September – November 2010


June 2010
Imagination in the Saddle
Last word on Blurbs
Remington Revisited

March 2010
Jack Martin  #2
Justice and the Western
Frederic Remington

December 2009
Ross Morton
Faith and a Fast Gun
Sex and Violence
Gold Robbery Mystery

September 2009
Steve Hayes
BHE Books
Paul Lederer
Accurate words

June 2009
Jack Martin
Series Heroes
Riding the Range

March 2009
Blast to Oblivion
Tyler Hatch and Twins
Night Herding
Walt Masterson

December 2008
All Guns Blazing
Jim Bowden & Co.
Revolver Conversions

September 2008
Western Noir
Power of the Premise
West on Wheels

June 2008
Plot or Not Debate
Jack Giles
Whitney Revolver

March 2008
Walt Masterson
Plotters and Pantsers
More Horse Talk

December 2007
Peace at Any Price
Dan Claymaker
Horse Sense

September 2007
Artist Michael Thomas
Judging by Covers
The Schofield Revolver

June 2007
David Whitehead
Realistic Ballistics
Plot Twists

March 2007
Crime/western fiction
The Walker Colt
Sydney J. Bounds

December 2006
Lauran Paine
Jake Douglas & Co.

September 2006
Misfit Lil
Greg Mitchell

June 2006
Marshall Grover
Facts for Fiction
March 2006
Jeff Sadler
Mike Stotter
Writers and Money


Joshua's Second Chance    Hoofprints
Chasing Away Paperback Blues
Stories in Paint   New Black Horse Westerns

As hardback books, few Black Horse Westerns sell directly to the readers. The publishing company's stance for many years has been: "This light fiction series in hardback is sold exclusively into the public library system and not through the retail trade, where the paperback rules supreme."

London writer Ray Foster (aka BHWs' Jack Giles whose career you can read about in the Extra's June 2008 edition) notes at his Broken Trails blog,  "Once upon a time most books could expect a paperback deal to follow. These days it is not so much the case."

The standard contract from publisher Robert Hale Ltd secures from the writer "sole and exclusive rights throughout the world", including paperback rights, which would seem to hold out promise that they might be used. In the event, the admission is readily made: "The [UK] paperback publishers do not want westerns at all, I am afraid. . . . With the knowledge of this fact it is a waste of time and money as well as an irritation to send paperback houses books that we ought to know they would not want."

No way could be seen to counter the "blank refusal" of the paperback editors, with whom the Hale subsidiary rights person carefully went through all the company's publications. "I am sure you will appreciate that there comes a time when you cannot politely tell your customer how to run his own business."

Similarly, the BHW publisher has never held out hope of selling subsidiary rights to publishers in the United States, for hardcover or paperback: "I am not at all sure we can achieve anything with westerns in the USA. We have for years tried . . . and quite frankly have been wholly unsuccessful. I am unaware of any non-American western writers being published in the USA, and with so much domestic material to hand I suppose that is hardly surprising."

This sad history makes all the more remarkable what promised to be this year's most notable achievement on the BHW scene.

In July, Ray Foster spread the happy news that Matthew P. Mayo had reached a paperback deal with Dorchester Publishing of New York, home of the mass-market Leisure Books paperbacks. "I was quite thrilled and can only congratulate him on this achievement. I think that Matthew P. Mayo is the first Black Horse Western writer to have his novels reprinted in paperback."

Leisure Books announced it would issue all three of Matthew's BHWs, beginning with Winters' War in May 2011. But in early August came the shock news that Dorchester was pulling out of its traditional market, effective from September. "The company will not do any more mass-market paperbacks for retail distribution."

Ray had said the word was Dorchester/Leisure were looking for authors who would like to see their books reprinted. "I hope some of the BHW writers will seize the day and take advantage of the opportunity."

For a proverbial five minutes of wonder, BHW "guns" tried to jump on the Dorchester bandwagon even as it was faltering. Company president John Prebich said that after retail sales fell by 25% in 2009, Dorchester knew 2010 would be a defining year, but rather than show improvement, sales had been worse. Dorchester had had a difficult time getting its titles into stores as shelf space for the mass-market format was reduced.

In our article "Paperback Blues" Matthew gives his vision of what the future might hold.

In this connection, it should be remembered Hale said long ago, "There is far less category publishing these days and by and large it is the author rather than the type of story which makes impact."

Reviews of Matthew's novels have been laudatory without exception.  Matthew is an American citizen.  He is a member of Western Writers of America and was a finalist in that organization's 2010 Spur Award for Short Fiction with his story Half a Pig. He was also able to attend the WWA annual convention in Knoxville, Tennessee, and enjoyed "yammering" in person with editors and fellow writers. "Like old hens clucking away. It was great fun," he said at his website.

He has also noted that his literary agent "only signs folks she's met at conferences. In that respect, and many others, attending WWA conventions has been time well spent for me."

And it's no detraction from Matthew's significant victory to remind those desiring to emulate him of the message once given by bestselling paperback author Terry Harknett (aka George G. Gilman) about the "large percentage of very necessary luck". This Terry detailed as partly "the good fortune to be in the right place at the right time and to know the right people".

