March - May 2009
December 2008All Guns Blazing
Jim Bowden & Co.
Revolver ConversionsSeptember 2008
Power of the Premise
West on Wheels
Plot or Not Debate
Plotters and Pantsers
More Horse Talk
Peace at Any Price
Artist Michael Thomas
Judging by Covers
The Schofield Revolver
The Walker Colt
Sydney J. Bounds
Jake Douglas & Co.
Facts for Fiction
Writers and Money
Blast from the Literary Past Hoofprints
Twin Challenge to Tyler Hatch Night Herds and Stampedes
Walt Masterson's Sundown Ride New Black Horse Westerns
Your comments and western news are always welcome at email@example.com
Black Horse Westerns
come in no one voice. The range of styles and approaches to what could be
a very confining genre has remained so far a point of appeal for the fiction
line published since 1986 by Robert Hale Ltd, of London. Thus a recent comment
about imposition of "straitjackets" publishers of westerns would feel are
necessary "in order to preserve our markets" is ominous.
In 2008, more than fifty different pen-names appeared on the 72 new BHW
titles released, though some names concealed the identities
of writers already represented on the list. Hale's standard Memorandum
of Agreement specifies that "the Publishers shall not be obliged to
publish any two novels by the said Author within six months of each
From the viewpoint of a prolific author, who at times might be
producing a book a month, multiple pen-names are a sensible
solution. Veteran Australian scribe Keith Hetherington
springs to mind, writing BHWs as Jake Douglas, Tyler Hatch, Hank J. Kirby and
now Rick Dalmas. Keith has roped in Dalmas to replace Clayton Nash. The
latter name was used by a lately notorious Australian criminal; the new
one, Keith tells us, is inspired by Raymond Chandler's detective character
John Dalmas -- "a forerunner of my all-time favourite private-eye,
For an author who wants, and has the talent, to produce westerns in
different styles, it also makes sense to work under more than one name. An
author with, say, a reputation for dark suspense might not want to spoil
it with a book in which the major attraction is light-hearted, whimsical
But a plethora of lookalike bylines makes selection by a reader who
cannot find time for 72 westerns a year a baffling task. How do you
figure out that to read more of favourite Author X you must seek
out books by Author Y? Also, it has been put forward that the same
problem occurs in reverse. An author whose work does not
suit your taste sneaks another perceived clunker into your pile of
library borrowings -- by using a different pen-name on a book that for you has
identical shortcomings and occasionally is a virtual repeat of a story
you wouldn't have chosen to read again.
Some BHW authors do manage to stand out in a short time. Matthew P. Mayo, Eugene Clifton and Ross Morton have made
their marks, each with fewer than a handful of books. The less than prolific writer told it
might be "wise" to adopt a new name should think carefully, and
maybe pause to familiarize him or herself with all facets of the business axiom
"activity equals success".
International speaker and bestselling
Penguin author Debbie Mayo-Smith says: "The sales you make today are
the marketing activity you have done in the past. What differs,
industry by industry, is the lead time required for the activity to
achieve results. Stop or change the activity and in a corresponding
time in the future, sales will fall."
Perils can lie in abandoning an old pen-name, or
producing one's own competition. Regular, savvy readers might catch on
that the new name is an author known to them, but for many it will be diluting the
impression the writer has already made. "Ah yes, Author A, there's
nothing special about him . . . he writes little differently from
and Author C."
On the other hand, publishers and readers of genre fiction could argue
they don't want authors who are distinctive, let alone have distinction.
Arthur Conan Doyle
|A BHW nod to Sherlock Holmes |
BLAST FROM THE LITERARY PAST
Zach Skann came to
Denver toting a deadly 12-gauge Greener shotgun. His mind was warped
and sick from fifteen years in a penitentiary and it sought the
palliative of vengeance against mines investor Ryan Bennett, the former
Pinkerton detective responsible for his incarceration and the hangings
Subsequently, it fell to Joshua Dillard, gun-for-hire, to seek the
truth about Bennett’s murder for his sister, icily beautiful Flora
Bennett. She declared she’d been cheated of a bequest; that Ryan’s
widow and his smooth ex-secretary knew more than they were letting on.
To clear up the sorry mess of accusation and trickery, Joshua rode
to a mining-town hell-hole. There the trail of inquiry became a trail
of more blood!
Blast to Oblivion
CHAP O'KEEFE writes:
THE first words in this book, after the title pages, are written by Sir
Arthur Conan Doyle: "The old wheel turns, and the same spoke comes up.
It’s all been done before, and will be again."
Black Horse Western readers who are also Sherlockians will recognize
that quotation as words spoken by Sherlock Holmes in the second chapter
of The Valley of Fear. The Holmes novel was serialized in Britain in The Strand
magazine between September 1914 and May 1915. Along the way, the George
H. Doran Company, of New York, gave it a first book publication on
February 27, 1915.
The Valley of Fear was the fourth and last of the
Sherlock Holmes "Long Stories", and is set in 1875 and 1895. It's a
novel by the standards of its day, the page count being not very
different from today's average BHW.
When the four Holmes novels were collected and published in one volume
first time, Conan Doyle wrote a Preface dated June 1929.
It began, "The
following stories paint Mr Sherlock Holmes and his activities upon a
somewhat broader canvas where there is room for expansion. This
expansion must express itself in action, for there is no room for
character development in the conception of a detective."
