March – May 2012

December 2011
New authors
Mike Stotter ebooks

September 2011
Real/Reel Cowboys
Ebooks debate
Serenade for Misfit Lil

June 2011
Lessons from True Grit
Tha Ballad of Jack Martin
Ross Morton beginnings
ABC of Branding

March 2011
Trouble with Misfit Lil
Horse Opera Renaissance
Fargo Creator's Pattern

December 2010
Books for Writers
Read by Jake Douglas
The Talking Wire

September 2010
Joshua Dillard
Paperback Blues
Remington Part 3

June 2010
Imagination in the Saddle
Last word on Blurbs
Remington Part 2

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

(For links to  editions March 2006 to September 2007,  please go via December 2011)

No Longer a Young Gun     Hoofprints
Foresight, Views, and Enthusiasm
On the Scent of a Badman
New Black Horse Westerns   Chap O'Keefe Ebooks

"These characters take on lives of their own," writes Nik (aka Ross) Morton in an article below which describes the genesis of Old Guns, his new novel for the Black Horse Western series published by Robert Hale Ltd, of London. Thereby he puts his finger firmly on a mainspring of popular fiction.

Telling about the doings of interesting characters makes for a good story. "Successful stories can be indicated in terms of the main character" is familiar, age-old advice to Extra readers, especially those who also write themselves. And the advice holds good for both kinds of fiction writer, the planner and the non-planner.

The planner will begin his or her story with a scheme, written or unwritten but firmly in mind, that will carry him to a tidy ending.

The non-planner will begin at page one, trusting to faith and the relatively easy ability with today's technology to produce several drafts before arriving at a "clean", properly structured final version free of irrelevant diversions, inconsistencies and illogical developments.

As long ago as our editions of March and June of 2008, we debated here the advantages and disadvantages of both schools of writing.

Guest contributor Candy Proctor (aka C. S. Harris) told readers non-planners "like to live dangerously and fly — or rather, write — by the seat of their pants. Believing that advance planning kills their muse and destroys their interest in a story, they jump in with little idea of where their story will go."

Chap O'Keefe said in the later four-party debate that he clung to the synopsis-first routine of the planner. It was what publishers' editors had asked for back at the beginning of his career and a broadly set plan still saved him rewriting time in the long run.

Interestingly, Chap also revealed that he prefaced his plot outlines with "notes on my six or seven main characters ... not so much to avoid changing the colour of a character's eyes or their name I've seen it happen! as to be sure I know what drives each character, what he or she has done previously and will seek to achieve."

Clearly, both writer types would agree they need to ensure they are working with vivid characters, the more distinctive and memorable the better. Attention to psychology and motivation is as important as the physical details, dress, speech patterns, and the repeated gestures and mannerisms that will fix images of them in the reader's mind.

If this issue of the Extra has a theme, it must be characters. In another absorbing article, Paddy Gallagher (aka Greg Mitchell, and surely our most reliable contributor) takes up cudgels in a light-hearted way to expose the deficiencies of the Stereotyped Western Villain.

"I am trying out a new idea," Paddy said when sending his essay. "See if you think this will work."

We think it does, and have taken the opportunity to couple his tongue-in-cheek "interview" with a nostalgic trip down memory lane courtesy of a batch of scans you can read about in an editorial footnote to Paddy's article, "On the Scent of a Badman".

Sadly, not all our news this issue can be in a lighter vein. As a significant online source of Black Horse Western information, we have the upsetting duty to record the unexpected passing in January of author Howard Hopkins, aka Lance Howard, one of the longer-serving giants of the Hale list and a friend to many writers and readers.

Your comments and western news are always welcome at  

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Nik Morton writes about his new BHW. . .


Whilst still recovering from the death of his old partner, Abner, Sam Ransom learns of a note, left by the dead man, warning that the infamous Meak twins are after Ransom’s life because of what happened at Bur Oak Springs almost two decades ago. Ransom knows he must alert the rest of his gang who were there.
  Bur Oak Springs was a ghost-town even then, but now Ransom’s family is in jeopardy and their only hope of salvation is the gang’s return to confront the Meak brothers in a battle fraught with a sense of déjà-vu.
   It’s going to be a bloody showdown: young guns against the old.
Back cover
Old Guns

MY fifth BHW, Old Guns, was a departure in many senses for me – and perhaps slightly different from the format usually found in Hale westerns. The timeline is from Monday, 4 July to Monday, 25 July, 1892. This was one of the hottest months on record.