Hard work – he called it perspiration – also came into it, but that was not enough to achieve the goal: "Should you wish to tread this same path, I cannot teach you. All I can offer are the [writing] rules ... with the proviso that they are no guarantee of success, for what they amount to is merely that 49 per cent of perspiration. You will have to get your own two per cent of inspiration and keep your fingers crossed that Lady Luck will smile on you."

You can't add better to that, so to the writers everywhere ... good luck!

Your comments and western news are always welcome at

FREE excerpt here

Chap O'Keefe reintroduces a series hero


Paid to mind other folks' business, Joshua Dillard did it with a .45 Colt Peacemaker. But he also had a mission of his own, and when Butch Simich and his bunch stuck up the stage from Tucson he swung into vengeful action. Stirring it along came Dorothy-May Pennydale, spirited daughter of a whiskey-soaked way station boss. And in the thick of it from the start was Clement P. Conway from New York City, hack writer of dime novels – a greenhorn with guts plunging out of his depth.
     The fight led into treacherous territory, up against rogue town marshal Virgil Lyons and saloonkeeper Dice Sanders, whose greed for women and money produced mayhem . . . and the most violent gun battle the one-horse burg of Hellyer's Creek had ever seen!

Back cover
Shootout at Hellyer's Creek

PUBLISHER Robert Hale Ltd probably never intended its Black Horse Western line to become a vehicle for novels featuring a central character who appears in more than one or two books a year. And it never has facilitated that.

By 1986, when the BHW brand was launched, publishers elsewhere had largely decreed that new western series heroes should be house properties, written about by teams of authors hired to contribute using a common, house pseudonym. The books involved had become inexpensive paperback originals issued in quick, regular succession like the fiction magazines of old.

But Hale created no hero figure to be shared, and it presented each of its BHW novels as a standalone item in hard covers for library distribution. The authors it took on board were limited to three books a year under any one pseudonym.

The Hale books' livery stressed simply that a book was "A Black Horse Western". Only on those occasions when a character's name was allowed to appear in a number of titles was it apparent to readers that series existed within the series. Even then, different covers would portray the same character in completely different ways. Surprisingly, many authors did create series characters. Some achieved popularity, limited (unsurprisingly) by their manner of presentation and lack of announcement.

Western writers have written sequels since dime-novel days. Readers, if not all publishers or writers, like them. An early example was Deadwood Dick created for publisher Erastus Beadle by Edward L. Wheeler in the late 1870s. The tradition continued through the Clarence E. Mulford Bar 20 decades, then the Louis L'Amour Sackett years, on to the already mentioned US house series of the latter part of the last century and to the present day.  For the writer, a series hero offers both benefits and drawbacks. All this has been discussed here before, notably in "Heroes Too Good to Kill Off" (June 2009).

For the BHW line, I eventually found myself writing the Misfit Lil stories, whose name always appears in the titles of her adventures. But long before Lil came on the scene, there was Joshua Dillard.

Excerpt here

. . . the trail dust clogged the creases of his brush-clawed clothes like grey gunpowder and was gritty in the light blue of his far-seeing range-rider's eyes. But he paid that and the searing heat no mind. He rode tall in the saddle with straight back and square shoulders, and an air of competence and dignity not lost in the apparent shabbiness of his garb.

By coincidence, January 2010 saw not one but three Joshua Dillard novels issued in a single month. And it had been a long time since this had happened to a western hero. Hale published the eighth Dillard book, Faith and a Fast Gun as a BHW; Ulverscroft company F. A. Thorpe issued the seventh Dillard book, Blast to Oblivion, in a large-print, Linford Western Library edition; Black Horse Extra Books published via Lulu distribution the ninth Dillard book, Liberty and a Law Badge, as a pocket-book paperback original.

One way or another, via an online bookseller or a local library, it should be possible today for the reader to make or renew acquaintance with Joshua Dillard. But for those who like to begin at the beginning,  the best news is that Magna Large Print Books (another Ulverscroft imprint) is putting the very first Joshua Dillard story back into print as a Dales Western trade paperback on September 1.

Shootout at Hellyer's Creek was my second Black Horse Western, written in the (southern  hemisphere) spring of  1992. It was received on 10 November by Robert Hale Ltd assistant editor Wendy Brown, who promised the usual "prompt and careful attention". On 11 November, Mr John Hale wrote, "I have read this and thought it an expertly written and splendidly prepared novel which we would like to publish on the same terms as for Gunsmoke Night. Because the novel is so well presented I believe copy-editing would be a formality so we will send the typescript straight to the setter."

I immediately asked whether the typesetters would like to have the book on disk rather than have to copy-type the entire novel on their own keyboards. Mr Hale responded, "I am sorry to say we cannot make use of disks as one way and another the 'corrections' called for when using a disk offset the savings. I know it doesn't sound logical but this is the way it has worked out over a large number of disks."

The proofs of my early titles for Hale were riddled with inputting errors and departures from copy made by the typesetters. Gunsmoke Night had 160 corrections – the equivalent of more than one per page.

It wasn't until early 1994 that I managed to persuade the company to set a book from a disk. Production director Mr Eric Restall said, "Setting from your disk we made a saving of £80 on the composition. We will propose to split the saving and will send you a cheque for £40." This became a pattern, confirmed by Shirley Day in 1995: "For some time now we have discouraged authors from supplying disks as supposed savings frequently backfired, in some cases resulting in a larger composition charge than had we set from hard copy. Your disks, however, are an exception and I am happy to agree to a flat sum of £40 until further notice."

