Subscribe: Saddlebums Western Review
Added By: Feedage Forager Feedage Grade B rated
Language: English
Rate this Feed
Rate this feedRate this feedRate this feedRate this feedRate this feed
Rate this feed 1 starRate this feed 2 starRate this feed 3 starRate this feed 4 starRate this feed 5 star

Comments (0)

Feed Details and Statistics Feed Statistics
Preview: Saddlebums Western Review

Saddlebums Western Review

Updated: 2017-05-15T04:43:33.134-04:00


James Reasoner


From the Western Writers of America:

Longtime Western writer and WWA member James Reasoner and wife Livia lost their house and studio, and all their belongings, in a fire earlier this week. They're OK, as are their dogs and children, but got out with only their clothes they were wearing. Books, pulps, comics, everything else, gone.

"This is totallyoverwhelming," James says. To help the family, Western Writers of America and Kensington Books have agreed to make sizable contributions and ask anyone who would also like to contribute to send cash donations to the WWA Executive Director's office in Albuquerque, N.M.

Make the check out to Western Writers of America and put in the memo that the money is for the James Reasoner Emergency Fund. Checks should be mailed to:

MSC06 3770
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque, NM 87131-0001

Since James and Livia also lost their sizable library, donations are also being sought to help restock their bookcases whenever they have a new home. Kim Lionetti, Livia's agent at BookEnds, has generously agreed to accept any BOOK donations and keep them until the Reasoners have a place to put them. Books should be sent to:

Kim Lionetti
BookEnds Inc.
136 Long Hill Road
Gillette, NJ 07933

Our thoughts and prayers are with James, Livia and family during this tryingtime. Thanks for your help.

Johnny D. Boggs
WWA Vice President

Saddlebums Interview: John D. Nesbitt


John D. Nesbitt has published fourteen novels, six short-story collections, and an impressive number of literary articles, book reviews, and poetry. He lives in Wyoming where he teaches both English and Spanish at Eastern Wyoming College, and he not only writes about the West, but he lives it and seemingly loves it.His work is known for its strong sense of place, complex and believable characterization, and a prose that Roundup Magazine calls “elegantly spare.” His latest novel, Death at Dark Water, is scheduled for release in February 2008 from Leisure.First, I want to thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions John.Thank you for the opportunity.I want to talk a little about your publishing history, what was the first novel you published? Was it a long time coming, or did you hit print pretty quickly once you decided to write it? My first novel was One-Eyed Cowboy Wild, in 1994 with Walker and Company, one of the last New York publishers to do hardcover westerns. I had written short stories for quite a while and had been getting them published for over fifteen years, but it took me quite a while to get it together to do a book-length piece of fiction. The first novel I wrote was something different; this one was the second. I had a good inspiration for the story idea, and I wrote the first draft without a great deal of angst and struggle. Once I had it ready to go, I went through quite a few dead ends (more than a year) until the editor at Walker gave me the break I needed. Her name is Jackie Johnson, a wonderful person and a great old-style editor, and she will always have a special place in my heart.When did you decide you wanted to be a writer? I wrote creative stuff all the way through school, but it was probably in my first or second year of college that I became conscious of wanting to do it as something more than a hobby. By the time I was in my third or fourth year of college, I knew I wanted to write and be published.I am proud of all my work, but there are a few books that I think of as being high points for me, in that I felt I carried things off about as well as I could hope to do.Is there a book, or a few books, that you have written and are particularly proud of?I am proud of all my work, but there are a few books that I think of as being high points for me, in that I felt I carried things off about as well as I could hope to do. My first western, One-Eyed Cowboy Wild, was good for a debut novel. After that, the ones I think of as high points are Coyote Trail, For the Norden Boys, Black Hat Butte, and Lonesome Range. Another book I am proud of, though it’s not a western novel, is my basic writing textbook, Blue Book of Basic Writing. It’s now in its sixth edition, and although it doesn’t have much public, it has been an ongoing work of great value to me and a source of pride.Most writers are voracious readers, and I’m wondering what you read for pleasure?For pleasure, I read westerns, mysteries, and standard British and American authors. I also read books by friends who are authors.My father was a cattleman and farmer who went broke when I was very young. He had a black Stetson that fit me when I was ten or twelve, and between my family background and my schooling, I grew up with the sense that I was a western personNow I want to turn to the western genre specifically. What first led you to the genre?My father was a cattleman and farmer who went broke when I was very young. He had a black Stetson that fit me when I was ten or twelve, and between my family background and my schooling, I grew up with the sense that I was a western person. It was my heritage. I read westerns when I was young, and then when I was in college I started taking them seriously at the same time, and I ended up writing my doctoral dissertation on the classic western. All the time I was doing the work for the project, I knew I was studying technique. My first published story was a western, published in an ephemeral commercial magazine called Far West. My second story was a contempor[...]

Saddlebums Review: Hellfire Canyon by Max McCoy


(image) The regular readers of Saddlebums have probably noticed it has been a little quiet around here the past few weeks, and there is a reason. It’s not that I’m not reading, don’t enjoy a solid Western, or anything else like that. The problem is, I recently—three weeks ago—started a new job and it’s taking most of my energy right now, but things are beginning to break. I think. So bear with me—and my Saddlebums partner Gonzalo—while I get the new schedule down and get back to the nitty-gritty operation of a blog.

And to whet your appetite I have a few completed author interviews—Peter Brandvold, and John D. Nesbitt to name two—and I’m working on a few reviews as well. Until then here is a review of Max McCoy’s Hellfire Canyon I wrote in April 2007 for my Gravetapping blog. It's a terrific novel written by a versatile and very dependable author.

Hellfire Canyon is the story of Jacob Gamble: outlaw, renegade and general hell-raiser. He is the archetypical western outlaw, with one exception: He is likable, and rather than the antagonist, he is the hero.

The novel begins when three men trample into young Jacob’s farmhouse and demand breakfast from his mother. They are confederate soldiers with a platoon of blue bellies hot on their trail. This is the catalyst that shapes Jacob’s life—the Union soldiers burn down his home, and he discovers his father is in lockup scheduled to by hanged. Jacob and his mother set out to save his father, but instead they find themselves crossing Missouri in the company of a stranger, facing cutthroats, soldiers, the coming winter, and finally forced indoctrination into the gang of the notorious killer Alf Bolin.

Hellfire Canyon is not the typical. There is violence, but there is something more—a yearning and understanding of history, legend, and even folklore. Gamble is an admitted liar, killer and thief, but he—the story is written in first person—portrays himself never as a victim, but as a survivor. Interestingly, in the opening pages of the novel he casts doubt on everything that is to come: And I won’t tell the truth. Instead, I will spin the tale that is expected—that I was forced by circumstances at the tender age of thirteen to become the youngest member of the Bolin gang.

Hellfire Canyon is a campfire story. It is raw, tender, and fresh, but we are left knowing it isn’t the real story. It is the story the witness—Jacob Gamble—wants us to know, or perhaps more accurately thinks we want to know. It is more folklore and legend than anything else, and I loved every word. Ignore the horrible cover art and give Hellfire Canyon a try.

Scouting the Web


■ Saddle up for the latest Lonesome Dove miniseries, Comanche Moon, starring Val Kilmer, Steve Zahn and Karl Urban. The six-hour, three-part extravaganza will air Jan. 13 on CBS. A prequel to Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove, this is the final installment in the saga. Here’s an interview with actor Karl Urban.■ Two interesting book reviews from the Vintage Hardboiled Reads blog: Sabadilla by Richard Jessup and The Appaloosa by Robert MacLeod.■ The newest issue of the Western Writers of America’s Roundup Magazine is out and with plenty of interesting offerings. Check out Stephen Lodge’s review of the 17th Annual Festival of the West in Arizona as well as its traditional book review section, Western Bookshelf, including comments on novels by Elmer Kelton, Bill Pronzini, Lauran Paine, and many others.■ Here’s an interesting review of The Thunder Riders by Frank Leslie (a.k.a. Peter Brandvold) from Bookgasm.■ Ron Fortier’s Pulp Fiction Reviews blog discusses the new Western anthology Where Legends Ride, a collection of stories by new and upcoming writers as well as several authors who regularly pen novels for the UK-based Robert Hale Publishers’ Black Horse Westerns.■ takes another look at Charles Portis’ True Grit on the occasion of its recent 40th anniversary.■ Soviet Cowboys? ’Nuff said…■ The Guardian on female characters in the new crop of Western films.■ The Chicago Tribune takes a look at The Selected Letters of Wallace Stegner.■ Over the last few weeks, Pulpgen has posted a slate of new downloadable Western pulps, including stories by Hapsburg Liebe and Lon Williams. [...]

