Monday 31 August 2009

Arizona Pay-Off

as by Duke Patterson
A Black Horse Western from Hale, August 2009

When Tex Scarron, six feet of whipcord steel, rode home to the Bar X in Arizona, he found Parson Dean and his gang working a lucrative ‘protection’ racket. Any rancher who failed to pay up had his cattle rustled, his homestead burnt about his ears and his cowhands shot in the back.

Tex’s earlier experience fighting hoodlums came in handy, and the gunplay was fast and furious before he rid the territory of the Parson, solved the mystery that lay behind the racket, and incidentally found happiness with the mysterious outlaw girl whose trail had so often crossed with his own.

Like one of the other books released by Hale this month, Arizona Pay-Off has previously been published way back in 1954, whether under this title and as by Duke Patterson I don’t know. Like the other book this one is also a much longer read than many Black Horse Westerns. Again it comes in a the usual page length but the print is much smaller, there are more lines per page and chapters don’t start on a new page, they begin a couple of lines down from the end of the previous chapter.

The writing style is, I’d imagine, a product of its time – I haven’t read that many westerns from the 1950’s – and many terms used I’d have thought would have been more at home in a crime novel than a western; guns being referred to as rods, women being called dames and skirt, and trouble-makers as hoodlums, for instance. Perhaps those of you who have read more westerns from this time period could let me know if these terms were used regularly in westerns?

Tex Scarron sure has his work cut out for him as he finds himself trading bullets and wits constantly as he attempts to work out just what is going on in this part of Arizona and why. It soon becomes apparent that there is more than one person behind the troubles and the identity of this person is kept a secret by the author until he’s ready to reveal all, and this discovery came as a surprise to me. But the writer has more in store for both his characters and the reader by adding a neat twist nearer the end.

Arizona Pay-Off would fit under the traditional western umbrella in my mind, a tough hardboiled writing style full of entertaining characters that’ll have you wondering to their motives. Plenty of action and a touch of mystery lead to a final showdown that ties-up all the loose ends.

Arizona Pay-Off has its official release today, so if this book sounds like the type of story you enjoy then I’d suggest getting your order in soon as Black Horse Westerns tend to sell out fast.

Sunday 30 August 2009

Dragonfire Trail

As by Hank J. Kirby
A Black Horse Western from Hale, August 2009

You could call them ‘blood brothers’: they had shed plenty of their own blood during the savage battles of the War. And it had mingled more than once.

Afterwards, they rode together, getting into and out of scrapes, watching each other’s back, sidekicks and friends. Then that old enemy and infamous disrupter struck gold. Lots of it. Already tainted with blood.

The only way it could be settled was over blazing guns.

This book gallops forwards at a pace that’ll take your breath away. Hank J. Kirby (author Keith Hetherington) grabs the readers’ attention from the very beginning with a failed stagecoach robbery – or was this what was intended? From then on he weaves a trail laced with the mystery of missing gold that it’s said is protected by a dragon. A dragon? That was more than enough to keep me reading, hooked in finding out just what this dragon was.

The story is filled with well-described gunfights and fistfights, an exciting prison escape, betrayal, and greed. The explanation of what the dragon is was beautifully told and painted a very vivid image in my mind, this dragon also providing a nail biting and tense finale.

I found Dragonfire Trail to be such a good read that I read it in one sitting, didn’t intend to but the authors writing style just made the book so easy to read that I’d reached the end almost before I realised it. For me, Keith Hetherington, has written a book that’ll definitely have me on the lookout for more of his work.

Dragonfire Trail has an official release date of August 31st but is available now, and I’d recommend putting your order in as soon as possible before it sells out.

Saturday 29 August 2009

Western Fiction News

Express Westerns have announced the listing for their second anthology. As yet untitled this collection will contain twenty-one short stories specially written for this book. The stories come from previously published authors and a handful of newcomers, one of the latter being the first story from sixteen year old Chantel Foster - writing as Peter Avarillo, an interview with Chantel can be found here. The book is to have an introduction by James Reasoner.

