March – May 2012
Mike Stotter ebooks
Serenade for Misfit Lil
Lessons from True Grit
Tha Ballad of Jack Martin
Ross Morton beginnings
ABC of Branding
Trouble with Misfit Lil
Horse Opera Renaissance
Fargo Creator's Pattern
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
All Guns Blazing
Jim Bowden & Co.
Power of the Premise
West on Wheels
Plot or Not Debate
Plotters and Pantsers
More Horse Talk
Peace at Any Price
(For links to editions March 2006 to September 2007, please go via December 2011)
No Longer a Young Gun Hoofprints
Foresight, Views, and Enthusiasm
On the Scent of a Badman
New Black Horse Westerns Chap O'Keefe Ebooks
"These characters take on lives of their own," writes Nik (aka Ross)
Morton in an article below which describes the genesis of Old Guns, his
new novel for the Black Horse Western series published by Robert
Hale Ltd, of London. Thereby he puts his finger firmly on a
mainspring of popular fiction.
Telling about the doings of interesting characters makes for a good
story. "Successful stories can be indicated in terms of the main
character" is familiar, age-old advice to Extra readers, especially
those who also write themselves. And the advice holds good for both
kinds of fiction writer, the planner and the non-planner.
The planner will begin his or her story with a scheme, written or unwritten but firmly
in mind, that will carry him to a tidy ending.
The non-planner will
begin at page one, trusting to faith and the relatively easy ability
with today's technology to produce several drafts before arriving at a
"clean", properly structured final version free of irrelevant diversions,
inconsistencies and illogical developments.
As long ago as our editions of March and June of 2008, we debated here the advantages and
disadvantages of both schools of writing.
contributor Candy Proctor (aka C. S. Harris) told readers non-planners "like
to live dangerously and fly — or rather, write — by the seat of their pants.
Believing that advance planning kills their muse and destroys their interest
in a story, they jump in with little idea of where their story will go."
Chap O'Keefe said
in the later four-party debate that he clung to the synopsis-first routine
of the planner. It was what publishers' editors had asked for back at the
beginning of his career and a broadly set plan still saved him rewriting
time in the long run.
Interestingly, Chap also revealed that he prefaced his
plot outlines with "notes on my six or seven main characters ... not
so much to avoid changing the colour of a character's eyes or their name
— I've seen it happen! — as to be sure I know what drives each character,
what he or she has done previously and will seek to achieve."
Clearly, both writer types would agree they need to ensure they are working with vivid characters, the
more distinctive and memorable the better. Attention to psychology and
motivation is as important as the physical details, dress, speech patterns,
and the repeated gestures and mannerisms that will fix images of them in the
If this issue of the Extra has a theme, it must be characters. In
another absorbing article, Paddy Gallagher (aka Greg Mitchell, and surely our most
reliable contributor) takes up cudgels in a light-hearted way to
expose the deficiencies of the Stereotyped Western Villain.
"I am trying
out a new idea," Paddy said when sending his essay. "See if you think
this will work."
We think it does, and have taken the opportunity to couple his
tongue-in-cheek "interview" with a nostalgic trip down memory lane
courtesy of a batch of scans you can read about in an editorial footnote
to Paddy's article, "On the Scent of a Badman".
Sadly, not all our news this issue can be in a lighter vein. As a
significant online source of Black Horse Western information, we have the upsetting duty
to record the unexpected passing in January of author Howard Hopkins,
aka Lance Howard, one of the longer-serving giants of the Hale list and a friend
to many writers and readers.
Your comments and western news are always welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org
Be reading this western ebook in UNDER A MINUTE!
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|Nik Morton writes about his new BHW. . .
NO LONGER A YOUNG GUN
still recovering from the death of his old partner, Abner, Sam Ransom learns
of a note, left by the dead man, warning that the infamous Meak twins are
after Ransom’s life because of what happened at Bur Oak Springs almost two
decades ago. Ransom knows he must alert the rest of his gang who were there.
Bur Oak Springs was a ghost-town even then, but now Ransom’s
family is in jeopardy and their only hope of salvation is the gang’s return
to confront the Meak brothers in a battle fraught with a sense of déjà-vu.
It’s going to be a bloody showdown: young guns against the old.
– Back cover
MY fifth BHW, Old Guns, was a departure in many senses for me – and
perhaps slightly different from the format usually found in Hale
westerns. The timeline is from Monday, 4 July to Monday, 25 July,
1892. This was one of the hottest months on record.
Most western enthusiasts have heard of the movie Young Guns. The
thought occurred to me that it would be interesting to write about
some gunmen who were no longer young – so the title was easy.