Most western enthusiasts have heard of the movie Young Guns. The thought occurred to me that it would be interesting to write about some gunmen who were no longer young – so the title was easy.

The old guns were young in 1866, but the story begins in the present of 1892, when the hero, Sam Ransom, is about to celebrate his 62nd birthday. His pals are Abner Nolan (60), Rory Carter (64), Jubal Baines (61), and Darby Tyler (62). Abner used to be a crack shot with a Spencer rifle, but now his eyesight is bad. Sam has a serious limp that he has borne for over thirty years. Darby suffers from arthritis so can’t hold a six-gun any more and relies on a Winchester rifle. Jubal suffered a serious head-wound back in 1866 and as a result has a poor memory, which is unfortunate since some desperadoes want him to tell them where the gold bullion is stashed…

The desperadoes are the young guns – the Meak twins, aged 32, and their buddies Quincy (25), Wade (22), Turner (20) and Irvin, the kid aged 19. The Meaks are set on vengeance, since their pa was killed by Sam and his men in the ghost town of Bur Oak Springs twenty-six years ago. The gunfight was over stolen bullion – which was never found.

Matilda Meak wants her twin sons to avenge her. Only now, on her death bed, does she tell them why.


She looked around at the poorly furnished room and her heart lurched when she glimpsed her reflection in the dressing table mirror. Her once auburn hair was now grey and thin, while her hazel eyes seemed dull, as if diluted pigment. Her thin lips pursed. The family nose was prominent, however, and both her sons took after her there. She tore her eyes away as flames of anger and frustration burned afresh in her breast. Now she must tell her boys and set them on their road of vengeance. ‘There were six men in your father’s gang,’ she said, clearing her throat. She closed her eyes and recited, ‘Carter, Ransom, Tylor, Baines and Nolan.’


The Meaks recruit a gang and start their vengeance trail, hunting down Sam’s pals – and their families. Sam gets warning after the second death. Here, I had a little fun introducing a couple of characters from the Bethesda Falls novels, now having aged.

As with life, the past informs the present, and this is very much the case for many of my books. The past has an uncanny knack of biting back and Sam Ransom learns this with a vengeance. Gradually, we learn how he got his limp in a mine explosion in Comstock in 1859, how he suffered betrayal and built up a friendship with several men that lasted down the years.

Another series of flashbacks – in 1866 this time – relate how Sam and his friends confront a bunch of outlaws in the ghost town of Bur Oak Springs. Ironically, twenty-six years later, this town haunts them again when the Meaks set out to do their dying mother’s bidding.

While Sam is away recruiting his old friends to combat the threat of the Meaks, at Sam’s ranch his wife, Charlotte, has her own worries:

Her heart pounding with a mixture of fear and pride for her children, Charlotte returned to the lounge and resumed her position at the window by the door. She fired at the one called Irvin, who hid behind the stone well out front. From time to time, he took pot shots with his pistol, the bullets peppering the front door, but otherwise seemed to be sitting tight, as if waiting for something to happen. Irvin let out unnerving whoops of joy and swore at the top of his voice between bouts of firing back. She had to confess that, even without the threat from his gun, his behaviour was unsettling.

Disaster overcomes the Ransom household and Sam and the others arrive too late. The Meaks taunt him and tell him to face them at Bur Oak Springs.

As Sam gets close to the ghost town that nestles in a natural rock basin, he can’t help but have second thoughts. He isn’t putting only himself at risk, but his friends who insisted on joining him.



He reckoned that in ordinary conditions the rock climb would be difficult for people of their age. But in this heat, it was fearful. Yet at the outset, it hadn’t been so bad. Sure, his leg gave him grief, but he was used to that. Then his joints started aching and his muscles straining. Those bruises seemed to resurface, reminding him he was no longer a young gun any more. As if he needed reminding. He pursed his lips. Yeah, we’re all old guns, sure enough. A generation had gone by since we did anything like this. Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to go against those young guns? Maybe. But he wasn’t left with much choice.

I’ve tried to convey the aches of ‘old age’ – bearing in mind that anyone in their sixties was considered old in those days, while nowadays age is often a state of mind rather than a counting of years.

The five of them sank to their knees at the top of the ridge. Ransom felt all in and gasped for breath. He sipped at his flask of brandy and the fiery liquid seemed to reinvigorate him, even though he knew the effect was only temporary.
Uncomplaining, Rory nursed his arthritic hands, while Emma kneaded his shoulders. ‘This’ll get some of the kinks out, darling,’ she said.
‘If only your loving ministrations could work on my hands.’

