Tuesday 30 June 2009

The .45 Goodbye

as by Dempsey Clay
A Black Horse Western from Hale, June 2009

Outlaw Sonny Boy Clanton had it all: style, courage and a band of pards, loyal to the death. The whole county saw him as a hero – until he kidnapped the Governor’s daughter.

Following the uproar, the law, cavalry and citizens scoured the valley for outlaw and hostage, but all in vain.

Then came the quiet rancher who loved the Governor’s daughter and would find and save her or die.

Dempsey Clay starts his book with a number of different incidents that introduce the reader to a variety of characters that later will all become linked – some we find are linked by their pasts too.

The lure of amnesty, a chance to start anew, is one of the major story threads, the other being of love – that shared between two people and love that is one-sided. In fact the second of these is what leads to some dangerous situations fuelled by jealousy and the need to be wanted, the latter turning a somewhat already deranged outlaw into a dangerous psychopath who will risk all to tell the governor’s daughter how much he loves her, regardless of the consequences. This new trait of the outlaw leader giving birth to arguments among the outlaws, and their eventual falling-out that leads to a tense, three sided, final gunfight.

Like other Dempsey Clay (real name Paul Wheelahan) books I’ve read this moves forwards at tremendous pace, is filled with great characters, and a gripping plot. Clay’s descriptive passages paint vivid imagery within the minds eye too. What I also like about his writing is that you are never quite sure as to the outcome of the story and of who will be alive at the end.

This book has a release date of today (June 30th) but has been available for a couple of weeks already from internet book sellers. If you want a copy I’d suggest ordering it sooner rather than later as BHW has a tendency to sell-out fast!

Monday 29 June 2009

Lanigan and the She-Wolf

by Ronald Martin Wade
A Black Horse Western from Hale, June 2009

A surprisingly composed father hires Shawnee Lanigan to track down the bank robbers who abducted his 18-year-old daughter, Sara Beth. Later, Lanigan learns the gang is all female and is led by the ruthless ‘La Loba’. Despite grave misgivings, he tracks the gang to a hideout in the west Texas mountains. There, he is staggered to learn the real reason for the girl’s kidnapping.

After reporting his failure to rescue the girl, Lanigan takes a job supervising security for a mining operation. Then he unveils a plot and must ultimately face a vengeful mob. He knows that not all of them can make it out alive.

This, the second BHW in Ronald Martin Wades’ series about Shawnee Lanigan, is a little shorter than the book that introduced us to the half-breed man-hunter. Like that first book it is a fast flowing, action packed read filled with many fascinating characters, such as ‘La Loba’ herself and her gang of man hating women. Wade often refers to them as “bull dykes” and the description fits them well, although I’m not sure this term was used before the 1920s, still little things like that didn’t stop me from enjoying this book.

Once the first part of the story closes with Lanigan’s failure to return the kidnapped girl to her father and the second part begins you could easily be mistaken in thinking what you have here is two short stories held together by Lanigan’s involvement, but it isn’t long before a couple of twists are thrown in that link the two stories. I particularly liked the part where lawmen, a ranger, Lanigan and those just seeking financial reward argue over the fate of their prisoners.

Lanigan isn’t portrayed as a quick thinking, one jump ahead of everyone else, type of hero: he makes mistakes, puts himself in dangerous situations that could have been avoided, and this time let’s someone see behind the tough exterior he tries to present to other people.

Ronald Martin Wade wraps up his plotlines satisfactory and then throws in a savage sting-in-the-tail that leaves Lanigan speechless.

So far there hasn’t been any other Lanigan books announced but I’m hoping he will return soon.

Lanigan and the She-Wolf is officially released tomorrow (June 30th), but is already for sale from many internet booksellers.

Sunday 28 June 2009

The Outpost

as by Owen G. Irons
A Black Horse Western from Hale, June 2009

Cameron Black figured he was due for some luck. With a posse on his trail and the desert crawling with hostile Indians he finally managed to make it to the isolated army outpost. The trouble was the post was manned only by a skeleton crew of weary soldiers, among them three would-be deserters waiting for a chance to steal the army payroll. Also trapped inside by circumstances were a US marshal and his young prisoner and a group of female camp-followers. Among them was Cameron’s old-time lover. Even with the Comanches gearing up to attack the outpost, Cameron felt like making a dash across the desert, because there was nothing here but certain trouble.

