March – May 2011
Books for Writers
Read by Jake Douglas
The Talking Wire
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
December 2008All Guns Blazing
Jim Bowden & Co.
Revolver ConversionsSeptember 2008
Power of the Premise
West on Wheels
Plot or Not Debate
Plotters and Pantsers
More Horse Talk
Peace at Any Price
Artist Michael Thomas
Judging by Covers
The Schofield Revolver
The Walker Colt
Sydney J. Bounds
Jake Douglas & Co.
Facts for Fiction
Writers and Money
The Trouble with Misfit Lil Hoofprints
A Horse Opera Renaissance
Fargo Creator Sets Pattern New Black Horse Westerns
Publishing, like music and newspapers before it, has been waking up
to the reality of a dawning digital world. Small-press publishing
was among the early risers, but that category did not include Robert
Hale Ltd, the UK family firm established in 1936 that
publishes the Black Horse Western novels. The books
continued to be produced at the rate of eight a month, but only in hardback, and chiefly with a public
library market in mind. No ebooks.
Was history about to repeat itself? Readers and writers with long memories
can tell us that although the Hale company dabbled in paperback
publishing in the 1950s, it somehow missed the paperback boom of
later decades. Meanwhile, a few traditional British publishers, like
Mills & Boon, embraced opportunity and grew,
although some established imprints in due course disappeared
altogether, so long term perhaps caution was fitting.
In 1994, chairman and managing director John Hale wrote, "I do not
believe it is possible to start selling mass-market paperbacks in a
small way. Everything hinges on the wholesalers who demand a
substantial, credible list with a quota of ready-made bestsellers.
Someone starting off with a few paperbacks just isn't going to get
in the door...."
Paperback publishing, Mr Hale went on, "requires a totally different
organization with a wholly different sales force, a basic investment
of perhaps £10 million and a very long wait for one's money back.
Unfortunately that is outside the resources of this small
So the company continued to concentrate on its public library
customers, though in 1995 Mr Hale also wrote, "Of course, if
librarians felt any need to supply what readers actually wanted our
task would be easy. In reality they buy what they want and, in
general, they deplore the need to stock any fiction (apart
from the occasional literary novel). Until such time as librarians
are obliged by law to respond to borrowers' requirements the outlook
for most fiction will remain bleak. Whenever there are financial
constraints fiction suffers first, and of all fiction westerns are
regarded as the most dispensable."
In 2011, "financial constraints" again threaten the public
libraries. But we are also told from many quarters that an ebook
revolution is upon us and astonishing figures showing year-on-year
gains are produced to prove it. Will a small publisher seize the
uncertain chance offered by ebooks, or will the paperback experience
– which can be interpreted as "we must pass on this, thanks" – be
Shortly before Christmas, a Black Horse Western writer emailed us,
"I think at the moment everyone is stumbling about in the dark
regarding ebooks and Hale more than most. Still, it will be
interesting to see how much more of a market share the digital books
hold in the New Year. I've read that ereaders are THE gift to have
this festive season."
A new Hale managing director, Gill Jackson, was alive to the
possibilities. As first reported in our last edition's Hoofprints,
Ms Jackson wrote in late November that BHW ebooks would be launched
with a "four for £10 bundle" in January. "The arrangements had to
take place fast in order to take advantage of the hoped-for spike in
orders of ebooks following anticipated sales of devices at
Later correspondence revealed that ebook downloads were not going to
make the company or its authors rich. Although it would appear set-up
costs were few, this was not, in fact, the case. And Hale could not handle
the work in house.
The book –
or file of it – had to go to an "originating" company to be "digitized into
the several versions in order that it can play on Kindle, iPad, Sony,
etc". Unlike printed books in Britain, a sales tax (VAT) of 20% was
payable on ebooks and had to be included in the retail price. The average discount
set down for retailers (or "etailers") was 50% with 60% being given
to Amazon for the Kindle version. "Out of the remaining revenue we
have to pay 20% commission to Faber Factory for their handling of the
origination, sales to etailers, accounts, protection systems, etc, and
only then is there anything left for the author and Hale."
Author royalties would be "the industry standard" of 25% of the net proceeds received
by Hale. This was what was "being paid by all the major publishers". A back-of-an-envelope calculation showed that of the
£10 price paid for a download of the four-book BHW bundle, 80
pence would be left to be shared by the four authors.
Meanwhile, the Extra understands that authors publishing
independently through Amazon, using its proprietary Kindle system,
receive 70% of the gross retail price, as long as this is set at a
minimum of $US2.99.
In January, a US author, Lee Goldberg, told the high-readership
blog A Newbie's Guide to Publishing: "That’s right. I’d rather
self-publish. This from a guy who for years has been an outspoken,
and much-reviled, critic of self-publishing. But that was before the
Kindle came along and changed everything."
At the same time, he also warned that "people with no discernible
writing talent, or even basic writing skills, are rushing to get
their atrocious, unpublishable garbage on to the Kindle as fast as
they can. The slush pile has gone digital and has unleashed a
tsunami of swill...."
Manifestly, this sea-change must ultimately be of concern to
readers, too. We hope the present turmoil in the publishing world
will subside soon, and we can all enjoy a period of
relative calm and prosperity. And good reads!
The immediate disappointment, however, is that the bugbears of the
dysfunctional, dead-tree-book trade are being replaced
by new ones. The continually rising costs of paper and printing, of
the books' shipping, storage and display – not to mention the
margins demanded by those who take little risk while they operate on
a "sale or return" basis – might have been circumvented. But now
tax comes into the British picture and publishers have bills from other middlemen.
