Friday, September 11, 2009

No Demand for Westerns?

I hear and read about it all the time.

The reason WH Smith, Borders, Waterstones etc don't stock Westerns is that there is no demand for them.


I for one am a big book buyer. However, I never bought Westerns when I visited the big chains because I couldn’t find them. Pure and simple. When I asked the assistant why they didn’t stock a range of Westerns when every other genre is so well represented, she told me, “They don't sell!" How do they know if they don't stock them?

Like many others, I get my Western fix from the local library where there are dozens of them - great! When you look at the inside back cover you find lots of scribbled initials, markings and symbols. These are, the librarian tells me, where people mark their books with their own ‘brand’ so they don’t take out the same book twice. Some of these books have twenty or more markings on them. The librarian tells me there is great demand for Westerns but budget constraints limit how many they can buy.

For the last couple of weekends I’ve been visiting our local car-boot sale where, I was glad to see, a pretty professional book seller has set up. The books are good value and generally of a high quality and I was delighted to see a few trays marked ‘Westerns’ but then disappointed to find only a few books in each. “Does nobody read Westerns any more?” I asked the bookseller.

“Quite the opposite,” he told me, “I can’t keep up with them! These trays were full this morning but I just cannot get enough cowboy books – especially those Black Horse Western ones they do in the library!” and to prove his point, I bought ten books from him – Matt Braun’s and Louis L’Amour's among them.

Since I’ve started writing Westerns and joined forums and on-line communities, I find there are literally hundreds of people out there who are real Western enthusiasts who would buy books if they were available and printed in a more competitive paper back and marketed as effectively as say, Mills and Boons.

Now let me get one thing clear! I am NOT criticising Robert Hale Ltd who have done a fantastic job in keeping the Western genre alive and kicking in the UK and without whom there might be no Western books being published at all which would be a calamity! They have also been fantastically supportive of new authors who might not be in print otherwise and for which I will be eternally grateful.

It’s just that, there is always a little niggle in the back of head that says that tastes and fashions in books like every other product come and go. Who would have thought that a book about a magician in a private school would have captured the imagination of children the way it did? Where did that sudden interest in vampires come from? A few years ago there might have been one or two harrowing tales of childhood now the book shelves are heaving with them!

So on the one hand, I’ve got to listen and respect the judgement of the professional publishers and retailers who have been doing this a long time and who say that there is no mainstream demand for Westerns.

But everywhere I come across Western books – libraries, car boots, online enthusiasts, I hear a different story.

What’s going on?

Where Legends Ride!

Yesterday I received my pristine copy of Where Legends Ride – New Tales of the Old West; a great collection of fourteen short stories published by Express Westerns and edited by Matthew P. Mayo.

The line up of talented authors is impressive with a good mixture of ‘old hands’ like Chuck Tyrell, Gillian F. Taylor, Ben Bridges, I.J. Parnham and Lance Howard to relative newcomers such as Lee Pierce and Ross Morton.

Most contributors write for the Black Horse Westerns series published by Robert Hale Ltd and the one thing they all have in common is they can tell great yarns. According the blurb the book is full of tales of ‘hot lead, cold hearts and more leather-slapping action, adventure and edge-of-the-seat danger than you could ever hope to find on either side of the Mississippi” – and lives up to this claim and more!

The quality of writing is superb and as David Whitehead says in his introduction, “despite what its critics say to the contrary, the humble but oh-so-much-fun Western isn’t ready for Boot Hill just yet. And the newer generation of writers represented here are determined to make sure it not only survives for a good long while to come but that it also positively thrives.

For anybody new to reading Western fiction and for those who think they may want to have a go at writing it, Where Legends Ride, would be a great place to start - available from Amazon!

PS - Rumour has it there is a second anthology of Western Stories soon – watch this space for news!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Gun Law Still In Best-Seller Lists

Thanks to fellow BHW author IJ Parnham who compiled this list of best-selling Black Horse Western books according to Amazon as at 7th September.

Althought Gun Law is not officially released until 31st December, it is available for pre-order through Amazon, Waterstones, WHSmith and of course, not forgetting your local library.

The full list looks like this:

1. The Short Creek Rustlers by J.D. Ryder (Jul 2009)
2. The Frontiersmen by Elliot Conway (Oct 2004)
3. Trail Scum by Corba Sunman (Jan 2001)
4. Ruben's Ruse by Ben Coady (Jul 2001)
5. Iron Eyes Makes War by Rory Black (Oct 2009)
6. Bowie of the Alamo by John Glasby (Dec 2002)
7. The Tarnished Star by Jack Martin (Jun 2009)
8. Trail of the Burned Man by Thomas McNulty (Nov 2009)
9. Bad Men Die Hard by Dave Hooker (Mar 1994)
10. Gun Law by Lee Walker (Dec 2009)

Part Six of the Short Stoy Challenge

This thing keeps rattlin' along like a locomotive!