The old guns were young in 1866, but the story begins in the present
of 1892, when the hero, Sam Ransom, is about to celebrate his 62nd
birthday. His pals are Abner Nolan (60), Rory Carter (64), Jubal
Baines (61), and Darby Tyler (62). Abner used to be a crack shot
with a Spencer rifle, but now his eyesight is bad. Sam has a serious
limp that he has borne for over thirty years. Darby suffers from
arthritis so can’t hold a six-gun any more and relies on a
Winchester rifle. Jubal suffered a serious head-wound back in 1866
and as a result has a poor memory, which is unfortunate since some
desperadoes want him to tell them where the gold bullion is stashed…
The desperadoes are the young guns – the Meak twins, aged 32, and
their buddies Quincy (25), Wade (22), Turner (20) and Irvin, the kid
aged 19. The Meaks are set on vengeance, since their pa was killed
by Sam and his men in the ghost town of Bur Oak Springs twenty-six
years ago. The gunfight was over stolen bullion – which was never
Matilda Meak wants her twin sons to avenge her. Only now, on her
death bed, does she tell them why.
|She looked around at the poorly furnished room and her heart lurched
when she glimpsed her reflection in the dressing table mirror. Her
once auburn hair was now grey and thin, while her hazel eyes seemed
dull, as if diluted pigment. Her thin lips pursed. The family nose
was prominent, however, and both her sons took after her there. She
tore her eyes away as flames of anger and frustration burned afresh
in her breast. Now she must tell her boys and set them on their road
of vengeance. ‘There were six men in your father’s gang,’ she said,
clearing her throat. She closed her eyes and recited, ‘Carter,
Ransom, Tylor, Baines and Nolan.’
The Meaks recruit a gang and start their vengeance trail, hunting
down Sam’s pals – and their families. Sam gets warning after the
second death. Here, I had a little fun introducing a couple of
characters from the Bethesda Falls novels, now having aged.
As with life, the past informs the present, and this is very much
the case for many of my books. The past has an uncanny knack of
biting back and Sam Ransom learns this with a vengeance. Gradually,
we learn how he got his limp in a mine explosion in Comstock in
1859, how he suffered betrayal and built up a friendship with
several men that lasted down the years.
Another series of flashbacks – in 1866 this time – relate how Sam
and his friends confront a bunch of outlaws in the ghost town of Bur
Oak Springs. Ironically, twenty-six years later, this town haunts
them again when the Meaks set out to do their dying mother’s
While Sam is away recruiting his old friends to combat the threat of
the Meaks, at Sam’s ranch his wife, Charlotte, has her own worries:
Her heart pounding with a mixture of fear and pride for her
children, Charlotte returned to the lounge and resumed her position
at the window by the door. She fired at the one called Irvin, who
hid behind the stone well out front. From time to time, he took pot
shots with his pistol, the bullets peppering the front door, but
otherwise seemed to be sitting tight, as if waiting for something to
happen. Irvin let out unnerving whoops of joy and swore at the top
of his voice between bouts of firing back. She had to confess that,
even without the threat from his gun, his behaviour was unsettling.
Disaster overcomes the Ransom household and Sam and the others
arrive too late. The Meaks taunt him and tell him to face them at
Bur Oak Springs.
As Sam gets close to the ghost town that nestles in a natural rock
basin, he can’t help but have second thoughts. He isn’t putting only himself
at risk, but his friends who insisted on joining him.
He reckoned that in ordinary conditions the rock climb would be
difficult for people of their age. But in this heat, it was fearful.
Yet at the outset, it hadn’t been so bad. Sure, his leg gave him
grief, but he was used to that. Then his joints started aching and
his muscles straining. Those bruises seemed to resurface, reminding
him he was no longer a young gun any more. As if he needed
reminding. He pursed his lips. Yeah, we’re all old guns, sure
enough. A generation had gone by since we did anything like this.
Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to go against those young guns?
Maybe. But he wasn’t left with much choice.
I’ve tried to convey the aches of ‘old age’ – bearing in mind that
anyone in their sixties was considered old in those days, while
nowadays age is often a state of mind rather than a counting of
The five of them sank to their knees at the top of the ridge. Ransom
felt all in and gasped for breath. He sipped at his flask of brandy
and the fiery liquid seemed to reinvigorate him, even though he knew
the effect was only temporary.
Uncomplaining, Rory nursed his arthritic hands, while Emma kneaded
his shoulders. ‘This’ll get some of the kinks out, darling,’ she
‘If only your loving ministrations could work on my hands.’
And, here’s Rory, bravely going up against an outlaw, despite his
Painfully gripping his Winchester, Rory made it to the back wall of
the assayer’s. From here he had a view of about half of the livery
stable’s frontage. The memories flooded back, the heat and dust, the
shooting and shouting, and the death of Forrest and Burnside. He
glanced down at his aching gnarled hands. Then, he’d been a good
shot and almost fearless. Now, he sensed fear soaking into him. Fear
of death, probably. Sure, his bones creaked, as if in need of oil,
and rheumatism played hell with him, but he wasn’t ready to die
yet, by God. He was only sixty-four, damn it!
The inevitable showdown is a mixture of gunfights from derelict
building to dilapidated saloons and bordellos, and in the
weed-strewn dry main street. There are a couple of twists towards
the end. As with my other BHWs, I’ve book-ended the novel, this time
with the Prologue and the Epilogue in the penitentiary, but I won’t
say who features in either.
Cover story... Click
on the image.
My novels are written for many reasons, and they’ll doubtless differ
for each one.
For me, westerns embody myth: the fight of good against evil, the
elemental battle against the destructive nature of man. If along the
way I can inject some historical context, all well and good.