Dead Man Talking by Derek Rutherford
Lonigan Must Die! by Ben Bridges
Billy by Lance Howard
The Man Who Shot Garfield Delany by I.J. Parnham
Half a Pig by Matthew P Mayo
Bloodhound by Courtney Joyner
More Than Meets the Eye by Gillian F Taylor
Big Enough by Chuck Tyrell
One Day in Liberty by Jack Giles
Shadows on the Horizon by Bobby Nash
On the Run by Alfred Wallon
The Gimp by Jack Martin
Visitors by Ross Morton
The Nighthawk by Michael D George
Darke Justice by Peter Avarillo
Angelo and the Strongbox by Cody Wells
The Pride of the Crocketts by Evan Lewis
Crib Girls by Kit Churchill
Man of Iron by Chuck Tyrell
Cash Laramie and the Masked Devil by Edward A Grainger
Dead Man Walking by Ed Ferguson

If you'd like to read my thoughts on Express Westerns first anthology, Where Legends Ride, they can be found here.

If you're a fan of David Thompson's Wilderness series you may be interested to know that Leisure have begun publishing the series in special limited edition large print editions, each containing two books.

Leisure are also publishing the series in audio.

Thursday 27 August 2009


as by John Long
A Black Horse Western from Hale, August 2009

Jeff Rand, a feared and vengeful gunslinger since his family were murdered, is persuaded by Jim Miller to give up his gunning and join him in peaceful gold mining. All goes well until one day Jeff returns to camp to find Miller murdered and the gold stolen.

Jeff rides off in a black mood of revenge. But after a saloon fracas, he is forced by gunmen to take part in a bank raid. Then the raiders are ambushed, and though Jeff escapes with half the gang, they accuse him of informing and beat him up.

Can Jeff extricate himself? Can he clear his name and can he bring the murderers to justice? Lead must fly before he can find the answers.

I’m not sure as to the real identity of John Long, is this his real name or a pseudonym? Was Gunhawk the book’s original title and who first published it? The copyright page states the book was first published in 1957. The book is longer than most Black Horse Westerns being written today; does have the usual number of pages but the print is much smaller resulting in more lines per page, the margins are narrower too.

The story is full of hard men, many taking another life just to prove they have the ability to draw and kill someone faster than others. The main character, Jeff Rand, fits this mould too, but we also get to share his fear of some of the faster gunmen in the outlaw gang he reluctantly finds himself riding with. The author creates an air of loneliness and despair in Rand extremely well, making the reader care about Rand, want him to succeed in his quest to find out who killed his friend, Jim Miller, and fulfil his need for revenge.

The outlaw gang is full of strong, and memorable, personalities, all seemingly waiting for the simmering mistrusts to explode in violent acts at any moment, which they frequently do, in fast brutal action.

Due to the story’s age some of the words used by the author would, perhaps, not be used so often today, for instance Rand has many ‘queer feelings’ about many things, and there’s some old-time cowboy language used too, but not as much as I was expecting. For a long time I also thought there wouldn’t be any female characters turning up in the tale, but a couple did, eventually, but only briefly.

I found Gunhawk to be an entertaining read, full of gritty action that sees much of its story examining the darker side of life, of human nature. So if you enjoy the more hardboiled approach to your reading then this could well be the ideal choice for you.

Gunhawk has an official release date of August 31st, but should be available from Internet booksellers now.

Tuesday 25 August 2009

Gannon's Law

by Peter Wilson
A Black Horse Western from Hale, August 2009

When Sheriff Jim Gannon’s wife-to-be Kate is gunned down by a sniper it triggers off a chain of events that brings the lawman into a bitter conflict with bullying Jack Clayton and his sons. Gannon is drawn into a web of treachery, robbery and murder involving stolen Union gold and a mysterious renegade Confederate soldier – Clay McIntire.

Only after tracking down the outlaw gang and learning of their secret past does Gannon realize that his life is in danger from friend and foe alike. But does the knowledge come too late?

Peter Wilson’s second Black Horse Western is just as good as his first Guns of Virtue, filled with well-drawn characters and vivid descriptions. From the opening sequence you’ll be sharing Gannon’s frustrations and then his grief to the loss of Kate. As the story unfolds so the various plot twists will hook the reader and you have to begin to wonder how Gannon can emerge victorious and avenge Kate’s death. Many of the characters aren’t quite whom they seem to be either.