And, here’s Rory, bravely going up against an outlaw, despite his body’s protests:

Painfully gripping his Winchester, Rory made it to the back wall of the assayer’s. From here he had a view of about half of the livery stable’s frontage. The memories flooded back, the heat and dust, the shooting and shouting, and the death of Forrest and Burnside. He glanced down at his aching gnarled hands. Then, he’d been a good shot and almost fearless. Now, he sensed fear soaking into him. Fear of death, probably. Sure, his bones creaked, as if in need of oil, and rheumatism played hell with him, but he wasn’t ready to die yet, by God. He was only sixty-four, damn it!

The inevitable showdown is a mixture of gunfights from derelict building to dilapidated saloons and bordellos, and in the weed-strewn dry main street. There are a couple of twists towards the end. As with my other BHWs, I’ve book-ended the novel, this time with the Prologue and the Epilogue in the penitentiary, but I won’t say who features in either. 

Cover story... Click
on the  image.

My novels are written for many reasons, and they’ll doubtless differ for each one.

For me, westerns embody myth: the fight of good against evil, the elemental battle against the destructive nature of man. If along the way I can inject some historical context, all well and good.

For my previous western, Blind Justice at Wedlock, I wanted to challenge myself to write from a blinded man’s perspective – his world would be gleaned through his other senses, for example. Of course it was more than that, too, presenting some rather dark psychology as well as the quite powerful love of Clint for his wife, Belle.

For Old Guns I wanted to examine some old gunslingers, to see how they lived in the autumn of their years and how they would cope if called upon to don those gunbelts again. And I’ve always fancied writing about a ghost town.

However, the biggest attraction for me has to be the characters – both the good and the bad. Once created, even in brief biographical form, these characters take on lives of their own:

Sam Ransom, 62. (DoB: 1830).

Rancher – Bar-SR, South Dakota.

Wife is Charlotte (46), son Adam (15), daughter Jane (16).

Physical appearance: Nut-brown hair, sideburns, streaked white.

Brown eyes. Square jaw. Liver spots on hands. Long narrow nose. Old wound in left leg, he has a serious limp. His back is bowed slightly.

Clothing: Black Stetson. Blue placket shirt, half open, 2 buttons undone.

Yellow neckerchief. Indigo blue denim pants. Fancy stitching on uppers of his tan leather boots.

Weapons: Two Remington six-guns.

Yes, I’ve sketched in an outline for the story/plot. But it’s how the characters interact that creates the story – and to a large extent their own history. Sometimes, I’m surprised to find that not all my villains are thoroughly bad and some of my heroes aren’t so good, either….

I wanted to create ticking-clock suspense – first, toward the fatal deadline of Thursday, 21 July and then counting down from 6a.m. to noon. It has been done before in westerns, but not often, yet it’s a great device for cranking up the suspense and, hopefully, getting those pages turned.

Old Guns can be pre-ordered now and will be available in April.

– Nik Morton (aka Ross Morton) whose Writelaot blog is here


Big-top gunfighter.
Making a mark on the western scene


Writing BHWs doesn't always come easy for the veteran professionals. In early January last year, Keith Hetherington (aka Tyler Hatch, Jake Douglas and several others) told us, "Endless pain from my spine and arthritis in the hips makes sure I can't walk far. Just stumble around. Literally? A resounding YES! I've never had such continuous aggravation from my body before and it's getting me down. I'm still writing Rogue's Run which I started early December. Can't really get interested; had bursts of enthusiasm the last couple of days but it was mostly revision of what I'd already written... Roll on that injection of enthusiasm!" But the book ended well. In late February 2011, Keith wrote again to say, "Seemed to take forever for me to get it done and somehow I didn't feel easy about it, but [Hale managing director] Gill Jackson wrote, 'It is an excellent Western with all the right ingredients...' Gave me quite a lift and I've decided now that I like it okay after all (fickle, fickle!)." The blurb tells us Rogue's Run, now published a year later, is the story of Johnny Richards, "no gunfighter in the true sense but considered the fastest gun alive. He learned his prowess with firearms not in the badlands of Texas but in the Big Top of Farley's Frontier Circus." Now that sounds temptingly different....