Richard S. Wheeler: SHANE by Jack Schaefer


This post is the second installment in our series on Western classics. These contributions by Western master Richard S. Wheeler will provide an in-depth analysis of key works, including the circumstances of publication and the author as well as a discussion on what went into these stories and why they are now ranked among the best. Our first first installment in the series examined Conrad Richter’s The Sea of Grass. This week, we will take a look at Jack Schaefer's Shane.Shane, by Jack Schaefer, is easily the most famous of western novels, and the one that made the most history. It was first published in 1946 as a three-part serial in Argosy Magazine, under the title, "Rider from Nowhere." Houghton Mifflin published it in book form in 1949 under the Shane title. It eventually went into seventy or more editions and sold twelve million copies (in a nation with half of today’s population). It also appeared in thirty foreign languages. It became the watershed novel that changed western fiction into men’s literature featuring the gunman hero. Its success was so phenomenal that publishers thereafter wanted gunman stories and little else.The novel is narrated by Bob Starrett, son of Joe and Marian Starrett, who are nesters in a valley of the Big Horn mountains, a day’s ride from Sheridan. The boy first spots Shane riding along the road, a person so remarkable that passing riders turn to stare at him. There is something unusual about the approaching man:"He would have looked frail alongside father’s square, solid bulk. But even I could read the endurance in the lines of that dark figure and the quiet power in his effortless, unthinking adjustment to every movement of the tired horse. "He was clean-shaven and his face was lean and hard and burned from high forehead to firm, tapering chin. His eyes seemed hooded in the shadow of the hat’s brim. He came closer and I could see that this was because the brows were drawn into a frown of fixed and habitual alertness. Beneath them the eyes were endlessly searching from side to side and forward, checking off every item in view, missing nothing. As I noticed this, a sudden chill, and I could not have told why, struck through me there in the warm and open sun."As Bob gets to know Shane, he realizes the man is also lonely and apart, and there is an inner sadness in him. Joe Starrett hires Shane as a hand on Starrett’s farm, and Shane puts aside his handsome clothes and buys dungarees. Both Joe and Marian are aware that Shane is different and dangerous, and yet both welcome him. Indeed, Marian flirts with Shane, and as the story grows, so does a deep, if platonic, love between them.There is trouble afoot in the valley. Luke Fletcher, the major landholder in the valley, wants more land to expand his cattle empire, and has tried fruitlessly to drive out the nesters, using bullying, intimidation, and open threats. Starrett, the strongest and most courageous of the nesters, refuses to budge and encourages the other nesters to resist as well. It doesn’t hurt that the stranger called Shane, who says nothing of his past or his future, is firmly committed to the Starretts.In the daily toil, Joe Starrett and Shane become friends and rivals. In a famous scene in which the pair attempt to reduce a huge stump, they vie with each other to hack it out of the ground, each trying to prove himself the better man– worthy of the other’s esteem and also Marian’s affections.But this is not a story about a love triangle; it’s a story about worth. Near the end of the novel, with Shane on his way into town to defend the Starretts against a killer named Stark Wilson, Marian asks Shane whether he is plunging into deadly danger just for her."Shane hesitated for a long, long moment. ‘No, Marian.’ His gaze seemed to widen and encompass us all, mother and the still figure of father huddled on a chair by the window, and somehow the room and the house and the whole place. Then he was loo[...]

Saddlebums Interview: Dusty Richards


Dusty Richards won his first two Spur Awards in 2007 for his novel The Horse Creek Incident and his short story “Comanche Moon”. He has written more than seventy novels, and his work has been well received by readers and critics alike. His recent short story collection Waltzing with Tumbleweeds contains several of his short stories that, according to reviewer Debbie Haskins, “keeps readers turning pages and coming back for more.”He is a lifelong fan of both the West and the Western story—his enthusiasm for the subject shines throughout this interview as does his kindness. Dusty’s most recent novel Montana Revenge is out in paperback from Berkley.Dusty is a terrific name for a western writer. Is it your given name, or a nickname?I guess I was always into Westerns. When we moved from Mesa to Phoenix I just told everyone I met my name was Dusty. I was about 14. It stuck“I don't know a greater honor for a western writer. Spurs are the Oscars of the western book.”Before I get too far I want to congratulate you on the two Spur Awards you received earlier this year. You won the best paperback original category for your novel The Horse Creek Incident and the best short fiction of the year for your novella “Comanche Moon”. I don't know a greater honor for a Western writer. Spurs are the Oscars of the Western book. I can recall going to my first Western Writers of America Convention in San Antonio over two decades ago when I was trying to break into the New York market. I met those Spur winners that year and all the old hands that I'd read. I never thought this old cowboy would ever collect one of them. I was lucky to be writing and doing what I liked and had dreamed about.If you asked me January first last year, did I expect to win a Spur? No. My close writer friends kept saying you'll win one. It went over my head like a jet and I had no idea or even inkling I'd have two of those lovely awards on my table at home. I have never written a book in my life, and that means under pseudonyms or my own name, that I said “Oh, well this will be a Spur.” I have studied and taught fiction writing for the last three decades. Books I have written total 76; lots of short stories and articles, but I wrote each one with one thing in mind—tell a good story the best I can.I want to talk a little about your publishing history, what is the first novel you published? Was it a long time coming, or did you hit print pretty quickly once you decided to write it?I always wrote “books” in long hand like Zane Grey did, only I never had “Dollie” to edit them. I read stacks of paperbacks and every hardback Western in the libraries. I even sat on Grey's cabin porch on the Mongollon Rim and promised his ghost I'd join him some day on the bookshelf.When my girls were teens they wanted me to do something with them. I told them they had Louie and did not need me. In the eighties I was involved with a small publisher in Missouri. He had three books of mine and was supposed to publish them—after messing with him for two years I demanded my books back. He sent them back but he published them, and I've been looking for copies since then. There have been some show up on eBay. I had no idea for 20 years he had done that.Yes I wrote and I sought experts. Dr. Frank Reuter, who is a great editor, line-edited a novel [I wrote] that I thought was wonderful. There was hardly a page [without] red lines and written all over. I went home sick but I knew that if I was going to sell in New York I had to meet his standards. Book two that he did had whole pages with no marks. Reuter lived about 40 miles from me so each time I drove over after work and we'd discuss the book. Book number three he apologized and said he was so busy reading it he might not had edited as tough as the others. That was Noble's Way, my first sale in New York. That took a decade from me deciding I wanted to really be a writer and publish[...]

Saddlebums Review: Camp Ford by Johnny D. Boggs


(image) Win MacNaughton is an aging—99 years old—former baseball player, umpire, and coach, who is invited to attend the 1946 World Series by The Sporting News. A reporter asks him how he thinks the two participating teams—the Red Sox and the Cardinals—compare to the best team he has ever seen. Win doesn’t hesitate, and quickly names two teams.

‘Easy’ I said. “Mr. Lincoln’s Hirelings and the Ford City Gallinippers. Played one game at Camp Ford, Texas.

The reporter gave Win a confused look and walked away. He didn’t mention either of the teams in the newspaper the next day, and Win MacNaughton spends the rest of Johnny D. Boggs’ Camp Ford explaining his answer. He begins his story as a boy in Rhode Island where he is introduced to the game that would shape his life. His moves with his parents down to Jacksboro, Texas, where his father gets involved with the anti-slavery movement, and then when the Civil War breaks out, his parents take him back North where, in 1863 he joins the 3rd Rhode Island Cavalry.

It isn’t long before Win finds himself a prisoner of war at Camp Ford, Texas. And life in that place is hard, cruel, and surprisingly filled with talk and love of baseball—even the Southerners are learning the game.

Camp Ford won the Spur Award for best novel in 2005, and it is the best Western novel I have read in a long time. Mr. Boggs adroitly weaves two storylines—the aged Win MacNaughton watching the 1946 World Series in St. Louis, and Win MacNaughton as a boy growing up in a changing and violent time with the new game of baseball. The prisoner of war scenes are harsh and realistic with vivid descriptions of the place, the characters, and, most importantly, the inner thoughts of MacNaughton as he tries to survive captivity.

The characters are richly created—they populate the novel with a sincerity and richness that is often lacking in genre works. The ideals of friendship, love, and hate are explored, and Mr. Boggs leaves just enough ambiguity in the narrative to allow the reader to judge the actions of the characters. The storyline is refreshing and original—it has just the right mixture of baseball folklore and Civil War history to satisfy both readers of historical fiction, and anyone who enjoys the sport.