As The Economist newspaper said perceptively in 2008: "Publishing
has only two indispensable participants: authors and readers. As
with music, any technology that brings these two groups closer makes
the whole industry more efficient – but hurts those who benefit from
the distance between them."
We are sure we haven't heard the last of this, but enough ... it's
time to read on and enjoy the latest edition of the untaxed, FREE, completely
non-profit-making Black Horse Extra!
Your comments and western news are always welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org
FREE excerpt here
|Chap O'Keefe with snippets from a series "bible" |
THE TROUBLE WITH MISFIT LIL
irrepressible Misfit Lil was riding for a fall. She'd chosen to intervene
in the fortunes of a wagon train of emigrants led on wrong trails by Luke
Reiner, their incompetent guide. And Reiner, hiding an outlaw past, didn't
care to have Lil messing with his reputation.
Lil's first mistake was in saving a bunch of buttons when the wagons were
caught in a ferocious blizzard. Then she recommended her hero, frontiersman
Jackson Farraday, to help out, which pitched him into a bloody fight with
Reiner. Tangles tightened when the wagonmaster's pretty daughter, Honesty
Petrie, took a flirtatious hand. . . .
worse was to follow. Jackson was accused of murder! Could Lil save him from
the noose into which she'd run his neck?
– Back cover
Misfit Lil Cheats the Hangrope
BEFORE the likes of Edge and the violent protagonists of spaghetti
movies, the western heroes of popular fiction tended to be plain,
simple, uncomplicated, very conventional characters. And male, of
For Black Horse Westerns, always thoroughly
traditional, Misfit Lil broke the pattern. Not only female, she was
clever, unconventional, and extremely impulsive. But BHW and Linford
Western Library readers liked her. Possibly they liked her all the
more because she behaved in ways that might outrage maiden aunts and
the politically correct.
As the chronicler of Lil's exploits, I like her, too. But she is a
handful and has given me a swag of problems.
I could almost hear the gasp and the scandalized tone of voice when
the publisher objected in an email to scenes in Misfit
Lil Robs the Bank, "where we have a nude heroine". The
nudity had reason and purpose and was capitalized on by our
resourceful Lil. Fortunately, it was allowed to pass and not too
much allegedly "unsuitable titillating text" was deleted by myself
(under protest, naturally) or by the Hale editors.
But none of this touches upon the major problem Miss Lilian
Goodnight presents to an author as the central character of a
the passage in the book convinced Lil she was meant to do something about
the wagon train and its innocent greenhorns. Reiner probably had, and would,
face many grim struggles in guiding the Petrie
party to their Promised Land. He'd argue this was his responsibility and
included how he got the job done. But some folk naturally depended on people.
You couldn't let them down. In Lil's estimation a girl had a full share of
responsibilities no less than a man, in this or any other country.
Let me explain by harking back to a panel discussion we had here at
Black Horse Extra in June 2009. The three writers participating were
Keith Hetherington (aka Jake Douglas), David Whitehead (aka Ben
Bridges) and myself (Keith Chapman aka Chap O'Keefe).
David made the point that series fiction "written properly" offered
tremendous possibilities for character development. He spoke of
David Thompson's excellent Wilderness series. "As
the series progresses, the reader is able to follow the hero as he
meets the woman who goes on to become his wife, as she gives birth
to his son, then his daughter, as the children grow to adulthood and
then themselves get married.... Series like Longarm,
The Gunsmith, Slocum and others allow
for very little but more of the same."
David also approved of the Morgan Kane series. "Kane
was a lawman created by Louis Masterson, aka Kjell Hallbing, and he
was and remains a staggeringly popular character in his native
Norway. Why? Because the author went to great lengths to give him a
complete history, and ensured that his experiences, as the series
progressed, constantly shaped and changed him. As a reader, I find
this particularly attractive – that you can really follow Kane’s
Keith Hetherington said: "I enjoy seeing my character develop as a
series progresses. He begins to feel his age, old wounds slow him
down, perhaps make him more cautious – and that could be fatal....
But he must develop with passing years, otherwise you have
Peter Pan with a tied-down holster and not a spot of acne or a hint
of stubble in sight."
This forced me to confront, not for the first time, the biggest
problem Misfit Lil poses not only for her father, her friends and
other characters who appear in her stories, but also for the teller
sighed. Much as he liked Lil, her adulation could be embarrassingly wearying
for a man twice her age and often gave rise to tension between them, especially
on the past occasions when circumstances (or occasionally, he'd suspected,
Lil's contrivance) had
thrown them together, alone.
Lil delights in speaking her mind, in pranks, in mischief, in
wearing practical, outdoor male attire. These aspects are at the
heart of the back story which gave her the "Misfit" moniker, a story
sketched in every book but most particularly in the early books,
like Misfit Lil Rides In and Misfit Lil Fights
The tomboy nature of Lil's upbringing and her
youthful years make her conduct acceptable to us (if not to her hapless
enemies) and often amusing. Her good intentions, her helpfulness,
her courage, her kindness toward the less proficient in – or the less well adapted
to – rugged frontier life ... these, too, lend Lil reader sympathy.