Owen G. Irons brings together a great mixture of people, some of whom are at conflict with each other, but all sharing that need to survive – and some will do this at the expense of their companions lives. Old friendships are rekindled, whilst others begin new relationships. But can any live through the ever-growing menace of the gathering Comanches?

Lieutenant Young, the soldier left in charge of the outpost, has more to worry about than just the Comanches. His young wife is in desperate need of medical attention as she fights to live through a breech birth. This threat to her life, and the child within her, makes for some tense scenes, which strain the relationship between the Lieutenant and Black.

As you’ve probably gathered the book is character driven and Irons (real name Paul Lederer) well-crafted prose soon has you caring about them, even some of the “bad” guys – after all the books hero, Black, is an outlaw.

The book is very easy to read, the plot moving along at great speed, and even though the end is pretty much as expected, I liked how Black and Virginia’s future together is left under a slight question mark. All in all a gripping and exciting read.

Owen G. Irons is fast becoming one of my favourite BHW writers.

The Outpost has a publication date of June 30th, but is available now, and I’d suggest getting your order in as soon as possible before it sells out.

Friday 26 June 2009

The Tarnished Star

as by Jack Martin
A Black Horse Western from Hale, June 2009

All Sheriff Cole Masters wants is to raise a family with the woman he loves. However, upholding the law in an era when gunfire speaks louder than words can be a risky business. Cole makes an arrest for the brutal murder of a saloon girl but the killer is the son of a wealthy rancher and it is clear the old man will do anything to see his son set free. Soon the peace of the small town is shattered with deadly force and Cole finds himself a lawman on the run for murder. The rancher wants Masters dead and the two deadly gunmen on his trail are sure they can do it. Soon blood will run as Cole Masters attempts to reclaim his tarnished star.

The Tarnished Star is the first BHW from Jack Martin and what a debut it is! Martin starts his book after the murder so the reader is immersed straight into the action, sharing Sheriff Master’s frustrations and doubts. The story develops at great speed, and soon Masters has been framed and finds himself on the run, hunted by two well-drawn trackers, Boyd and Quill.

In fact Jack Martin’s characters are all well portrayed in his smooth flowing, fast moving plot, that is filled with exciting action sequences that seem to get more violent as the book gallops to its final showdown. The reason each fight seems more savage than the last could be that Martin describes them in more graphic detail with each exchange of bullets.

Overall the book fits the mould of a traditional western whose hero isn’t perfect, struggles to decided just how to deal with the situation he finds himself in, and doesn’t always make the best choices in these matters either, as he attempts to uphold the law and regain his badge. The story is told in hard-hitting prose that is very easy to read and entertains extremely well. With this book Jack Martin (real name Gary Dobbs) proves he’s a writer worth keeping an eye on.

This book has a publication date of June 30th 2009, but is available now. Don’t wait too long to order your copy as it’s selling out fast.

Don Coldsmith R.I.P

I'm sad to report that Don Coldsmith passed away yesterday. I've always been a big fan of his work, particularly his Spanish Bit Saga series. My thoughts are with his family and friends.

Wednesday 24 June 2009

Davy Crockett #8

as by David Thompson
Leisure, October 1988

Davy Crockett was driven by a powerful need to explore, to see what lay beyond the next hill. On a trip through the swamp country along the Gulf of Mexico, Davy and his old friend Flavius met up for the first time with Jim Bowie, a man who would soon become a legend of the West – and who was destined to play an important part in Davy’s dramatic life. Neither Davy nor Jim knew the meaning of the word “surrender,” and when they ran afoul of a deadly tribe of cannibals, they knew it would be a fight to the death.

Heading for home Davy Crockett and Flavius take a recommended route through the swamp country along the Gulf of Mexico. This is perhaps why this book stands out from the previous seven as all the action - and there’s plenty of that - takes place within these swamps, meaning the location for the book is totally different from the others, as is the wildlife encountered such as the alligators.

There are also suggestions of creatures of legend living deep within the swamps too.

Crockett and Bowie finding themselves taking on a tribe of cannibals allows David Robbins – writing as David Thompson - to include some particularly gruesome scenes into the story.

David Robbins also adds some interesting reading about Bowie, his family, and that knife!