Today the very thought of insistence on setting from hard copy, let alone extra payment for a helpful author advocating an alternative, strikes us all as quaint. Such is the advance of technology!

Excerpt here

Excerpt here

Excerpt here 

The stage hurtled down trail on slewing wheels from the twin buttes that marked the head of the pass and the place of its deadly ambush. The road dropped with sharp turns and on perilous cambers toward the bottom of a gulch littered with broken rocks and filled with sweltering heat like some ante-pit of hell.
     Guttural cries pursued the stage's racketing passage. "Pull up, jehu! Lift 'em, mister – lift 'em!"
     Whip O'Reilly knew he was a dead man.

Excerpt here

In the event, Shootout at Hellyer's Creek was published in May 1994, after my third story for the BHW series, The Sheriff and the Widow (also deemed "excellent"), had been published in the January. Why the third book leapfrogged the second in the publisher's schedule no one was able to explain. Mr Hale: "I  don't quite know how the order of these books got reversed but I am glad that it raises no problems with you."

Both books benefited from excellent cover illustrations by Salvador Faba.

Shootout at Hellyer's Creek also made the front page of my  local newspaper in Auckland, New Zealand, the North Shore Times. Why the special interest?  Because the "real" Hellyer's Creek is a tidal estuary of the Waitemata Harbour. I overlook it from the windows of most rooms in my house. It's not too often a landmark in another country is adopted as the name for a fictional, Wild West town. You can see a picture of the New Zealand Hellyer's Creek accompanying the article "Writers and Money" in the March 2006 Black Horse Extra.

Another New Zealand newspaper, the Sunday News, also came to the promotion party with a feature called "Westerns Ride Again" (funny how many revivals the western seems to have!). Ten copies of the novel were offered as prizes in an accompanying contest. Robert Hale Ltd kindly provided the books free of charge. Hundreds of people sent in entries. I figured out the New Zealand Post received more income from the stamps than I did for writing the book.

Although this was before online bookselling through the likes of Amazon and the Book Depository had spread around the globe, my hope was that with so much interest, at least some of those who didn't win Shootout at Hellyer's Creek would want to buy a copy. But it wasn't to be. Hale had just changed its New Zealand distributor. The book wasn't readily available. The records I have from the government department that administers the NZ version of Public Lending Right  payments show that at no time have the country's libraries – the natural market for hardcover books – held more than 19 copies.

In 1994, Hale was publishing 10 new BHW titles per month. Once a book had sold out its print run to the UK libraries, that was that. On to selling the next month's selection! Shootout at Hellyer's Creek became one of those BHWs sometimes listed by secondhand book dealers and on auction websites at silly prices beyond many readers' reach.

I hope the new Magna Dales trade-paperback edition will stay in print longer and chalk up larger sales in New Zealand and elsewhere, particularly to the public libraries. Another three Dillard reissues are in the Ulverscroft large-print pipeline for next year.

"Thet pore li'le innocent man [Clem Conway] needs protectin' from wicked Western ways," Dorothy-May said. "By crackity! His head were scraped by a bullet! 'T ain't no wonder his reasonin's gone wrong . . ."
     Her drunken father Ezra smiled maliciously, baring his broken teeth. "Shore yuh ain't gotten sorta sweet on the feller?" he probed.
     Dorothy-May scoffed. "Men! I ain't got no time for 'em. All the spec'mens I sees is ornery, two-timin', bone-idle, low-down rats! Ain't no real man ever set foot aroun' Hell'er's Crik! Howsomever, I figger it's like I says. A blind man c'd see Mr Conway needs proper directin'."
     There was more soliloquising, muttered and mental, along these lines, so that eventually Dorothy-May was convinced she would, for shame, be failing in hospitality and public duty not to saddle up and set off pronto in the tracks of her fallen literary idol.

Joshua Dillard, a lone rider with an ex-Pinkerton background, came on the scene in the opening lines of chapter two of  Shootout at Hellyer's Creek, which was headed "The Hired Gun". I had no intention at the time that he would be the central character in a series of stories. Nor for that matter did I consider him a more attractive creation than other characters in the book's cast. From an author's standpoint, the dizzy, lively heroine, Dorothy-May Pennydale, and the greenhorn dime-novel author, Clement P. Conway, were at least as colourful.

Freckle-faced Dorothy-May – with a mop of carrot-red hair and virulent oaths "that would have blued the air in a Tombstone bar-room" – was in hindsight a kind of prototype Misfit Lil. She and Clem also supplied the romantic interest seen as a worthy feature in a traditional western of the kind approved by the Hale company.

In earlier years I had read a number of the novels of Frank C. Robertson. These were published in the UK by William Collins Sons & Co Ltd, first in library hardcover, then in printing after printing as White Circle and Fontana paperbacks in the 1960s and '70s. I've later learned that many of Robertson's books, like The Noose Hangs High, Getley's Gold, Man Bait and Crooked Water, began life as serials in the US pulp Ranch Romances. Robertson was writing for this long-lived magazine in the 1920s and was still contributing in the 1950s. I like to think the first Dillard book captured a little of the same flavour.