If Lil's character were to grow, perhaps through a realistic
coming-of-age story, the series would logically have to end, or
change drastically. With true maturity must come a measure of sanity and wisdom of
the kind provided in the Lil books by her own reluctant hero and mentor, the
frontiersman Jackson Farraday. A Lil who held to her "misfit" ways in later years as a wife
and mother would be an ignorant and selfish character. And the option of an aging, spinster Lil, her freshness
and sparkle dimmed but her unladylike habits and sassy assertiveness preserved, would be in constant danger of coarseness
that would also alienate our sympathies.
Meanwhile, it has been possible to add extra variety and colour to
Lil's adventures by introducing new people to the core cast of
characters. Jackson and Lieutenant Michael Covington have been on
the scene from the earliest times, both purporting for different
reasons to regret Lil's demeanour, as was described here in "The Images of Inspiration",
but in later stories others have been brought in or given expanded
|Listening to someone else's point of view – even to reason – wasn't Reiner's strong point.
"No, she ain't! I been told she's a pest – a delinquent and the despair of her rancher father. A deluded freak in men's duds!"
The cowboy conceded, "She's a strange 'un all right. Miss Purity Wadsworth
an' her blue-nose buddies think the way she dresses an' all is a disgrace,
but them's powerful strict ladies."
I've particularly enjoyed writing about Miss Purity Wadsworth, the
nosy president of the Ladies’ Temperance Society, and the Reverend
Titus Fisher, the Silver Vein sky-pilot regularly reduced by Lil's
shocking antics to speechlessness other than for his refrain of "Well I
never!" The pair came to the fore in Misfit Lil Hides Out
and Misfit Lil Robs the Bank.
Two other newer stock characters prominent in those yarns were
the pompous and ineffective Sheriff Hamish Howard ("I call him
Sheriff Coward," Lil says) and his deputy, Sly Connor (Lil's
damn sure he's one of those strange men secretly afraid of women).
Also in Misfit Lil Robs the Bank we finally met Lil's
long-suffering father, Ben Goodnight, "on the page". Previously he
had been just the oft-mentioned, despairing parent who had largely
washed his hands of her. Alas, by putting his daughter in the hands
of a villainous mesmerist, Mr Goodnight merely precipitated another
scandalous episode or two!
As the list of Misfit Lil titles grew, so did the publisher's fears
that the latest books would bring censure upon the Black Horse
Western line from the more conservative buyers for British
public libraries, their essential market. Although written for
adults, it was claimed "there is nothing to stop children borrowing
Before Misfit Lil Robs the Bank, the fifth story, Misfit
Lil Cleans Up, had brought a list of requests for
passages to be "toned down", and several concessions were made
accordingly. In the event, Cleans Up when published
was apparently a popular book in both regular and large-print
editions. It quickly became neither easy nor cheap to buy copies
|"Ahhh! You angel!"
Lil heard a giggle from Honesty.
"A sinful angel! Oh, Prudence, you naughty girl! You've made my face all wet. What would your pa the parson say?"
Prudence said breathlessly, "He need never know because we shall follow the Eleventh Commandment."
"Eleventh? I thought there were only ten."
"I'm funning, you noodle. The Eleventh Commandment is 'Thou shalt never be found out.'"
Now I have to confess, like most writers of Black Horse Westerns,
I've never written them primarily to make money. You can't make a
fortune, or a living, from library fiction. So when I came to write
Misfit Lil Cheats the Hangrope, hanged if I was going
to cramp Lil's (or my) style with compromises designed to
accommodate the requirements of people who had never read, or
shouldn't have been reading, the books.
When it was finished and submitted, the Hale company declined to
publish the new story. Mr John Hale wrote, "If I could see any way
by which the story could be altered to make it suitable I would
obviously have proposed it."
My instinct was that the company had miscalculated and, on the
advice of others whose judgments I respect, I went ahead and
published it as a Black Horse Extra paperback, using a
print-on-demand manufacturing and distribution system requiring no
up-front financial subsidy from the author.
But not only did the process make the retail price of Misfit
Lil Cheats the Hangrope expensive for a pocket-book, it
also made it close to impossible for libraries to learn about and
stock. In turn, this meant Hale's decision had effectively denied
many followers of the Misfit Lil series who were primarily library
borrowers the chance to read the latest adventure.
The book was a "cracker" to all who read it, but $US15/£9.54 plus
shipping charges for a slim paperback was steep for anyone on a low
Consequently, in June last year I was delighted to receive an offer
from the F. A. Thorpe (Publishing) division of Ulverscroft Large
Print Books Ltd, for world large-print rights. The book would have a
Linford Western Library printing within 18 months of contract. "Our
sale would be into libraries in the UK, the British Commonwealth,
and the USA."
|Winton Petrie seized the chance to vent his vibrant anger.
"Hold your tongue, girl! This party is sick to the back teeth of your for'ardness!
You're rude and uninvited. 'Tain't natural in a female! And you've no say
in the matter. Your betters and elders will do the deciding."
Lil found herself subjected to the unappreciative wagoners' glares. Worried,
maybe frightened by the notion of a killer in their ranks, they accepted
their leader's condemnation.
Nothing suited me or Misfit Lil's readers finer! I accepted the
Ulverscroft offer with alacrity. All the previous Lil books had been given
similar, complete and unabridged, large-print reissues, and from
observation in my part of the world I know that libraries stock
these in greater number than the Hale books .