Joshua’s territory comprised the Frontier West, which was the kind of place
that attracted the bold and self-sufficient man and quickly gave he who was
neither the message that he was best advised to light out, promptly and headlong,
for safer haunts.
Conan Doyle's view of "action" in fiction is rather different from what
later generations have come to expect. Of The Valley of Fear
he also said, rightly, "Holmes plays a subsidiary part in this story."
When the book was released as a movie in 1935, retitled The
of Sherlock Holmes, the screenplay by H. Fowler Mear and Cyril
Twyford gave the detective a livelier role, especially in the closing
The evil Professor Moriarty also made an appearance and lines of
dialogue and plot elements were added from other Holmes stories.
Holmes was played not for the first time by British stage actor Arthur
Wontner. Before being cast as Holmes, Wontner had performed as the
similar but more active detective Sexton Blake -- sometimes dubbed "the
office boy's Sherlock Holmes" -- in a live theatrical production. In The
Private Life of Sherlock
Holmes (1933), Chicago journalist, book critic and pulp fiction
writer Vincent Starrett said, "No better Sherlock Holmes than Arthur
is likely to be seen and heard in pictures in our time."
Wontner had the look of Strand artist Sidney Paget's
Holmes and the
actor received a congratulatory letter from Conan Doyle's wife for his
interpretation. A decade later, he was largely forgotten when more
lavish, Hollywood productions of Holmes stories had promoted Basil
Rathbone as the definitive cinema Holmes.
But all this strays a little from the intention here, which is to
explain how The
Valley of Fear, a classic detective novel, comes to be quoted
at the front of a western novel released in 2009.
To be honest, I don't remember exactly when the notion of using
elements of the Holmes novel in a western first occurred. It could
have been while watching the Wontner movie on DVD. In his 1929 note on
the novel, Conan Doyle also wrote that the story "had its origin
through my reading a graphic account of the Molly McQuire [sic]
outrages in the coalfields of Pennsylvania, when a young detective
drawn from Pinkerton's Agency acted exactly as the hero is represented
Looking for a catalyst that would set in train the plotting for my
seventh novel to feature Joshua Dillard, an ex-Pinkerton detective and
freelance troubleshooter, I thought, "Hmm. . . ." (the way you do),
briefly researched the historical facts of the Molly Maguires, as Doyle
must have done, and a
storyline quickly came together.
‘Six months past, my brother’s head was blown apart by a blast from a shotgun in the presence of his wife and Joseph
Darcy, his private secretary. Mr Darcy was Rye and Jennie’s good friend as well as an
employee. He was playing the piano accompaniment and Jennie was singing
a light air for their mutual entertainment when an intruder broke into the
house, burst upon them, and shot Rye dead.’
Conan Doyle's story had some features that readily could be adapted for
an action-packed western and others that could not. To go into all the
details would require "spoilers ahead" notices for Blast
-- possibly for Valley, too, assuming some readers of
BHWs may not have read it and will wish to. So I'll avoid a few,
particular lines of potential discussion.
The real-life Pinkerton agent James McParland became John Douglas in Valley;
Ryan Bennett in Blast. In both books, they have become
very rich men in their post-Pinkerton lives.
Elsewhere, you can read
how Conan Doyle, on an ocean voyage, met William Pinkerton, son of
detective agency founder Allan, and grew fascinated by the
"singular and terrible narrative" of the Molly Maguires. Their
friendship later ended "over the rendition of some Pinkerton exploits
fictional form". Patrick Campbell, a
relative of one of the executed Mollies and author of A Molly
Maguire Story, speculates that the break came because
"Pinkerton must have disliked how close the novel
was getting to the truth."
Many of the differences between Valley and Blast
arise because they are written for different audiences in different
times. Valley was presented for a detective story
is presented for a western story readership.
Unable to check the frenzied horse, clinging on to the saddle but liable
to slip any moment, Joshua feared he might eventually be dragged or that
the horse would fall, roll and trap him by the leg or more. So he let his
left foot out of the stirrup, too.
Immediately his boot left the stirrup, he went headlong out, sideways and
down. It might indeed have proved the best course he could have taken but
for the terrain. It was rough and the horse was moving too fast and too erratically
for him to make fine calculations.
He crashed into a small, lichen-splotched boulder. He hit it head on.
Much of Valley
is told in
the form of a flashback. The book is of fourteen chapters and
an epilogue; the flashback occupies chapters 8 to 14. Holmes's role is
confined to the first seven chapters and the epilogue's couple of pages
at the end.
The "story within a story" was a familiar and acceptable literary
in Victorian and Edwardian fiction. Doyle had used the identical
technique for his first Holmes novel, A Study in Scarlet.
I think if a two-part treatment like this was employed for a BHW
submission, the author would be courting almost certain rejection. The
hero, as well as solving the problems, must be a participant in the
body of the story and in its action.
As in Valley, the story in Blast really
has its beginning in a gruesome shotgun killing. But in Valley,
Holmes does his trademark deducing.
At the outset, Holmes impresses by deciphering a coded message, warning
of the killing. The code involves a specific page of a book, in this
case Whitaker's Almanack. One commentator has reported
that the idea was picked up by Doyle from French detective story
writer Emile Gaboriau's Monsieur Lecoq (1869).
