March – May 2011


December 2010
Books for Writers
Read by Jake Douglas
The Talking Wire

September 2010
Joshua Dillard
Paperback Blues
Remington Part 3

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

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

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

September 2009
Steve Hayes
BHE Books
Paul Lederer
Accurate words

June 2009
Jack Martin
Series Heroes
Riding the Range

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

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

September 2008
Western Noir
Power of the Premise
West on Wheels

June 2008
Plot or Not Debate
Jack Giles
Whitney Revolver

March 2008
Walt Masterson
Plotters and Pantsers
More Horse Talk

December 2007
Peace at Any Price
Dan Claymaker
Horse Sense

September 2007
Artist Michael Thomas
Judging by Covers
The Schofield Revolver

June 2007
David Whitehead
Realistic Ballistics
Plot Twists

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

December 2006
Lauran Paine
Jake Douglas & Co.

September 2006
Misfit Lil
Greg Mitchell

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


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 publisher."

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 repeated?

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 Christmas."

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  

FREE excerpt here

Chap O'Keefe with snippets from a series "bible"


The 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. . . .
    But 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 course.

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 continuing series.

Excerpt here

Excerpt here

Reading 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.

Kjell Hallbing 
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 complex life."

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 of them.

Jackson 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 Back.

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 roles.

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 these books".

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 online.

Excerpt here

Excerpt here

"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 budget.

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.

Wagon Train
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.

"The 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 independent ways.

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
Michael Thomas

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 days free of rain, even some watery sunshine, just to make sure the Sunshine Coast has been properly named though Southerners 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 is a 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 Benbow...."

Quiet life nowhere...

Like grandfather, like grandson.
Earlier, Keith Hetherington had emailed another BHW Keith Keith Chapman aka Chap O'Keefe. 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 Westerner!

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. He declared Sunday, January 9 "Rawhide Day", writing, "The television show Rawhide premiered today in 1959. Clint Eastwood was introduced 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, Silverado, Open Range and the remake of True Grit are among the best ever made. And Clint Eastwood still plays the hero-cowboy, whatever costume he happens to be wearing."

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 collector. A movie geek (if the movies are old). And I really really wish I had a hot rod. On the writer front, I’m researching and writing a book on fifties 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 brother, Ricky, went on to a successful recording career (and Rio Bravo), 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."

And Toby's blog sent us to another fascinating site, Boyd Magers' Western Clippings. 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 many 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!"

More nostalgia.

Western noir.

Ebook bargain.

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 was listed 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 stands today."  

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 ebooks from 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 VAT."

MP's ebook fear.

Gary Dobbs

Ethan and Joel Cohen
From screen to pages . . . will it happen?


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 is faced with tough decisions and short odds. I see debate touches on whether the western can rise to (mass) popularity again, and the answer is, who knows? .... I think a good story well told will find a readership that extends beyond its genre. My favourite of all favourite westerns is True Grit, not because it is a western but because it is a great, great story, with wonderfully drawn characters, a super plot (quest) and reads off the page like music to the ear – it is an absolute joy. In fact, I would put it up there with the great classics like Moby Dick and Treasure Island, and they are almost without peer as stories of individual character and adventure...."   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 in 1992.

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 (1956)".

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?

Charles Portis

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 almost simultaneously.

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 might have 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 (, 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 exists.”

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

Alfred Wallon

David Whitehead

Two writers, one inspiration


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 Douglas.

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 Hell.

"John Benteen"

“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 complete.
“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!

Alaska Hell 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 became Cannon for Hire. 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 different genre.
“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

Coyote Falls
Colin Bainbridge  0 7090 9050 2
Outlaw Canyon
Jack Sheriff
0 7090 9047 2
The Vengeance of Boon Helm
Henry Remington 0 7090 9109 7
The Snake River Bounty
Bill Shields
0 7090 9121 9
Deadly Doublecross
Kevin McCarthy
0 7090 9138 7
Raking Hell
Lee Clinton
0 7090 9132 5
Good Son, Bad Son
Bill Williams
0 7090 9129 5
Tyrell's Guns
Ben Coady
0 7090 9128 8
Hard Road to Holford
Greg Mitchell
0 7090 9025 0
Strangers Move On
Ryan Bodie 0 7090 9079 3
The Skull of Iron Eyes
Rory Black
0 7090 9081 6
Killer Chase
John Davage
0 7090 9082 3
Last Reckoning for the Kid
Emmett Stone
0 7090 9120 2
Valley of the Guns
Rick Dalmas
0 7090 9090 8
Standoff at Copper Town
Scott Connor
0 7090 9086 1
The Long Hunt
Alan Irwin
0 7090 9131 8
Paytime for a Good Man
Joseph John McGraw
0 7090 9061 8
Comanchero Kingdom
Matt James 0 7090 9080 9 
Soft Soap for a Hard Case
Billy Hall
0 7090 9092 2
Violent Men
Corba Sunman
0 7090 9100 4
Dakota Rage
Jake Douglas
0 7090 9103 5
The Secret of Devil's Canyon
I. J. Parnham
0 7090 9133 2
Ghost Riders at Shotgun Bluffs
Robert Anderson
0 7090 9127 1
Cannon for Hire
Doug Thorne
0 7090 9083 0


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

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

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

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


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


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