Movie Review: Tombstone


(This is the third installment in our series of reviews on classic Westerns inspired by the Gunfight at the OK Corral. We encourage you to read the first and second installments)The third of our movies taking the gunfight at the OK Corral as their inspiration is also the latest one, Tombstone from 1993, considered by many fans to be among the best western movies ever made. I’m skipping over John Sturges’ 1967 Hour of the Gun. This sequel to Gunfight at the O.K. Corral is a fine film and James Garner and Jason Robards are a good team as Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday. I recommend the picture, but Sturges had already dealt with these characters and the story is actually about Earp’s vengeance killings after the fact.In Tombstone, Kurt Russell stars as Wyatt and Val Kilmer is Doc. Both men turn in the performances of their lives and the fact that they didn’t win Oscars is explained somewhat by all the Gumping that was going on that year. The fact that neither of them was even nominated is less understandable. Taking this praise one step further, Russell has been unofficially credited with ghost directing over half the picture when original director Kevin Jarre (who wrote the script) was fired and before credited director George P. Cosmatos came onboard.“Tombstone” covers the same ground as the two earlier movies, and then some. The big shootout scene comes with over an hour of running time left. The bushwhack shooting of Virgil Earp (Sam Elliott) and Morgan Earp (Bill Paxton) are still to come, followed by Wyatt’s vengeance ride as he and four friends—Holliday, Sherman McMasters (Michael Rooker), Texas Jack Vermillion (Peter Sherayko) and Turkey Creek Jack Johnson (Buck Taylor)—go after the cowboy gang.The movie comes closer to historical accuracy than did either of the others we’ve looked at. When the three Earps arrive with their wagons, wives, and dreams of fortune, none of the men want anything to do with maintaining law and order. Wyatt immediately runs a bullying gambler (a chunky Billy Bob Thornton) out of the Oriental Saloon and talks himself into a job as Faro dealer.The brothers—at least this time James isn’t portrayed as a teenager and the weak branch on the family tree; in fact, he isn’t even in town this time, joining Warren Earp, the perennially missing man, among Hollywood’s unnecessary characters—meet old acquaintance Doc Holliday on the street. Wyatt and Morgan are glad to see him. Virgil doesn’t like him, but does tolerate his presence.This time out the cowboys are not just thieves, rustlers and killers; they are Satan’s emmisarries on Earth. The first time we see them, they kill everyone in a wedding party, including the bride and priest. They are led by Curly Bill Brocius (Powers Booth) and Johnny Ringo (Michael Biehn) and abetted by Cochise County Sheriff Johnny Behan (Jon Tenney). Ike Clanton (Stephen Lang) is portrayed as a hanger-on and coward.The Earps and cowboys hate each other but manage to co-exist for over a year; and then with great power comes a great lack of responsibility. When Curly Bill drunkenly murders the town marshal, beating the rap in court, and other cowboys shoot up the town and endanger the lives of women and children, Virgil has had enough and goes to the mayor (Terry O’Quinn) and accepts the marshal’s job. Morgan follows, but Wyatt, still wanting to do nothing but make money and carry on an extramarital affair with the actress Josie Marcus (Dana Delaney) refuses to be deputized.He will soon change his mind.Tombstone blends thematic elements from the first two OK Corral movies, but they are traditional themes from the history of western fiction: the fact that sooner or later freedom will have to be exchanged for progress, and the strong bond between men, whether they be brothers or friends.And the friendship between Wyatt and Doc is much stronger here than[...]

Movie Review: Gunfight at the OK Corral


(This is the second installment in our series of reviews on classic Westerns inspired by the Gunfight at the OK Corral. For the first part of this series, click here)The second of the three movies we’re looking at that chronicle the events leading up to the gunfight at the OK corral is, well, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. That makes it easy to remember. Directed by John Sturges in 1957, the picture stars Burt Lancaster as Wyatt Earp, and Kirk Douglas as Doc Holliday. John Hudson, DeForest Kelley (yup, Dr. “Bones” McCoy from “Star Trek”) and Martin Millner tag along as Virgil, Morgan and James Earp. Lyle Bettger is Ike Clanton and Dennis Hopper is his little brother (son in real life) Billy. John Ireland, who played Billy Clanton in the 1946 My Darling Clementine, is Johnny Ringo. Rhonda Fleming is Laura Denbow, the gal Wyatt will love and leave behind, and Jo Van Fleet is Holliday’s sometime girlfriend (Big Nose) Kate Fisher. The script is by Leon Uris, who will later gain fame as the author of the bestsellers “Exodus,” “Topaz,” and “QB VII.”The movie opens with one of those terrible songs that will make your kids roll their eyes when they hear it. Sung by Frankie Laine, it’s the kind of thing Mel Brooks parodied so mercilessly in “Blazing Saddles.” There’s no way not to grin at lyrics like “If the Lord is my friend, I’ll see you at the end of the Gunfight at the OK Corral.” Once it gets revved up, though, you can tell the score is by the great Dimitri Tiomkin.Like the earlier “My Darling Clementine,” GOKC is a legend western that takes bits and pieces of actual western history and mixes them with pulp and romance to create a story that might look like it’s true but wouldn’t fool anyone who’d seen a 30-minute TV documentary on the affair.The picture opens 10 years before the events in Tombstone as lawman Wyatt Earp is chasing cattle thief Ike Clanton through Ft. Griffin, Texas. Against his better judgment, Wyatt saves Doc Holliday from a lynch mob. Back in Dodge City, Doc loses Kate to Johnny Ringo and helps Wyatt arrest Shanghai Pierce (Ted de Corsia), who really has nothing to do with the story (nor did he in real life) but has such a great western name Uris just had to use it.And speaking of nothing-to-do-with-it, Wyatt meets and falls in love with gambling lady Laura Denbow (the gorgeous Fleming). When he gets word from his brothers in Tombstone that they need his help, he tells the gal he loves her but he has to go to his family.As it is with so many western movies, friendship and loyalty among men is the central theme here. Sturges would continue to mine this vein in years to come as the director of “Last Train From Gun Hill,” “The Magnificent Seven,” and “The Great Escape.” The film admits that the civilizing influence of women is necessary, but secondary to the responsibility imposed on a man by the willing acceptance of male friendship.Unlike the case with “My Darling Clementine,” this movie pays at least lip service to the city/county politics at play in Tombstone. Wyatt asks for an appointed as U.S. Marshal so he will have jurisdiction over the entire county and can thus pursue the Clantons to their ranch out of town.Since Wyatt has been chasing Ike Clanton for years, tempers flair when the two clans of inseparable brothers clash, resulting in the ambush death of James Earp, once again played as the baby brother of the family. His murder is the catalyst that causes the big shootout.Douglas makes a far more believable Doc Holliday than the husky Victor Mature. We can see more clearly in this man the “too-lateness” and world-weary despair that pushes Doc into deadly situations. Our sadness at the waste of such a person is heightened by Lancaster’s holier-than-thou reading of Earp’s character. He’s constantly lecturing Doc on [...]

Saddlebums Interview: Win Blevins


Win Blevins has a passion for the West and it shows in his writing. He lives a conscious and vibrant life in the rural Southwest. His first novel, Charbonneau: Man of Two Dreams, was published in 1975 and since then he has produced thirteen more novels, sold five screenplays, written history, and even published a dictionary. He won the Spur Award for his novel Stone Song, and he has achieved both critical acclaim as well as a devoted readership.His latest novel A Long and Winding Road has recently been released in hardcover by Forge Books. The Publishers Weekly review reads, in part: Blevins is a master of mountain man lore, and he certainly knows the beaver and buffalo hide business, as well as the politics of the region and era.First, I want to thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions Win.You're welcome. I want to talk a little about your publishing history, what is the first novel you published? Was it a long time coming, or did you hit print pretty quickly once you decided to write it?My first novel was CHARBONNEAU: MAN OF TWO DREAMS, way back in 1975. It was the story of the life of Jean-Baptiste Charbonneau, the son of Sacajawea. It was bad luck—the publisher went out of business a couple weeks after it was published. Still in print, though.My first book was two years earlier, GIVE YOUR HEART TO THE HAWKS: A TRIBUTE TO THE MOUNTAIN MEN. It's history told in the style of fiction, like Irving Stone’s MEN TO MATCH MY MOUNTAINS. I had a stroke of luck getting that first book published. The head of Nash Publishing, Ed Nash, heard me telling mountain man stories at a party. He asked me to turn them into a book, and I did. No struggles, no rejections, all too easy.It turned out that the company didn't have the money to print enough copies to fill all the orders, and that hurt the book. However, it too is still in print. Best compliment a writer can get.When I was a kid, my friends fantasized about being Superman. I wanted to be Clark Kent. Digging out stories and writing them for a newspaper, that sounded like fun.When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?When I was a kid, my friends fantasized about being Superman. I wanted to be Clark Kent. Digging out stories and writing them for a newspaper, that sounded like fun. I got to do that for some years.Is there a book, or a few books, that you have written and are particularly proud of?I love all my children. Maybe my favorite is the one that (as with children) was the most troublesome. I worked on the story of the life of Crazy Horse for twenty years. He was an infatuation and an obsession. His way of seeing Mystery became mine. When the book came out in 1995, the reception was extraordinary.Most writers are voracious readers, and I'm wondering what you read for pleasure?I read mysteries and thrillers, and sometimes poetry. When I'm writing, which is always, it's difficult for me to read literature that has a superb style—the voice tries to creep into my own work. So I read for fun. And believe that fun is a splendid achievement in a novel.I read a lot about the West, but not many traditional, action-adventure westerns. I prefer history, journals, and novelists who are unusual. I like Ed Abbey's THE BRAVE COWBOY, John Nichols's THE MILAGRO BEANFIELD WAR (yes, it is a western—it's a battle over water rights), Tony Hillerman (they’re westerns as much as mysteries), Rudolfo Anaya, Scott Momaday, Wallace Stegner, Ivan Doig, Cormac McCarthy, and the historical novels of Larry McMurtry. If I was stranded in the desert with only one book about the West, I’ hope it would be Norman Maclean's A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT.I avoid books in the endless succession of western clichés—the cavalry saving white folks from Indians, cattlemen vs. sheepmen, trail drive stories, tales of how AMERICANS CONQUERED THE WEST or TA[...]