Peter Wilson’s writes in an easy to read style and moves the plot forward a break-neck speed that includes an exciting flashback to events set during the Civil War that provides the backbone to the story.

Gannon’s Law strengthens my belief that Peter Wilson is an author worth keeping an eye on. This book has an official release date of August 31st but is available now from many Internet booksellers.

Saturday 22 August 2009

Elmer Kelton passes away

Today is a sad day indeed as one of the greatest western writers has passed on this morning. Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Elmer Kelton.

Friday 21 August 2009

Gun Fury

as by Walt Keene
A Black Horse Western from Hale, August 2009

Veteran gunfighter Tom Dix and his pal Dan Shaw get a telegraph message from the remote border town of Gun Fury. Both men know that it must be serious for their friend Wild Bill Hickok to contact them. They saddle up and ride knowing that something perilous is brewing.

Death awaits and greets them as soon as the reach Gun Fury. Within hours bodies start to pile up. And the curious thing is that the infamous Hickok claims he never sent for them. Trapped, Dix and Shaw have to fight for their lives in Gun Fury.

Of the many Black Horse Westerns I’ve read this is one of the first I can recall that features a real person from the history of the West. In this case his inclusion is an important factor to the major plot thread of the book, even though for the most part of the story Hickok is just a background character.

Tom Dix and Dan Shaw are the main players in this fast moving, easy to read book, that immediately captures the readers attention with questions as to why Hickok would send for retired lawman Shaw and ex-convict/gunfighter Dix – if he indeed did.

The book gradually builds to its exciting final showdown through a number of tense confrontations that have Dix and Shaw facing crazed gunmen and a rancher that has those who remain in the dying town of Gun Fury in a grip of fear. If that isn’t enough the arrival of top gunfighter Will Fontaine adds to the problems.

Walt Keene is a pseudonym of Michael D. George and Gun Fury is his sixth BHW under this name, going by the other titles listed at the front of the book. If traditional, straightforward, westerns are your preferred choice in the genre then I’d suggest you get your order in soon. The book is officially published on August 31st but is available now from many Internet booksellers.

Tuesday 18 August 2009

Longarm #26

as by Tabor Evans

Jove, November 1980

At Dragon Bluff, rival archaeologists warred for a cache of priceless dinosaur fossils…angry Arapahos rose up to protect their land and its riches…and hired guns were primed and ready, for sale to the highest bidder.

Longarm rides into the “Great Dinosaur War” to put an end to the violence – and enjoy the favours of a fiery teamster who claimed to be more woman than any man could handle!

The plot of the book makes a welcome change from fortune hunters digging up Indian lands for gold, even though much of the story follows a similar pattern to many of the westerns that use that theme. Due to the hunt being for dinosaur remains means the author could add a lot of fascinating information about them, and it’s one of these beliefs that the archaeologists are racing to prove is true, that provides the conflict between the rival groups of bone hunters.

The author (William C. Knott writing as Tabor Evans) includes some great character studies, such as the teamsters, the women that all seem eager to offer themselves to Longarm and also lead to many of his problems, the Indians, a Reverend and his flock, but it’s the archaeologists themselves who prove the most entertaining with their eccentric ways, particularly when the start bickering at each other.

There’s loads of action and nail-biting races against time – which a couple of times seemed a bit to impossible to win but were won – and a truly great ending that painted some very vivid images in my minds eye.

100 Should Have Reads

I've been tagged by Joanne Walpole to post this, so decided to give it ago. The BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books on the list below. Those in bold I've read, hmmm, not quite as the BBC believes...

Dunno what happen to book #26... it doesn't turn up on any of the blogs I've seen taking part in this.

I now have to tag another five bloggers so we can see which books on the list they've read, so step forward, James Reasoner, Bill Crider, Ed Gorman, Ray Foster, and Nik Morton.

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible (parts of it)
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveler’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Graham
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma-Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell (had to read this at school)
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding (another school read)
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Inferno – Dante
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Saturday 15 August 2009

.45-Caliber Deathtrap

by Peter Brandvold
Berkley, November 2007

Life’s been pretty good for Cuno Massey since he went into the freight business with Wade Scanlon. That is, until Scanlon stops in at a saloon and gets shot dead by a band of outlaws. When Massey comes upon his friend in a pine box with his freight wagon plundered and burned, he has one goal: to find the killers.