The AMC television western series Hell On Wheels was much heralded as a possible successor to the popular Deadwood. But ScreenRant has reviewed the finale in the US of its first season in less than glowing terms. And most of the site's readers who pitched in took a similar stance. "I’ve been trying really hard to like this show," one comment ran. "It’s so disappointing that I'm probably going to throw in the towel unless the premiere of season two has something (anything) truly interesting. I feel like the writers were just hoping to get the pilot to work and never really thought through the overall story arc. This is a Deadwood starter kit at best." When one viewer commented favourably that "dialogue, as well as the situations and weaponry for this period, was dead on" and showed "a lot of research", he was quickly corrected by another: "You have got to be kidding, right? The scenery is wrong, laying track in standing water, Cheyenne in Eastern Nebraska, Thomas Durant hops on his private train and makes it to Chicago and back in two or three days, guy gets shot point-blank in the mouth and survives, native people who couldn’t see the blonde-haired white woman less than 100 yards from their camp, white Christian woman having sex with converted Indian, everyone having sex with whores but no one has VD, Union troops supposedly attached to General William Sherman who somehow ended up in Meridian, Mississippi, growing tobacco in Mississippi, period-inappropriate weapons, language, customs, etc., etc., etc. …." Hoofprints' advice? Turn off the TV – borrow some library westerns, or buy a western ebook!

Losing steam.

What's in a name.
From pulp-magazine days onward, a multiplicity of pen-names, for whatever reasons advanced by publishers and agents, has been the bane of many a western writer's career. As anthologist Jon Tuska once noted of an infrequently recognized past master, "D. B. Newton ended up with six bylines to the detriment of his public visibility." Today author David Whitehead is best known as Ben Bridges, but his BHWs were issued under several other names, too. As regular readers know, Dave has been reissuing these books as attractively priced ebooks, but still under the bylines used on the Hale hardcovers. Now, good news has been announced at the Ben Bridges website: "Some collectors of our Kindle editions have expressed frustration at having not been able to find all Dave's westerns in one place when searching on Amazon. To remedy this, we've decided that, as from now, all Dave's westerns will now carry one name – Ben Bridges –  regardless of the name under which they first appeared. This guarantees that, effective immediately, all the westerns currently available will be listed in one place, under the Bridges byline. To this end, we've now reissued Hang 'Em All and Tanner's Guns under the Bridges byline, complete with eye-catching new covers."

A TV screening of Wild Bill gave critic Graeme Blundell of The Australian newspaper the chance to comment: "This great movie from director Walter Hill, starring Jeff Bridges, released in 1995 and overlooked by audiences, is simply one of the better westerns of recent decades, a period dominated by the so-called revisionist western. Cowboy movies were no longer built around classic tableaux involving marauding Indians, fearless gunslingers, ruthless outlaws and the occasional high-spirited gal in a calico dress working the saloon. After Sam Peckinpah and Sergio Leone, the western became characterized by its nihilism, its brutality and its harsh demystification of the threadbare legends of the Old West. Its protagonists behaved more like characters transported from contemporary literary fiction than they did like the traditional homespun western hero. They won our interest and our sympathy not by courage and heroic deeds but by bemused incompetence, genial cowardice, and the ability to face the worst with buoyancy and wit. They were six-gun existentialists in heels and spurs. And no one wore them better than Bridges in this tough-minded movie, never a man who brought law and order, but the alienated and absurd individual unable to fit into a new society.  Wild Bill is maverick director Hill’s dreamscape biography of  hard-drinking, quickshooting gunslinger Bill Hickok at the end of his life, heading towards his final hand of poker in Deadwood. The brilliantly realized story, much of it told in flashback, covers the major events that shaped the gunman’s life, including his work as a Kansas lawman, his stint in Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show, and his part-time relationship with a whip-wielding Calamity Jane (the superb, so sexy Ellen Barkin)."

A better western.

Words to the unwary.
Wisdom for beginning writers, including western writers.... In the course of a blog tour to publicize her new ebook, Write a Great Synopsis, Nicola Morgan said, "Fiction of any length is hard to sell and writers should not think of publishing it themselves without understanding why it’s hard to sell and without being prepared to do some pretty full-on (and often unattractive) self-promotion or accept modest sales.... I’d add that the temptation is for unpublished writers to self-publish just because they can. And before they are ready. However, in self-publishing as in publishing, mediocre or even dud writing can also sell well (and great writing can sell badly) though I hate the thought of that. Therefore, I think the pitfalls are in some ways the same: underestimating the problems and fortunes of what makes a commercial success. If you believe your writing sings and you are as convinced as possible that it’s as good as it can be, do it. But if you feel you are still practising, my recommendation is to carry on practising for longer.... And don’t let the few(ish) major success stories in self-publishing give you a false impression of how easy it is. It is not easy. That’s why it’s satisfying." Nicola's credentials? A Cambridge University degree in classics and philosophy, around 90 books in various genres with mainstream publishers, plus contact with countless authors, agents and publishers, and work as chair of the Society of Authors in Scotland.