In Blast, the central character, Joshua Dillard, is
drawn into the case, more ordinarily perhaps, by Ryan Bennett's
spinster sister, the beautiful Flora. "His decision to take up the
affair came down to the bedrock of the original considerations that he
was near flat-broke; that Flora’s brother, like himself, had served
with and quit the Pinkertons; that Flora was someone who’d known his
Also in Blast, the main action isn't incorporated in a
flashback in Vermissa Valley. It begins in what I've tried to present
as a very real Denver (despite the publisher's inevitable misgivings)
and ends up in a raw Colorado mining town called
Silverville. Everything happens to or around Joshua as he does his
investigating and the story develops contemporaneously: the
questionings in parlour houses, ambush, abduction, rescue, saloon
gunfight, a second killing and so on, in exciting BHW style, till we
reach the horrific climax inside a building which houses a stamp mill
for the crushing of ore.
Joshua moved forward into the gloom, away from the slanting grey light through
the door, feinting in one direction yet taking another. He felt sweat trickling
down his spine, caught a hint of movement from where he’d last seen Bud .
. . a blur of darker, shifting shadow.
He reacted by pure instinct. He twisted, turned and triggered as Bud fired
at him. But his own snapped shot failed to hit Bud and the flare from his
gun’s muzzle pinpointed him for Skann.
‘I got you now, Dillard, you sonofabitch!’
I think, however, the echoes of Valley of Fear are
ringing loud and clear when we come to the dénouement. And Blast
to Oblivion does have a three-page epilogue, too, though not
headed up with that word and quite delightfully different in character
as Flora fulfils a commitment she made to bestow on her successful
detective a very private reward. And yes, the ultra-cautious publisher
did let it stand in a BHW!
Last year, British crime writer Martin Edwards posted at his always
perceptive blog "Do You Write Under Your Own Name?" as follows:
"It’s desperately difficult to be truly original when writing a novel,
no matter how hard one tries. There are a few landmark books that do
to pass that test of originality – yet, on closer inspection, doubts
"One example is Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.
ingenious solution caused outrage (misplaced, surely) when the book
out in 1926. Yet Christie had made a gesture towards the same plot
in an earlier book, The Man in the Brown Suit. And
later it came
to light that Anton Chekhov, no less, had written a book with a similar
called The Shooting Party, back in 1884. . . .
"There are all kinds of similarities that can be found in superficially
different books. The device in Christie’s The ABC Murders has
been used, for instance by writers as different from her as Ed McBain
Lee Child. But this is definitely not a sign of lack of originality, in
opinion – it’s a challenge for any writer to breathe new life into an
idea, and very satisfying when it comes off, as it did when McBain and
spun their own variations on the basic theme."
I hope a similar verdict will be voiced by any Sherlockian readers of
the new Joshua Dillard adventure.
-- Keith Chapman, aka Chap O'Keefe. A free excerpt from
can be read online here
Horse of a different colour.
|Impressions of a diverting kind
BHW authors are always appreciative of effective cover art, like the
fine example seen on Comanche Country, to be published by Hale in
April. Horseman Paddy Gallagher (aka author Greg Mitchell) writes from
his home in the Australian Capital Territory, "I would not complain
about that cover. It is eye-catching and well painted. Just a bit of
trivia . . . that horse's colour is what we used to
call a taffy. They were common when I was a kid but now are rarely
seen. I suspect the mares were used to breed palominos, which are
a much lighter, more golden colour, and the taffies gradually died out.
I don't know what a cowboy would call that colour but I have seen the
odd one in movies. I hope you had a very happy Christmas and that 2009
is a great year for you. Thank you for your support and helpful
advice." And thanks to Paddy for his regular contributions to the
Extra, generously packed with information for reader and writer
After her children had watched The Magnificent Seven
, columnist Helen
told the York newspaper The Press: "As far as I
know that was their first taste of westerns. This is
quite the opposite to my youth, when children were raised on a diet of
cowboy films. Scarcely a day went by when there wasn’t a Wild West
movie or series on the TV – High Chaparral
, Alias Smith and Jones
. . . . As a result every boy, and a fair few girls, played
Indians – charging around gardens, whipping guns from holsters and
dodging arrows, recreating scenes from the Wild West. The kids of today
think the Wild West is the Cumbrian mountains and a saloon is where mum
gets her hair done. I haven’t seen children playing cowboys and Indians
for a long
time. It’s not because guns are taboo – you see plenty for sale in toy
shops, although they are more Terminator
than Gunfight at the OK
. I don’t think it’s anything to do with the now frowned-on use
the word Indians instead of the politically correct Native Americans.
It's simply because children don’t see it. Westerns used to be aired
at prime viewing times, from early evening onwards. Watching men on
horseback gallop through canyons, pursued by Indians – or the other way
around – was as familiar as car chases are today. Everyone knew about
Wild Bill Hickok
, Dodge City, and Deadman’s
Creek. My daughters don’t, and I find that sad. Short of strapping them
to the sofa and making them watch every film John Wayne
and Co. ever
made, I don’t know what can be done."
Missing television's Wild West.
Surprises for Kit.