The many cliff-hangers in this story, for all three main characters, Crockett, Bowie and Flavius, make this book very hard to put down, you just have to keep reading to find out what happens next and before you know it you find yourself on the last page, the last word. Unfortunately for fans of the Davy Crockett books it’s not only the end of this tale but also the series.

Did Crockett and Flavius make it home? You must read it yourself to find out.

Not only do I recommend this book but the whole series.

Friday 19 June 2009

Interview: John Paxton Sheriff

My next interview is with John Paxton Sheriff, who writes both crime novels and westerns. Of course I’ll be concentrating on John’s westerns but if you’d like to know more about his other work then click the link that can be found in Sites and Blogs of Interest, on the right of your screen. So without further ramble from me I’ll hand over to John, after saying thank you for agreeing to this interview.

When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?

It was 1959. I was twenty-two, a mechanic in the Royal Engineers, and living with my wife and two small children in rooms on the third floor of Café Central, Iserlohn, Germany. I went out and bought a Parker Slimfold fountain pen and began writing in a notebook. I've told this story many times: I had an idea for a gamekeeper walking into a moonlit clearing, and that's as far as it got; that gamekeeper is still there, and I often wonder what he's doing now!

A short while after that I did sell a short story to Soldier, the British Army magazine – but that was it for a long, long while. I wrote almost every night for the next ten years. Then, in 1969 and by then out of the army and living in Australia with my wife and three children, I began selling short stories to major glossy magazines. That was in New South Wales. When we moved to
Queensland I began selling crime stories to Adam, a pulp magazine published by K.G. Murray.

Over the years since then I've had general short stories published in major UK glossies, and crime short stories published by D.C. Thomson in Scotland and The Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, New York.

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

The first novel I had published was indeed a western. I was working as a creative writing tutor for Writer's News (I stayed with their correspondence college, working on Fiction (novels), Short Stories, Articles, and several other courses, for more than ten years), and happened to see an article on westerns written by John Blaze. At time I was feeling frustrated as I'd had crime novels rejected by several publishers, including Robert Hale (yes, I know, part of a writer's life and something we all put up with!)

My namesake, John Paxton Sheriff was a doctor who hung out his shingle in Texas and died there in – I think – 1951. From his foster child, my father used to receive magazines: Popular Mechanics; Mechanics Illustrated; True, the Man's Magazine – and lots of westerns! I read them all and, years later when I glanced through John Blaze's article, I at once thought that I could do that.

I was right. My first western, Brazos Guns, was accepted (after I had cut it from 55,000 words), and was published in 1996. The large print edition, by Dales/Magna, came out two years later.

Which writers influence you?

Where do I start?

I'm a big fan of classic crime writers from both sides of the Atlantic, such as Raymond Chandler,
Dashiell Hammett, Dorothy L Sayers, Margery Allingham, Agatha Christie. Modern crime writers I enjoy include Ian Rankin, Lawrence Block, Michael Connolly, Sue Grafton, and James Lee Burke. Burke is interesting in the context of this interview because, in my opinion, he writes lyrical crime novels that could be classed as modern westerns: they are set in Louisiana and Montana, and can be very violent.

As for western writers, well, I'm a big fan of Elmore Leonard, especially for his short stories. I read a lot of Max Brand, and I'm currently working my way through Owen Wister's The Virginian. One of Wister's short stories is a huge favourite of mine: At the Sign of the Last Chance; I recommend it to all western writers.

Which western writers would you recommend?

I think that's been answered. I'll add to those answers by recommending one book, The Ox -Bow Incident, by Walter Van Tilburg Clark. Did he write any others? I've no idea. But I do know that with that one he wrote a book that, if nothing else, sets the reader thinking very hard about many diverse issues.

How long does it take you to write a Black Horse western, and how do you go about it?

Mm. Well, on my web site I've said that I can write one in three weeks. By writing just a few more than 1,500 words every day, the Black Horse target of something like 115 double-spaced A4 pages can easily be reached in that time.

However, I don't often do that. I've written five since September 2008 – nine months – so that's nine weeks for each one.

As for how do I go about it, well, with the earlier books I simply dreamed up a simple situation – it might be nothing more than a weary rider letting his horse pick its way down a rocky slope towards a creek (Kid Kantrell, Jack Sheriff, 2000) – and began writing; the story would evolve from characters' actions and reactions.