As for Joshua Dillard himself, he was thinking he'd have to resign his commission and settle for the measly hundred dollars advance on account of his expenses.
     He could save Clement P. Conway from the hardcases, but he was damned if he could rescue him from the toils of a designing woman.
     Aw, well, maybe Wells Fargo would make him an ex gratia payment.
     That was something for him to dream about as he rode on out of Hellyer's Creek.

Joshua's failure to make money from the cases in which he involved himself became a defining characteristic. It allowed him to proceed tenaciously from exploit to exploit never bettering or changing his situation, but providing – in a credible way, I hope – the returning detective character it's handy to have in a story with a strong crime or mystery element wherever it might be set. It hardly needs to be repeated here how westerns are strongly related to the crime genre, sharing murder, robbery, guns for hire and other characteristics.

In Blast to Oblivion (Hale 2009; Linford large-print 2010) Joshua actually tackled a case based on the one which confronted Sherlock Holmes in the Conan Doyle classic The Valley of Fear. The book was critically well received by the Holmes societies on both sides of the Atlantic and by followers of both the western and crime genres. You can read an excerpt from the novel here, and about its writing in the March 2009 Black Horse Extra.

Reviewing the paperback original Liberty and a Law Badge (2010), writer James Reasoner, a prolific and respected contributor to many western series, has said, "Joshua Dillard is a very likable hero, tough and competent enough to handle just about any situation, despite his occasional self-doubts, but not a superman by any means. I’m ready to read more about him right now. . . ."

Joshua's unprofitable life was originally shaped as a kind of wry mirroring of the BHW writer's plight; an in-joke at the expense of myself and the other authors. Mr Hale told me in a fax very early in my association with his company, "By and large writing westerns for the British market, at least in hardcover form, is no decent way of making a living for a professional writer and journalist." He also commented in 1994, "Sadly there seems to be virtually no difference in sales between these westerns and I have no evidence that westerns which I think are better sell more copies. Very sad. The price we pay is dictated by the sales revenue we achieve, not alas in relation to merit."

So we have Joshua, who always brings his adventures to the best of conclusions, confounding the villains and producing the answers to everyone else's satisfaction, but is obliged to ride on with no money in his pockets. Bringing true justice to the Frontier West in an honourable fashion, giving your all to a task, was seldom profitable. And telling the Dillard stories has been a fun way of sharing latter-day financial frustration. "Me too, buddy!"

– Keith Chapman, aka Chap O'Keefe, whose rare BHW
Shootout at Hellyer's Creek is reissued in a new edition.

James Reasoner


Back in circulation.
Making a mark on the western scene


Indefatigable BHW writer (as Jack Martin) Gary Dobbs is also a historical-crime novelist, television actor, well-followed blogger and taxi driver. Now he has turned part-time "literary agent" to put the famous, bestselling Edge novels of the 1970s and '80s back into circulation as ebooks. In early July he tipped off Hoofprints that he had exciting news. "Remember I told you I'd had permission from Terry [Harknett aka George G. Gilman] to try and bring the Edge series back? Well, I've done it." Before the month was out, Gary announced details at the Tainted Archive blog, and the ebook of the first novel  in the classic UK-originated western series was listed on the Solstice Publishing website. A long-time fan of the cult collectibles, Gary said, "The Edge books are like spaghetti westerns on steroids. No western series has ever punched harder or with more style." He has organized fresh covers from artist Tony Masero, too. "I love the new look ... by combining two of his original paintings Tony has created an all new look for Edge's foray into the digital world."


The AMC cable television network is developing Hell on Wheels, a western series revolving around the building of the Transcontinental Railroad, says the Hollywood Reporter. The rail line, considered one of the biggest achievements of the presidency of Abraham Lincoln, was completed on May 10, 1869, forever changing the American West. It accelerated the populating of the West by white homesteaders and freed slaves, while contributing to the decline of the Indian culture in the regions it served. The railroad, considered by some to be the greatest technological feat of the 19th century, was constructed by two private companies: the Union Pacific Railroad, which built the line westward, and the Central Pacific Railroad, which built eastward. AMC first delighted western fans with the mini-series Broken Trail starring Robert Duvall. Production of  the pilot for Hell on Wheels was scheduled to begin in Alberta, Canada, in August. The main character is Cullen Bohannan, a former Confederate soldier. Joel Stillerman, of AMC, said, "The epic setting provides the perfect backdrop for the early industrialism and corruption surrounding the project; the incredible immigrant experience; and the good, the bad, and the ugly of what it took to get this railroad built." The pilot's director is David Von Ancken, who knows the genre and the period well. He co-wrote and directed the 2006 feature Seraphim Falls, starring Liam Neeson and Pierce Brosnan, which was set in the 1860s and featured, among other supporting characters, a rail crew.

Steaming ahead.

Picture pleases.
Former BHW writer Bill Spence today writes historical sagas of adventure and romance as Jessica Blair. No fewer than six of them will be reissued in paperback (Little, Brown) with new covers on November 10. But Bill hasn't forgotten the western fans who knew him as Jim Bowden and Floyd Rogers. He recently made the two-hour drive from his rural English home to Long Preston, Yorkshire, the address of Magna Large Print publishers. "I sold large-print rights in 12 more of my western novels, written in the '60s and '70s, so that was good," Bill says. "Also got treated to a very nice lunch by very nice people!" Bill's latest Floyd Rogers reprint, The Stage Riders, was issued by Magna in May. "The original hardback was published in 1967. The new cover illustration was provided by Gordon Crabb who has done numerous book covers for all genres as well as artwork in many other fields. This, I think, is one of the best seen on my books. Some might think that a western cover needs more action, but here we see three people who are very much alive. Their stance is so expressive of their feelings for each other and for the situation they are facing. What is it? They know. And we want to follow their gaze out of picture to find out....  Thanks, Gordon, for a wonderful cover." New readers can catch up with Bill's fascinating and multi-faceted life story in the December 2008 Extra.

