Monday, January 19, 2009

Westerns – neglected genre fiction

It’s surprising how many readers say they don’t read westerns. Usually, the majority who say this haven’t actually read one. If they did make the monumental decision to read a western or two, they might be surprised. On the surface – judging by the covers - these books may just appear to be shoot-em-ups, but they’re much more than that.

A good western tale is about character and morality with a historical perspective. Often there’s romance too. Take, for example, my first Robert Hale western, just out in Large Print – ‘Death at Bethesda Falls’. It begins with Jim Thorp riding into Bethesda Falls intent on finding and possibly killing a man. The man in question happens to be the brother of Anna, Jim’s girlfriend, the schoolteacher of the town. There’s every possibility of the old romance blossoming afresh, save for the vendetta against Anna’s brother. Elsewhere, Ellen’s father is dying and she’s being courted by the ranch foreman; little does she know that the foreman is hastening her father’s demise with poison. A convoluted and fast-paced plot which will end in violence and death. And maybe Jim gets his girl Anna...


Margaret Muir said...

I have to admit I fall into the category of someone who has never read a western, though a generation ago I used to love watching that genre at the cinema. Hate to admit it (age-wise) but I grew up as an advid fan of the Lone Ranger and Tonto.

Was the demise of the screen westerns reflected in a decreasing demand for books or did the reverse happen for writers of westerns?
Am I correct in thinking Hale are the only British publisher publishing westerns today?

Jan Jones said...

Okay, you've convinced me. Next time I have a moment I'll get a Hale Western out of the library.

Elizabeth Hanbury said...

At school, my reading tastes were diverse - I enjoyed Jane Austen, the Brontes, Mills and Boon, Georgette Heyer...and westerns ;0) I read all the 'Sudden' series by Oliver Strange, and the sequels by Frederick H. Christian. They were v. well written and plotted and I still have the corgi paperbacks somewhere. Definitely time to re-visit the genre and try out some Hale westerns when I get the opportunity :)

Matthew P. Mayo said...

Hi all,
I think you'll be pleasantly surprised. Black Horse Westerns are a special line of books--traditional Westerns through and through. And from those I've had the pleasure to read (they're difficult to find here in the States), they stack up with any other line of Westerns published now or in the past.

I may be a teensy bit biased since I've written three of them myself, but don't let that sway you--saddle up!


Ray said...

And I can't plug Matt's 'Wrong Town' enough. Or Ross Morton's 'Last Chance Saloon'. Add to that Lance Howard's 'The Devil's Rider' -

Mind you I've spotted a couple of interesting titles that the wife would be interested in.

Nik said...

I was pleased to see at least 748 people borrowed 'Death at Bethesda Falls' in UK libraries. Not for the sake of the PLR, which of course is welcome, but it's nice to know people are reading your books.
The perceived demise of westerns in UK was probably linked to the removal of westerns from TV schedules, when they were replaced by cop shows and crime dramas: cowboys in trenchcoats?
I agree, those Sudden books were great. Of course there are the historical sagas - which just happen to be set in the Old West, and Hale author EV Thompson is a master in this area.
- Nik (Ross Morton)


An excellent post with some good points. Check out my own blog fo details of teh wild west monday initiative. Things are going well.

Thanks from a fellow black horse writer, gary dobbs AKA jack martin

Matthew P. Mayo said...

How does a Hale author go about finding out how many people borrow his/her book? That figure you mention's intriguing and I'd love to know how many people find my work worth a peek.


Nik said...

The number of borrowings is on the annual PLR statement. That 748 was for roughly a year of publication. My second western was out for about a month when the figures were totted up and that was borrowed by 104! Sadly, US and antipodean Hale authors don't appear to qualify so you won't know how many times your book is borrowed in UK libraries. Anyway, the actual PLR website may be of interest to you, even though you can't claim:
Best wishes, Nik (Ross Morton)

Jan Jones said...

It's in our individual PLR statements.

Chap O'Keefe said...

Good to see this new forum for Hale writers. Like the Hale historical romance writers, Black Horse Western writers have also been congregating elsewhere on the web for several years with their "news, views and reviews". One place you have to visit -- if you haven't already -- is But as one wit said, you'll be there for hours, so take a flask and sandwiches!

My own news this week is that Hale is reprinting (!!!!) A Gunfight Too Many -- originally published last July 31 and "out of stock" in a matter of a few weeks.

Chap O'Keefe said...

Sorry -- a typo! It should, of course, be

Keith (aka Chap)

Nik said...

Chap's website is a fascinating mix of interviews, information and news - and covers subjects that sometimes barely skim westerns and are of interest to booklovers and readers regardless of the genre.
- Nik (Ross Morton)

margaret blake said...

My husband loves them, I do read them now and again. I used to love what we called "cowboys and indians" (I guess that is not p.c. nowadays)pictures and these books take me back to a happy times at the flicks.

Ross the man in the picture looks just like Lee Van Cleef!


Kate Allan said...

Westerns are great stories, full of great characters, conflict and adventure. I'm really interested to hear from Western authors on this blog.

Nik said...

As you say, Kate, character and conflict make for good stories - no matter what the genre.
Lee Van Cleef? But sadly he's a cadaver now... it must be my complexion!
Recently finished a non-Hale book 'A small part of history' by Peggy Elliott - about a wagon train from the female perspective (about 15 women out of 200 people in the wagon train). Based on women's diaries; worth reading.
- Nik (Ross Morton)

Steve M said...

For those who haven't seen it yet I have a blog on which I often review Black Horse Westerns and there's also an interview with Helen Ogden of Hale.

Nik said...

Thanks, Steve. I particularly enjoyed the lengthy interview with Jory Sherman; an amazing writer. Those book covers were splendid too!
Nik (Ross Morton)