Author Kit Prate
responded with surprise from the farm country of mid-southern
Wisconsin to last time's Hoofprint about her first BHW, Jason
. "Most surprising was the information the book had
actually been published in England before by W.H. Allen (Star). Always
find it amazing when something like that gets picked up . . .
especially from my viewpoint as the author! Sometimes, life is not so
funny." Later, she added, "Seriously, I was surprised when Black Horse
accepted it, with a request for more, newer stuff; even more surprised
when I received the PDF proofs. They actually did a great job of
editing. They still prefer their sex, or hints thereof, ending at the
bedroom door, but the book has remained pretty much intact. Greg Tobin
was the editor at Tower [the original, US publisher] at the time; he
accepted the MS with very, very little editing. No one was more
surprised than I. But then again, he suggested I try something more
'adult' -- it paid better. I complied with Hot Night in Purgatory
the name Steve Travis
. My mother was still alive.... Funny thing is
the pen name I chose turned out to be the real name of a fundamentalist
preacher who was pastor at a friend's church in Seattle. That was kind
of embarrassing! But fun, truth be told."
Texan Glenn Dromgoole
informed the Go San Angelo website, "If you
spent a lot of Saturdays at the
local movie theatre watching
westerns on the big screen, you should thoroughly enjoy Michael
new book, True West: An Illustrated Guide to the Heyday of
(TCU Press, Fort Worth). Illustrated by hundreds of rare
and colourful movie posters, magazine
and book covers, comic books, record albums and advertisements, True
is a delightful trip back to yesterday, when the good guys wore
white hats, shot straight and probably could sing pretty well, too. . .
. A book like this you would expect to be written by a Texan, or maybe
someone from Montana or Arizona. Not so. Barson, author of more than a
dozen books on popular culture, grew up in Massachusetts and lives in
New Jersey. But he knows his western lore. In one chapter, Barson
summarizes 101 great western films, and in
another chapter, he chronicles 100 years of western literature, from
and Zane Grey
through today's Larry McMurtry
and Cormac McCarthy
. Another chapter focuses on songs of the
open range, beginning with
. Western comic books merit a chapter, as do the western TV
shows." And the book has a foreword by bestselling author Robert B. Parker
, who calls the
US vision of the West and the Westerner
"a national state of mind."
Way-back-when in pictures.
From tanks to horses.
It's never too late. . . . Ray Foster (aka Jack Giles) revealed at his Broken Trails blog that Albert Hill's first BHW, The Man from Shiloh, written under the name Elliot Conway, was published in 1987 when he was aged 65 years. The 44th Conway book, The Death Shadow Riders,
will be published in July. The octogenarian told Ray he left school with
hardly any qualifications and earned a living as a bill poster. During the
Second World War, he served in tanks, but his first book, about his experiences
in Burma, did not find a publisher. "Albert writes in longhand and then types
it up on an old electric typewriter," Ray said. "He does not own a computer."
He lives in Darlington, County Durham, and is a member of Western Writers
Misguided commentators, from celebrity critics to newspaper reporters,
have an annoying habit of sneering at the western and its writers.
Maybe poking fun at "little cowboy books" is seen as a quick way to
demonstrate intellectual sophistication and greater knowledge. How far
from the truth! David Whitehead, aka BHWs' Ben Bridges and Glenn Lockwood, writes, "I had a Christmas card from B. J. Holmes, who commented on Gillian F. Taylor's recent appearance on British TV's Mastermind, and reminded me that he had actually appeared on the first-ever episode of the old Jimmy Tarbuck vehicle, Winner Takes All, back in the mid-1970s. This in turn reminded me that Mike Stotter appeared on Top of the Form
back when he was about 11 or 12 years old. So already we have three BHW writers
who've appeared on TV quiz shows. I wonder if there are any others out there?"
In hot seats.
With Hollywood insight.
If you thought Steve Hayes
is a name that sounds like it might belong to an old-time movie actor, you'd
be on the right trail. As well as writing a BHW, Steve is the author of Googies: Coffee Shop to the Stars,
an entertaining, two-volume memoir in which he looks back fondly on living
in Hollywood during the 1950s as a small-time actor and manager of the coffee
shop, and on the many famous and not-so-famous stars from the era he befriended.
Errol Flynn, Robert Middleton, Ava Gardner, Sterling Hayden, Steve McQueen, Ernest Hemingway and Marilyn Monroe were just a few. As well as acting, Steve also scripted westerns for movies and television, including How The West Was Won mini series, Gunsmoke and the screenplay of the John Jakes book The Seekers. Steve says, "The reason I started writing westerns was because I was friends with William Bowers (The Gunfighter), Borden Chase (Red River) and Louis L’Amour.
I was an actor under contract to 20th Century Fox and hung out on the Sunset
Strip and was manager of Googie’s, where Louis also hung out." Gun for Revenge is the first book in a BHW trilogy. Packing Iron will be published in August and A Coffin for Santa Rosa in November. Steve lives in Huntington Beach, California, with Robbin, his wife of twenty years. The Extra will be bringing readers more of Steve's insider memories.
| Helen Ogden
joined the publicity department of Robert Hale Ltd last
September, replacing Katy Williams
who after two years announced she was moving on to
pastures new: "I will be the PR executive for Egmont UK,
children’s publishers, which I am very excited about. It has been a
pleasure working with you all and I wish you the best for the future."
Helen said, in her first Hale newsletter, "It is irrefutable that the
face of publishing is changing with the rise of social publishing and
the sense of an increasingly technology-driven era; 2008 has been a
fascinating year in terms of the digital age . . . . It is clear that
books must be regarded as a ‘product’ and positioned and marketed in
the digital world; 2009 will bring further changes and developments and
with this in mind all authors must be thinking about blogs, online
reviews, websites and MySpace pages in order to increase their chances
of success and to keep up with the digital changes." Any BHW writer who
still hasn't dipped their toe into this water is welcome to make first
contact via firstname.lastname@example.org
. No "signing up" or
payment is involved -- Black Horse Extra is here both to help you and
to offer a free, unrestricted platform.