THE SEA OF GRASS by Conrad Richter


This post marks the first in a new series here at Saddlebums: an occasional piece dealing with the finest western fiction ever written. These contributions will examine the circumstances of publication, the author, and discuss what went into these stories and why they are now ranked among the best. Richard S. Wheeler prepared the first in the series, and it examines Conrad Richter’s The Sea of Grass.Richard S. Wheeler is the dean of the modern western story. His novels are tender, tough, critical, and original—he has tackled expansive historical dramas, such as Aftershocks, a masterful portrayal of the San Francisco earthquake of 1906; biographical novels like Trouble in Tombstone; mining camp stories, such as his Spur winning novel Vengeance Valley. He is also the author of the well-received Barnaby Skye series—the most recent title in the series is The Canyon of Bones—and his recently released autobiography, An Accidental Novelist, has been praised by readers and writers alike.The Sea of Grass, by Conrad Richter, first appeared as a Saturday Evening Post serial in 1936, and was published by Alfred Knopf in 1937. It is still in print, from the University of Ohio Press. The novel might be called a traditional cattleman vs. nester story, but it is much more. It is narrated by young Hal Brewton, nephew of the story’s central figure, Jim Brewton, who runs cattle on a vast sea of grass near Salt Fork, which is probably in Texas but could be in New Mexico.Jim Brewton’s enormous range is almost all public land; he owns only the water holes, and that makes him vulnerable to the nesters wanting to plow the lush grassland and plant crops, even though the land is arid. The opening lines of the novel introduce us to its theme:That lusty pioneer blood is tamed now, broken and gelded like the wild horse and the frontier settlement. And I think that I shall never see it flowing through human veins again as it did in my Uncle Jim Brewton, riding a lathered horse across his shaggy range or standing in his massive ranch house, bare of furniture as a garret, and holding together his empire of grass and cattle by the fire in his eyes.The fire in his eyes. There is the heart of the novel. At the beginning, with the arrival of Brewton’s mail-order bride Lutie, we discover a horde of nesters waiting to swarm over Brewton’s ranch. And supporting them is the federal attorney, and later judge, Brice Chamberlain, who sympathizes with the humble. Lutie does, too. She furiously tries to civilize the obdurate Brewton, adding graces to his home, bringing a son and daughter into the family, and taking him to Mass on Sundays, but there is no taming old Jim.Eventually, she has a third child, a blond boy, as blond as Brice Chamberlain is blond, and soon after that she leaves Brewton, and her whereabouts are unknown for years. But Chamberlain remains in Salt Fork, calls in the army to defend the nesters, and soon the nesters are plowing up Brewton’s range. After a trial, when Chamberlain asks Brewton why his men ran off a nester named Boggs, Brewton has a surprising reply: "He was not run off because he wanted to settle those hundred-sixty acres but because of what he wanted to do with the land."He goes on to say he has some charity for the nester. "But–"and his voice began to ring in the small, hushed courtroom, "when that nester picks country like my big vega, that’s more than seven thousand feet above the sea, when he wants to plow it up to support his family where there isn’t enough rain for crops to grow, where he only kills the grass that will grow, where he starves for water and feeds his family by killing my beef and becomes a man without respect to himself and a miserable menace to the territory, then I have neither sympathy nor charity!"As the novel pro[...]

Scouting the Web


1.- A number of published and novice Western writers have finally launched the much-anticipated anthology Where Legends Ride. For Western fans, this is particularly interesting since it includes short stories by many of the authors who regularly pen novels for UK publisher Robert Hale Publishers’ Black Horse Westerns, including Lance Howard (aka Howard Hopkins), I.J. Parnham and Ben Bridges (aka David Whitehead). You might know from reading this blog that Black Horse titles are hard to come by outside of the UK. This anthology provides readers a great opportunity to see what some of its writers are all about as well as sample Western fiction from new authors.As their press release states: “Here you'll meet brave school-teachers, plucky widows, a battered wife, a stubborn mule and several folk who are seeking redemption. You'll feel the heat of the badlands, the chill of danger and the gut-wrenching of betrayal. The stories cover a broad range, from the poignant to the humorous and offer up some pleasant surprises for any reader who has never read a ‘western’ before.”Where Legends Ride was hatched by the lively members of the Black Horse Westerns Yahoo group. To know more about the 14 short stories that comprise this anthology as well as the men and women behind them, visit the preview section of their website.You can purchase the book here.2.- The Los Angeles Times recently ran a nice profile of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Wallace Stegner.The reissue of an obscure book by Stegner, Discovery! The Search for Arabian Oil has stirred some controversy between the publisher and the author’s agent, who claims the release of this work-for-hire job for a group of oil companies does “a massive disservice” to the author’s legacy. Apparently, the edition is not Stegner’s original version but the company-sanitized text. The Los Angeles Times reports on it here and The Washington Post weighs in here. You can also read a review of the book.Its publication coincides with the release of The Selected Letters of Wallace Stegner. Edited by his son, Page Stegner, the book is said to provide an interesting glimpse at the vivid polemics between the author and some of his critics.3.- For Western art fans, the November/December issue of Art of the West magazine as well as the December issue of the handsome Western Art Collector are out. As I have said before, these publications are veritable catalogues of fine illustrations inspired by the West. [...]

Movie Review: My Darling Clementine


(This past October 26 signaled the anniversary of the legendary Gunfight at the OK Corral. The episode has inspired numerous works of literature and, most notably, films. In the first installment of a series, Doug Bentin will take a look at some of the movies that have recreated this interesting chapter in the history of the West. Doug writes film reviews for eFilmCritic! and book reviews (mostly Westerns) for the most indispensable website Bookgasm. His personal blog is The Long Saturday of the Soul - Saddlebums).With Oct. 26 marking the anniversary of the Gunfight at the OK Corral—which is surely one of the half-dozen most iconic incidents in the history of the American West—I thought we might take a look at three easily accessible movies that were inspired by the famous shootout.The oldest of the three is John Ford’s classic My Darling Clementine (1946).It seems to me that there are three varieties of Western fiction: realistic, romantic, and legendary. None is superior to the others and which one plays best with you depends on what you’re in the mood for at the time. MDC is definitely legendary, drawing as it does on actual historical events, even though tossing its ingredients into the blender of Hollywood and working with the smoothed-out results.Henry Fonda is Wyatt Earp. He and brothers Virgil (Tim Holt), Morgan (Ward Bond) and James (an uncredited Don Garner) are just passing through Tombstone, AZ, on their way to California with a herd of cattle. One night Wyatt, Virgil and Morgan ride into town and James is left behind to watch the herd. He is murdered in the rain and the cattle are rustled.James is presented as the baby of the family, a mere 18, when in fact he was seven years Wyatt’s senior and didn’t die until 1926. Additionally, there was no herd and all four brothers had been living in Tombstone since at least 1879. James was the only brother not involved in the gunfight and in the movie his death is used as the motivating factor for Wyatt to pin on the marshal’s badge and rid the town of the evil, thieving, rustling, murdering Clanton gang.It’s in town that Wyatt meets the gambler Doc Holliday (Victor Mature, giving one of his best performances, although he is a bit husky to suffer from tuberculosis). This is not the first time Holliday has appeared in a John Ford Western, but the most famous time he was called “Hatfield” in Stagecoach and played by the much more physically believable John Carradine.Romantic complications ensue when a lady friend of Doc’s from long ago and far away shows up unexpectedly. Clementine Carter (Cathy Downs) has been following Doc deeper into the west as he’s been trying to avoid her. His motive is to release her from the pain of watching his disease waste him away. He’s taken up with a dance hall gal named Chihuahua (Linda Darnell). Her profession and ethnicity are indicative of just how far Doc Holliday, that fine surgeon and southern gentleman, has fallen. That symbolism is as faulty as turning a dentist into a surgeon.As Doc runs away from Clementine, Wyatt moves toward her. Fonda was always good at portraying the hesitant man in affairs of the heart, too respectful of good women to make the first move, so Wyatt’s sort-of courtship sails slowly. It doesn’t really get under weigh until Doc removes a stray bullet from Chihuahua and reclaims some of his old pride, at which point Clementine seems more willing to let him go. Wyatt is as puzzled by her attitude as we are. He leans on the bar and asks the whiskey-server, “Mac, you ever been in love?” to which Mac replies, “No, I been a bartender all my life.”The action part of the story heats up when one of gang leader Ike Clanton’s (Walter Brennan) sons is killed and [...]

