Edited by Harry E. Maule
Corgi edition, 1959
This is the third annual anthology issued by the Western Writers of America.
Members of the WWA were asked to submit short stories for possible inclusion and sixty different authors sent in around 130 entries. The standard was high making the final selection difficult. The editor was looking for the greatest possible variety in theme, time, subject-matter and place and seventeen made it into this volume.
Some of the stories appear in this collection for the first time, but the majority have been published before. I’ve added a full list and background info about them at the end of this post.
The book starts with a fascinating introduction written by Harry E. Maule which looks at the evolution of western fiction and the problems facing authors of short stories, ‘The short story is a difficult and a constricted art. In its broader form it must be more than just an incident. The problem of the writer for the western audience is to create some characters, an atmosphere, a place, a complication, and a solution, all done in the terms of action and all within the scope of a few thousand words.’ Maule also considers the telling of the story in the first person instead of the third and offers some interesting insights in to the reasons for choosing the first.
Like any anthology covering the work of multi authors there are always going to be some that the reader likes better than others and some you’ll wonder as to why they were included in the first place, but that is all down to personal taste, so I won’t be mentioning which my favourites and least liked were as you will probably have a totally different viewpoint to me.
As is stated the stories do cover a broad variety of western themes and along the way you’ll meet a man who wasn’t looking for trouble – but the murder of his cousin demands revenge . . . One man who defeats a murderer with a holstered six-gun . . . One man has to finish the job he had started, and stake his life on a drunken man missing his shot . . . One man has to pit his inferior skill against a notch-crazy killer . . .
I was surprised how readable this collection was as I expected lots of old-style lingo that sometimes can be hard to read and themes/terms that would never be allowed to appear in today's publications. These thoughts were proved to unfounded. My intention had been to read a couple of stories at a time between reading other books but soon found myself racing through this collection without pausing. Overall, I found this to be a very entertaining set of tales that introduced me to many authors that were new to me and now have me wanting to try some of their longer works.
My Father and the Winning of the West by John Prescott
Originally published in 1955. Reprinted from the Saturday Evening Post.
The Steadfast by Wayne D. Overholser
Originally published 1950. Reprinted from Zane Grey’s Western Magazine.
You’ll Have to Kill me First by Bennett Foster
Originally published in 1951. Reprinted from the Saturday Evening Post.
Ketch-Colt for Christmas by Walt Coburn
Originally published 1951. Reprinted from The Quarter Horse Journal.
The Drummer by Luke Short
The Seventh Desert by Frank Bonham
Originally published 1945. Reprinted from Liberty Magazine.
The Contest by Will Cook
The Hour of Parting by Norman A. Fox
Originally published 1951. Reprinted from Bluebook Magazine.
Wanted by Thomas Thompson
Originally published 1952. Reprinted from The American Magazine.
Where the Wild Geese Come From by Bill Gulick
Originally published 1942. Reprinted from Capper’s Farmer.
Partner’s Luck by Charles N. Heckelmann
Originally published 1940. Reprinted from Wild West Weekly.
The Looting of Golconda by Harry Sinclair Drago
Originally published 1938. Reprinted from Best Western Magazine.
One Evening in Abilene by Steve Frazee
Notch-Crazy by S. Omar Barker
Originally published 1951. Reprinted from Zane Grey’s Western Magazine.
Caprock by Nelson Nye
Originally published 1953 under the title ‘Hoof in the Gut’. Reprinted from Western Short Stories.
A Decent Saddle by Noel M. Loomis
Originally published 1953. Reprinted from Zane Grey’s Western Magazine.
The Long Rider by Gene Markey
Originally published 1954. Reprinted from Western Tales.