Keep up to date with the Short Story Challenge. Read Part Six HERE.

(You can go through the archives to see what this is all about!)


Sunday, September 6, 2009

Keepin' It Real!

As a new writer, I have already came across a number of situations where my hero has found himself in a life threatening fix but with a mixture of ingenuity and guts has lived to tell the tale. I then have to stop myself and ask “Would this have really happened? Is the reader really going to believe this?”

The other night I was watching a favourite TV show of mine called Mythbusters, which if you haven’t seen it, is all about taking ‘urban myths’ and either proving them or debunking them using semi-scientific experiments. They often take examples of Hollywood stunts and test to see if they could have actually worked in reality and a lot of these stunts are from Westerns. For example…

Can you shoot the hat off a cowboys head? We’ve seen it a hundred times in movies but turns out you can’t! A handgun bullet travelling at a few hundred miles an hour will just go straight through hat material with almost no resistance leaving the hat unmoved. You can shoot a hat off with a shotgun but you tend to take off the top of the guys head as well which sort of defeats the purpose!

How many times have you seen a baddie get shot and fly off his feet through a window or door with the force of the blast? Won’t happen. No matter the calibre of gun, according to the Mythbuster guys, the body will just drop vertically – which of course seems kind of boring on the big screen so they’ve got to spice it up!

A few weeks ago there was a lively discussion on the Black Horse Western Writers Forum about whether you could ignite a barrel of gunpowder by shooting it. Again, big explosions are great TV but the consensus of opinion from people who know a lot about this stuff says it just won’t happen!

How many times did we see in the old movies our hero getting busted from jail by his compadre. They tied a lasso round the bars, tied the other end around the pommel of a horse and then pulled the bars out. The hero climbs through the square gap and is away before you can say, “Hi Ho Silver.” ‘Couldn’t have happened’ say the Mythbusters team. They constructed a replica frontier jail using the same materials and construction methods. A modern JCB couldn’t pull the bars out never mind one horsepower.

Not to be outdone, they decided to use a stick of dynamite! They’ve done that in the movies hundreds of time, haven’t they? This time it was a success! It blew the bars out sure enough but using pressure sensors on a dummy inside the jail they proved that nobody could’ve withstood the pressure from the explosion in such a confined area and even if they had, nobody could’ve got out the window because it was so small.

And so here lies the dilemma! Readers are looking for adventure. Writers have to keep coming up with fresh ideas and angles on old scenarios. It’s a fine balance between fact and farce and it takes a lot of skill to keep a story historically accurate and entertaining too but it’s a balancing act Black Horse Western writers are particularly good at!

I’d love to hear of any other Western Myths debunked!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Part Five of the Short Story Challenge

Here is the latest part of the project that started over a month ago where a BHW author writes a five hundred word section of a book started by IJ Parnham.

In a literary relay, the current author takes over where the previous author laid off. There's no telling where this thing might go!

Check out the next thrilling installment at Jack Martins blog!

(Don't forget to scroll back through the archives to read the previous four parts!)


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Cowboy Joke

The Lone Ranger and Tonto walked into a bar and sat down to drink a beer. After a few minutes, a big tall cowboy walked in and said, "Who owns the big white horse outside?"

The Lone Ranger stood up, hitched his gun belt, and said, "I do...Why?"
The cowboy looked at the Lone Ranger and said, "I just thought you would like to know that your horse is about dead outside!"

The Lone Ranger and Tonto rushed outside, and sure enough, Silver was ready to die from heat exhaustion. The Lone Ranger got the horse water, and soon, Silver was starting to feel a little better. The Lone Ranger turned to Tonto and said, "Tonto, I want you to run around Silver and see if you can create enough of a breeze to make him start to feel better."

Tonto said, "Sure, Kemosabe," and took off running circles around Silver. Not able to do anything else but wait, the Lone Ranger returned to the bar to finish his drink.

A few minutes later, another cowboy struts into the bar and asks, "Who owns that big white horse outside?"

The Lone Ranger stands again, and claims, "I do, what's wrong with him this time?"

The cowboy looks him in the eye and says, "Nothing, but you left your Injun runnin'."