Forthcoming Westerns: December 2007


It’s a holiday weekend here in the United States, so I’m posting December’s upcoming Western releases a little early this month. The list, while not quite as impressive as the last few months, is pretty darn good. We have the usual suspects—a new Longarm, Gunsmith, Trailsman, and Slocum—and we also have a new Western from literary writer Thomas Eidson, and the plot—see below for the synopsis—sounds pretty good.Leisure Books is releasing Tim Champlin’s latest novel, Devil's Domain, The Penguin Group is releasing a new Ralph Compton novel written by David Robbins—the same guy who writes Wilderness—as well as a new Vigilante novel by Jory Sherman, and there are six new Black Horse Westerns scheduled for release in the U.K.I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday. And maybe I’ll see you in the Western section in the local bookstore. Happy reading.Synopsis for Devil's Domain: There was a reason people called Andersonville Prison hell on earth. With more than thirty thousand Union soldiers held captive in the worst conditions possible, death and disease were daily visitors. If scurvy or starvation didn’t kill them, the guards would. Sergeant John Mulroy knows he’ll die if he doesn’t find some way to escape. Problem is, even if he does get out, his closest ally suffers bouts of madness and just may murder him anyway…. November 27thDevil's Domain by Tim ChamplinWilderness #54: Pure of Heart by David ThompsonShower of Gold by Zane GreyThe Soldier’s Way by Dane CoolidgeDecember 4thRalph Compton’s Blood Duel by Ralph Compton & David RobbinsSt. Agnes’ Stand by Thomas EidsonThe Trailsman #314: North Country Cutthroats by Jon SharpeThe Vigilante: Santa Fe Showdown by Jory ShermanPreacher’s / Fury of the Mountain Man by William W. JohnstoneRampage of the Mountain Man by William W. JohnstoneSynopsis for St. Agnes’ Stand: July 1858: Nat Swanson, a bullet in his leg and bone-weary, flees across the New Mexico desert from a vengeful posse. Back in west Texas, he killed a man over a woman whose name he never knew, and now he’s on the run to California, his only hope for a new life the ranch deed in his pocket.In a dry riverbed, Nat spots two overturned wagons surrounded by Apaches. The only sign of a survivor is his quick glimpse of an old woman’s face–a face that forces a stark decision. Nat can ride on and save himself, or stay and try to save the stranded and doomed party. Sister St. Agnes, huddled between the wagons with her fellow nuns and the orphans in their care, somehow knows that God will answer her prayers and send a savior to deliver them from evil.As death shadows the dusty arroyo, the forsaken canyon becomes a place of destiny where a courageous nun and an embattled man confront their fates together.December 12thDoubtful Canon by Johnny D. BoggsOutlaws from Afar by Max BrandDecember 15thThe Shopkeeper by James D. BestSynopsis for The Gunsmith #313: Wildfire:After a posse mistakes Clint Adams for a murdering pyromaniac who's scorched a path from Texas to New Mexico, he joins them on their hunt for the match-happy madman.December 18thThe Gunsmith #313: Wildfire by J.R. RobertsLongarm #350: Longarm and the Hangtree Vengeance by Tabor EvansSlocum #347: Slocum’s Four Brides by Jake LoganDecember 24thThe Flying Wagon by Ian ParnhamLone Survivor by V.S. MeszarosDecember 26thThe Horses: The Journey of Jim Glass by Bill BrooksDecember 30thBarbary Coast Gundown by James Gordon WhiteFind Madigan! By Hank J. KirbyJustice for Crockett by Dale GrahamThe Legend and the Man by Ben NicholasThe Modoc Kid by Mark BannermanThe Night Riders by Matt LaidlawOutcasts of Rebel Creek by Frank Bonham & Bill PronziniSharpshooters and the Rainman by Ron[...]

Saddlebums Review: Holmes on the Range by Steve Hockensmith


(image) Holmes on the Range is a little different from the usual fare here at Saddlebums—it fits in quite nicely, but it is unique in that it is a Sherlock Holmes-type whodunit that is set in the Western United States of the 1890s. Big Red and Old Red are brothers who earn their livings the hard way. They do it from the back of a horse, but that doesn’t stop Old Red from admiring the work of Mr. Sherlock Holmes, which he studies evenings in the bunkhouse from the pages of The Strand. His younger brother, Big Red, reads them aloud because Old Red isn't lettered.

When the two take a job on a ranch in Montana they figure everything will be usual—long hours, poor pay, and barely edible food. When the ranch accountant turns up dead Old Red decides it’s time to employ his mentor’s—Sherlock Holmes—tested technique of detection. He sets out to investigate the death, but things tense-up as bodies are added to the casualty list, and then the ranch threatens to explode, figuratively, when the English owners show up unannounced. It doesn’t help matters that the local cannibal, Hungry Bob, is roaming the territory making everyone a little uneasy.

Holmes on the Range is a perfect mixture of Western lore and British mystery. Mr Hockensmith deftly combines two genres in a unique and unusual manner to create an intelligent and humorous story that will be enjoyed by fans of both genres. It is narrated by Big Red—the lettered brother—who admirably fills the role of Dr Watson. His voice is strong, funny as hell, and lucid in its descriptions of both the land and the characters that occupy it. The opening lines read:

There are two things you can’t escape out here in the West: dust and death. They sort of swirl together in the wind, and a fellow never knows when a fresh gust is going to blow one or the other right in his face. So while I’m yet a young man, I’ve already laid eyes on every manner of demise you could put a name to. I’ve seen folks drowned, shot, stabbed, starved, frozen, poisoned, hung, crushed, gored by steers, dragged by horses, bitten by snakes, and carried off by an assortment of illnesses with which I could fill the rest of this book and another besides.

So it’s quite a compliment I bestow when I say that the remains we came across the day after the big storm were the most frightful I’d ever seen.

The dialogue is sharp. The diction and idioms of the time period are captured well: He could still be south of here somewhere, runnin’ free or flat as frying pan. The characters are, put simply, characters. They have unique traits and names—Uly, Spider, Swede, Tall John, Swivel-Eye, Anytime, and Crazymouth. And the mystery is top-notch: I didn’t guess the murderer, or the motive, until late in the game.

Holmes on the Range is one of the better novels I have read this year. It is different, compelling, and humorous without being silly. I was hooked from the opening sentence, and Steve Hockensmith not only delivered on this early promise, but he exceeded my expectations. This is a novel that should be read by anyone who loves a mystery, a western, or just a good, well-written tale.

Scouting the Web


■ Western scribe Jim Griffin’s Big Bend Death Trap, the latest novel in the Texas Ranger Cody Havlicek series, gets a glowing review at Rope and Wire (scroll down). ■ James Reasoner has published a new pseudonymous novel in The Trailsman series: Texas Timber War.■ A new issue of Chap O’Keefe’s Black Horse Extra is online, featuring an article on Black Horse Westerns author Brian Parvin, a.k.a. Dan Claymaker, Jack Reason and Luther Chance. You will also find a very interesting piece on writing, focused on the creative process behind O’Keefe’s Peace at Any Price, which we reviewed here. This issue includes the traditional news roundup section Hoofprints and a list of upcoming BHW releases.■ Neglected Books is a very interesting website where you can find more information and reviews of rare and out of print books, including Westerns such as Winds of Morning by H.L. Davis and Strange Conquest by Alfred Neumann.■ The excellent Online Pulps site has a number of new downloads, including a short story from the August 1957 issue of Real Western Stories: The Dancing Trees by Lon Williams, starring his character Lee Winters. The synopsis reads: “Deputy Marshal Winters had been called upon to assist lovely damsels in distress before - but never a damsel like this, and never in this kind of distress!”■ A new anthology containing ten lost mystery stories by Western writer extraordinaire Max Brand: Masquerade. You can read more about it here.■ This might be old news, but it’s still worth noting. The 2008 Western Writers of America (WWA) Convention will take place June 10-14, 2008 at the Chaparral Suites in Scottsdale, Arizona.■ Speaking of the WWA, a new issue of Roundup Magazine is out. You can see some of its contents here.■ The New York Times Magazine has an all-Western films issue, with an overview of the genre by film critic A.O. Scott and comments on movies such as The Search Party, Broken Arrow and Robert Altman’s McCabe and Mrs. Miller (the latter by Jonathan Lethem). There’s also a short aside on actor Daniel Day-Lewis’ All-Time Top Westerns.Robert B. Parker writes an interesting column on the film version of his novel Appaloosa, scheduled for release next year. Finally, there's pieces on on how Westerns shaped the business of filmmaking; the selling of the "Wild West" myth from Buffalo Bill Cody to Hollywood; the beautiful marriage of Westerns and hi-def DVDs; an interview with historian Patricia Limerick, author of the revisionist history of the West, The Legacy of Conquest; the figure of the outlaw in Westerns; and the curious comic and soon-to-be-movie Cowboys & Aliens, a trailer of which you can see here. And here's a video with some pretty cool film clips on American Character and the Western. All in all, a very comprehensive take on Hollywood Westerns. And with that, I'm out of here. Have a great weekend.[...]