For my previous western, Blind Justice at Wedlock, I wanted to
challenge myself to write from a blinded man’s perspective – his
world would be gleaned through his other senses, for example. Of
course it was more than that, too, presenting some rather dark
psychology as well as the quite powerful love of Clint for his wife,
For Old Guns I wanted to examine some old gunslingers, to see how
they lived in the autumn of their years and how they would cope if
called upon to don those gunbelts again. And I’ve always fancied
writing about a ghost town.
However, the biggest attraction for me has to be the characters –
both the good and the bad. Once created, even in brief biographical
form, these characters take on lives of their own:
Sam Ransom, 62. (DoB: 1830).
Rancher – Bar-SR, South Dakota.
Wife is Charlotte (46), son Adam (15), daughter Jane (16).
Physical appearance: Nut-brown hair, sideburns, streaked white.
Brown eyes. Square jaw. Liver spots on hands. Long narrow nose. Old
wound in left leg, he has a serious limp. His back is bowed
Clothing: Black Stetson. Blue placket shirt, half open, 2 buttons
Yellow neckerchief. Indigo blue denim pants. Fancy stitching on
uppers of his tan leather boots.
Weapons: Two Remington six-guns.
Yes, I’ve sketched in
an outline for the story/plot. But it’s how the characters interact
that creates the story – and to a large extent their own history.
Sometimes, I’m surprised to find that not all my villains are
thoroughly bad and some of my heroes aren’t so good, either….
I wanted to create ticking-clock suspense – first, toward the fatal
deadline of Thursday, 21 July and then counting down from 6a.m. to
noon. It has been done before in westerns, but not often, yet it’s a
great device for cranking up the suspense and, hopefully, getting
those pages turned.
Old Guns can be pre-ordered now and will be available in April.
– Nik Morton (aka Ross Morton) whose Writelaot blog is here
|Making a mark on the western scene
Writing BHWs doesn't always come easy for the veteran
professionals. In early January last year, Keith Hetherington (aka
Tyler Hatch, Jake Douglas and several others) told us, "Endless pain from my spine and arthritis in the hips makes
sure I can't walk far. Just stumble around. Literally? A resounding
I've never had such continuous aggravation from my body before and it's
me down. I'm still writing Rogue's Run which I started early December.
Can't really get interested; had bursts of enthusiasm the
couple of days but it was mostly revision of what I'd already written...
on that injection of enthusiasm!" But the book ended well. In late
February 2011, Keith wrote again to say, "Seemed to
take forever for me to get it done and somehow I didn't feel easy about
[Hale managing director] Gill Jackson wrote, 'It is an excellent Western
with all the right
ingredients...' Gave me quite a lift and I've decided now that I like
okay after all (fickle, fickle!)." The blurb tells us Rogue's Run, now published a year later, is the
story of Johnny Richards, "no gunfighter in the true sense but
considered the fastest gun alive. He learned his prowess with firearms
not in the badlands of Texas but in the Big Top of Farley's Frontier
Circus." Now that sounds temptingly different....
The AMC television western series Hell On Wheels
was much heralded
as a possible successor to the popular Deadwood
. But ScreenRant has
reviewed the finale in the US of its first season in less than
glowing terms. And most of the site's readers who pitched in took a
similar stance. "I’ve been trying really hard to like this show,"
one comment ran. "It’s so disappointing that I'm probably going to
throw in the towel unless the premiere of season two has something
(anything) truly interesting. I feel like the writers were just
hoping to get the pilot to work and never really thought through the
overall story arc. This is a Deadwood
starter kit at best." When one
viewer commented favourably that "dialogue, as well as the
situations and weaponry for this period, was dead on" and showed "a
lot of research", he was quickly corrected by another: "You have got
to be kidding, right? The scenery is wrong, laying track in standing
water, Cheyenne in Eastern Nebraska, Thomas Durant
hops on his private
train and makes it to Chicago and back in two or three days, guy
gets shot point-blank in the mouth and survives, native people who
couldn’t see the blonde-haired white woman less than 100 yards from
their camp, white Christian woman having sex with converted Indian,
everyone having sex with whores but no one has VD, Union troops
supposedly attached to General William Sherman
who somehow ended up in Meridian,
Mississippi, growing tobacco in Mississippi, period-inappropriate
weapons, language, customs, etc., etc., etc. …." Hoofprints' advice?
Turn off the TV – borrow some library westerns, or buy a
What's in a name.