The California State Railroad Museum has a new exhibit titled Rails and Reels: Hollywood, Trains and the Making of Motion Pictures. It features a variety of railroad-related artifacts, such as scale models of train cars used for special-effect crash scenes in the 1939 epic Union Pacific, a full-size smokestack and headlamp used to "backdate" steam locomotives to represent the Old West, station signs used in movies including High Noon, and a costume from the 1979 television movie Orphan Train – plus sheet music, movie posters, lobby cards, original film scripts and other Hollywood-themed promotional items from railroad-related films dating from the early 1900s. In the early days of motion pictures, America was fascinated with westerns. Locomotives often starred alongside leading actors and actresses such as Gary Cooper, Grace Kelly and Paul Newman. The opening of the new exhibit in Old Sacramento coincided with the completion of restoration of the 1891 steam locomotive Sierra No. 3 at Railtown 1897 State Historic Park in Jamestown, California. A star in its own right, Sierra No. 3 (also known as the "Movie Star Locomotive") has appeared in more than 100 movie and television productions.

Rails and reels.

Old wine, new bottle.
Laurie Powers is a friend of BHWs and their writers, including Terry James, Jack Martin, Chap O'Keefe and Lance Howard. She is also the grand-daughter of writer Paul S. Powers (aka Ward M. Stevens), who was a contributor to many now bygone and enthusiastically collected pulp magazines. In July, Laurie relaunched the Pulp Writer website. Her introduction said, "During the 1930s and 1940s, Paul was a prolific and successful pulp fiction writer, writing over 400 stories for such pulp fiction magazines as Wild West Weekly, Weird Tales, Thrilling Western, Texas Rangers, and more. Later Paul wrote a successful and acclaimed Western novel, Doc Dillahay. Paul was a skilled craftsman who wrote in many genres, including horror, noir, animal, and historical non-fiction. Paul is also the author of Pulp Writer: Twenty Years in the American Grub Street. This memoir gives insight into a period of little-known American history: pulp fiction during the Great Depression." The new website is a must-visit place for western fans new and old.


Reader Leigh Alver, of Perth, Australia, follows up on points raised last issue by writer David Whitehead: "Just a quick note of thanks for Black Horse Extra, it's a great read and very professional in the wide range of topics that it covers. I love a good western, mostly in the gritty style with the imperfect hero who is faced with tough decisions and short odds. I see debate touches on whether the western can rise to (mass) popularity again, and the answer is, who knows? Isn't that the same for all genres? So the vampires and wizards are popular today, the western yesterday, and maybe action heroes tomorrow. Each new generation will determine how and when they will allow themselves to be seduced by the fashion of the day. And trying to figure out what, where and when that will be is anyone's guess.... I think a good story well told will find a readership that extends beyond its genre. My favourite of all favourite westerns is True Grit, not because it is a western but because it is a great, great story, with wonderfully drawn characters, a super plot (quest) and reads off the page like music to the ear – it is an absolute joy. In fact, I would put it up there with the great classics like Moby Dick and Treasure Island, and they are almost without peer as stories of individual character and adventure.... Keep up the good work. We might be a small band of devotees but popularity was never a true reflection of either quality or value."

Favourite western.

    Let's drink to WF!
A new writers' group has emerged for the genre. Western Fictioneers describes itself as an "organization of professional authors of traditional western novels and short stories". President Frank Roderus, who has had books available as BHWs, said its intention was "to promote western fiction in general and to recognize outstanding work in this field that we love. Membership is open to writers of fiction published in the western genre, novels, novellas or short stories taking place in America's old west." Books self-published, or paid for by the author to be published by a vanity press, would not count as qualification for membership or for entry into WF's planned annual Peacemaker Awards for Best Novel, Best First Novel and Best Short Story. Go here for all the info and a link to the WF blog. It's full of enjoyable essays and tips. For fun, and to spread the word, you can even treat yourself to a WF mug or shirt.

Old B-movie storylines that strike no chord with modern audiences take some of the blame for the general public's poor perception of the western. But for a minority the "oldies" are a nostalgic delight. The Western Film Preservation Society is "a nonprofit organization established for the purpose of preserving and promoting the memories and ideals of western movies and classic television". Each year it sponsors a three-day Western Film Fair in North Carolina. Invited guests who appeared in feature films and television are honoured for their contributions and dedication to the genre. More than 80 16mm movies and TV shows are screened in three different rooms. Dealers sell memorabilia room at about 100 tables. A highlight is a big awards night banquet with live entertainment. Mark Burger of Yes! Weekly reported, "Many of the organizers, to say nothing of the attendees, are getting up there in years – an observation that does not go unnoticed by younger people in attendance, who most definitely comprise the minority." The latest fair, at the Clarion Sundance Plaza Hotel, Winston-Salem, marked the event's 33rd birthday. "It may well be one of the last, and yet another bit of nostalgia will vanish from the landscape, galloping off into the sunset." Mark said one organizer joked, "Our kids think we’re crazy."