Saddlebums Review: Longarm and the Golden Eagle Shoot-Out


Many writers of so-called “adult Westerns” – typically, serial novels in which the main character not only exhibits his prowess with a gun but also his skills in bed, the latter scenes depicted with varying degrees of graphicness – have often said that, in terms of plot, their books are nothing more than traditional Westerns with a few almost arbitrarily added sex episodes to satisfy the “adult” part of the equation. Given how many of the authors who write under house names such as Tabor Evans for the Longarm series or Jake Logan for Slocum are also accomplished scribes who publish “non-adult” books under their own name, you could reasonably expect some of these novels to exhibit at least a modicum of quality if.Longarm and the Golden Eagle Shoot-Out is one of those installments that falls on the “better” side of the spectrum as opposed to the clichéd raunchiness you find in the worst adult Westerns. Like the good Longarms, it delivers a well-written story with tight plotting and plenty of action. Oh, and there’s sex scenes too. Actually, there are probably more of those than usual since this is a “giant edition” episode, which means it boasts a larger page count (250 pages) than the typical series installment (180 pages).The explanation for all this probably lies in the fact that this particular Longarm was written by James Reasoner. Like many of his Westerns, this novel is heavy on the mystery, each plot twist unveiling a further secret involving its colorful cast of characters. The story opens with Deputy U.S. Marshal Custis Long, a.k.a. Longarm, in Wichita, following the trail of seasoned criminal Felix Gaunt. In spite of having killed over a dozen men in gunfights, Gaunt has only come to the attention of the U.S. government recently, when he attempted to sell diseased cattle to an Indian agency in Wyoming. Busted by a federal employee, the criminal shot him dead and is now on the run.The stage is set for a typical Longarm manhunt but just when you think you know in which direction the story is going, the author introduces a number of parallel plots. One of these involves Raider, a former Pinkerton operative who also happens to be one of the main characters in the discontinued Doc and Raider series of adult Westerns formerly published by Playboy Press and subsequently by Berkley. Raider is now a blacksmith trying to settle down in Arkansas. Although he has been unsuccessful in finding a woman, he has no intention of going back to his action-filled past behind. As is to be expected, another plot thread involves Raider’s former associate, Doc Weatherbee, who is also retired from the Pinkerton agency and is presently working at his well-to-do brother’s bank in Boston.Their stories converge in a shooting contest in West Texas, the initiative of big-time rancher Edmund Corrigan. The bored millionaire has decided to find out who is the fastest draw in the West. The prize is a life-sized gold statue of an eagle and if that doesn’t attract enough contestants, the potential of unlimited bragging rights and a larger than life reputation is a srtrong enough magnet for all sorts of miscreants and adventurers. Suffice is to say that neither Longarm nor Raider nor Doc are interested in the trophy nor the glory and yet all three descend on Corrigan’s ranch for reasons of their own.The author’s taut pacing and solid characterizations do the rest in what is one of the more enjoyable of the recent Longarms. His trademark humor likewise adds a welcome lightheartedness to the story, differentiating it from the insufferable nature of straightforward contemporary “adult[...]

Saddlebums Interview: Leah Hultenschmidt & Don D'Auria of Leisure Books


I have been reading Leisure Books—everything from Western to Thriller to Horror—for more years than I would like to admit and when I talked Leah Hultenschmidt and Don D’Auria into an interview I was more than excited.Leisure is one of the shining examples of a New York publisher that is successfully producing and marketing Westerns. Leisure’s Western line includes a broad array of reprints—writers like Louis L’Amour, Zane Grey, Max Brand, Lauran Paine, Wayne D. Overholser—as well as a good mixture of new writers—Robert J. Randisi, John D. Nesbitt, Tim Champlin, Cotton Smith, Johnny D. Boggs. The Lesiure line can be found in most major bookstores, grocery stores, department stores, and online--its website is one of the better publisher websites around with a simple and easy to use navigation system that not only features recent and new titles, but also previews coming titles.Don D’Auria is Executive Editor at Leisure Books, where he acquires and edits Horror and Thrillers, and oversees the Western line. Prior to working at Leisure, Don was an editor at Bantam, where he edited Westerns and Action/Adventure, and at Doubleday, where he edited the hardcover Double D Western line. His authors include Cotton Smith, John D. Nesbitt, Kent Conwell, Paul Bagdon, Andrew J. Fenady, Robert J. Randisi, Louis L’Amour, Zane Grey, and Will Henry, among others.Leah Hultenschmidt has been with Leisure for seven years. Before she began editing Westerns, she headed the company’s publicity department. Leah also acquires and edits in the Romance genre. Her authors include Max Brand, Wayne D. and Stephen Overholser, David Thompson, Johnny D. Boggs, Loren Zane Grey, Fred Grove, Lauran Paine, Mike Kearby and many others.Dorchester Publishing is the parent company of Leisure Books and the oldest independent mass-market publisher in North America. More information on the book club can be found at Their submission guidelines are posted at To sign up for a newsletter announcing their latest releases, visit This is a unique interview for me—to speak to the decision makers, at least editorially, of a New York publishing house—and I would like to start with a few business-type questions as related to the Western genre. Leisure Books publishes four western novels each month, and I’m curious how the acquisition process works?Don D’Auria (DD): I handle mostly original manuscripts, as opposed to reprints, so for me the process usually begins with a query letter, in which an author or agent briefly describes the ms and asks if they can send it in. The next step is simply me reading the manuscript and deciding if I want to make an offer for it. For authors I’ve worked with before, I can often base my decision on just a proposal or synopsis, since I’ll already know their writing style and I can trust them to write a good novel.Leah Hultenschmidt (LH): With the exception of David Thompson’s Wilderness series, my acquisitions are all reprints. It’s a pretty simple process, really. The author (or agent) sends me a copy of the book, and if I think it fits well with our line and have room in the schedule for it, I’ll call up and make an offer.“For authors who have a history with us, the decision to buy more titles is primarily based on previous sales—if the author continues to sell, we’ll keep publishing his books. For authors we’ve never published before, it mostly comes down to whether I like the story and th[...]

Saddlebums Review: Wilderness #53: The Rising Storm by David Thompson


(image) Simon and Felicity Ward have built a home in the wilderness. They have the first functioning farm in the territory, and they—along with their young son Peter—are truly happy. It hasn’t been easy, but Simon’s hard work in the fields along with the seeds they brought from Boston are slowly overcoming the short growing season and their homestead is the envy of the territory.

Simon is a kind man, one who would rather nurture the land than cause damage to another person, and while he is making a living in the wilderness he is still something of a greenhorn. When a British Lord claims the Ward’s valley for himself, the family has little choice but to leave everything they have built, or fight. While the Ward’s are out numbered, their odds improve when a young man named Zach King makes himself known.

Zach is the son of the famous mountain man Nate King—the lead character in David Thompson’s Wilderness series who has only a limited role in this title—and he is known around the country as a fellow who likes to fight. When he hears the Ward’s story he immediately volunteers to deal with the problem, and take care of it he does—he faces down a small British army, a sadistic girl, and the British Lord himself.

Wilderness #53: The Rising Storm is the first title in the series I have read, and it wasn’t disappointing. It is a twist on the traditional western—it is set closer to 1830 than 1880. It is all action, and will appeal to anyone who enjoys the standard fare of competent, fast paced storytelling that defines most series writing. It has limited character development, and an abundance of light-hearted violence, but the story is fun and what it lacks in originality it makes up for in pure adventure entertainment. If you like this kind of fiction you should enjoy The Rising Storm.