From pulp-magazine days onward, a multiplicity of pen-names, for
whatever reasons advanced by publishers and agents, has been the
bane of many a western writer's career. As anthologist Jon Tuska
once noted of an infrequently recognized past master, "D. B. Newton
ended up with six bylines to the detriment of his public
visibility." Today author David Whitehead
is best known as Ben
, but his BHWs were issued under several other names, too. As
regular readers know, Dave has been reissuing these books as
attractively priced ebooks, but still under the bylines used on the
Hale hardcovers. Now, good news has been announced at the Ben
Bridges website: "Some collectors of our Kindle editions have
expressed frustration at having not been able to find all Dave's
westerns in one place when searching on Amazon. To remedy this,
we've decided that, as from now, all Dave's westerns will now carry
one name – Ben Bridges – regardless of the name under which they
first appeared. This guarantees that, effective immediately, all the
westerns currently available will be listed in one place, under the
Bridges byline. To this end, we've now reissued Hang 'Em All
under the Bridges byline, complete with eye-catching
A TV screening of Wild Bill
gave critic Graeme Blundell
Australian newspaper the chance to comment: "This great movie from
director Walter Hill
, starring Jeff Bridges
, released in 1995 and
overlooked by audiences, is simply one of the better westerns of
recent decades, a period dominated by the so-called revisionist
western. Cowboy movies were no longer built around classic tableaux
involving marauding Indians, fearless gunslingers, ruthless outlaws
and the occasional high-spirited gal in a calico dress working the
saloon. After Sam Peckinpah
and Sergio Leone
, the western became
characterized by its nihilism, its brutality and its harsh
demystification of the threadbare legends of the Old West. Its
protagonists behaved more like characters transported from
contemporary literary fiction than they did like the traditional
homespun western hero. They won our interest and our sympathy not by
courage and heroic deeds but by bemused incompetence, genial
cowardice, and the ability to face the worst with buoyancy and wit.
They were six-gun existentialists in heels and spurs. And no one
wore them better than Bridges in this tough-minded movie, never a
man who brought law and order, but the alienated and absurd
individual unable to fit into a new society. Wild Bill
director Hill’s dreamscape biography of hard-drinking,
quickshooting gunslinger Bill Hickok
at the end of his life, heading
towards his final hand of poker in Deadwood. The brilliantly
realized story, much of it told in flashback, covers the major
events that shaped the gunman’s life, including his work as a Kansas
lawman, his stint in Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show, and his
part-time relationship with a whip-wielding Calamity Jane
superb, so sexy Ellen Barkin
A better western.
Words to the unwary.
Wisdom for beginning writers, including western writers.... In the course of a blog tour to publicize her new ebook, Write a Great Synopsis,
Nicola Morgan said, "Fiction of any length is hard to sell and writers
should not think of publishing it themselves without understanding why
it’s hard to sell and without being prepared to do some pretty full-on
(and often unattractive) self-promotion or accept modest sales.... I’d
add that the temptation is for unpublished writers to self-publish just
because they can. And before they are ready. However, in self-publishing
as in publishing, mediocre or even dud writing can also sell well (and
great writing can sell badly) though I hate the thought of that.
Therefore, I think the pitfalls are in some ways the same:
underestimating the problems and fortunes of what makes a commercial
success. If you believe your writing sings and you are as convinced as
possible that it’s as good as it can be, do it. But if you feel you are
still practising, my recommendation is to carry on practising for
longer.... And don’t let the few(ish) major success stories in
self-publishing give you a false impression of how easy it is. It is not
easy. That’s why it’s satisfying." Nicola's credentials? A Cambridge
University degree in classics and philosophy, around 90 books in various
genres with mainstream publishers, plus contact with countless authors, agents
and publishers, and work as chair of the Society of Authors in Scotland.
readers will remember when almost every British fiction publisher had its
own western line issuing original works or reprints of American books. Mills
& Boon had Diamond W Westerns, Collins had Wild West Club, Frederick
Muller had Sombrero Western Series, and so on. The late Hal Jons was
a Sombrero author who had later titles published in the early '80s
by Robert Hale. When Magna Large Print Books told us last year that it was no longer easy to source good westerns
not already released in large-print library editions, Black Horse
Extra was pleased to point its manager, Diane Allen, in the
direction of the overlooked Jons books. In 2004 we had uncovered
that Jons' daughter had been a speaker at a conference of the IT
Service Management Forum: "Maggie Kneller, daughter of Harry Jones,
alias Hal Jons, alias Harry Graham, the author ... was educated at Colston’s Girls’ School in Bristol, graduated
from University of Wales, Swansea with an honours degree in pure
mathematics and gained a postgraduate diploma in statistics from University
College, London. She is a member of the British Computer Society,
a chartered engineer and a member of the Institute of Marketing.
In 1996, Maggie gained distinction for an IT hybrid MBA at Henley Management
College...." Surely it would be easy to contact this well-connected,
high-flying lady, we thought at the time. Mrs Kneller was also chair
of Britain's Information Systems Examination Board and the UK Euro
Pogramme director for international insurance firm AXA Sun Life. But
an email to AXA Sun Life in Bristol said they were were "unable to locate
the details you have requested". So the trail was abandoned, until the opportunity
arose to help Magna bring the enjoyable Hal Jons westerns back into circulation.
Working on the "Bristol" clues, we found online mention of a Mrs
Maggie Kneller who was secretary of the Amadeus Singers, a choir
based promisingly in North Somerset. Eventually contact was made
and introductions followed. This year, Magna has published as Dales Westerns
Mochita Stage, formerly a 1964 title in the Sombrero
series, and Guns of Justice, originally a Hale title.