Changes at Hale.
A BHW writer's tale of the uncanny. . .
TWIN CHALLENGE TO TYLER HATCH
Although he had lived among whites for thirty years there was still a
lot of Indian in Jim Santee. Combined with his gunspeed and ready fists, it
made him a good and loyal friend -- or bodyguard. Governor Burdin
blessed the day he hired him. That was until Santee failed a crucial
To put matters right, Santee tore the territory apart, but
when he finally ran the killer down there were shock developments that
raised serious doubts . . . and no gunfighter should reach for his guns
he isn't sure of his target.
"TWINS are prominent in fiction . . . Many of the mysteries of twins
have not yet been solved. These are problem children indeed, though the
modern view is that if they are brought up separately they will suffer
no handicap. Twin girls have been known to refuse to marry because of
the separation which would follow. The unusual sympathy between twins
is often uncanny. These are fiction situations, ready-made for use when
you have studied them properly."
These statements from Lawrence G. Green in a manual popular with
British and Commonwealth writers in the promising years for light
fiction after the
Second World War make an excellent starting point for a look at the new
Black Horse Western from veteran author Keith Hetherington under his
Tyler Hatch pen-name.
Twins play a small but crucial part in Wildcats
When Keith mailed off the book from his home in Queensland, Australia,
for the consideration of publisher John Hale in London, he wasn't
worrying about the twins element.
"I wrote Wildcats
and submitted it with a good deal of
trepidation," he says. "Oh, I
thought the storyline was okay, but I was concerned that right down on
the nitty-gritty where motivation and character-building thrive, I had
-- shock horror!-- a homosexual rape. Don't race out and buy the book
with the hope of getting clinical details because there are none.
Actually, I thought I'd done a fairly good job of handling the subject,
but I knew from corresponding with other Black Horse writers that John
Hale might not approve. . . . I've always pictured him
about my own age. He told me once he edited his first book, Mountain
by Vardis Fisher, in 1943."
In fact, dates given for Mountain Man -- A Novel of Male and
Female in the Early West
range wildly. Fantastic Fiction
offers1920, but various US bibliographic websites say the first edition
was published in New York by William Morrow in 1965. It sounds an
interesting novel and somewhat un-Hale-like:
"Moving close and reaching into the
water, he put his right arm under her knees and his left across her
back and brought her up. He waded ashore and stood in full sun, holding
her dripping body, looking at the beauty of her bronzed Indian skin; at
her breasts, which he thought perfect; at her lovely throat and
shoulders; and at last at her eyes. What he thought he saw in her eyes
he had no word for. He guessed that was what love meant. Kissing over
her, he moved her back and forth with such ease that she seemed
weightless. She was his wife, his woman, his mate, his companion on the
trails as long as there were trails for free men to ride on; through
the valleys until they were choked with cabbages and people; and up the
mountains to the highest peaks, as long as men felt compelled to seek
God. He sat her down and they began to dress."
was also published by New English Library in
1967 and became the basis for Sydney Pollack's film Jeremiah
, nominated for a Golden Palm Award at the 1972 Cannes
But let's return from that little sidetrail to Keith's equally fascinating story -- and to
"I need not have worried! Wouldn't you know? Mr Hale
totally ignored the homo-rape thing, so maybe I did handle it pretty
well after all. (Ouch! Hurt my
arm patting myself on the back then.) Anyway, he thought Wildcats
quote, a 'rattling good western'. I was pleased with that, till he
brought up the subject of 'introducing twins into a western'."
Evidently twins in fiction are another matter for which Mr Hale doesn't
share Lawrence Green's or anyone else's enthusiasm.
Keith continues, "He felt
that they seldom if ever worked. 'Never successful' was the summing-up.
As the introduction of the twin
was negligible, and at the end of the story, I wrote Mr Hale, letting
him know that my wife is a twin. Rita and her late brother, Ken, came
from Scotland, but later he lived for many years in Canada and my wife
Australia. And they had a mystic rapport that bridged the miles,
kilometres or what have you. They
had some sort of psychic hook-up. One
got sick, say, in Canada, and the other, wherever they might be, got
similar symptoms, and vice versa."
Some examples were unforgettable.
"Briefly, my wife was in labour for 27 hours -- yeah, you hear it
right, 27 hours -- with our first son. She was in Brisbane and at the
time Ken was
also in Australia, but working out in the Simpson Desert as health
officer on the Pintubi
Aboriginal Reserve. He was rushed from the reserve by Flying Doctor to
Hospital with undiagnosed abdominal pains. He stayed there until 27
hours from their onset the pains disappeared -- at the same time as my
Other incidents occurred all through the years. In early 2007, Rita was
suffering ill health and having tests and treatment while Ken was in
hospital in Canada.
were led to believe it was mainly his heart; he needed another by-pass
artery walls were too weak to take it. Then they diagnosed a bleeding
ulcer and he had eight transfusions and went on dialysis, as his
kidneys were giving out. As you can understand, this
did nothing for Rita's own problems -- indeed, for mine, either.
I'm a born worrier and I knew how this must be affecting her.
Ken died in Canada, Rita sat up in bed in Australia at that moment --
checked later -- and said 'Ken's gone!' Mysterious, but not unusual
twins are concerned."