Scouting the Web


A jam packed Scouting the Web this week:■ Prolific (and a Saddlebums favorite) writer James Reasoner has launched his new website. The list of books he’s written is worth the price of admission alone, even though he states there are several other titles he’s contractually obligated not to claim to have authored.■ Michael Katz, author of the critically acclaimed Shalom on the Range, will be kicking off his book signing tour in the Northeast. Described by Johnny D. Boggs as “Louis L’Amour meets Jerry Seinfeld,” his novel was published earlier this year. These are the first three dates, where he will not only talk about the book but also all things Western:Barnes & Noble-Jenkintown, PA • 215-886-5366Saturday November 17, 2007 @ 2:00-4:00 p.m.Barnes & Noble-Princeton, NJ • 609-897-9250Tuesday November 27, 2007 @ 7:00-9:00 p.m.Barnes & Noble-Exton, PA • 610-524-0103Thursday November 29 @ 7:00-9:00 p.m.If you happen to live in the area, we encourage you to drop by and say “howdy” to Mr. Katz. While you are at it, you can also check out his recent article on the present and future of the Western genre at Jew Review.■ Rope and Wire has a new interview with Black Horse Westerns author Lee Pierce (hat tip to Jim Griffin for pointing us to that link).■ New articles by Larry McMurtry: One on the film version of Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men in Newsweek and another one on photographer Diane Keaton from The New York Review of Books.■ Popcorn Junkies has a list of favorite Sergio Leone films. ■ The latest issue of True West magazine is out with an article on Brad Pitt and Jesse James that’s also online and a history of Western comics exclusively available in the print edition.■ The newest issue of Wild West magazine is also out. You can check its table of contents here as well as a very interesting historical article on the railroad war over the Rock Island Railroad in Oklahoma. ■ The Criterion Collection, a distributor of quality films famed for its handsome collectors editions DVDs, has just put out The First Films of Samuel Fuller, a box set that includes two excellent Westerns: The Baron of Arizona, in which Vincent Price portrays legendary swindler James Addison Reavis, and I Shot Jesse James, his directorial debut on the life of Robert Ford. Watching it makes for an interesting contrast with the more recent Brad Pitt film, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.■ The Washington Post’s book blog, Short Stack, has a list of favorite novels about the settling of the West, including usual suspects plus an out-of-left-field pick in Karen Fisher’s A Sudden Country. ■ John Wayne’s Hondo will be screened in its original the 3D format.■ Writer Tim McGuire (recently interviewed by Saddlebums) has been contracted by Berkley to publish a new novel, Texas Cowboys, scheduled for release in late 2009. According to the author, the story is a continuation of his Rance Cash Texas series, albeit “with a grittier taste to reflect Abilene, Kansas in 1871. The story takes place there with the likes of J. B. Hickok, Jesse James, John Wesley Hardin, Ben Thompson, Luke Short, and a host of others names and events.” ■ High Country News brings us another article on the state of Westerns with some curious morsels. According to its author, one of the possible reasons for the genre’s sales decline is that “readers finally got sick of all those backward portrayals of women and Native Americans, and the romanticized views of frontier life.” I wond[...]

Saddlebums Interview: Randy Denmon


Writer/engineer Randy Denmon is a lifelong resident of Monroe, Louisiana. Prior to publication, his first book, The Lawless Frontier, was a finalist of the National Writers Association’s annual novel contest. After being picked up by Kensington, the title was eventually shortlisted for the 2007 Spur for Best Original Paperback Novel. Seven-time Spur Award winner Elmer Kelton called The Lawless Frontier an "impressive debut" whereas National Book Award laureate Tim O'Brien hailed it as "well-written and engrossing." The author, a US Army veteran of the Gulf War, has also written two more novels that are presently awaiting publication. One of them tells the story of two Texas Rangers during the Mexican-American War while his third novel deals with a Marine in Central America during the interwar years. Did you ever write or publish anything before The Lawless Frontier ?The Lawless Frontier was my first novel, no publications prior. It started out as a collection of short stories that I eventually turned into a novel.What led you to start writing fiction in the first place? Why did you choose a Western or historical novel if you will to make your debut?The Lawless Frontier started out as historical fiction. That was the intent anyway. It was eventually turned into a western because the editor at Kensington, Gary Goldstein, liked the story, but wanted to publish it in the western genre. I was then required to make the appropriate changes to have the novel conform. I guess you could say that the publishing industry and market turned my first book into a western. But it turned out fine.Can you cite any authors as influences or inspiration for your work? What authors are you presently reading? How about writers in the Western genre?There’s so many, I don’t know where to start. With some writers, I really like their stories, but not their styles, with others, it’s just the opposite. For a good combination of both, I’d say Elmore Leonard.The writing in your novel is very polished and showcases a self-assured prose that is not always usual for authors making their debut. Did you place lot of emphasis on crafting the perfect sentence or were you more concerned with your writing being serviceable to the fast-paced nature of The Lawless Frontier?Don’t think I’ve ever crafted a sentence, at least not from conception, but I do try to be bold – put the words down exactly as they flow from the mind, sometimes with a lot of disregard for the grammar rules. Terse, with a lot of quick stop and starts is always good for me. Though, I do find myself going back and cleaning up a lot of sentences after the fact. "I try to go out of my way to depict this and point out the parallels and ironies with the past. Much of what has happened in the past is relevant and parallel to things today: current problems and concerns, both on a grand scale or on the personal level." How much research into the history of the Mexican Revolution went into your novel? Does research play a large role in your writing?I do a lot of research, and the research does aid in the writing. It gives me ideas about what to put on paper that will correctly reflect the time and setting. The first person narratives from a certain time and place are the best. They tell me what the people were actually doing, thinking, worrying about, etc. I always seem to pick up ideas from these. Throughout your novel, characters like Stewart Cook make comments about foreign entanglements and life in countries with politically volatile situations.[...]

Saddlebums Review: The Lawless Frontier


Louisiana writer Randy Denmon surprised many members of the Western community when apparently out of the blue his debut title The Lawless Frontier was short listed for the 2007 Spur Award for Best Original Paperback Novel. The book is indeed rare given how it reads like the effort of an experienced author, exhibiting the taut prose that is characteristic of some of the best traditional Westerns along with a story of breadth and resounding scope.Set during the Mexican Revolution, The Lawless Frontier pits two U.S. war veterans and partners-in-arms of the Spanish-American War into the heart of the bloody conflict south of the border. The taciturn, half Mexican, half Texan attorney Stewart Cook asks his former comrade Myles Adams, now a liaison officer for the U.S. War Department, to accompany him to Mexico for a most fateful mission: rescue his romantic interest Alexia García and her family before the rebel troops of Pancho Villa ravage her hometown. The enterprise’s prospects for success pale compared to the chance that the two men will make it out alive. And yet, before one thinks he is faced with the typical Western yarn where the adventurers beat insurmountable odds and outshoot every bandit in sight, Denmon starts to weave a far more ambitious tale.Adams and Cook are the unwitting witnesses of a vicious strife in a foreign yet neighboring land. Through their eyes the reader sees the plight of refugees leaving their towns before they are pillaged as anarchy encroaches the country. Through their interaction with other characters, Denmon also alludes to the Wilson administration’s hesitancy to intervene in the conflict, reflecting on the nature of foreign entanglements and drawing interesting parallels between past and present.Although they have experienced war fighting in the Philippines and both of them are skilled soldiers, Adams and Cook are not the larger than life individuals you would expect in a novel with this title and presentation (allow me a little digression here, but this is yet another commentary on how publishers stubbornly insist on marketing Westerns as if they were assembly line products, clichéd titles and derivative cover illustrations included. For more on this, check out our interview with Randy Denmon on Wednesday).In spite of his inexpressive nature, Stewart is often scared and feels doubts about the success of the mission. He has yet to express Alexia his feelings for her and yet he is marching across Mexico in a time and place where being an American is not only unpopular but dangerous. Myles, on the other hand, is a happy-go-lucky character who nevertheless excels at leading men through perilous situations. The rapport between Cook and Adams is reminiscent of that between Larry McMurtry’s Woodrow Call and Gus McCrae as their complementary personalities help them march on.If I could mention a minor quibble with the novel, it is one that in all likelihood is more the responsibility of its editors than of the author himself. As in many other Western novels, its use of Spanish is at times erratic and grammatically incorrect, something that while not critical to the story still undermines its authenticity. To witness, the references to the “Santa Catarina” river near Monterrey as the “Santo Catarina” river (p. 162) or the unlikely choice of name for one of Alexia’s sisters: “Alijondra” (nonexistent as far as I know) instead of the more plausible “Alejandra.”The Lawless Frontier is a solid first effort that, no[...]