Led by the notorious bank robber Clayton Cannady, the outlaws have raised hell across the countryside, leaving a trail of dead bodies in their wake. Now, allied with a bartender and a Chinese man whose daughter was kidnapped by Cannady’s gang, Massey won’t rest until his friend’s death has been avenged and the outlaws have paid for their sins in blood…

Saying Peter Brandvold’s stories are action packed is an understatement. Virtually every chapter of this fast moving book contains some kind of violence, usually graphically described. His bad guys are viciously evil and his heroes fall more into the anti-hero role than the squeaky clean white hats of yesteryear, and life is cheap.

The story is extremely fast paced and follows both Massey’s hunt and the trail of bloodshed Cannady and his outlaws create more or less equally, giving the reader insights into what makes both hunter and hunted tick. The Chinese man, Kong, is just as well presented and makes for an excellent sidekick for Massey.

As if tracking down Cannady isn’t a big enough headache for Massey, Peter Brandvold has Cuno meeting up with a person from his past, which will lead to treachery and more problems that can only be solved with a gun.

If you like books filled with savage violence, a smattering of sex, and brutal characters, then make sure you don’t miss this one.

The next Cuno Massey book, .45-Calibre Firebrand, is published in September 2009.

Tuesday 11 August 2009

Claw #1

as by Matthew Kirk

Granada, 1983

Trained to live by the strength of his hand…he would learn to kill by the power of his CLAW

Blacksmith Tyler Wyatt was not a man to go looking for trouble, but trouble found him the day Vance Jennings and his gang hit town. They took away his wife, his home…and his left hand. They gave him in return a searing lust for death and revenge that nothing – no matter how bloody – could ever satisfy.

This series was the last to come from the group of British writers known as the Piccadilly Cowboys, and Angus Wells wrote all six books.

Like most of the western series from this group of authors the first book sees the hero’s happy life destroyed and him setting out on the revenge trail.

The book begins with Wyatt about to torture and kill a lawman in his quest to track down and kill Jennings and his gang. How Wyatt came to be on this vengeance trail is told in a series of flashbacks, which form the major part of this story, the book ending not that much further into the future than were it began. Like all good serials this one doesn’t see Wyatt fulfilling his mission to kill all the men who wronged him, thus ensuring you’ll buy the next book to see what happens next.

Angus Wells probably wrote the most descriptive books when it came to the actual killings and brutality than any of the other PC authors and, with this series, he perhaps out-does even himself. Many of the violent acts, be they rape, torture, or killing, are depicted in savage detail, often taking a couple of pages to describe. The destruction of Wyatt’s hand and its subsequent amputation being cases in point. Of course having Wyatt replace his hand with a claw allows Wells to write even more gruesome death scenes as this is Wyatt’s preferred weapon for dealing out his form of justice.

The story moves swiftly from one bloody act to another and it’s interesting to observe the changes Wyatt goes through as each new horror befalls him and those he loves. Jennings and his gang are equally well drawn and the book sets up the revenge theme that will continue over the course of the next two books extremely well.

I always thought it a shame the cover artist, Roger Payne, didn’t paint the claw a little more like it’s described by Angus Wells but it’s not that far off.

Due to it’s extreme graphic violence the Claw series wont be to everyone’s tastes but if you like the other PC westerns then I’d say it’s a safe bet that you’ll enjoy this one too.

Saturday 8 August 2009

The Trailsman #333

as by Jon Sharpe

Signet, July 2009

Sioux territory is no place for a sane man, but that’s where Fargo finds himself guiding a blustery senator, his beautiful new wife, and their bratty daughter. And the hunting party soon becomes prey to some mighty warriors led by a medicine man with dangerous magic and a bloodcurdling hatred of the Trailsman. Fargo will have to pull more than one rabbit out of his hat if he doesn’t want to end up vulture bait.