At the end of the day, everything had come right, thanks in large
measure to the initial support and encouragement of fellow author
and editor David Whitehead. His following generous words, which
first appeared on a publishing trade blog when the Black Horse Extra
Books edition was launched, had now received endorsement and all the
justification a determined stance ever needed:
"I'm so glad to see that this book is starting to get the
recognition it truly deserves. Take it from someone who has
collected and read westerns for more than forty years, Misfit
Lil Cheats the Hangrope stands head and shoulders above
the current crop of competitors! It has a fabulous story with – to
this reader, at least – a completely unforeseen dénouement, vivid,
lively characters and regular bursts of action which – and here's
the important bit – STEM NATURALLY FROM THE PLOT and aren't just
shoehorned in to beef things up a bit. I have, of course, read Chap
O'Keefe for a long while now, but genuinely feel that this is his
best to date!"
Although obviously looking at it from a different position,
I would also have to say this
book is one I hold in very favourable regard.
What is so special for me about Misfit Lil Cheats the Hangrope? Here are a few thoughts.
The dramatic possibilities of the wagon train phenomenon have long
been recognized. Some of us remember from the 1950s the
long-running, hugely popular TV series starring Ward Bond as gruff
wagonmaster Major Seth Adams and Robert Horton as frontier scout Flint McCullough. The concept of a disparate, often
mismatched bunch of travellers on a quest for new lives enthralls
viewers, readers and writers alike. Both before and since the Misfit
Lil story, other BHW writers have ably explored wagon train lore. In
1995, I had used a wagon train situation myself for the
prologue-like early scenes of Doomsday Mesa.
one I saw was a brown rat – dirtier, bigger, hairy-tailed," Lil insisted.
"Didn't you know? They're tougher and more adaptable to conditions. They're
ousting the pack rats in places like this, settling in and breeding by the
hundreds. One day it'll be rats against people. They'll be under the floors,
in the roofs. . . ."
Ginny shuddered and suppressed a moan.
"Shuddup!" Deke barked. "You damn well will go in the barn, bitch, that's final!"
Lil was hauled back forcibly to the dim, even more malodorous barn.
The scope for creating absorbing characters in writing Misfit
Lil Cheats the Hangrope was immense.
Almost drawing themselves came the wagonmaster, widower Winton
Petrie, and his spoiled and pretty daughter Honesty (who often
wasn't honest). Alongside them were the party's spiritual leader,
the Reverend James Hannigan – a man who seldom heeded the
injunction "Judge not" – his drab wife Mabel, and his sometimes
sullen and strapping daughter Prudence (who often wasn't prudent).
A villain in evidence from the very beginning was Luke Reiner, the
party's useless guide whose real agenda was to retrieve a cache of
stolen loot, which would allow him to set himself up handsomely
in California with the nubile Honesty Petrie as his bride. Later
came the tragic Broken-Nose Ginny, an "unfortunate" whom fate had
shown too much sleaziness and misery too quickly. Almost a plus in
one of her own books was Misfit Lil. Honesty and Prudence cultivated
her acquaintance, being fascinated by the "wild girl" and her
And the story could be told through a wealth of scenes that sprang
into life without bidding as though on a large screen, cinematic
and exciting. A blizzard; a saloon brawl; girls skinny-dipping in a
river; a funeral service in the wilderness to the poignant strains
of a cabinet organ; a desperate mission in a dying, mist-shrouded town with
an unsavoury reputation; captivity in a barn running with rats; an aborted
hanging; the wagon train under murderous attack by outlaws; pursuit ending
in a death.... Who could ask for more?
But I'll go no further lest I be accused of blowing the book's trumpet too loudly!
The Linford printing of Misfit Lil Cheats the Hangrope
should be available from some online sellers for a limited time from
March 2011. It can also be requested at your local public library
just about anywhere in the English-speaking world. And in fact, for
most libraries, the title has the added recommendation of being a
"first edition" rather than a reprint of a title already held. I
hope western readers will ask for it, which will help put it on the shelves.
A favourite portrait by
|LATEST: You can now be reading MISFIT LIL CHEATS THE HANGROPE on your PC or other screen IN UNDER A MINUTE!
Hard but not flooded.
|Making a mark on the western scene
Bad news from Australia, from reliable
top contributor Paddy Gallagher, who is BHW writer Greg Mitchell....
Paddy wrote, "I had a bit of a disaster. The house had stormwater
get in under the doors and my computer was one of the casualties,
along with the carpets and various other furniture. But it could
have been worse. We had a picnic compared to what others have
copped. It was strange, though, to wake up at 5 a.m. and find
nowhere in the house was dry underfoot. Fortunately, the water was
only about half an inch deep. I stacked my library in the bathtub
until I could buy some waterproof plastic boxes to store the books.
It will be a while before things get back to normal, though
gradually I am getting more organized." Sadly, this means this
issue of the BH Extra has no article from Paddy. His work is always informative
and entertaining, for both readers and fellow writers who hold
his knowledge on topics Western in high regard. Meanwhile, we
are pleased to remind everyone Paddy's latest novel, Hard Road to
Holford, is a March BHW title. Paddy said: "My copy of the blurb
is packed away and I wouldn't have a clue where the file is." But he
kindly ad-libbed a synopsis: "Here goes! Amos Risdon starts a stagecoach
journey to Holford thinking his only problem will be Chris Unwin,
his new shotgun guard. His passengers are two ladies, Ellen and
Maggie; two petty crooks, Horace and Larry, who for different
reasons are leaving town; and Jones, a mystery man who has been
ranching in Mexico. Amos is unaware one of the passengers has
swindled Miguel Dwyer, a Mexican-Irish revolutionary, in an arms
deal. Dwyer has crossed the Border seeking revenge...." What follows
includes gunplay, murder, kidnapping, and torture!