Projecting a passion.

Tale of mystery man.
Queensland BHW writer Keith Hetherington (aka Jake Douglas, Rick Dalmas, Hank J. Kirby and others) writes of the last Extra, "You keep the standard high! I don't know where you get all your content, but to me it's like a magazine off the newsagent's shelves – only one helluva lot cheaper. Variety is the keynote, I think – provided it's interesting variety – and you sure hit the bull's-eye with your efforts. Who wouldn't look forward to Paddy Gallagher's articles? A very knowledgeable man who obviously reads a lot – a lot! – and is passionately involved in his subject(s) – backed by a lot of obvious first-hand experience: the very best kind of article. Candy Proctor always contributes stuff that's pertinent and knowledgeable, again backed up by plenty of experience. Dave Whitehead has plenty of info and suggestions on forward-looking subjects that make a lot of sense. I'm not bulling, you can be proud of your efforts each quarter and I hope they are appreciated, because this, to me, is the definitive voice of how things are in the World of Westerns right now. Not great, maybe ... but markets rise and fall. A good time to take heed of Dave's article...." Keith has two new BHWs on the shelves this quarter, Renegade's Legacy (Dalmas) and Hangtree County (Kirby).

BHW authors Gary Dobbs (aka Jack Martin) and Nik Morton (aka Ross Morton) joined writers taking to the ebook trail. Gary's book was A Policeman's Lot, an intriguing police precedural novel set in Wales in 1903 and involving Jack the Ripper and Buffalo Bill. Nik's new ebooks were Spanish Eye, a collection of short stories featuring Leon Cazador, a half-English, half-Spanish private investigator who fights "the ungodly" (shades of the Saint?), and A Sudden Venegeance Waits, which Nik calls "a modern vigilante novel". All three books are on the list of the new company Solstice Publishing and can also be bought from online retailers. Keep the westerns and print books coming, too, fellers!

No waits for ebooks.

No women, no guns?
BHW publishers Robert Hale have discouraged western cover art featuring women – especially the more shapely and revealingly clothed – for years. Now from other quarters comes word that guns, too, might soon be "out" for book covers  in our politically correct times. At the Killer Covers blog, publisher, editor and author Charles Ardai was questioned by J. Kingston Pierce. He said, "Today, a lot of books are sold in large chainstores that make their money primarily by selling packaged goods ... and these stores take great pains to ensure they won’t offend any of their customers. Not a problem when your product is bologna or potting soil; the packages for those products are unlikely to stir any controversy. But book covers (and magazine covers, for that matter) might. And these retailers won’t stock books whose covers contain elements they feel might be risqué enough to cause some fraction of their customers to write nasty letters or start a boycott or simply start shopping at the next store over." Max Allan Collins, whose books feature on Charles' Hard Case Crime list, added, "Things have turned weird. We were told, flatly, that there couldn’t be a gun on a Mike Hammer cover. No gun. And my pleas for a beautiful woman on the covers have fallen on deaf ears, except for the wonderful (if retro) covers of the Hammer collections at Penguin [US]." Will it be goodbye to the BHW's Colts and Winchesters?

Hoofprints is hearing a new word for what used to be known as crossover fiction, in which an author established in one genre introduces elements from another. The website said, "Mashup novels are all the rage right now, mixing zombies with classic lit or scifi with westerns. Last week, at the [San Diego] Comic-Con, a panel of writers including Naomi Novik talked about the best and worst of mashup lit. Novik, whose Temeraire books inject dragons into the Napoleonic wars, said what she likes about mashups is that they 'feel familiar, but bring you the pleasure of something new'... Justin Cronin, author of current bestseller The Passage, said he 'jumped the rails from mainstream literary fiction, [which is full of] novels where people have lots of earnest conversations over kitchen tables'. With his new novel, which is about post-apocalyptic vampires, he said his goal was to mix the genres he loved as a kid, 'post-apocalyptic novels of the Cold War, westerns, thrillers and horror novels'." Some writers have been doing mashups for years, of course, and finding little or no market for them.

West in "mashup".

Plus smashing cover.
At 400 pages, Beat to a Pulp: Round One promises to be the fiction anthology of the year. Its 27 stories run the gamut of crime fiction, noir, sci-fi, hardboiled, western, literary, ghost and fantasy. Plus at least one mashup. Extras are a foreword by Bill Crider and a history of pulp by Cullen Gallagher. You Don't Get Three Mistakes by Scott D. Parker is a fast-paced western with a twisty ending. The Wind Scorpion by Edward A. Grainger features revenge in unexpected forms along with the return of Cash Laramie, who made his first appearance in the Express Westerns collection A Fistful of Legends. A third western – if you favour the genre turned upside-down and inside-out – is Chap O'Keefe's pigeonhole-defying The Unreal Jesse James, which sends everyone's favourite outlaw through space and time. Meanwhile, Nik (aka BHWs' Ross) Morton has an eerie, cautionary sci-fi piece about literally spending an arm and a leg, and I. J. Parnham puts on a swashbuckling hat to find strange booty in a stimulating pirate adventure. Robert J. Randisi brings his detective Miles "Kid" Jacoby back in a case involving the paparazzi, and James Reasoner takes us to Pearl Harbour where a beautiful nurse carries a deadly scent in a haunting yarn. Laurie Powers kindly supplies an unpublished story, The Strange Death of Ambrose Bierce, by her grandfather, pulp legend Paul S. Powers. For full information on the anthology's release, check the blog of its busy editor, David Cranmer.

