Friday, September 30, 2011
Because this blog has caught the eye of several Western Writers – and also due to the fact that a question was posed recently on the Western Readers Facebook Page to which I’m privileged to belong – I’ve decided that I’m going to post (over a period of time) covers of my favorite reference books as a guide to those who are seeking factual data on the Old West. Sorry, my books are not for sale.
I do not claim to have a humongous library of them, but I do have an impressive (to me, anyway!) collection and am only too happy to share them here with you so that you’ll have an idea of what to look for.
Let me say from the outset here that I do NOT recommend the Time-Life series “The Old West”. Don’t get me wrong, the books are beautiful, wonderfully packaged and include hundreds of priceless photos; for those reasons they are great to have, but please do not trust (or use) a lot of what you read there.
Some of these reference books are long out of print, so if you want them you’ll have to check Amazon, etc., or even your local libraries.
I hope this will be of help to those needing it. Best of luck, amigos and amigas!
From Great Britain.
James D. Horan's Classic Bit of Gunfighter History.
The first one in the series that I found - and one that has been invaluable to me.
This helped me immensely when I wrote my piece on "Uncle" Bill Tilghman.
Leon Claire Metz - I just about have to genuflect when I say his name. This is an autographed copy!
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Another masterpiece by the great Robert Conley. It’s easy to see why he’s one of the most beloved and respected of our Western writers these days. Long may he word process!
From the mighty typewriter of Loren D. Estleman.
This is the best book I’ve ever read concerning the events surrounding and leading up to the Gunfight at the OK Corral. Never knew that Doc Holliday suffered from constipation after the occurrence at the Corral. If I’d had Ike Clanton and his boys shooting at me, I’m pretty sure I would have been just the opposite of constipated.
One of the early books in the Raider and Doc series, published by Playboy Press.
Don’t remember too much about this one, really, since I initially read it nearly 30 years ago. I do recall, though, that it’s pretty randy and that it came (ahem) during the heyday of the so-called “Adult Western”.
I believe the late Alan Riefe wrote this one. He created the series for Playboy and wrote the first several books.
The Widow Kate in this story is not some old, wrinkly woman as Slocum first suspects when he takes the job of escorting her, sight unseen. She winds up having to use her wiles to “distract” him to keep secret the real purpose of Slocum’s employment.
Someone once told me that they thought that Martin Cruz Smith, well-known author of “Gorky Park” had written this one but they couldn’t be 100% certain.
Ace Charter really knew how to effectively package these books. Robert Randisi’s nearly 30 year old series is still out there and going strong today. Just learned that the early books are finding their way to print again.
Don’t have a clue where this came from; it was just in a stack of books in my basement. Never heard of Jackson Cole (if he’s a real person) before, so I presume that this must have been a “hand-me-down” book of some sort.
Violence, violence, violence! Oh, and some more violence on top of that. But that’s one of the things that made the Edge books as fun as they were. This entry in the series shows how to cut “Corners”.
For a while, before the old Pinnacle Books went under, Matt Braun was their top selling Western Writer.
BLOOD STORM came out with a blitz of publicity that Pinnacle didn’t usually do. They packaged this book (and the ones which came after) very nicely.
Matt is still out there and writing some excellent stories.
Pinnacle Books re-grouped and came back with a vengeance and brought us such talents as Johnny D. Boggs and J. A. Johnstone. It’s good to see that Westerns have returned to favor now. Years from now, this will be considered another “Golden Age” when it comes to the Western. Feel privileged to have seen it happen.
Richard “Dick” House was a mentor and dear friend from the time I met him in the Summer of 1984.
In addition to being a helluva writer and storyteller, he took a neophyte writer such as myself under his wing and taught me an appreciation for living and life that my-then 23 year old eyes hadn’t really seen before.
His kindness was without boundaries and so I was delighted when his books really started taking off. THE SUDDEN GUN is representative of Dick’s best work. I just wish he was still with us so that I could tell him one more time how much he meant to me. At least his work lives on in print now. No man could ask for a better epitaph.
Although this lasted longer than I thought it would, this series failed to keep up with the sales of Jove’s other Adult Western offerings, LONGARM and LONE STAR, and was given an eventual “Honorable Discharge” shortly after this one. Nice packaging on most of these books, though.
Ever since I started reading Westerns in my late teens, I’ve been interested in just where it was they came from. How did they start as a publishing phenomenon and how far were we removed from the time they first appeared? Well, it didn’t start with fellows like Clarence Mulford, but he was among those who “shepherded” these stories into what would become the litmus test for Westerns of the 1950’s on up.
Think I’ve only read two of the Hopalong books; one by Mulford, the other by Louis L’Amour. Here we have one of several that I picked up somewhere along the way. When I read that Richard Wheeler was a Mulford fan, I knew I should be picking these up when and wherever I found them. Good thing I did!
“Tom Lord” was actually Matt Braun. I can reveal this now because this series was later re-printed under Matt’s own name from, I believe, St. Martin’s Press. Don’t actually remember too much about this book (or the first two, either) except that they were done in the days of the “Adult Western”.
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
The GUNN books were my first introduction to the writings of Texas native Jory Sherman (although Jory was living in Branson, Missouri at the time he was writing these). Since then, Jory has amassed an impressive catalog of westerns and non-westerns alike.