Though "knocked for six" Rita eventually found some sort of closure
when her twin's ashes were brought to Australia and placed in a
special garden bed she had prepared and planted with roses and other
flowers. His son and other relatives were present and Keith read a
tribute he had written.
"The point I'm making is that in the story Wildcats I
used a twin who felt
something had happened to her sister and despite desperate hardship,
came to investigate. Hence the plural title. It had started out
singular -- Wildcat.
"Actually, the identical-twin character inspired by Rita's bond
with Ken appears in less than three pages out of 150
and does not actually impersonate her dead sister, but moves around
amongst the suspected killers to throw them off their stroke. But Mr
Hale did fasten on to it before finishing with the comment, 'The story
reads very well and is written in your usual professional
"So, writing westerns can lead us down some very twisted trails,
I'm sure other writers can attest. In a later story called Six
Laramie, there was another place where I could have used a
character's twin very
well but thought, nah, better not push my luck . . . .
|Greg Mitchell's authentic backgrounder|
NIGHT HERDS AND STAMPEDES
Joe Kelly bought a half share in Travis Neal's ranch in an area
reputed to be Comanche territory. While searching for his missing
partner, Kelly encountered a Comanche war party, three former
Confederate soldiers fleeing a killing in Mexico, the Mayne family and
a renegade gang. The arrival of a self-promoting US marshal added to
Kelly and the Maynes had to face hostile Indians, white
murderers and a fanatical lawman before they could claim their
ranches. Then, when the troubles appeared to be behind them, another
Suddenly the danger was that friends would fall
out. More lead would fly before the situation was resolved!
EVERY cowboy coming up the trail from Texas with cattle could be sure
he would spend plenty of time in the saddle on night-herding duties. There
were no days off when travelling with big herds of longhorns. They had to
be watched at all times and at night were particularly dangerous. Cattle
from the open range were wild and suspicious and would stampede at the slightest
Depending on the size and nervousness of the herd, one man or possibly two
rode around keeping watch on them after they had bedded down for the night.
If the trail boss was a good one and conditions were right, the cattle were
permitted to spread out and graze in the late afternoon. This allowed them
to move on to the bed ground with a feed inside them so they were more inclined
to lie down and chew their cuds.
The length of night watches, or "guards" as they were often called, varied
according to the number of cowboys in the camp. Mostly they were between
one and a half and two hours for each man. Everyone took their turns except
the nighthawk who looked after the loose horses, and the cook. But in emergencies,
all who could grab a horse rode out to the cattle.
The horses for the watches were carefully chosen for their good sense and
superior night vision. By day, they might not be considered the best animals
in the remuda but, when the light was gone, good night horses were worth
their weight in gold. When things went wrong, the cowboy had to trust his
horse to see the logs, stumps, gullies and low tree branches that he might
not be able to discern.
Traditionally, the man on watch would sing as his horse plodded quietly around
the sleeping cattle. Some would whistle and occasionally a night herder might
play a harmonica. The continuous sound told the cattle that all was well.
A rider looming silently out of the darkness was enough to startle nervous
cattle into running.
Another reason for singing was that it kept the cowboy awake. Cattle droving
does not afford much time to sleep and after a couple of weeks, drovers get
very tired. Experienced riders find that it is easy to fall asleep on a horse
that is walking quietly. It is also easy for a sleeping rider to lose balance
-- awaking with a start, the risk is always that the rider might be too far
gone to prevent a fall. This, in the vicinity of wild cattle is guaranteed
to set them running.
It is hard to sing continuously for a long period and a drover needs a good
repertoire of songs. In Australian droving camps, I have heard countless
parodies of most old songs and not all could be sung in polite company. It
has been said, rather unkindly, that some stampedes occurred because the
cattle were trying to get away from a particularly bad singer but usually
they were not music critics!
Where possible, the bed ground for cattle was selected in fairly open country
so that, if a rush started, hazards would be fewer to men, horses and cattle.
The camp was established some distance from the herd to reduce the chance
of the animals being frightened by voices or accidental noises. But it had
to be close enough for riders to reach the cattle in a hurry if necessary.
Noise was kept to a minimum and nobody walked between the campfire and the
cattle. Spare horses were kept saddled just in case things went wrong though
these were not too close to the sleeping stock. The rattling of saddle flaps
if a horse should shake itself could be enough to set a herd running.
Many stampedes started quietly with a few rogue cattle walking out into the
darkness when the watchman was not close to them. Gradually more stock would
join in the movement and the pace quickened. At this stage an alert night
herder might be able to turn back the escapers but at other times they suddenly
all rose to their feet and took off. Sometimes cattle would wheel in a massive
circle before taking flight. The noise and dust made the scene an ominous
one, yet if enough riders arrived before they actually bolted, there was
still a chance of holding them. Some cattle might "wind up" a couple of times
but not stampede, while others gave no such warning and were suddenly up
Hollywood gives a false picture of stampedes in that you hear the cattle
bellowing as they rush. But mostly stampeding cattle run in silence. There
is plenty of other noise; the pounding of thousands of hooves, the rattling
of horns and the smashing of timber and dead wood as the cattle carry all
before them like a great flood.
Machin, or Marlowe as he
himself, finally found the small bunch of cattle he had been seeking
since early morning. He had been in the saddle since the trail herd had
stampeded. While others held most of the regathered cattle on a good
patch of grass, a few riders had been sent to find small bunches of
steers that had split off during the rush and were scattered away from
the main herd. The cattle had taken a long time to settle down at dusk
and the previous night had been only one of the several occasions that
they had stampeded. Taking wild steers up the trail from Texas was not
a job for a man who liked his sleep.