David Robbins (writing as Jon Sharpe) comes up with some superb characters in this book, from Senator Keever, his wife, and their daughter Gerty – a child who really wants a good slap, or more, and soon had this reader hoping she’d meet a grizzly end. There are other well-drawn characters too including Owen and Lichen, and the medicine man, Little Face. All these people may or may not be who they say they are, or be telling the truth about their reasons for being in Sioux territory.

So plenty of mysteries for Fargo to ponder on and solve whilst frequently fighting for his life, talk about ‘out of the frying pan and into the fire’, Fargo barely has time to breathe between each battle to stay alive. Action packed doesn’t come close to describing the fast moving, twisting plot, that makes this book impossible to put down once started.

Due to the nature of the people Fargo finds himself dealing with brings out the tougher side of The Trailsman, meaning there is plenty of harsh dialogue and treatment of his enemies – although David Robbins still manages to add moments of humour too.

And does Gerty get her comeuppance as she deserves? Oh yes, and more, making for an excellent end to this terrific entry into the Trailsman series.

Friday 7 August 2009

Hay-on-Wye - a book lover's heaven

Have just had a wonderful few days in Hay-on-Wye, a small town just feet over the English border into Wales. This is a town that all book fans should visit at least once in their lifetime as it is filled with second-hand bookshops, in which you’ll find all types of fiction and reference books; this town really is a book lover’s heaven.

The town produces a handy map that shows where each shop is situated.

Some of the shops have their books in author order, and others break this down into genres, but a few have their stock of fiction all mixed together in jam-packed mazes of bookcases and small rooms, many having more than one floor including basements. Many an hour can be spent just perusing one shop.

Prices range from pence to hundreds of pounds, depending on condition and rarity, as would be expected, and some shops specialize in specific genres, such shops #11 Murder and Mayhem (part of Addyman's), and #5 Rose’s Books which sells only rare and out-of-print children’s books – talk about a trip down memory lane…

When asking in shop #8 The Sensible Bookshop, why they didn’t have a western section, we were told he did have a shelf full until a man came in, saw it, picked up the entire collection and bought the lot – who says westerns don’t sell! The shop did have a few western books upstairs and in the basement, including a handful from the Piccadilly Cowboy authors, a couple of Wilderness books and a number of stand-alone titles. It was here I picked up a copy of February’s 1951 edition of Exciting Western and March’s 1951 edition of Thrilling Western.

Shop #18 Greenways Corner Bookshop has its westerns in their own section, two shelves containing a good mix of English and American publications from a variety of authors, most of the books being paperbacks.

The Hay Cinema Bookshop (#24) carries at least 200,000 books covering all subjects. As the name implies this shop is a converted cinema that has its stock on two floors and has even more books outside. They have their westerns in a separate section on the first floor. If you’re looking for (at the time of writing this) books by the Piccadilly Cowboy authors, particularly those in the series’ Hart the Regulator and Jubal Cade, then this shop could be worth a visit. They also had a good number of books from Louis Masterson’s Morgan Kane series. It was also surprising to see a Black Horse Western in paperback. The stock also contained some quite recent American publications.

But by far the largest selection of western fiction – and reference books on all types of western history – can be found in the castle itself: shop #17 Hay Castle Books. There’s a whole area set aside that carries a wide variety of hardbacks and paperbacks, two shelves set aside for just Zane Grey books and another two shelves containing nothing but Max Brand’s work. You definitely need to put aside an hour or so for your visit to this section alone. If you’ve time it’s worth checking out the hundred’s of books that are outside, lining the castle walls, all selling for £0.50p each and payment is made directly into an honesty box.

Having visiting Hay-on-Wye some years ago I was looking forward to searching through Richard Booth’s Bookshop (#9), which supposedly carries a stock of 500,000 books, and is/was the largest used book store in the world. Unfortunately, during our visit, much of this shop was closed for alterations and repairs, meaning the western section was not accessible. From what we were told Richard Booth has sold this shop to an American lady and she is in the progress of updating it and planning to include a reading lounge and cafĂ©.