Also coping with the weather in Australia was Queensland
writer Keith Hetherington
, one of the most prolific BHW writers of
all time under several pen-names. Keith didn't fall victim to the
disastrous floods and was able to report, "Had a few
free of rain, even some watery sunshine, just to make sure the
Sunshine Coast has been properly named –
holidaying here have had something less complimentary to say. Don't
blame 'em. Been making up first-aid kits for the flood victims
in Emerald: terrible situation up there and snakes everywhere, so a
lot of compression bandages had to be included. It's just
devastation beyond belief. And the thing is, when the waters
subside, the poor devils have nothing to go back to. Whatever is
under water –
and that's the whole town –
write-off. Just means one mighty clean-up and start over.... We've
been very lucky here and can only hope the 'severe weather
pattern' clears up completely –
and soon. I'm sure
the endless rain has had a lot to do with my melancholy. No wonder I have
the miseries! Even the cat's bored out of his brain." Hoofprints
figures it's a pity the cat can't be taught to read his owner's
works. The latest is Valley of the Guns
by Rick Dalmas
. Nary a flood
in sight: "Zack Clay
was a quiet man looking for a quiet life. He
hadn't reckoned on Dutch Haas
, Burt Helidon
and sundry gunfighters
brought in by two range-grabbers coming to hassle him. Clay met
fists and boots with the same, gunsmoke with gunsmoke. In the end,
they hung a badge on him. That was when things really hotted up in
Quiet life nowhere...
Like grandfather, like grandson.
Earlier, Keith Hetherington
had emailed another BHW Keith – Keith Chapman
. He wrote, "I did read about some earthquakes over your way, but
I think I'm right in saying they weren't near you. Hope not,
anyway. Here is a photo of my grandson, Jake Douglas
He posed for the pic at one of the theme parks over here just to give
it to me for Christmas. He looks pretty good as a Westerner." Here, we
probably need to add a couple of explanations. First, the O'Keefe
Keith lives in the north of New Zealand, whose largest South Island
city, Christchurch, had suffered a magnitude-seven earthquake and many
large after-shocks over several months. Second, Jake Douglas is a Keith Hetherington
pen-name he used on his first Western for Hale, Shadowhawk
, which appeared as one of the ten BHW titles for December
1995. The next Jake Douglas book is Dakota Rage
with an excellent
cover you can see in our New Black Horse Westerns section. And yes,
it's agreed the real Jake Douglas does make a mighty fine-looking
|Orson Scott Card
is a Hugo and Nebula award-winning SF author,
critic, public speaker and political activist. He's also a columnist
for a North Carolina community newspaper, the Rhino Times
declared Sunday, January 9 "Rawhide Day", writing, "The television
premiered today in 1959. Clint Eastwood
to American audiences in the role of Rowdy Yates
. Millions of
Americans can still sing the rollicking theme song. In those days it
seemed we couldn't get enough Westerns; now it's rare to see a
Western at all; but some of the best of them came after the genre
seemed to have died: Unforgiven
, Open Range
remake of True Grit
are among the best ever made. And Clint Eastwood
still plays the hero-cowboy, whatever costume he happens to be
SF nod for westerns.
Gunfight at the Kiddie Corral?
Bestselling author Bill Bryson roams Des Moines, Iowa, and the
curious world of the 1950s in The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt
Kid, which has the cover tagline "Travels Through My Childhood".
Western lore was prominent: "On my head, according to season, I wore
a green felt cowboy hat or Davy Crockett coonskin cap." And:
"Dahl's, our neighbourhood supermarket, had a feature of inspired
brilliance called the Kiddie Corral. This was a snug enclosure,
built in the style of a cowboy corral and filled with comic books,
where moms could park their kids while they shopped. Comics were
produced in massive numbers in America in the 1950s – one billion of
them in 1953 alone – and most of them ended up in the Kiddie Corral.
It was filled with comic books. To enter the Kiddie Corral
you climbed on to the top rail and dove in, then swam to the
centre.... Sometimes when searching for the latest issue of Rubber
Man, you would find a child buried under a foot or so of comics fast
asleep or perhaps just enjoying their lovely papery smell. No
institution has ever done a more thoughtful thing for children.
Whoever dreamed up the Kiddie Corral is unquestionably in heaven
how; he should have won a Nobel prize."
David Whitehead's second collaboration with Germany's premier
western writer, Alfred Wallon, is Cannon for Hire by Doug Thorne
and is an April BHW release. (Scroll down to our feature article for a
cover image and much more!) The book, set in the icy wastes of Yukon Territory,
was originally entitled Alaska Hell. Dave hopes hero Tom Cannon, a
one-time cavalry officer, will become an interesting continuing
character. Hoofprints found the name "Cannon" for a hero had an
interesting pedigree in genre fiction. It was used by the late
Salvatore Lombino (aka Ed McBain and Evan Hunter) for a character
who started out as Matt Cordell in the renowned Manhunt
magazine. When the magazine stories were collected in book form, I
Like 'Em Tough (1958), Cordell became Curt Cannon. Similarly, this was the name used in the 1958 Gold Medal novel I'm Cannon For
Hire, which also dropped the Evan Hunter byline (later used on Lombino's classic western The Chisholms). The central character and
narrator became the "author". Interestingly, I'm Cannon For Hire
was reprinted as The Gutter and the Grave in 2005 by Hard
Case Crime. "The author supposedly had always hated
the original title," says the Thrilling Detective website. For the
Hard Case Crime edition, Cannon was again Cordell and the byline
became Ed McBain. Western readers encountered another Cannon – Yale Cannon, who was also an ex-cavalryman – in 1995's Doomsday Mesa by Chap O'Keefe. This "standalone" BHW novel was
re-published in January as a Dales Western paperback by Magna
Large Print Books.