I have included a couple of Frederic Remington's pictures of stampedes in
full flight. The rider on the roan horse has a bit of space around him and
could be riding hard to turn the leaders. But the rider on the grey in the
other picture is in a position where no cowboy wanted to be caught; directly
in front of a stampede. Now his life depends upon his horse's speed, stamina,
good sense and ability to negotiate the ground.
Once in full flight, a stampede on a wide front is difficult to stop. After
they have galloped a while, the front narrows as the slower animals fall
back. The riders must all stay on one side of the herd, otherwise they only
keep them galloping straight ahead. At the right time, a rider must move
in on the leaders and attempt to turn them from their course. This is a perilous
situation as the horsemen are right in front of the cattle. Cowboys often
fired their guns to frighten the stampede into turning away from the sound.
A mistake by horse or rider at this stage could be fatal. Other riders had
to back up the leading man to prevent cattle moving out behind him and continuing
on their original course. The idea was to turn the herd back into itself.
Once they started "milling", the men could take control again.
Then the bellowing started. Cattle made strong friendships with their mates
on the trail and began calling for them as soon as the panic died down. Particularly
jumpy cattle might stampede or try to stampede two or three times in a night.
But midnight and just before dawn seem to be the most dangerous times.
Cattle that escaped during stampedes nearly
always tried to return to their home ranges. They have a great homing
instinct and will travel hundreds of miles if they get the chance.
Once a stampede had been halted, the drovers would hold them where
were until morning. At various times, riders might be allowed back to
camp to finish dressing or get fresh horses or even a meal. When
daylight came and all visible animals collected, the cattle were strung
out between a couple of riders and
counted. Drovers would then try to pick up the tracks of those that
Horse stampedes were reckoned harder to stop than rushing cattle.
Horses had more speed and staying power and the farther they went, the
harder they were to stop, which is in direct contrast to stampeding
cattle. Though this author has seen cattle stampedes, I have never
seen a horse stampede and must rely upon credible accounts from those
Stampedes, or "rushes" as we called them, were common in Australia's
north fifty years ago and were guaranteed to satisfy the most avid
thrill-seeker. Racing through the dark and hoping that the horse could
see what the rider could not held little appeal for those who had to do
Similarly, the long, monotonous periods of night-herding had few
Those who had the task were usually tired, cold or wet or just plain
bored. The best part of all was to lie in your blankets and hear the
songs of some other unlucky soul as he rode about and to know that all
-- Paddy Gallagher, who writes his BHWs as Greg Mitchell. His
next, to be published in April, is Comanche Country.
|Call of the higher trails
WALT MASTERSON'S SUNDOWN RIDE
grasping landowner Morgan Fetterman hired a professional gunman to get rid
of lovely Jemima Penrose from her remote ranch in the mountains of Arizona,
he made a bad mistake by choosing Luke Horn for the job.
Horn didn't like what he heard about Fetterman, and despite a disabling
wound in his right arm, assisted in getting the rustlers brought to justice.
Could Horn bring Fetterman's plans tumbling down?
Rustling, plotting and plenty of gunplay followed in Horn's fight for freedom.
WALT MASTERSON will not be riding, stirrup
to stirrup, with his Black Horse Extra colleagues again. In October, he told
us he'd be "back on his mustang and raring to go" in a week or so. But he
wasn't letting on to those who couldn't see him what he'd been told three
A couple of weeks before Christmas, I learned from Helen Kenworthy that Chris,
who wrote his latest novels as Walt Masterson, had gone. And lover of all things western that he was,
I pictured him riding his mustang on higher trails than any of us here can
Helen emailed, "Sad news. My wonderful husband, Chris, lost the battle with
leukaemia on Sunday the 7th December. He died in the Royal Marsden Hospital
at Sutton where the staff who had got to know him -- and those who hadn't!
-- fought like wild mountain lions to hang on to him. His loss has left me
completely devastated although we knew he was ill."
Helen divulged that Chris Kenworthy had presided over his own wake in July, when he was given only a month to live.
"It was an excellent party which he enjoyed to the full. There is to
be another in the local pub which is what he wanted, following his cremation.
His ashes will be scattered equally by the sea, which he loved, and then
somewhere in Arizona, later next year. Monument Valley, perhaps?"
Chris was an email friend of comparatively recent times. He contributed generously
and informatively to BHE in March and June last year. If you are fascinated
by the romance of the True West, please re-read his well-chosen words --
you will find a fellow spirit! From those writings and his emails, I felt
in a small way that I knew Chris, although I never met him.
He told of his
love of the American South West, which he visited regularly, and of his meetings
with famous writers during his 46 years in journalism, 25 of them with top-flight
London newspapers. For me, his insight from the latter background -- journalism
-- cemented a quick and shared understanding of what we try to do here and
when writing our westerns for Hale.
He would say, "Let me know in due course how much you need and when by, and
I'll be there." And: "By now you must have realized that if you give me a
space I will fill it."
As a professional researcher, his interests extended to social conditions
in Charles Dickens's London, the frighteningly fast-growing area of wildlife
crime and law enforcement, medieval armour, and John Paul Jones, father of
the American Navy.