Having such a large collection of westerns already I didn’t really expect to come home with many additions to to it and this was how it turned out but these are what I did buy:
Exciting Western: Feb. 1951 – Vol. 1, #3 – British edition.
Thrilling Western: March 1951 – Vol. 4, #5 – British edition.
Zane Grey’s Western Magazine – Vol. 1, #3 – undated
Ace Double: Legacy of the Slash M by Ray Hogan / Tracker by William Vance
Song of the Cheyenne by Jory Sherman
Hanging Judge by Elmer Kelton
Spectros #3: Natchez by Logan Winters (not pictured)
The Man in Black (Clayburn series) by Marvin Albert
Northwest Destiny #1: Distant Trails by Bill Gulick
The Last Snow by John Messmann
Ten Thousand Dollar Bounty by Jack Giles (hardback)
Arkansas Breakout by John B. Harvey (hardback)

And, yes, we did come back with a selection of non-westerns too.

Sunday 2 August 2009

Interview: Joseph A. West

“Read it without delay” – Max Evans

“A writer of extraordinary originality and promise” – Robert Olen Butler

“I look forward to many years of entertainment from Joseph West” – Loren D. Estleman

First I want to thank you for agreeing to answer my questions Joe.

You’re most welcome, Steve. It’s an honor to be here.

You’re originally from Scotland, how did you end up in America and becoming a writer?

I was working on Fleet Street as a reporter for the Daily Mirror and was recruited to work in the United States for an up-and-coming supermarket tabloid named The National Enquirer. My plan was to spend a year in the U.S., see the country then return to Britain. But two things happened: I fell in love with America and, around the same time, my wife. Emily is a stern, 23rd generation Michigan Yankee, but without her I’d never get a novel published. She’s my inspiration and a wonderful, if heartless, copy editor.

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

The first book I had published was the non-fiction, BADGE OF VALOR, about “hero cops in the front lines of danger.” My first western was ME AND JOHNNY BLUE, a comedy novel about two hapless, not-too-bright punchers trying to survive in the changing west.

Which writers influence you?

Early influences were Dickens and Walter Scott, then, later, Louis L’Amour. I read GUNS OF THE TIMBERLANDS as a teenager and all his novels since. Louis had his faults, but as a storyteller he is first rate.

Which western writers would you recommend?

I don’t read much western fiction, but Kirby Jonas impresses me as a wonderful writer who knows what he’s talking about. Ralph Cotton and David Robbins are good too. For a while I tried to be Elmore Leonard, but I set that bar way too high. Now, sink or swim, I just try to be myself. I realized a long time ago that I was not the greatest writer in the business, nor was I ever likely to be, so I concentrate on doing the best I can and giving the reader value for his or her hard-earned money.

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

Easy – all those novels of mine that have already bitten the dust, yanked from the shelves, and gone to book heaven. Or should that be purgatory?

How much time do you spend on researching your books?

As much as I possibly can. Terrain and weather are always major elements in my books since they influence how my characters think and act. If a writer gets the rivers, mountains, streams and trees right, he’s half-way there. Guns and horses I already know about. Often, I only get eight weeks to write a work-for-hire novel, so adequate research can be difficult.

Please tell us a little about how you go about writing a book, such as how much time you spend per day writing?

I never work from an outline. I put my hero in a dangerous, impossible situation and let him battle his way out of it. Given free will, characters take you on a wild ride you never imagined and take the story in directions you never anticipated. This is especially true of women. I’m not a great hand with female characters, so I give them free rein to do whatever they want. They never cease to amaze and charm me, just like in real life. As for my work day, I usually start about 10 in the morning and work through until three in the afternoon, seven days a week (well, six during football season). I find that after five hours my brain just seizes up and begins to sputter and smoke. Anyway, I aim for 1500 words a day, but usually fall a little short.

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

Hell, no. I have enough trouble writing one.

You’ve been writing under the Ralph Compton name for some time, both series characters, such as Buck Fletcher, and stand-alone titles. Please tell us a little about these.

The Ralph Compton books are all work-for-hire, and I write them because I like to eat. I can’t write in Ralph’s style, nor do I try. I do the best I can, send the novel off to New York and keep my fingers crossed. Touch wood, they’ve never bounced one back to me for a rewrite, so I must be doing something right. At the moment times are hard for writers, and I appreciate any work I can get. In a way, a work-for-hire is a great compliment from the publisher. Three or four times a year, I get an email from my editor that says simply: “Joe, write me another Compton, due XXXX.” I never hear from him again until the next assignment. I guess he knows I always send him a professional product on time.