"No, I'm Cannon..."
Movie geek's heaven.
Many BHW readers (and writers) are unsurprisingly fans of classic
western movies. A well-illustrated blog offering regular news,
views, old posters, and other items about the stars, directors and
other crew of yesteryear is 50 Westerns from the 50s
. Its creator
writes, "I’m Toby
. I’m a writer. A dad. A husband. A record
movie geek (if the movies are old). And I really really wish I had
hot rod. On the writer front, I’m researching and writing a book
westerns, maybe my favourite film (sub)genre.... I’m calling
it 50 Westerns From The 50s
. I wanted to chronicle
its progress and have a place to stick some of
the cool images and quotes and stuff I’ve come across. Hence the
blog." A recent sample: "David Nelson
, the last of the iconic
Nelson family from The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet
has lost his fight with colon cancer at 74.... While his younger
, went on to a successful recording career (and Rio
), David went the behind-the-scenes route, directing a
few Ozzie and Harriet
episodes and shows such as Adam-12
— and producing. In 1959, he appeared in Andre de Toth’s Day
Of The Outlaw
, one of the best 50s Westerns — and certainly
one of the most overlooked."
blog sent us to another fascinating site, Boyd Magers
. Boyd writes, "Welcome to an online supplement to
our print version of Western Clippings which is now in its 16th
year. This website will be constantly updated with new articles, reviews, and items for sale."
Sections include: Do You Remember…?, Comic-Book Cowboys, Serial
Report, Characters and Heavies, An Interview With…, Best and
Worst of the Silent Westerns, Action Actors, and Western
Treasures. The website has a home page devoted to information
about western film festivals, new books on
westerns, western star obituaries, movie news, and other immediate
information that is covered in more detail in subsequent print
issues of Western Clippings. Suggested online samplings: Boyd's lavishly illustrated take on the
Dell comic-book version of Rawhide
, and Mike Fitzgerald's
interviews with the leading ladies of the Golden Age of Westerns,
one of whom remembers: "Walter Brennan
was a real character. At 4 in the afternoon,
a pretty, young boy, who was a grip, was standing there. Walter grabbed
him by the crotch and laughed, ‘I couldn’t help it — it comes over me
this time of the day.’ So I avoided Walter Brennan each afternoon
around 4, that’s for sure!"
Online shoppers searched in vain in January for the promised
Black Horse Westerns Collection No. 1
. Not that ebook reissues of BHWs
weren't available. For example, Ed Gorman's Wolf Moon
at Amazon's Kindle store (priced at just $2.99 or £2.23 including VAT). Wolf Moon
was published in the UK as a BHW hardback in 1998, but first
appeared in the US as a paperback original in 1993. It has been
much reviewed and praised as a western noir masterpiece, most
recently at Cullen Gallagher's
Pulp Serenade blog as part of his
excellent series on the famous Fawcett Gold Medal line. And several blogs
carried the news that westerns written by (Chris) Scott Wilson
, and first
published by Hale in pre-BHW days, were also being offered, including Copper City
(1981), Double Mountain Crossing
(1979), and The Fight at Hueco Tanks
(1980). At the ebook distribution site Smashwords, Chuck Tyrell's Vulture Gold
(BHW, 2005) was listed by Western Trail Blazer at $2.99. Jack Giles
, at his Broken Trails blog, smartly alerted us to a bargain: a $1.99 Kindle edition of Armageddon at Gold Butte
(BHW, 1986) by Terrell L. Bowers
"Cocaine! No one had even heard of it. Yet an unscrupulous doctor was using
it to subjugate beautiful girls into prostitution. Worse still, he was using
them for his own private experiments often resulting in their deaths!" Amazon listed the
ebook with its superb Hale cover as illustration. But
other BHW writers with fine back lists were biding time.
Typically, Chap O'Keefe
said, "I'm wary ... I have all rights except large-print
available in seven of 25 westerns. Some ebook deals are
plain unattractive, both to readers and writers. Other deals bury excellent
work under a mountain of mediocre stuff, often heavily promoted online especially via authors' own social
networking, which represents no progress at all." O'Keefe's 1995 BHW The Sheriff and the Widow
can still be read online
in four parts at Gary Dobbs's
popular Tainted Archive blog. Gary says, "On its original digital publication,
the Archive had its highest-ever visits in a single day and this record still
At last! The first bundle of BHWs to appear as an ebook showed up at the
Amazon Kindle store on the last day in January. At the same time,
pressure mounted on the Conservative-led UK government to scrap an
onerous 20% VAT (sales tax) on ebooks to
put them on equal footing with printed books, which are exempt, and with
elsewhere. Glasgow Labour MP Tom Harris pointed out ebooks in other jurisdictions were not
subject to similar taxes and therefore enjoyed "a huge competitive
advantage in a growing industry which should be supported and
encouraged within the UK". Harris said he had acted after being
approached by an epublisher in
Glasgow. "I cannot see why an industry of the future has been
singled out for discrimination in the UK." Meanwhile, BHW readers and writers had
understood a good reason for issuing BHWs as ebooks was to make them
more widely available internationally at lowest cost. The effect of VAT
on Black Horse Westerns Collection No. 1 was as follows: Amazon US
price reduced from publisher's digital price of $13.90 to $9.99: "You
save $3.91 (28%)." Amazon UK price reduced from publisher's digital
price of £9.99 to £7.99: "You save £2.00 (20%)." The US bottom-line
figure of $9.99 converts roughly to £6.29 depending on the currency
exchange rate of the day. Thus Amazon UK customers paid an extra £1.70 as Amazon carried out its duties to the
British taxman. They were told, "Unlike print books, digital books are subject to
MP's ebook fear.