Nowadays, since I began writing crime novels and my westerns have as a consequence become more complex, I do more plotting – but not much more!

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

A quick answer to that one: no, I don't. And then an immediate contradiction: yes, but only if one book is non-fiction, the other fiction. In other words, I never work on two fiction books at the same time.

Your westerns have been published under a number of pseudonyms: Jack Sheriff, Will Keen, Jim Lawless, Matt Laidlaw. How do you select your alias?

The names came out of the blue, obviously. As far as using them goes, I simply rotate them: use all four, then go back to the beginning. That's what I usually do. However, that leads me neatly into the next question:

Are all your westerns stand-alone titles, or are any part of a series?

I wrote a book called The Night Riders, which introduced Pinkerton man Charlie Pine. At the end of that book he told the main character, Jim Gatlin, that he would make a good agent. Recently, I decided to use that pair again – with Gatlin now an agent. That meant using a pseudonym out of sequence, so The Second Coffeyville Bank Raid (due out March 2010) was written by Matt Laidlaw, when it should have been Jim Lawless!

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

This is always a difficult question to answer, for any writer. I know my westerns have changed since I wrote that first one. Back then, in 1995/6, I used a lot of fancy (corny) western dialogue, a lot of clichés. So it would have to be something written, say, in the middle section of the past thirteen years.

The Deliverance of Judson Cleet was published in 2003, and dedicated to that namesake of mine I've mentioned who lived in Dallas, Texas. I think I tried to get a spaghetti western feel into this one: arid small town, the main character a loner with a past, and for the first time a young woman in the story who I thought actually fitted in and played a vital part. It was also quite thoughtful, philosophical: the deliverance in the title refers to Judson Cleet getting to know himself.

So, yes, that one, I think.

You write crime novels, do your westerns include elements from that genre?

Definitely. And that's one of the changes that's occurred as my writing has evolved. I think of my westerns now as crime novels set in the west, and of course that's why, lately, I've been doing more plotting than I did when I started out.

You've also written a number of non-fiction books to do with the craft of writing, and one on modelling toy soldiers. Tell us a little about those books.

These came directly from my newspaper work. For many years I was a freelance feature writer for two newspaper groups in North Wales – also doing new car tests and taking photographs.

It seemed to me that a book on writing advertising features might be acceptable to a publisher. I tried Allison & Busby, because I'd seen their writers' guides, it was accepted, and How to Write Advertising Features was published in 1995.

From there I naturally moved to a book on short story writing; as mentioned earlier, that's the way I began my writing career. Again, the book I came up with, Practical Short Story Writing, was accepted at once, this time by Robert Hale. That too was published in 1995, the second revised edition for Hale came out in 1998, and in 2000 a hardback edition was published by Barnes & Noble, New York.

My other books on writing technique followed on quite naturally: Writing Crime Novels (before I'd had one published!), and Creating Suspense in Fiction. The book, Modelling Toy Soldiers, was based on my own experience: I designed, manufactured and marketed toy soldiers from 1983 to about 1996. Many customers at that time said they were the world's best toy soldiers.

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


I see them as a novelty (an expensive one, and being heavily marketed by major firms) and, although I know some people will love them, I cannot see them replacing traditional books printed on paper. They're too wonderfully convenient, too easily picked up in casual spare moments, too easily dropped harmlessly when you fall asleep reading in bed.

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

In answer to the second part of the question, I believe there's an electronic computer game out now – and it's a western! That creates endless possibilities. Youngsters (and oldies) could get hooked on westerns through that computer game, and start looking at, and buying, western books.

As for what do I think of the genre today, well, I can't answer that with authority because I read authors from the past. I know another western writer, Tony Lewing (Mark Bannerman), and his books are fine. I like my own books (wow), but as I mentioned earlier I enjoy Max Brand, Elmore Leonard and others... which doesn't really answer your question.

What is your favourite western movie, and why?

Winchester '73. Because I've always been a sucker for any western starring James Stewart and featuring Dan Durea. Second favourite's probably The Good, The Bad and the Ugly.

Finally, what do you read for pleasure?

Anything and everything. As Stephen King said in his excellent book, On Writing, if you don't read, you stand no chance at all of becoming a writer.