Back in circulation.
|Obituary: Howard Hopkins aka Lance Howard
FORESIGHT, VIEWS, AND ENTHUSIASM
John Laramie rode into Lancerville, looking to escape his old life as a
man-hunter, and settle down. But a life of serenity may not be on the
cards. When a young woman seeks his help to get rid of a vicious
outlaw, he's torn between the dark demons of his past and hope for a
brighter future. Fate, however, makes the choice for him when the
murderous Cross Gang attacks him and just misses the target – putting
the life of the young woman in dire jeopardy. With Laramie forced into
a deadly showdown, will it cost him more to win than it would to lose?
– Back cover
Hell On Hoofs
THE Black Horse Western year began badly for long-time readers with the
news of the death in Biddeford, Maine, on January 12 of author Howard
Hopkins, aka Lance Howard, from a heart attack. He was only 50 ... far
too young an age to die in the 21st century.
Howard wrote more than 30 BHWs. The first, Blood On the Saddle, was
published by Hale in October 1993. His latest, Hell On Hoofs, was published on January 31. In recent years, he has perhaps been
more active in other genre-fiction areas: horror, paranormal mystery,
children's horror, and comic
books. His work is much admired by the US pulp community and his many other followers.
Howard recognized earlier than most the coming importance of digital
technology for genre fiction. In 2002, in the days before wide
acceptance of social networking and personal blogs, he set up a Yahoo
Black Horse Western chat group for readers and writers which now lists
close to 160 members.
His abhorrence of disharmony in the camp did not stop him from making
the occasional difficult and questionable decision as group
owner and "moderator"... or from expressing his own strong views.
Before the days of eworld publicity, Howard noted the apparent
satisfaction of Hale with its niche library market and responded:
"I have literally spent a few hundred dollars designing and printing my
own postcards and bookmarks (certainly way above what Hale pays for a
book) and even signed and sent them envelopes full – to no avail. I am
lucky I can design my own and then only have to pay for printing. I even
cut them myself. In one case I printed off 500 flyers and hand
delivered them to newspaper boxes all over town, in the dead of night,
"I shake my head sometimes at their [the publishers'] lack of interest
in their own product, or at least seeming lack. But I suppose that given
they pay a small amount to the author, and then make up that amount two
times over or more by taking half the money from the large-print rights
sale, they may see any expenditure on promotion for these unworthy of
the effort. When I started writing them I sold out the print run on a
number of my early books ... and naively waited for them to inform me it
was going back to press for the royalty-paying second printing....
"They [BHWs] are a unique package and one of the few outlets left anywhere world over for this type of Western tale."
Fortunately, developments since Howard posted those comments in 2003
allowed him to write at his Dark Bits blog on January 9, just three days
before his sudden passing:
"The good news for those of us authors and readers who work in the
electronic book arena is that Kindle reigned supreme with holiday
among ereaders, and Nook also did quite well. In the fading hours of
Christmas my own Nightmare Club paranormal series for children saw a
huge increase in sales that has continued over the proceeding week,
well as a decent increase in my paranormal horror series The Chloe
Files and my newly inaugurated western line that began with Blood
and Johnny Dead Kindle releases.
"The trend is certainly encouraging, and the very fact people are
turning back to the escapism of reading in these troubled economic
personal times is hopeful. Even more so is the trend toward young
readers picking up books again, something that had been becoming a
of a lost art over the past decade with the advent of video games.
the recent announcement that the publishers of Black Horse Westerns,
whom I have penned 34 novels, have opened their own ebook line, in which
first of my 'Pass' series, Vengeance Pass, will see e-print in 2012,
the year looks to be a new renaissance for the Western."
Of his westerns, Howard wrote:
"I for one am not a big fan of the historical type western, or western
bio style. I like the mythical West. Hale is one of the very few
publishers who deal with our type of fiction, though a good story should
be a good story regardless, and have appeal to a large audience."
When an author colleague once broached the subject of lack of longevity
among fiction writers, Howard replied at length:
"Now there's a cheerful thing to look forward to.... In fact, I saw some
studies years back – can't recall where – that a predominance of
writers had an above average incidence of manic depression, alcoholism
and suicide, among other things. Writers tend to be solitary,
introverts, self-absorbed and sensitive, so maybe that has something to do with it.
"Many artistic types wind up under so much pressure to create, stay
creative and competitive, or just make it to begin with, it may put an
unnatural burden on our coping abilities and pull resources from other
areas in our bodies, affecting health indicators such as blood pressure,
cholesterol levels. Or that pressure may cause more reliance on
chemicals such as alcohol, drugs, nicotine, which in turn affects
health. Maybe combinations of all. I think writers are capable of
reaching into emotional levels probably non-creative types don't bother
with, and maybe this leaves some vulnerable to other things.
"Writing is tough; creating is tough. I always have to kind of chuckle
(in a perversely annoyed way) when some of the people I come in contact
with think writing a book is nothing more than sitting in a chair typing
all day. I have had them say that to me – 'Oh, you just type all day,
you've got it easy.' Yep, it's easy – computer pretty much does all the
work. In fact, I have a serial port in the back of my neck and I simply
plug into the PC and let it out. Sure. Easy as vomiting a bowling
"Personally I have always been painfully shy socially and strung too
tight, blessed with such garbage as panic and anxiety attacks and a few
other stress-related annoyances healthwise. (Before I discovered Nexium I
might have driven TUMS stock up a good 10 per cent!)