In addition to western fiction, he wrote four sea-going adventure novels in the C. S. Forester, Hornblower tradition: In the Dark of the Moon, Ride a Dark Tide, A Storm in the Dark, and Against a Dark Shore.
Mr John Hale, chairman and managing director of Robert Hale Ltd, says, "He
was a true professional and his westerns were always up to the highest standard."
Chris was a great supporter of this webzine and its aims, and delighted to
contribute. After his autobiographical article appeared in the Extra with its quotes from
Guns Along the Gila, he wrote, "I loved the interleaved look of it
and I am very flattered to be given so much room on the site. Incidentally,
may I say how much I enjoy reading it all? Packed with information and authoritative
comment, it is right up my street."
Even when another might be tempted to slacken up, Chris would battle on. At
one stage, he fell and broke an arm, but gamely kept going. "I'm restricted
to the house and my right hand. . . . I would be delighted to contribute to
the June Black Horse Extra, hopefully a good deal faster than I am currently
replying to your message -- a reply which is being typed with one finger
at a pace which would bore a snail with its ankle in plaster."
The next email I had came from Helen. "I'm Chris's wife acknowledging your
information. Chris is currently in hospital having his broken arm plated!
I will pass on the info and he will no doubt be back to you when he is home.
"Chris finished his last western with one hand, and has started the next
in the same way. The working title is One-Hand Jack. Black Horse Westerns
is a great site -- lots to be learnt from it. Many thanks. Chris will be
in touch soon."
Chris himself wrote, "Nice to hear from you, and what a splendid read you
made of Black Horse Extra. I find it so useful, particularly the technical
notes contributed by other writers. They all seem very knowledgeable and
make me feel a touch 'umble! However, I gladly use their expertise and thanks
very much for it. I enjoyed the debate you managed to make out of the Plot or Not contributions,
and was very interested in the other writers' views. I thought Keith
Hetherington's comments very fair.
"Thanks for the good wishes. Yes, after
a fair amount of engineering my arm is now bolted together and on its way
to setting. What a palaver, though! And I still have a limp wrist which could
be open to considerable misunderstanding in certain quarters.
"However, at least my left hand is now back in operation, and the speed it
has added to my typing is unbelievable, even though I am using only one finger
of the left hand. Fastest finger in the West, I feel.
"Yes, the large-print editions seem to be going all right. I have yet to
see one, though I think now that three of my titles are being large-printed,
and of course, any further developments will be very welcome around the old
"Currently I am starting a new book about goldmine crooks in the Sonoran
Desert, a favourite setting for me. If you want to see wild and dangerous,
just try the Sonoran!"
In September I wrote to Chris inquiring if he had any news or opinions for
publication in the BHE due in mid-November. He replied, "Nice to hear from
you again. Yes, I am sure I have an opinion which will ring a bell. I'll
come back to you with a couple of suggestions, and get your approval. Be
in touch soon."
A month later, on 15 October, I heard from Chris for the last time. Although
he knew -- had been told -- he was a very sick man, he was mindful as always
of a deadline to be met and was maintaining his eternally brave approach.
"This is a letter of apology because I am
going to miss out for this edition of Black Horse Extra. I'm doing some chemo
treatment for my leukaemia, and find it very difficult to read and write
this week. From experience, this will wear off in another week or so, and
I will be back on my mustang and raring to go. This brings me uncomfortably
close to your deadline, and I hate to miss a deadline. So don't count on
me this time, and I will file my piece on Women of the West -- for whom I
have a great admiration -- as soon as I can be certain that what appears
on the page is what I think I am writing. The effect, with which I am very
familiar, usually fades quite quickly, so don't worry that you have lost
"Sorry to let you down this time. Promise it will be the first thing I will
write when I am back in full production. Best wishes, Chris."
But, of course, it was never to be. The worry of losing a fine contributor
here is totally eclipsed by the tragic loss of a first-rate author of
Black Horse Westerns.
Published by Robert Hale Ltd, London
|The Shadow Riders
|Owen G. Irons
||0 7090 8613 0
|Sharpshooters in the Hills
7090 8692 5
|Blast to Oblivion
7090 8700 7
|Lanigan and the Silent Mourner
|Ronald Martin Wade
7090 8703 8
|Long Road to Revenge
7090 8704 5
|Too Many Sundowns
7090 8706 9
|Die This Day
7090 8705 2
|The Guns of Caleb Jones
Alan C. Porter
7090 8707 6
7090 8718 2
|Guns of Virtue
7090 8721 2
7090 8722 9
|Daughter of Evil
|H. H. Cody
7090 8723 6
||Michael D. George
7090 8725 0
7090 8729 8
|The Bullion Trail
7090 8734 2
7090 8735 9
|On the Great Plains
7090 8736 6
7090 8743 4
|A Gunfight Too Many
|0 7090 8456 3
Horse Westerns can be requested at public libraries, ordered at bookstores,
and bought online through the publisher's website, www.halebooks.com, or retailers including Amazon, Blackwells,
WH Smith and The Book Depository ("free delivery worldwide").
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Tel: (+44) 01892 837 171 Fax: (+44)
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DLS Australia Pty Ltd, 12 Phoenix Court, Braeside, 3195, Australia.
Ph: (+61) 3 9587 5044 Fax: (+61) 3 9587 5088
Jack Martin and his amigos help a
bunch of reluctant book-trade, library and media gents take seats
West Monday ride!
(Visit www.tainted-archive.blogspot.com for details.)