I read books on writing technique. I've got Writing Horror, Writing the Private Eye Novel, both by Writer's Digest Books of Cincinnati, another book on writing crime by H.R.F. Keating. On my shelf as I write this I'm looking at Body Trauma, Deadly Doses, Cause of Death, Armed and Dangerous and Just the Facts, Ma'am, The Crime Writer's Handbook and The Crime Writer's Source Book, which are books on various subjects especially written for writers. Naturally, I'm also looking at Dictionary of The American West, and American Slang.

At the moment I'm buying, from Amazon, the crime novels of Georgette Heyer. She wrote twelve. I've got six. I chose them particularly because I read a lot of American crime novels and I believe that, over time, osmosis will change the way I write English – and I don't want that. So, currently I'm reading quintessentially English novels – and enjoying every minute.

Ask me again next month, and I'll probably be back with Michael Connelly and the Harry Bosch novels he sets in and around LA.

Thursday 18 June 2009

Western Adventure, Nov. 1957

Street & Smith’s
British Edition, Vol. 2, #5,
November 1957.

Featured Novelette:
Hoodoo Howdy – by Bob Carol
Short Stories:
Texans Pay Their Debts – by Ray Nafziger
Gun-smoke Grandstander – by Norman A. Fox
Grizzly Revenge – by George Cory Franklin
Dead Men Can Ride – by Mojave Lloyd

Not having read anything by these authors before, and only having heard of one, Norman A. Fox, I didn’t know what to expect from this collection. As I thought, though, there are stories/writers I enjoyed and those that didn’t inspire me to hunt out any more of their work.

I was surprised at how much Bob Carol managed to fit into his story of sabotage in the coal mining industry, there was plenty of action, twists, and he also manages to develop a love plotline too. Even though the traitor was easy to work out I found this to be a satisfying and entertaining read.

The next two stories were both readable with Norman A Fox providing the better of the two for me, although the ending hammered home a moral with too much force for my liking.

Grizzly Revenge was a little too unbelievable to me, I just found it stretching credibility to much for me, as I don’t believe two growing grizzly cubs would befriend man and be happy living in a cabin and eating a couple of slices of bacon at mealtimes.

The final story I gave up reading as I found it hard to follow and just didn’t want to take the time trying to work out what the characters were saying, far to much of this kind of thing: “An’ what’re ye wantin’ with all the dinnymite anyhow, ye impident spalpeen?” and “I might have stumick ulsters.”

After the stories there are three short factual articles on guns, outdoor cooking, and iron.

Overall I find these old pulp westerns fun to delve into between reading books, as they often contain some hidden gems.

Monday 15 June 2009

Book and Magazine Collector #309

Just thought I'd bring to everyones attention the July 09 issue of Book and Magazine Collector. It contains a seventeen page article written by Ben Bridges (David Whitehead) about his choices of the top 50 westerns books, with information about many of them, including how much they are worth. It makes for fascinating reading.

Amoung the other articles is an in-depth look at the work of Cormac McCarthy.

The magazine can be found in UK shops now - not sure about other countries, but it can also be ordered direct.

Saturday 13 June 2009

Lone Star #19

as by Wesley Ellis
Jove, February 1984

His real name was Von Eismann. Captured by Ki, sentenced to life for murder and sedition, now the dreaded German has escaped from the hellhole of Yuma Prison. When Eismann’s cronies kidnap Babette, the beautiful chanteuse who is also the warden’s daughter, Jessie and Ki must save the girl and bring the outlaws in.

This was a book I was looking forward to; the return of Von Eismann, the Iceman. An employee of the Cartel who Jessie and Ki had battled with in a number of previous books.

The writer behind the pseudonym of Wesley Ellis this time is Jeffrey M. Wallmann, who, wrote many books in the series including the first one.

Unfortunately this book didn’t live up to the expectations I had for it and Wallmann’s writing. I just didn’t find it very gripping and it came across very much as a formula western. Yes it was entertaining and had moments of exciting reading, especially Ki and Eismann’s fights, but at times it just seemed to plod along. Maybe it was also due to the fact that the two previous Lone Star books I read were so good?

Still this is a must read for those following the confrontations between the Lone Star Duo and The Iceman but if you’re new to the series I’d suggest trying a different one first.

Friday 12 June 2009


Having been tagged by Joanne Walpole to join in with the fun four posts currently appearing on blogs everywhere, I thought I'd give it ago.