"One thing I would recommend for all writers, since it is a sedentary practice,
is to make sure to get out and walk, run, bike-ride, go to the gym, anything,
to relieve some of the pressure. Tai Chi is probably good, too, or yoga
or something like that. For me, it's bodybuilding and bike-riding, but whatever
one is comfortable with. It can help with the creative process, too. And
having a hobby unrelated to writing might help....
notable exception would be Walter Gibson, writer of the Shadow. The guy lived
to a ripe old age. And he wrote two novels per month for many years in the
'30s, hundreds of books, stories, articles, etc., and chain smoked and drank
all the way. But he's probably like the guy who fell out of a plane without
a parachute and somehow miraculously lived to tell about it!"
Howard is survived by Dominique, his wife of 22 years, his parents, his sister, a goddaughter, a niece and a nephew.
|Greg Mitchell catches up with a 'usual suspect'
ON THE SCENT OF A BADMAN
are plaguing the Santa Rosa area and Marshal Tim Cleary is sent there to
investigate the theft of military rifles. He joins forces with Sheriff Lou
Braga in an attempt to break up the gang and to determine the fate of Red
Baxter, the freight company driver moving the rifles. Diaz, a delusional
Mexican goat herder, claims to have seen the bandit leader and believes him
to be the Devil. Now the two lawmen must try to decipher Diaz's terrified
ravings and weave their way through false trails and desperate situations
before they finally track unmask the Devil and bring retribution.
– Track Down the Devil
now reissued as a BHW ebook
UNLIKE some contributors to the Black Horse Extra, I don't have much
access to other writers, but have always wanted to do an in-depth
interview with a literary personality. How it happened is a long and
complicated story but eventually I managed an interview with a
character whose professional title is Stereotype Western Villain
He was squat and ugly with bad teeth and a breath that made a
billygoat seem delicately perfumed by comparison. A floppy black hat
was pulled low over his small, piggy eyes and a black soup-strainer
moustache hung limply from his upper lip like a dead, furry animal.
Just between us I have seen better-looking Gila monsters, but I
digress. Alternately he was chewing tobacco and spitting or sipping
from a large bottle of what looked like pure rotgut.
Our interview as I recall it was roughly as follows.
It was nice of you to allow this interview.
My mistake, I didn't intend to be nice. I have more destructive
ways to spend my time. Cut out the soft soap and say your piece.
What do you like most about being a villain?
Where do I start? There's heaps of things. While dumb heroes
are out busting their guts in the [expletive deleted] cactus, us
villains are enjoying ourselves in saloons. It's great fun
terrorizing innocent customers, beating up people who can't fight
and insulting women, but I must admit that the latter pastime ain't
as popular as it used to be.
Why is that?
Maybe it's a sign of the times but modern fictional heroines
are pretty hard to insult. There was a time when they would faint or
scream for a hero but these days they are more likely to answer you
in language that would make a sailor's parrot blush. Us villains
have not exactly led sheltered lives but molesting a lady who swears
at you like a muleskinner can be really unnerving.
Look on the bright side. At least the modern reaction does not
immediately bring a hero who gives you a thrashing.
So that's what brings the heroes – I hadn't figured they'd
always be hanging about in earshot. I had put those minor
disagreements down to coincidence. But thrashings ain't always
one-sided. Give me a couple of good villains to hold him and I can
belt the tripe out of any [expletive deleted] hero. I don't know how
many gun butts I have busted just knocking heroes on the head.
I was meaning to ask you about that. Have you ever thought of
taking a bit of target practice? Your record against heroes is not
I'm working on that. I can kill innocent people from all
angles but heroes are sneaky. I've figured out it's something to do
with their [expletive deleted] faces. They make guns shoot high.
I've shot dozens through the shoulder or creased their skulls but
have yet to do a nice heart shot or drill one right between the
(The interview paused while SWV extracted a large Bowie knife from
somewhere and proceeded to pick his few remaining teeth. He gave an
enormous belch and the subsequent expulsion of breath wilted all
cactus within a fifty-yard radius.)
That's better. I should not have shot my previous cook but I
had nothing better to do at the time. The current son of a bitch
can't cook rancid rattlesnake for sour apples.
You eat rancid rattlesnake?
Of course. It's the best way to get bad breath. I wouldn't want
to be mistaken for a hero. Those sweet-smelling bastards live on
steak or hash and apple pie.
You don't see yourself as a suave type of villain like a saloon
owner or a crooked lawyer ?
Hell, no. I have some standards. Real villains rob banks and
coaches and steal horses and cows. Them indoor types are a bunch of
[expletive deleted] pansies.
What about the religious fanatic types who turn up in so many
They can be tricky. It takes more than misquoting the Bible and
being narrow-minded and objectionable to sound convincing. Too many
of these characters only reflect the attitudes of their authors and
a good villain never lets an author intrude into the story. See one
religious fanatic and you've seen them all. It's a sort of niche
market and Psalm Singing Sam plays the same character in hundreds of
(There was another pause as my companion cuffed a passing orphan
under the ear and administered a kick in the slats to a stray dog.)