Matthew P. Mayo's breakthrough


THREE-TIMES successful BHW author Matthew P. Mayo became the toast of the Black Horse community in mid-July with a ground-breaking achievement.

BHW writers have long been told that no market exists for the reprinting of their books as mass-market paperbacks, while writers who have tried to reach the pocket-book audience using the Lulu system for print and distribution have been held back by costs and the high mark-up in selling price.

The good news from Matthew was: "I received word last week from my agent that she has struck a deal with Dorchester Publishing to reprint my three Black Horse Westerns as mass-market paperbacks available all over the US (and beyond!) as part of the Leisure Books line. This is grand news for me, as it will significantly broaden the reach and exposure of my books. The first, Winters’ War, is due for release in May 2011, followed in roughly six-month intervals by Hot Lead, Cold Heart and Wrong Town.

"The books will appear in print, audio versions, various ebook formats, and possibly foreign-language versions. Hopefully, all of this, plus new covers (perhaps sporting the words Spur Award Finalist!) and major distribution will add up to stellar sales. Keep ’em crossed! Plus, this is also potentially good news for my friends writing for the exceptional BHW line, as it might be possible for them to pursue a similar course of action."

But in early August, news broke that Dorchester was dropping its traditional mass-market publishing business in favour of an ebook/print-on-demand model, effective immediately.

MATTHEW P. MAYO generously gives us his inside take on
the twists and turns of publishing fortune:

OBVIOUSLY from my own selfish point of view, I am disappointed only in the fact that Dorchester's announcement means my novels won't appear as mass-market paperbacks in the Leisure line. They will appear as trade paperbacks in the Leisure line, as well as in all the other formats already discussed: various ebooks, audiobooks, possible foreign language versions.

It's not really that Dorchester is "going digital" – it has already offered such versions in its line-up. Rather it's placing more emphasis on newer, emerging technologies and cutting-edge methods of publishing books. 

Will it work? Probably, but it depends on their overheads.

Are ebooks the be-all and end-all? Not by a long shot. They're just another method of conveyance. Right now they account for only a small, albeit growing, percentage of books sold. But the interesting news is that people seem to enjoy reading ebooks. I'm not yet one of them, but I no doubt will become one sometime down the line. (And when that time comes, I'll want an ebook reader that does much more than give me a black-and-white version of colourful publications! Ahem, Mr Bezos, ahem, ahem.... )

[The standard Kindle ebook reader presents content only in black-and-white;  Jeff  Bezos  is  founder and chief executive of Amazon, the retail juggernaut that  dominates the ebook industry. Ed.]

The decision on Dorchester's part to do away with mass-market versions of its books makes sense fiscally for them. And I sense it will happen sooner or later to all publishers, as trade paperbacks seem to be the newer, more widely accepted format, be they Print On Demand or printed traditionally. I don't mind that in the least, especially since my books will still get in front of so many more people than they would have otherwise. Dorchester's decision will also help indie booksellers, who do not stock mass-market books with nearly as much frequency as they do trades.

All in all, it looks to be a sound decision by a progressive publisher in the midst of an industry that is being forced to reinvent itself.

I wish Dorchester the best, and I look forward to a fruitful relationship with them ... in many formats!

Greg Mitchell on an artist's view of the Old West


Part Three of a BHW novelist's examination of the paintings of
Frederic Remington (1861-1909) – world renowned for
his depictions of life in the Wild West.

FREDERIC REMINGTON tells a good story in paint and it is a rare picture of his that fails to show some unusual feature that the casual observer might miss. They are almost snapshots of the Old West and much of historical value can be learned from what some art experts would dismiss as background trivia.

Writers, too, will find storylines and characters aplenty to stir the imagination.

Remington's painting called "Smoke Signal" depicts three Plains Indian braves and their horses. It is summer and the ponies are fit and well-fed. The warriors are all armed with the Winchester 1866, .44 rimfire, rifle. These were the first to bear the famous Winchester name and are easily distinguished by their brass receivers.

Neither men nor horses are painted for war and their intentions could be strictly peaceful but the signs are contradictory. A red handprint is visible on the grey pony's rump and this indicated a significant deed in battle but other signs of warpaint are missing. The animals' tails are knotted, a practice used in both war and hunting, but it might also have been used sometimes for general riding.

Saddles were not liked for buffalo hunting or warfare. The saddle clearly shown on the chestnut horse, although of Indian manufacture, is really a copy of the early military type brought west with settlers and soldiers. The suspended rawhide seat, sitting high above the horse's back, goes well beyond America's shores and came out of the plains of Hungary in the early 18th century. What is often described as an Indian design is really the Indian version of a very simple European light cavalry saddle, using the materials most commonly available to them.

In 1961 this painting was reproduced on a postage stamp to celebrate the centennary of Remington's birth.

The next picture is a detail from a painting entitled "Rounded Up". We see a hard-pressed cavalry force caught in the open and fighting dismounted. There are casualties among both men and horses.