Forthcoming Westerns: November 2007


Update: Thanks to a tip from loyal reader and exellent writer Chap O'Keefe, I've added four Black Horse Westerns that will be released on November 30th--scroll down and take a look.Also, my list of November releases doesn't include any Large Print editions, and there are several scheduled. I have chosen not to include them because they are difficult to find in bookstores and usually reprints of titles that have previously been released, but truthfully it is more that these lists take a surprising amount of time to compile, and the LP editions would make the process even longer. If there are publishers or writers who want to see a large print edition included on this list please send me an email before the 15th of each month and I will be happy to include it / them. The western selection in October was terrific, and while November’s list isn’t quite as large, or as varied, it is still pretty darn good. We have a total of 24 novels coming out—they represent a mixture of new and old, and paperback and hardcover. There is also a large release—19 titles—of western audio books from Brilliance and Five Star. The bulk of the titles are the work of Max Brand, but the list also includes other classic western writers such as T.T. Flynn, Les Savage, Jr., T.V. Olsen, Lewis B. Patten, and several others.I hope everyone has a wonderful Halloween, and I hope to see you at the bookstore.October 30thBronc Man by Paul BagdonDogs of the Captain by Max BrandThe Trail of Whitened Skulls by Tom W. BlackburnWalk Proud, Stand Tall by Johnny D. BoggsSynopsis of Johnny D. Boggs’ Walk Proud, Stand Tall:“Back in his prime, Lin Garrett was a legend as a lawman. The story of how he captured outlaw Ollie Sinclair was a favorite in Arizona Territory. But Lin hung up his badge long ago and now spends his days at a county home for the aged. His days are peaceful—until he gets word Sinclair has formed a new gang and pulled off a daring train robbery. The local lawmen are at a loss, but Lin knows just how his old nemesis thinks. And he’s out to prove no matter how many years have passed, he can still take down his man.”November 1stThe Argonauts of North Liberty by Bret HarteThe Spirit of the Border by Zane GreyNovember 4th.45-Caliber Deathtrap by Peter BrandvoldRicochet by Thom NicholsonThe Trailsman: #313 Texas Timber War by Jon SharpeNovember 6thHonor of the Mountain Man / Preacher’s Fortune by William W. JohnstoneThe Town Called Fury: Judgement Day by William W. JohnstoneSmonk by Tom FranklinNovember 13thRanger’s Law: A Lone Star Saga by Elmer KeltonNovember 14thCrucifixion River by Bill Pronzini and Marcia Muller Man from Durango by Lauren Paine Synopsis from Mike Blakely’s Come Sundown:“Reluctant hero, Honore Greenwood, has a knack for embroiling himself in the most violen conflicts of the Southern Plains. Known as Plenty Man to the Comanches, Honore serves as ransom negotiator for captives among the Indians. As if his life wasn't in danger enough, Honore has offered his services to the New Mexico Volunteers in the Civil War. But as Honore's luck would have it, he's in the same unit as Luther Sheffield, a man whose grudge against Greenwood knows no boundaries, even though they are fighting on the same side.” November 27thCome Sundown by Mike BlakelyThe Gunsmith: #312 Under a Turquoise Sky by J.R. RobertsA Long and Winding Road by Win BlevinsLongarm: #349 Longarm and the Colorado Manhunt by Tabor EvansSSlocum Giant: Slocum and the Cel[...]

Saddlebums Interview: Ed Gorman


Ed Gorman has been writing professionally since 1983, when St. Martin’s Press purchased his novel Rough Cut. Since then he has proven to be one of the most reliable and prolific writers—I use the word prolific in a positive sense—working. He has published novels in several different genres, including mystery, suspense, science fiction, horror, and western.Mr. Gorman has been nominated for several writing awards, and he won the Spur Award in 1993 for his short story “The Face.” He has been called “the poet of dark suspense” by Bloomsbury Review, and “a master storyteller” by the Dallas Morning News. I have been an avid reader of his work for several years, and no matter what Ed Gorman chooses to write, you can count on one thing: it will be very entertaining.He lives in Cedar Rapids, Iowa with his wife, writer Carol Gorman.I have been reading your work—everything from westerns to mysteries to horror and science fiction, and I’m impressed with its overall diversity. My question, is there a specific genre you most prefer to work in?Mystery and suspense, I suppose. But I’ve worked in horror and science fiction with great pleasure.“I could never come close to finishing a novel until I met Max Allan Collins who gave me two great pieces of advice—look at each chapter as a story and never look back until you’ve finished the book.” I want to talk a little about your publishing history, what is the first novel you published? Was it a long time coming, or did you hit print pretty quickly once you decided to write it?I wrote a lot of stuff for men’s magazines in the Sixties and Seventies. I could never come close to finishing a novel until I met Max Allan Collins who gave me two great pieces of advice—look at each chapter as a story and never look back until you’ve finished the book. Then worry about revisions. I finished Rough Cut and shopped it around. Agents felt that the narrator was more psychotic than the villain. I sent it to St. Martin’s Press where it was fished out of slush and bought. This was 1983.When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?Probably around age eight. The nuns fed me Jack London and I discovered Ray Bradbury on my own. After reading those guys I never faltered in wanting to be a published writer.It is my understanding that you have written several novels under house names, mostly in The Trailsman series. When you write under a house name do you approach it differently than your other work?I do the best work I can on every project.Most of your western fiction is non-traditional. You seem to use many of the same elements as one would find in a mystery novel. Your Noah Ford character from the Cavalry Man novels has more in common with a modern mystery protagonist than he does with the traditional western outsider. Is this an effort to move away from the traditional western, or simply expand the definition of what a western is? Do you think these novels would be more popular if they were marketed as a western mystery rather than a traditional western?I think you have to find a special angle to sell crossover books. Steve Hockensmith with Holmes On The Range brought something fresh and exciting to the crossover and has been very successful for doing so.Is there a book, or a few books, that you have written and are particularly proud of?My favorites are The Autumn Dead, Blood Moon, The Night Remembers, and Cage of Night in suspense; Wolf Moon and Ghost [...]

Saddlebums Interview: Tim McGuire


Illinois-born and Texas-raised Tim McGuire has always had a fascination with history. He aptly translates it into his novels, action-filled yet character-centered stories that have earned him the accolades of Western greats such as Loren D. Estleman and Larry McMurtry.Mr. McGuire presently resides in Grand Prairie Texas. His next novel, Texas Cowboys, is scheduled to release from Berkley in late 2009.What led you to start writing in the Western genre?As I've posted on my website and in other interviews, I am a product of the '60s where the Western was as common as the current "reality" shows. My mother loved Westerns and before cable TV, that's what was always in syndication. My father was a history buff, especially Civil War era, so I absorbed his love for the study and developed in my mind just what a character I would dream to be. That, and a lot of respect for history put together The Rainmaker. The character and subsequent plots developed into a series swirling around in my head.You have written two series of books with regular characters: The Rainmaker novels and the Texas trilogy with Rance Cash. While the aforementioned Clay Cole, a.k.a. "The Rainmaker" is a rugged, tough, no-nonsense character, Cash's depiction is more lighthearted, him being a gambler rather than a gunslinger and his troubles often leading to comic situations. Was this shift from a gritty traditional Western novel to one that incorporates more humor a deliberate one?I didn't want to create the same character and call him by a different name. In the Texas series, I started the storyline ten years earlier when the West was just a rumor to those in the East. Rance Cash is intended as a less than deadly serious fellow to follow with a bit of spicy behavior to his way. Les and Jody were meant as the focal point, but Rance was the one that kept you reading. I tried to think as a gambler must have thought in a game of cards and of life. He's not as cruel as those in accurate history, but I've tried to present him as a fortune seeker which is the prime motivation of most of those flowing west."I do believe that a well told story has a place for every interest" Can you tell us more about the campaign to "Save The Rainmaker"?I was trying to test the waters as it were to measure just what type of support I had to continue the series to the last four books. At current, I am still counting. It's understandable publishers measure success in copies sold. Although I have been pleasantly gratified with the personal responses I have received through my guestbook, more numbers are needed to the left of the decimal point to make publishers notice.You have been described by Loren Estleman as a "traditional Western" writer. Do you agree with that assertion? Have you ever thought about trying your hand at other type of stories such as historical novels or even other genres?Let me first say, Loren was incredibily generous with his praise. That said, I am a fan of a well told story and am actively seeking to expand into other genres. I am a particular fan of the thriller genre in which I have a few projects brewing. As a far as a lecture on history in novel form, I don't feel qualified to write that sort as a form of entertainment which a novel should be.Many of your books include a blurb from Larry McMurtry that I think describes your novels perfectly: "Tim McGuire writes a good western, the story fast-paced, the characters [...]