I shouldn't do things like that but can't help myself.
You mean you are reforming?
[Expletive deleted] no . It's just that I've done it so often
that I'm getting Repetitive Strain Injury, RSI, I think they call it
now. I'm not as young as I used to be, albeit I ain't in bad shape
for someone who must be nearly a hundred and fifty years old.
What do you think of Indian villains?
They became extinct years ago and are politically incorrect.
Now they are called Native Americans and shooting them down in heaps
is a real no-no. These days they might be led astray by evil white
men like me but speaking forked tongue to them can be a little
wearing. The days are gone when we could fill them up with rotgut,
trade a few guns to them and send them yipping and yahooing around
to destroy the countryside. These days they are giving villains a
bad name. Suitably bad Indians are as rare as frog feathers but
there are some talented half-breeds about.
What about Mexican villains? It seems to be open season on them.
You're dead right there. Mexican villains are popular and they
breed like rabbits so there's no chance of them being wiped out. But
it's a trendy thing. You can take any sort of villain, put a Mexican
sombrero on him, hang a few cartridge belts and knives around him
and get him to make frequent references to gringos, and you have
the game skun. Mexican villains are no worse than the rest of us but
they seem to be more disposable. If I was interested in the equality
of races, and no good villain is, I would query why the [expletive
deleted] hell Native American villains can't be as bad as Mexes and the rest of us.
(I could see that SWV was getting restless. His bottle of rotgut was
empty and his hand was hovering above the heavily notched butt of a
large gun on his hip.)
I would not like to take up too much of your time.
Good. I have a reputation to maintain and talking to a
pen-pushing [expletive deleted] bastard like you could be bad for my
Just out of curiosity, what would you do if I tried to keep you
I'd just walk away.
That doesn't sound very villainous.
I didn't say you would walk away.
I got while the going was good.
– Paddy Gallagher, whose most recent BHW is Breakout
[The pictures accompanying Greg Mitchell's article are from the work in
the 1950s of Derek C. Eyles (1902-1974), a prolific British
illustrator and comics artist. For some 40 years, Eyles's art was in continuous
demand by publications like Wild West Weekly, Comet, Sun, Knockout,
Western Library, Pearson's Western Novels, and Cowboy Comics/Picture
Library. As well as western villains of the stock type, he was
particularly adept at drawing horses, and therefore a natural choice
for editors of western story papers, comics and books. Amalgamated
Press editorial director Leonard Matthews gave samples of his work
to new artists as examples of "how to do horses properly". But by
the 1970s the western adventure genre had fallen out of fashion, and
Eyles was battling the twin problems of vanishing markets and poor
Published by Robert Hale Ltd in February, March and April
|A Message for McLeod
||0 7090 9262 9
|Hell and High S
7090 9269 8
|Death on the Devil’s Highway
7090 9343 5
|Dale Mike Rogers
7090 9344 2
||0 7090 9345 9
|0 7090 9348 0
|0 7090 9349 7
|Gone To Blazes
7090 9351 0
|The Comanche’s Revenge
|D. M. Harrison
7090 9390 9
|Praise Be To Silver
7090 9309 1
|Dollar a Day
7090 9310 7
7090 9324 4
|Range of Terror
7090 9354 1
|The Venom of Iron Eyes
7090 9367 1
|Last Man in Lazarus
||0 7090 9368 8
|The Vinegar Peak Wars
7090 9369 5
|Owen G. Irons
7090 9218 6
|The Search for the Lone Star
|I. J. Parnham
7090 9303 9
7090 9326 8
|No Peace For a Rebel
7090 9370 1
|Riders On the Wind
7090 9383 1
||0 7090 9380 0
|0 7090 9379 4
|Sundown at Singing River
|0 7090 9480 7
Horse Westerns can be requested at public libraries or ordered at bookstores. They can also be bought from the publisher at www.halebooks.com,
or from other retailers including Amazon, Amazon UK, WHSmith, Blackwells
and The Book Depository.
Selected backlist titles are now republished as ebooks, available from online retailers for $4.66 / £2.86. February titles are:
Miller's Ride, Caleb Rand; Dead by Sundown, I. J. Parnham
The Blood of Iron Eyes, Rory Black; Broken Star, Terry Murphy
The Colorado Kid, Dale Mike Rogers; The Bonanza Trail, John Dyson
The Shadow of the Gallows, Steven Gray; Two-Gun Trouble, Gillian F. Taylor; High Gun at Spurlock, Terrell L. Bowers; Buck and the Widow Rancher, Carlton Youngblood; Death Rides Alone, Dale Graham
|AND AS BLACK HORSE EXTRA E-BOOKS:
"A rider in faded
garb drifts into a Colorado mining town ringed by towering, near-bald crags.
. . The scene is set for another Chap O'Keefe western. The reader slips into
familiar territory, eager for all the reassuring touchstones . . . you could
as well have been watching a movie as reading a book . . . O'Keefe writes westerns with the
coolness of a hired gun."