Ethan and Joel Cohen
|From screen to pages . . . will it happen?
A HORSE OPERA RENAISSANCE
Just two issues
ago, the Extra featured a Hoofprints item from reader Leigh
Alver, of Perth, Australia. It said, in part, "I love a good
western, mostly in the gritty style with the imperfect hero who
with tough decisions and short odds. I see debate touches on
western can rise to (mass) popularity again, and the answer is,
who knows? .... I think a good story well told will find
a readership that extends beyond its genre. My favourite of all
westerns is True Grit, not because it is a
western but because
it is a great, great story, with wonderfully drawn characters, a
(quest) and reads off the page like music to the ear – it is an
joy. In fact, I would put it up there with the great classics
like Moby Dick and Treasure Island,
and they are almost without peer as stories of individual
character and adventure...." Since then, Charles Portis's True
Grit has appeared in its second movie version. GARY
DOBBS, aka BHW author
JACK MARTIN, often himself on-screen as an actor, brings us some
thoughts on the new film's remarkable reception, and the chance it might offer....
ARE we in the middle of a renaissance for the western genre? At the time of writing the remake of the John Wayne classic True Grit
has been released only in North America and is already close to the $100 million mark in domestic gross.
The success of the movie, directed by the Coen Brothers, has taken Hollywood
by surprise. Who would have thought a western would top the box office in
these CGI-reliant times? The last one to do so was Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven
was both a major commercial and critical
success, nominated for nine Academy Awards, including Best Actor for Eastwood
and Best Original Screenplay for David Webb Peoples. It won four, including
Best Picture and Best Director for Eastwood. One critic called it "the finest
classical western to come along since perhaps John Ford's The Searchers
Now, at the beginning of 2011, we have True Grit
. And prominent
critics have called it "a splendid western". Its stars and other personnel
are being nominated for major awards, including 10 Academy Awards. Of course, the success of the movie is no
surprise to us western buffs; we’ve always known the true potential of the
genre. However, will this high level of success translate into more western
movies made, and will this in turn lead to western novels becoming more popular?
In December, author Charles Portis, whose novel True Grit
was originally published in 1968, was overheard by an Arkansas Times
correspondent to say of the Coens' remake of True Grit
"I'm all for it as long as the cheques don't bounce." Portis, a Korean War
veteran, was a newspaper journalist and former London bureau chief of the
New York Herald Tribune
. The western was already past its heyday in both films and books when he wrote his novel.
It would be nice to think the western is about to re-emerge. And as they
say, everything comes back eventually, so maybe it’s the turn of the western.
During the 1950s and early '60s our cinema screens and televisions were full of
westerns. So, too, were our bookshops.
The western has never really gone away, but if placed in comparison to the
state of play twenty years ago, then the genre would seem to be in terminal
decline. The last decade when the western held a significant place in mass-market
fiction was the 1970s when the likes of Louis L’Amour and George G. Gilman
sold like the proverbial hot cakes.
But it has been the same for all mass-market fiction. Many once hugely popular
genres seemed to vanish overnight. Entire paperback series stopped publishing
From this, we emerged into a wasteland where a handful of authors dominated
and bookshops became ... well, to be honest, they became less fun places
to visit. Male-orientated fiction seemed to suffer more than most – the war
novels, the action thriller series and, yes, the humble old western. But
in this age of electronic books and the Internet, the western has started
to fight back. Websites such as this and countless blogs out there extol
the merits of the western on a daily basis and now, it seems, Hollywood is
joining the party.
Let’s hope publishers and authors are not slow to realize we are at a crossroads
for the genre. It’s not unreasonable to suppose that many of the moviegoers
who packed into cinemas to see the new True Grit
had their curiosity piqued and decide to try some western fiction. Maybe
they have grown tired of all the badly written celebrity books and house-brick
sized novels that would benefit from losing a couple of hundred pages.
But the problem for these readers will be supply and demand. If they can’t
find westerns out there, then they will simply turn away and read something
else. And the public perception of the genre is that it is very much dead.
Even those in the industry are often under this false impression.
Recently, I was listening to an online show, Litopia (http://litopia.com/),
which is presented by a respected literary agent, Peter Cox. One of the regular
features of the show is a quiz and the answer to a question was Louis L’Amour.
The clue Mr Cox gave for this author was “He wrote in a genre that no longer
Now one of the aspects of the show is that listeners can phone in and get
themselves on air. You can rest assured Jack Martin was straight on the line,
pointing out that the genre is very much alive, well and kicking!