Four Movies You Can See Over and Over
This is Spinal Tap
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Cross of Iron
Blade Runner

Four TV Shows You Love to Watch
Babylon 5
Law and Order: Special Victims Unit
Captain Scarlet

Four Places You Have Been on a Vacation
Various places in America
Algarve, Portugal
Lake District, Cumbria UK
Gower Peninsula, South Wales UK

Four of Your Favourite Foods
Mars Bars
Chicken stuffed with peaches

Four Websites You Visit Daily
Model Mayhem - here’s the link to my page.
GGG and the Piccadilly Cowboys
The Tainted Archive
Rough Edges

Four Places You Would Rather Be
Taking photographs
In the pub
At a rock concert
Dozing in the garden

Four Things You Hope to Do Before You Die
Read all the books I’ve collected (no chance!)
Photograph WW2 planes air to air
Become a grumpy old man

Four Novels You Wish You Were Reading for the First Time
The Rimfire Riders by John Robb - the book that started it all
Edge #11: Sioux Uprising – for the shocking ending
Chickenhawk by Robert Mason – powerful ending
Believed Violent by James Hadley Chase – got me into reading thrillers

Tag Four People You Believe Will Respond
Gary Dobbs
Chris – at the Louis L’Amour Project
Craig Clarke
Nik Morton

Monday 8 June 2009

Interview: Ed Gorman

Known as much for his crime novels as his westerns Ed Gorman has written many highly acclaimed books in both genres. I must take a moment to thank Ed for agreeing to answer my many questions and hope you all find his comments as interesting as I did.

When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?

From second or third grade on that’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted to be. Jack London hooked me and then Ray Bradbury and then I began writing my own little stories. I’ve worked in advertising, written and produced tv campaigns for politicians, written and produced industrial films but I never lost sight of my goal. So for the last almost thirty years I’ve been writing fiction full time and have been lucky indeed.

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

My first three novels were suspense but I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to do the first drafts of three different western series novels. I learned a lot from that experience and more importantly it gave me the confidence to write my own western, which was Guild.

Which writers influence you?

I’m never sure how to answer that. Dozens of writers have influenced me over several decades of reading. As for western writers influencing me I’d have to say Loren Estleman, Brian Garfield and Elmore Leonard.

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

Right now I’d opt for Clifton Adams’ Desperado and A Partnership With Death--Partnership has one of the most gripping first pages I’ve ever read. It’s not action, it’s introspection—how the bleak landscape defines the protagonist.

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

That was for my short story “The Face” which is an anti-war story based on my reading of the journals of a Southern doctor who performed battlefield surgery. Though I don’t think he intended it to be, it’s a powerful anti-war statement. (The Face can be found in the two books below)

Are you planning to write more books about Guild and Dev Mallory?

Afraid not. There’s just no market for them. The Dev Mallory books not only earned out I made some royalties but it didn’t matter because they cancelled all their westerns.

You wrote the Brothers in Blood series as David St. James. I always wished there were more than three, why did the series come to an end?

I’m smiling at your question first because I don’t know how you ferreted out that pen-name and second of all because they died without a trace. I got a number of angry reader letters about them. Too much sex, too much back story and too many liberties with the Canadian Mounted Police. Of course I got a few letters from people who liked them, too, one from an Australian man who’d written a number of Mountie novels himself. He seemed to like them especially. But as I said they went nowhere.

Do you prefer writing stand-alone stories or series books?

Stand alones. I like the fresh start number one and number two I hate having to look back through previous novels to get character histories etc. right. I’m lazy for one thing and for another I tend to see all the things I could have done better when I reread.

Do you prefer writing in the first or third person?

I think my natural voice is stronger in the first person though if I can really connect—really find the human center of the book—then the third person is preferable because you can do so many more things with it. I have a very long very dark suspense novel coming from Leisure in July called The Midnight Room. I spent seven months on it. I’d been writing first person straight on for several years so I struggled with Midnight at first. But when I finally got going I told a far richer and far more suspenseful story than I ever could have in first person.

Do you write more than one book at a time?

Not really or not exactly anyway. I may write a chapter or two and start thinking of the plot for a forthcoming book—I’m doing that right now—but I prefer to stay “in” the book at hand. I need that intensity of focus.