– New Zealand Herald
"Chap O’Keefe has created some excellent characters in this book.
Lord Buckhampton really comes across as a pompous man you will be hoping
will get his comeuppance soon after you meet him. The book
moves quickly from beginning to end, and has many action-packed scenes.
Throughout the tale there is a growing attraction between Tod and Julia
but this can’t possibly become anything more than that, can it? There are
plenty of surprises along the way too, some of the characters not being
quite who they say they are. And a savage gang of outlaws adds further hardship
to the task of finding Buckhampton’s son. . . Definitely worth picking up
a copy, if you can find one."
– Western Fiction Review
READ AN EXCERPT HERE!
nothing about this I didn't enjoy ... I have two O'Keefe novels on
the way and this has whetted my appetite for them.... I'm loving this western.
I was travelling today and The Sheriff and the Widow was my book for the trip."
– David Cranmer,
of Beat To a Pulp
become a race against time, although those involved never know this. There
is also a surprising – and somehow fitting – death for one of the main characters,
a type of death you don’t read about that often in westerns... The Sheriff and the Widow is available now at a great, giveaway price..."
–Western Fiction Review
Read an excerpt here
"This book is a lot of fun, pulpish but with a sharp, contemporary edge. The dark, complex plot, the emotional angst, and the
gritty storytelling remind me very much of many westerns published in the
fifties by Gold Medal, by authors such as Lewis B. Patten, Dean Owen and
William Heuman. The pace is very fast,
the action scenes are handled well, and Joshua Dillard is a very likable
hero, tough and competent enough to handle just about any situation, despite
his occasional self-doubts, but not a superman by any means. I’m ready to
read more about him right now.... If you’re a fan of hardboiled action westerns,
I definitely think you’ll enjoy it."
– James Reasoner
"Take it from someone who has collected and read westerns for more than 40 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 ... aren't just shoehorned in to beef things up a bit. I have read
Chap O'Keefe for a long while now, but genuinely feel that this is his best
– David Whitehead,
aka Ben Bridges
"Read it earlier this week and it's terrific."
of Pulp Serenade
"One of Chap O'Keefe's early novels and the second
to feature range detective/hired gun Joshua Dillard. In this one, Dillard
gets a letter from his brother-in-law, who is serving as a deputy marshal
in a small town in Nebraska, asking him to come help prevent a range
war brewing in the sandhills area. At the same time,
Dillard is summoned to Omaha by a wealthy businessman who also has connections
in the sandhills. Naturally, the two cases turn out to be related, but
Dillard doesn't discover that until several attempts on his life,
in one of which he's shot and left for dead. Chap O'Keefe takes a traditional Western plot and as usual spins it into
something more with clever plot twists, well-developed and interesting characters,
and plenty of tough, hardboiled action scenes. Joshua Dillard has turned
into one of my favorite Western characters.... Available in an affordable ebook edition.... I highly recommend it."
– James Reasoner at his pulp blog Rough Edges
shows a darker side of the West.... O’Keefe mixes the bitter truths of Western
history with a compelling fictional narrative, and the result is
another winning Western drama....
The protagonist is Yale Cannon. Once a wild, gun-toting youth, he matured while
fighting for the Union in the Civil War and was eventually appointed
a Deputy Marshal. He may be older, wiser, and grayer, but he hasn’t
forgotten his youth – or the girl he loved, Jane Bell. So, when he is
ordered to proceed to Antelope to bring back wanted murderer William
Effingham, he decides to find out what happened to his old crush.
the town of Antelope has other plans in mind for the Deputy Marshal.
in Antelope, Cannon is mistaken for a cattle rustler cultist and
narrowly escapes a showdown. Investigating the matter further,
discovers the town’s boiling resentment towards Brother Abel Anson
Pryor and his followers who have taken over Jerusalem Pastures,
the locals are now calling Doomsday Mesa. Meanwhile, Cannon seeks
the town elder, the Reverend Ephraim McDowell, and his daughter,
schoolteacher Kate, to learn about Jane Bell. Disaster looms,
as tensions between the townspeople and the cult reach the breaking
point, and Cannon finds himself caught between two
firecrackers – Effingham and Pryor – and must save Kate’s reckless
sister, Rose, before she becomes victim to her own naïve delusions.
In Doomsday Mesa O’Keefe
has assembled a terrific ensemble cast whose individual stories
together a complex narrative layered with drama and anticipation ... O’Keefe excels at crafting rugged, independent, and
female characters that defy stereotype. Kate doesn’t fit the
conventional mould of a schoolmarm whose spinster ways melt at the
first sight of the hero. Far from it! Kate is a forthright
also cognizant of her responsibilities, both to the
and to her near-blind father. And of all the
characters in the book, Rose is perhaps the most relatable, human,
vulnerable of the bunch. Young, brash, and a romantic at heart, she
longs to run away with her lover and rebels against everything her
family stands for. How many of us were like that in our own youth?
Locating those universal emotions in his characters is what makes
O’Keefe’s West so compelling.... He doesn’t treat the
as some static, dusty entity, but engages with the emotional and
issues the way real people would have."
– Cullen Gallagher, Pulp Serenade