December 2010 – February 2011
Remington Part 3
Imagination in the Saddle
Last word on Blurbs
Remington Part 2
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
All Guns Blazing
Jim Bowden & Co.
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
Our Writers Recommend... Hoofprints
Reading Impulsively and Compulsively
The Talking Wire New Black Horse Westerns
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 ."
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
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
FREE excerpt here
Pic: Los Angeles Times
Matthew P. Mayo
|A BHW campfire pow-wow
OUR WRITERS PANEL RECOMMENDS . . .
We are as much informed of a writer's genius by what he selects as by what he originates.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
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
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?
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
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
BHE: Please tell more!
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
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.
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: www.matthewmayo.com, http://nik-writealot.blogspot.com,
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."
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.
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.
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
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
Bargain idea fails.
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 www.halebooks.com 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.
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."
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
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
, but two, One-Shot Marriott
and Roaring Guns
, were bylined Ken
was reported in the Black Horse Extra of March 2007
. In a late response, Richard Robinson
, of www.johncreasey.co.uk
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
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...
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 www.essortment.com, 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
READING IMPULSIVELY AND COMPULSIVELY
When does a decent, law-abiding man turn into a bounty hunter?
a forest fire wipes out his horse ranch and he's left with
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
reward on his head, and it seemed like a gift from heaven.
Unfortunately, others wanted a piece of the action as well –
from the Cherokee strip, tough men from the local saloon and a
sheriff. Rand was all that stood between them and the $12,000
had stolen – a more pressing matter than the bounty itself.
So it was
inevitable that when guns were drawn, blood would flow and men
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
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
M. Joseph Jnr; an encyclopedia of knives; another on antique
Dee Brown's The American West
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
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.
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
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.
John Hunt Morgan
|Greg Mitchell on the history of the telegraph
THE TALKING WIRE GOES WEST
"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."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....
"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."
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
"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
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.
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
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
– Paddy Gallagher, who writes his BHWs as Greg Mitchell.
Published by Robert Hale Ltd in November, December and January
|John D. Nesbitt
||0 7090 9001 4|
|Echoes of a Dead Man
7090 9024 3|
|The Black Mountain Dutchman
7090 9028 1|
|Iron Eyes Is Dead
7090 8993 3|
|Toots J. Johnson
|0 7090 9070 0|
|Hell Fire in Paradise
|0 7090 9012 0|
|The Fighting Man
|0 7090 9011 3|
|Take the Oregon Trail
7090 9036 6|
7090 9026 7|
7090 9038 0|
|Blood on the Sand
7090 9037 3|
7090 9030 4|
7090 9034 2|
|Renegades Rule This Land
7090 9013 7|
7090 9052 6 |
|Bleached Bones in the Sun
|I. J. Parnham
|0 7090 9048 9|
|The Venom of Valko
|Michael D. George
7090 9062 5|
|The Killing Kind
7090 9061 8|
|James del Marr
7090 9130 1 |
|Owen G. Irons
7090 8978 0|
|Ambush at Lakota Crossing
|Terrell L. Bowers
7090 9044 1|
|The Tanglewood Desperadoes
7090 9043 4|
|Duel at Del Norte
|0 7090 9035 9|
|0 7090 9069 4|
|Trail of the Hanged Man
|0 7090 9083 0|
|Scar County Showdown
|0 7090 9063 2|
|Hope's Last Chance
|0 7090 8986 5|
Horse Westerns can be requested at public libraries or ordered at bookstores. They can be bought online from the publisher at www.halebooks.com,
or from other retailers including Amazon, Amazon UK, WH Smith, Blackwells
and The Book Depository ("free delivery worldwide").
to: Combined Book Services,
Units I/K, Paddock Wood Distribution
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: email@example.com
Trade sales: Jeff Palicki
Special sales: Richard T. Williams
Home page: www.ipgbook.com
For Australian Trade Sales, contact DLS Distribution Services, firstname.lastname@example.org
For Australian & New Zealand Library Sales, contact DLS Library Services, email@example.com
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