Many of your westerns have strong mystery/crime elements, is this something you consciously plan or is this just the way you’ve developed as a writer?

The mystery element just developed. I wasn’t even aware of it. The crime element is conscious. I have an enormous book that contains something like 500 brief biographies of all types of criminals in the 1800s. East, west, south, midwest. While there were certainly crimes particular to the west (cattle rustling etc.) most of the criminality was the same as that in New Hampshire.

Do you find it as easy to write books in a series created by someone else, and that is multi-authored under a single pseudonym, as it is to write a series of you own?

All books are a struggle for me. I have a reputation for being prolific but as my friend James Reasoner says a professional does the best job he can with whatever project is at hand. I’ve spent just as much time with series books as I have with my own stand alones. It’s frustrating as hell but that’s just my process. The multi-authored series I’ve worked on didn’t require anything more than minimal consistency of character for the hero so in effect the books were stand-alones. That was a blessing. I worked on a suspense project once—only once--where the rules were so rigid it sapped all the pleasure out of doing the work.

You’ve written a fair number of Trailsman books as Jon Sharpe, do you think the adult content of these, and similar series, is still a major selling point for these books and do you think these series would still sell well without it?

Well, look at the Gunsmith books by Bob Randisi. He’s written more than three hundred books in the series. Bob developed an approach that has now spanned three decades and is still going strong. He’s a great storyteller—really inventive--and his readers have never tired of his approach.

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

Well one that’s easy to come by right now is Guild, which Leisure just republished. The other one is Ghost Town which they’ll have to order from a used site online. Ghost Town and Wolf Moon are the westerns that pretty much achieved what I tried to do.

You’ve co-edited a number of anthologies, how did you decide which authors to ask to write for them?

There are so many good writers in all genres, so many writers I’m excited about reading, that it’s easy to make a list and start pounding on their doors.

Many anthologies include stories by Louis L’Amour, why is this?

Because he’s the only big name in western fiction. There’s Louis and there’s everybody else. At the time of his death he had something like 75% of all available rack space for westerns.

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

I’m a Luddite but yes, I think some form of electronic reading will come to dominate the market some day. Technology will make it easy and simple. But I think there’ll always be books. Look at music. The industry figured out how to soak us with CDs—much cheaper to produce than vinyl and yet they charge much more than vinyl. But vinyl’s coming back. More and more new releases appearing now because music on vinyl sounds better. I can’t tell you why but my son—who prefers vinyl—sure can.

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

I'd have to say that right now the future looks bleak. Not because of the writers. There are more good western writers today than ever before. But it's the perception of the publishers that the field is played out in terms of major sales. To me that's true in this sense: Dashiell Hammett said that the private eye was really the cowboy hero brought into the city from the range. Now cops-especially violent ones-are the new cowboys because we're an urban society. There may be a way to reinvigorate sales of our field but I don't have a clue as to how to do it.

What is your favourite western movie and why?

That depends on the day you ask me. Right now I’d say the westerns directed by Anthony Man, The Naked Spur in particular. I know I’ll get kicked out the church for saying this but I’ve never been much for John Ford. Too much Irish cornball for me, the exceptions being My Darling Clementine, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence and of course The Searchers. I also like the Randolph Scott-Budd Boetticher movies very much. Burt Kennedy, who wrote the majority of them, really knew what he was doing.

Finally what do you read for pleasure?

Just about everything. On my night stand now I have The Collected Stories of Irwin Shaw, Tender is The Night by Scott Fitzgerald, The Goodbye Look by Ross Macdonald, The Listening Walls by Macdonald’s wife Margaret Millar, the horror stories of Robert E. Howard and two Gold Medal westerns from the Fifties by Marvin Albert. Plus I have four or five new comic books. So it’s a real hash, my reading habits.

Saturday 6 June 2009

The Judge #6

as by Hank Edwards
Harper, January 1992

Lawlessness runs rampant in Missouri due to outlaws who are still killing for the dead Confederate cause. The worst gang operates in Cass County – farmers and store clerks by day, bandits and butchers by night. One of this gang has been captured, and the Attorney General wants Clay Torn to be the presiding judge at what could be a violent murder trial.

But to do his job, Clay must deal with ghosts of his own past, because the leader of the Cass County gang is Hadley Fourcade…and he and Clay have been trying to kill each other for fifteen years.