– Gary Dobbs, whose next BHW, The Ballad of Delta Rose
by Jack Martin, will be published in July
|Two writers, one inspiration |
FARGO CREATOR SETS PATTERN
It was the autumn of 1897, and men were flocking to the wild and
woolly Yukon Territory in search of gold. But soldier-for-hire Tom
Cannon had a different reason for making the hazardous trek north.
The one-time cavalry officer had been hired to find Emmet Lawrence,
a greenhorn who'd gone to seek his fortune and then ... disappeared.
Time and again, as he searched the icy wastes and snow-capped
mountains, he drew a blank. No one remembered Lawrence or knew where
to find him. But when Cannon finally reached Dawson City –
Lawrence's last known whereabouts – things took a sinister turn and
soon the bodies started piling up.
Almost before he could work the lever on his deadly Winchester
shotgun, something happened that Cannon hadn't allowed for.
Emmet Lawrence came looking for him....
– Back cover
Cannon for Hire
APRIL sees the publication of Doug Thorne’s second Black Horse
Western, Cannon for Hire
— and a second
collaboration for the two writers behind the pen-name, David
Whitehead and Alfred Wallon.
David and Alfred originally met through their mutual appreciation
for the western novels of Ben Haas, aka John Benteen. Indeed, their
pseudonym Doug Thorne owes itself to one of Haas’ pen-names, Thorne
It wasn’t long before David and Alfred decided to collaborate on a
project that would recreate the style and spirit of the original
John Benteen books, and when Alfred revealed that he had a
rudimentary English translation of his novel The Trap Was
Called Adobe Walls
, they had their chance. The result
was 2009’s All Guns Blazing
“David and I were very pleased that the book received so much
positive feedback,” says Alfred. “And since we both had so much fun
on this collaboration we agreed to do another. We didn’t need to
look far for a plot, because I had already made a rough
English-language translation of another of my books called Alaska
“When I told David that the novel was set at the end of the 19th
century, and the hero was not unlike John Benteen's
fighting-man-for-hire Neal Fargo, he was very interested to read it.
The rest, as they say, is history. David polished everything up and
added a few additional chapters to the novel, to make everything
“I am very pleased with the result. Again it´s a typical Doug Thorne
western. Action-packed and also based on historical facts, just the
way Ben Haas used to write them.”
David continues: “In both cases I started with a rough
English-language translation. I could see what the translator was
trying to say and so was able to produce a slicker first draft. In
the case of The Trap Was Called Adobe Walls
, we ended
up with a manuscript that was only about half the length of the
average Black Horse Western. I asked Alfred if he wanted to write
some additional material and he came back with a different
suggestion — why don’t I produce the additional material and then it
would truly be a fifty-fifty collaboration!
was a slightly different proposition.
Again, I could figure out what the translator was trying to say, but
it was a much longer book, so my first task was to trim it back to a
more acceptable BHW length.
“As I did so, I realized that the story would make a good vehicle
for a new continuing character I’d been in the process of developing
— Tom Cannon, a former cavalry captain who’d had his fill of
violence but who by a cruel twist of fate has to embark upon a new
life as a soldier for hire.
“Alfred was happy for me to make the
necessary changes and that’s how Alaska Hell
. My hope is that Cannon will come back for at
least one sequel, tentatively entitled A Mission for Cannon
Whether this will be another collaboration or a western I write by
myself remains to be seen. It all depends on just how busy each of
us is at the time.”
Alfred concludes: “David and I definitely think along the same
lines. In addition to a science-fiction novel called Earth-Shattering
(2010) we have realized another project in-between, a mixture of
science fiction and doomsday novel called Dark Worlds
(2010), which was recently published in Germany as a twelve-hour
audio book. It's strange: David had a similar idea about a
nuke-destroyed world after the third world war, and when I told him
that I was working on a similar project we put these ideas together,
and I wrote the novel. It's another solid collaboration, albeit in a
“But, of course, we will also continue writing westerns. John
Benteen wrote a ranch western series called Rancho Bravo
under the pen-name Thorne Douglas. This novel inspired me to write
westerns, and I created a ranch western series here in Germany
called Rio Concho
, which is quite popular. Now we are
thinking about a possibility of launching these novels into the
English market, and with David's help…? Well, I am sure that there
are some interesting things to come.”
Rio Concho: Book 5
Published by Robert Hale Ltd in February, March and April
||0 7090 9050 2
7090 9047 2
|The Vengeance of Boon Helm
7090 9109 7
|The Snake River Bounty
7090 9121 9
|0 7090 9138 7
|0 7090 9132 5
|Good Son, Bad Son
|0 7090 9129 5
7090 9128 8
|Hard Road to Holford
7090 9025 0
|Strangers Move On
7090 9079 3
|The Skull of Iron Eyes
7090 9081 6
7090 9082 3
|Last Reckoning for the Kid
7090 9120 2
|Valley of the Guns
7090 9090 8
|Standoff at Copper Town
|0 7090 9086 1
|The Long Hunt
7090 9131 8
|Paytime for a Good Man
|Joseph John McGraw
7090 9061 8
7090 9080 9
|Soft Soap for a Hard Case
7090 9092 2
7090 9100 4
7090 9103 5
|The Secret of Devil's Canyon
|I. J. Parnham
|0 7090 9133 2
|Ghost Riders at Shotgun Bluffs
|0 7090 9127 1
|Cannon for Hire
|0 7090 9083 0
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
|AND AS E-BOOKS . . .
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 of four recent BHWs is just what
you need. Published in all major ebook formats.
ISBN 978 0 7090 9260 5