Monday, 22 March 2010

Interview: Robert Vaughan

My latest interview is with Robert Vaughan who has been writing for 53 years and during that time has seen round 350 books published, of which roughly 100 have been westerns.

When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?

I have always wanted to be a writer. Before I could write or read, I would make squiggly marks on a tablet, then make my mother, grandmother, or aunt listen to my stories.

What was the first novel you had published and if this wasn’t a western what was your first western?

My first novel was action/adventure novel about a bar in Korea where all the bar-girls were N. Korean spies. It was called Girls of Carnation House...published when I was 19. My first Western was probably a Jake Logan Western.....Cheyenne Bloodbath, I think.

 Which writers influence you?
Ernest Hemingway, James Jones, Herman Wouk, Joseph Heller, Bill Butterworth (WEB Griffin).

Which past western would you like to see back in print and why is this?

I would like to see YESTERDAY'S REVELLIE back in is one of four that I have written about Custer and is, I think, the best one I have done.

Which western writers working today would you recommend?

I think Jory Sherman is as good a Western writer as any we have ever had.

Do you work on more than one book at a time?

I do a lot of books, but I do them serially. I can't work on more than one book at a time.

You’ve written westerns under a variety of pseudonyms, such as Jake Logan, Lee Davis Willoughby, B.J. Lanagan, Hank Mitchum, James Calder Boone, and Dale Colter, and I was wondering if you’ve enjoyed writing for any particular series more than others?
I've also written as T.J. Jack, K.C. McKenna, Ralph Compton, and another, best selling Western author whose name I can't disclose. I enjoyed writing the Stagecoach series as Hank Mitchum.

You’ve won a Spur Award, what was this for?

I won the SPUR for SURVIVAL, a story of the Donner Party. I wrote it as K.C. McKenna.

Which of your westerns would you recommend to someone who hasn’t read any of your work yet and why?

Again, I think I would say Yesterday's Reveille...which I wrote under my own name.

You wrote the book ‘Andersonville’, did you watch the series or just use the screenplay to base the book on?

I had a treatment for the screen play and wrote from that treatment. The book came out before the miniseries.

You wrote a series of books based on the TV series ‘The Wild Wild West’, are there any other TV western series you’d like to write books about?

I would like to do Gunsmoke, I think. That was my favorite TV Western.

What was it like being the host for three TV talk shows?

Fun, and hectic.

I believe you’ve put on a number of writer's retreats and conferences, could you tell us a little about these?

I enjoy them...people who come to them don't really learn anything new, I don't think, but they come to them to meet other writers...and to be motivated. I am more of a motivational speaker than I am an instructor. I'm not doing it this year, but for fifteen years I have hosted WRITE ON THE BEACH, where three writers come spend a week with me in my beach house and I work with them on their projects. It has been a very successful project, but it is exhausting for me, and I am getting old. Now I prefer to work with writers by long distance.

Other than westerns, what is your favourite genre to write in and why?

I like historical novels. I did a series for Bantam called AMERICAN CHRONICLES which was a decade by decade account, in novel form, of the 20th Century. I also did a five book series of WWII called THE WAR TORN, in which each book had as its main character, someone from one of the belligerent nations. America, Germany, France, Japan, and England.

How did your friendship with Bill Butterworth, better known as the best-selling military novelist W.E.B. Griffin, come about?

I met Bill over fifty years ago when we were both at Ft. Rucker, AL... he as a civilian working for the army, and I was in the army.

You’ve written books with other authors, such as ‘The Masada Scroll’ and ‘Armor of God’ with Paul Block, how do you go about such a joint venture?

Paul was my editor for a while when I was writing for Book Creations. We worked well together and became close friends and decided to do these books together.

Do you think paper produced books will ever be replaced with electronic books?

I hope not.

What do you think of the western genre today and what do you think the future holds for the western?

I think there will always be is the only truly American story. And we have some very good Western writers out there now. I won't name them because I might leave someone out that I don't intend to. But I think the genre is in good hands.

What is your favourite western movie and why?

Shane is my favorite incorporates all of the classic good verses evil, greedy big rancher verses the smaller rancher.... and Jack Palance made the best villain ever.

Finally what do you read for pleasure?

I’m pretty eclectic, I enjoy a good Western novel, I like good historical novels, and novels with a military theme.



A great intreview - with an impressive back list to talk about. Keep em coming.

James Reasoner said...

Excellent interview with a writer who's been a major player in the Western genre and the paperback field in general for a long time . . . and who also happens to be a fine writer and a great guy.

Laurie Powers said...

Fantastic interview, Steve, and I appreciate the book covers too. I learned a lot about this writer and I now want to read his Custer novel.

RJR said...

As usual, Steve, a great interview with one of my most accomplished colleagues.


madshadows said...

Another excellent interview, thanks to you and Robert for doing it Steve :)

Talk about prolific and in so many genre's as well, amazing !!

John :)

Matthew P. Mayo said...

Hi Steve,
Thanks for the interview. I'm a longtime reader of Mr. Vaughan's work and now I find there are so many more titles to track down. And that's fine with me!

Thanks, Steve.


Benjamin Thomas said...

Another great interview! I've read quite a few of these books but never realised the different pen names were all one man...pretty incredible contribution to the genre. And WEB Griffin is great too.

Walker Martin said...

I just ordered the Custer novel from a third party seller on It may be out of print but used copies are very inexpensive.

Katt said...

What a gentleman. It is nice to see a great author who says good things about the western genre and the writers who are out there today. When he didn't mention names for the fear he'd forget someone, I knew this man has class. I'd love to get ahold of his book about the Donner Party. Being a Coloradoan, I find that story interesting both the story and historically. Thanks for a great interview!

larrygebert said...

another great interview,also great job on the reviews.check this site everyday............thanks

Linda Jacobs said...

I had the privilege of attending Write on the Beach more than once. Dick is right in that there was no formal instruction - but I did learn a lot just talking to him about the business both before and after I was published. He's grand in person, and on paper in his many books.