Having the Judge come face to face with Hadley Fourcade allows the author – Jason Manning writing as Hank Edwards – to fill in some of the back-story of Clay Torn. The long running feud began before the Civil War and many of chapters go back into the past to tell how this came about and how this continued through the War, and how the hatred grew.

The Civil War parts of the story are told in a factual way, occasionally coming over like a history lesson, and I wished that more time was taken to cover the actual battles. Although the clashes between the North and South are well told, I think more could have been made of the horrors of the battles Torn found himself in.

The story told in the books present threw in a number of surprises as to the identity of a couple of characters, and you had to wonder how Torn and the small group of lawmen he rode with could emerge victorious against such overwhelming odds.

Overall this book was an entertaining read that will, perhaps, be of more interest to fans of The Judge series, due to it telling of Clay Torn’s past, than a first time reader of this series. To the latter I’d suggest trying a couple of the earlier books first.

Thursday 4 June 2009

Wilderness #60

as by David Thompson
Leisure, June 2009

The warrior was alone. After a bloody, unthinkable act, he’d been banished from his tribe. Now he was forced to survive in the wilds by himself. If only he at least had a woman… In a remote valley teeming with wildlife, he finds one. Desperate for companionship, regardless of the colour of her skin, he takes her. But this woman’s already been claimed. And her man, a wildcat named Zach King, won’t let her go without a fight – to the death.

David Thompson yet again creates a strong, powerful – yet tragic – character in The Outcast, a man who will long remain in this readers mind. David Thompson doesn’t reveal why this character is an outcast straight away but keeps hinting at his back- story thus adding an intriguing hook that ensured this reader would find this book difficult to put down. Once the reason for him being cast out of his tribe is revealed it helps explain why he kidnaps Lou instead of killing her as he first intends.

There are many humorous moments and comments to balance the more savage and heart rendering aspects of this story, such as the struggle for man and woman to understand each other’s way of thinking.

The strength of love, and the lengths that someone will go to in order to protect their loved ones is a strong element of this book – indeed the entire Wilderness series – and it isn’t just Zach who is affected with the abduction of Lou. Shakespeare is shocked by the near death of Blue Water Woman, and David Thompson (David Robbins) writes some very moving scenes as Shakespeare resists the urge to accompany Zach, in his search for Lou, and stay behind to tend to his wife.

The book is brim full of action too, as Zach attempts to track The Outcast and free his wife. The life threatening traps he has to avoid, the superbly described slide down the mountainside due to having to traverse treacherous talus. And if the battle of wits between Zach and The Outcast isn’t enough, unbeknown to either of them, death stalks them both in the form of another group of revenge seeking Indians that will cause further complications that have a savage and exciting part to play in the struggle to regain Lou’s freedom.

Does Zach manage to free Lou from her captor? That’s something I’m not prepared to reveal here, all I will say is the book has a violent and emotionally moving ending that may come as a surprise.

Monday 1 June 2009

Bad Day in Babylon

as by Clayton Nash
A Black Horse Western from Hale, May 2009

After seven years married to Steve Bannister, Linda discovered to her horror that she really didn’t know her husband at all. Settled in a good town with a suitable lifestyle, she was now faced with a sudden move. It could be in the middle of the night – or the middle of a meal – such was the threat of danger.

Steve’s past was catching up with him. And the only way it could be stopped was with a smoking gun.

Once again Clayton Nash (real name Keith Hetherington) has written a very fast moving story that proves to be very difficult to put down. It’s filled with fascinating characters on both sides of the law and you have to wonder how Bannister can possibly protect his family from the heavy odds stacked against him.

The first thing Bannister has to do is get his wife and daughter hidden away safely and then he can take the fight to his enemy, using hit and run tactics that end in an explosive, nail-biting climax.

Hetherington packs a lot into this short book, gunfights, murder, savage beatings, rape, kidnap, and an exciting chase of a train, and more. He even manages to include mention of one of his other characters, Bronco Madigan – who appears in books under two of Hetherington’s pseudonyms, Clayton Nash and Hank J. Kirby – and these brief mentions have me eager to hunt down some of these books to find out more about the missing lawman Madigan.

If you like books filled with well described action and excellent dialogue then I suggest you buy a copy of this now before it sells out. Bad Day in Babylon was officially published on May 29th.