of Valko
Michael D. George
0 7090 9062 5
The Killing Kind
Lance Howard
0 7090 9061 8
Badlands Bounty
James del Marr
0 7090 9130 1 
The Highwaymen
Owen G. Irons
0 7090 8978 0
Ambush at Lakota Crossing
Terrell L. Bowers
0 7090 9044 1
The Tanglewood Desperadoes
Logan Winters
0 7090 9043 4
Duel at Del Norte
Ethan Flagg
0 7090 9035 9
Bear Creek
Jack Edwardes
0 7090 9069 4
Trail of the Hanged Man
Steve Hayes
0 7090 9083 0
Scar County Showdown
Elliot Long
0 7090 9063 2
Hope's Last Chance
Rob Hill
0 7090 8986 5


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

Trade inquiries to: Combined Book Services,
Units I/K, Paddock Wood Distribution Centre,
Paddock Wood, Tonbridge, Kent TN12 6UU.
Tel: (+44) 01892 837 171 Fax: (+44) 01892 837 272

US distributors: Independent Publishers Group,
814 N. Franklin St. Chicago, IL 60610
Tel: 312-337-0747 Fax: 312-337-1807
Customer service:
Trade sales: Jeff Palicki
Special sales: Richard T. Williams
Home page:

For Australian Trade Sales, contact DLS Distribution Services,
For Australian & New Zealand Library Sales, contact DLS Library Services,
DLS Australia Pty Ltd, 12 Phoenix Court, Braeside, 3195, Australia.
Ph: (+61) 3 9587 5044  Fax: (+61) 3 9587 5088


Robert Hale Ltd are delighted to release to the Extra information on their new ebook BHW bundle!

In  this ebook collection of Black Horse Westerns you will find: Rio Bonito by Abe Dancer, Land of the Lost by Dean Edwards, Rawhide Ransom by Tyler Hatch, McGuire Manhunter by Scott Connor. If you enjoy tales of the Old West, tales of human courage on the frontier, lawmen fighting against the odds to get their man, justice being dealt out with the pull of a trigger, this collection is just what you need. Publishing January 2011 in all major ebook formats.

ISBN 978 0 7090 9260 5


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