You’ve written a trilogy of books about Johnny Blue, are we likely to see him return in another book?

The three books in the ME AND JOHNNY BLUE trilogy were my first westerns, written when I was new to the business. They are raw, poorly constructed and unsophisticated. I’d love to be able to recapture their naive charm but I have moved on since then. The short answer to your question is: No, Johnny Blue has hung up his guns and spurs and he ain’t never coming back.

You wrote a six book Gunsmoke series, each having a forward by James Arness. Did you get to meet or speak to him, or was this done after you’d written the book?

I never spoke to big Jim while I was writing the GUNSMOKE SERIES. I had to deal with the Hollywood studio that owned the rights, and at times that was a nightmare. Example: “Mr. West, you can’t put false-fronted buildings in Dodge. They are a Hollywood invention.” And: “I’ve been around cows and they don’t cause flies.”
Oh dear.

Have you written under any pseudonyms, and if so, can you tell us which?

No, I always use my own name. Vanity, I suppose.

Three more Compton books are listed for publication, one later this year and the other two in the first half of 2010 – the books being, Bounty Hunter, Stryker’s Revenge, and Death of a Hangman. What can readers expect from these?

Their money’s worth I hope! BOUNTY HUNTER takes place in San Francisco and the Barbary Coast and involves pirates, pitiless gunfighters, a serial killer slasher, hard-eyed whores, mysterious Celestials and luxury steam yachts with big guns mounted in the bows. I enjoyed writing that book! STRYKER’S REVENGE is my first attempt at a U.S. Cavalry versus the Apaches novel. Stryker is a badly disfigured cavalry officer who saw his dream of a dazzling military career in Washington disappear and now grinds out his days at a dusty outpost in the New Mexico territory. DEATH OF HANGMAN is the story of a hanging judge who breaks the very laws he executed men to uphold.

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

I would recommend ME AND JOHNNY BLUE for his sheer entertainment value. For a more traditional take on the western, any of the Buck Fletcher series. And, of course, THE MAN FROM NOWHERE, the novel I currently have on sale.

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

Right now the e-book is a fad and it remains to be seen if it has legs. I don’t think there’s enough money to be made by authors of original works for electronic publishing to replace the royalties of traditional paper books. We’ll always have e-books of course, but I predict their importance will diminish over the next couple of years.

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

Right now, westerns are better written than at any time in the past, and they are constantly changing, addressing 21st century problems in 19th century terms. But the audience for the western novel will remain small into the foreseeable future. I don’t see TV returning to the genre, the engine that drove the western novel boom of the 50s and 60s. No, I think right now the western market is probably as good as it’s going to get.

What is your favourite western movie and why?

Without doubt, ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST. Henry Fonda as a bad guy, Claudia Cardinale at her most beautiful, Jason Robards, Charles Bronson, the superb and evocative background music…can’t beat that. I have to say this movie was director Sergio Leone’s masterpiece.

Finally what do you read for pleasure?

I love James Patterson (when he was writing the books himself) for his bam-bam, in-your-face style. Right now I’m reading RELENTLESS, Dean Koontz’ latest novel, and up next is RAIN GODS by James Lee Burke. Oddly enough, I don’t read much western fiction and, after the book is published, I can’t even bear to look at my own, makes my hair stand on end!

Saturday 1 August 2009

Western Fiction News

As some of you may have already seen elsewhere, Black Horse Extra is publishing it's first paperback book: Misfit Lil Cheats the Hangrope as by Chap O'Keefe. If this venture proves successful it's hoped that more BHE publications will follow. If you'd like to order a copy, and take advantage of a 10% discount then do so now, as this offer ends early in August. You'll need this coupon code KHCHAPMANATCLEARDOTNETDOTNZPTZO which is entered at checkout. To order go here.

More can be read about the publication of this book in the latest edition of Black Horse Extra along with other great articles related to the world of western fiction, including the thoughts of western writers Paul Lederer and Steve Hayes.