The Government scout is there with his trusty Model '66 Winchester. Most of Remington's paintings of civilian scouts show them carrying this particular rifle although the more powerful and more reliable 1873 model would have been available at the time he was depicting. It could be that the brass receiver adds a bit more colour to the painting. Another possibility is that some scouts were still using revolvers converted from cap-and-ball to .44 rimfire so the same ammunition could be used in both weapons.

The scout appears to be discussing the situation with an officer. The latter is wearing a knife in an Indian sheath on his belt. These knives appear in so many Remington paintings that the old cavalrymen must surely have worn them. Again a mystery pouch of some kind is attached to the back of the officer's  brown, civilian, gun belt. I am guessing it could be an Indian-style tobacco pouch. Both the scout and the wounded soldier at the officer's feet are wearing moccasins and short leggings instead of boots. The ordinary troopers are using what appear to be Springfield .45/70 carbines.


Remington's painting entitled "The Indian Trapper" shows a different character again. His trapper is astride a ewe-necked little mustang, a much inferior type to the ponies shown in the smoke signal painting. It is, however, typical of the hardy mustangs found in great numbers in the Old West.

The rider wears a fox-fur cap and the blanket coat, or capote, in a fashion favoured by the early French-Canadian trappers. The trapper's rifle is a muzzle-loading one and the small of the stock appears to have been bound with wire to fix or reinforce a crack in the wood.

In Remington's day, the fur trade was almost dead and it is a fine painting of a character about to fade from the scene.

Frederic Remington


An interesting subject shows up in the detail of "A Cavalryman's Breakfast  on the Plains". He is a civilian wearing a knife and revolver on his right side. Around his waist is another cartridge belt for longer rifle cartridges. The belt resembles the canvas belt often worn by cavalry troopers to carry .45/70 ammunition, so we can assume that there is a Springfield carbine somewhere for this man.

From other Remington sketches, he appears to be part of a cavalry pack train. These men were mule-mounted civilians, fourteen of them for a regimental train, and they looked after the pack mules. They were mostly big men as a fair degree of strength was needed to hold some packs in place until they were secured. On more than one occasion, the packers helped out the troopers on the firing line.

Some might ask what was so different about Remington's painting "The Puncher". At first glance it is just another cowboy on a horse. But is it? Something about this rider is different. He carries a rifle and saddlebags on his horse, so is more likely to be hunting than looking for cattle.  It was said that the working cowboy disliked loading his horse with superflous equipment.

The rifle is different, too. Enough of the stock is showing for us to see that it is not the usual lever-action Winchester and it appears a bit longer than most saddle carbines. The horse, although better than that of the Indian trapper mentioned previously, is a light, wiry type, very different to the solidly built Quarter Horse types re-designed in the mid-20th century.

This painting was dedicated to Howard Pyle, an artist friend of Remington's and was meant to embody the spirit of the American cowboy, but  was it executed totally from the imagination? The horse is true to a certain type and the puncher's rifle is different from the carbines that were so popular. Even if painting from memory, Remington might have had a specific person and/or a real horse in mind.

That's what I like about Remington's work. It has more depth to it than is apparent at first glance. Many artists might be technically better, but their works are reflections of their imaginations rather than accurate depictions of long-gone times.

Henry Farny, Charley Russell and Charles Schreyvogel also did superb depictions of the Old West that did full justice to their subjects. But for that attention to details that told the viewer more of the story, Remington was unsurpassed.

– Paddy Gallagher, who writes his BHWs as Greg Mitchell.




Published by Robert Hale Ltd in August, Sepember and October

The Last Gundown
Matt James  0 7090 8937 7
Dead Man Riding
Lance Howard
0 7090 8944 5
Railroad to Redemption
I. J. Parnham
0 7090 8945 2
Vengeance Rides the River
Hugh Martin
0 7090 8959 9
The Vengeance Trail
J. D. Kincaid
0 7090 8961 2
Death Rider
Boyd Cassidy
0 7090 8962 9
Renegade's Legacy
Rick Dalmas 0 7090 8964 3
Long Blows the North Wind  
Owen G. Irons
0 7090 8947 6
Wade's War
Chet Cunningham
0 7090 8960 5
Apache Rifles
Ethan Flagg
0 7090 8967 4
Silent Woman Showdown M. C. Young 0 7090 8970 4
Smuggler's Gulch
Logan Winters
0 7090 8973 5
Bonito Deputy
Jack Slade
0 7090 8975 9
Hangtree County
Hank J. Kirby
0 7090 8979 7
Crossing the Bravo for Pueblito
Jim Lawless
0 7090 8976 6
The Fighting Cowboy
Gordon Landsborough
0 7090 8982 7
Caleb Blood
P. McCormac
0 7090 8983 4
Across the Rio Grande
Edwin Derek
0 7090 8984 1
Pack Rat
Colin Bainbridge
0 7090 8985 8
Coltaine's Revenge
Scott Connor
0 7090 8987 2
Bone Picker
Derek Rutherford
0 7090 8992 6


Black Horse Westerns can be requested at public libraries or ordered at bookstores. They can be bought online from the publisher at, or from other retailers including  Amazon, Amazon UK, WH Smith, Blackwells and The Book Depository ("free delivery worldwide").

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