MEXICAN SHOWDOWN has Gunn assisting a young lady in her quest for revenge after a town boss has her family killed. Let's just say that Zoila amply "rewards" our hero for his assistance.
Sunday, September 11, 2011
‘Wagon Hunt’ is set in the year 1868 in an America still coming to terms with the end of the Civil War. It is the story of three men who are trying to find their way in this changed country, and of how their choices affect their lives.
The main character is Pete Baker, marshal of Baxter Springs. His position is placed under threat by the newly-elected Mayor Dell, who wants to bring in his own man to do the job. Pete has a young family, however, and fights for his career. That is until there is a bank robbery in town, and Dell sees his chance to remove him.
The bank robbery is carried out by Charlie Weston, former Rebel and member of Alan Quantrill’s guerrilla band. In 1863 he participated in the Lawrence Massacre. The ensuing enactment of General Order No.11 by the Union government, which was caused in part by the massacre, left much of his home county of Jackson devastated and led to the exile of his parents in Kansas. They were never to return to their homestead. He is burdened by guilt because he connects his part in the massacre with his parents’ displacement and this guilt eventually deadens him inside, dehumanises him. He becomes an outlaw and spends the next years robbing and looting. The beginning of the book sees him at age 38, growing weary with this transient and dangerous life. He wants to pull one more big raid so that he can buy some land and maybe become a farmer.
Weston succeeds in robbing the bank in Baxter Springs but Pete is alerted to the robbery almost immediately. He, along with his deputy Joe Flaherty, chases Weston and his band out of town and across the plain. There is a shootout where Pete and Joe succeed in subduing all of the gang except Weston, who escapes in the commotion. This leaves Pete and Joe to return to town empty handed where they are summoned once more to meet with Mayor Dell. To avoid being fired Pete makes a deal with Dell. He asks for two months to track down this bank robber. If he succeeds he will remain as marshal, if he fails he will quit his post. Dell agrees to this as Pete is popular amongst the townsfolk and Dell is reluctant to draw their ire. He sees this as a fair compromise because he can’t imagine Pete succeeding.
Not everything goes well for Weston either, however. He is scammed of his money by Josiah Maxwell, son of land baron Bat Maxwell. In a fit of temper he guns down Josiah in a Lawrence saloon. He escapes on foot into the night where he is found unconscious by an emigrant returning to his wagon after buying some supplies in town. Weston awakens in the back of a wagon as they head west along with the rest of the wagon train.. He settles into their life as it gives him time to think and is a good hiding place from the men he supposes are coming to kill him. He begins to recover some of his humanity amongst this community and begins to fall for a beautiful young woman named Rose. As they travel he proves useful to the emigrants, helping them to ford the Platte, hunt buffalo and see off some Sioux aggression.
The third man is Tom Bogue. He is a hired gun, commissioned by Bat Maxwell to find and kill Charlie Weston, his son’s killer. He must first track him down and he visits Baxter Springs to enquire about the bank robbery. There he poses as a Pinkerton and questions Pete who, hoping that he might have some information, follows him to Lawrence where he discovers that he has been picked up by the wagon train, and then onto the trail. Bogue is ready for Pete and Joe, however, and he captures them on the banks of the Platte. He does not kill them as he has a plan to use Pete to flush Weston out when they catch up with him.
Eventually they catch the prairie schooners before Fort Bridger. Pete is sent in to find Weston, as Bogue is sure he will be recognised by his prey. Pete concocts a plan with Weston, however, and they eventually kill Bogue after a struggle. Pete has developed a rapport with Weston and doesn’t arrest him, despite the consequences for his job. Weston is free to continue west with Rose, their love free to blossom. Before he leaves, he gives Pete the remainder of the money from the robbery. The novel ends with them going their separate ways and Pete looking forward to returning home to his family.
The crux of the story deals with Weston recovering his humanity after joining the wagon train and subsequently falling in love with Rose. He gives up the money he has stolen at the end of the book whereas Bogue chases him and is willing to kill him for cash reward. Bogue is emotionless, unable to see beyond the task at hand. Kill for money – that is his mantra and he ultimately dies because of this. Pete has the most to lose of them all. A job, a wife, a child and a great friend in his deputy. He is the character that is the most easy to identify with. His motivations are many and the pressures on his decision-making affecting the most people. Ultimately, it is his innate humanity that keeps him on the straight path and prevents the type of extreme behaviour that Weston used to deal in, and Bogue continues to deal in until his death. As they move further and further west the characters leave civilisation behind them and this distance between the corruption and vices of the towns and cities seems to bring out the best in Boland and Weston. The rugged Rocky Mountains provide the scene for the final confrontations.
Sunday, September 4, 2011
The second of two new Ralph Compton books found at Wal-Mart this weekend.
This looks to be a peripheral continuation of the previous Compton book, DEATH RIDES A CHESTNUT MARE.
Ralph Cotton writing a Ralph Compton book - a double treat, I'd say!
The newest novel in the popular "Eagles" series. Thanks to J. A. Johnstone for sending the book. Will definitely be a treat for me as it will be the first book in the series that I get to read.
Special thanks to Becky Coffield of Moonlight Mesa Publishing for sending these scans and making me aware of these new Western books.