Older readers will remember when almost every British fiction publisher had its own western line issuing original works or reprints of American books. Mills & Boon had Diamond W Westerns, Collins had Wild West Club, Frederick Muller had Sombrero Western Series, and so on. The late Hal Jons was a Sombrero author who had later titles published in the early '80s by Robert Hale. When Magna Large Print Books told us last year that it was no longer easy to source good westerns not already released in large-print library editions, Black Horse Extra was pleased to point its manager, Diane Allen, in the direction of the overlooked Jons books. In 2004 we had uncovered that Jons' daughter had been a speaker at a conference of the IT Service Management Forum: "Maggie Kneller, daughter of Harry Jones, alias Hal Jons, alias Harry Graham, the author ... was educated at Colston’s Girls’ School in Bristol, graduated from University of Wales, Swansea with an honours degree in pure mathematics and gained a postgraduate diploma in statistics from University College, London. She is a member of the British Computer Society, a chartered engineer and a member of the Institute of Marketing. In 1996, Maggie gained distinction for an IT hybrid MBA at Henley Management College...." Surely it would be easy to contact this well-connected, high-flying lady, we thought at the time. Mrs Kneller was also chair of  Britain's Information Systems Examination Board and the UK Euro Pogramme director for international insurance firm AXA Sun Life. But an email to AXA Sun Life in Bristol said they were were "unable to locate the details you have requested". So the trail was abandoned, until the opportunity arose to help Magna bring the enjoyable Hal Jons westerns back into circulation. Working on the "Bristol" clues, we found online mention of a Mrs Maggie Kneller who was secretary of the Amadeus Singers, a choir based promisingly in North Somerset. Eventually contact was made and introductions followed. This year, Magna has published as Dales Westerns Mochita Stage, formerly a 1964 title in the Sombrero series, and Guns of Justice, originally a Hale title. Mission accomplished!

Back in circulation.


Obituary: Howard Hopkins aka Lance Howard


John Laramie rode into Lancerville, looking to escape his old life as a man-hunter, and settle down. But a life of serenity may not be on the cards. When a young woman seeks his help to get rid of a vicious outlaw, he's torn between the dark demons of his past and hope for a brighter future. Fate, however, makes the choice for him when the murderous Cross Gang attacks him and just misses the target putting the life of the young woman in dire jeopardy. With Laramie forced into a deadly showdown, will it cost him more to win than it would to lose?
– Back cover
Hell On Hoofs

THE Black Horse Western year began badly for long-time readers with the news of the death in Biddeford, Maine, on January 12 of author Howard Hopkins, aka Lance Howard, from a heart attack. He was only 50 ... far too young an age to die in the 21st century.

Howard wrote more than 30 BHWs. The first, Blood On the Saddle, was published by Hale in October 1993. His latest, Hell On Hoofs, was published on January 31. In recent years, he has perhaps been more active in other genre-fiction areas: horror, paranormal mystery, children's horror, and comic books. His work is much admired by the US pulp community and his many other followers.

Howard recognized earlier than most the coming importance of digital technology for genre fiction. In 2002, in the days before wide acceptance of social networking and personal blogs,  he set up a Yahoo Black Horse Western chat group for readers and writers which now lists close to 160 members.

His abhorrence of disharmony in the camp did not stop him from making the occasional difficult and questionable decision as group owner and "moderator"... or from expressing his own strong views.

Before the days of eworld publicity, Howard noted the apparent satisfaction of Hale with its niche library market and responded:

"I have literally spent a few hundred dollars designing and printing my own postcards and bookmarks (certainly way above what Hale pays for a book) and even signed and sent them envelopes full – to no avail. I am lucky I can design my own and then only have to pay for printing. I even cut them myself. In one case I printed off 500 flyers and hand delivered them to newspaper boxes all over town, in the dead of night, of course....

"I shake my head sometimes at their [the publishers'] lack of interest in their own product, or at least seeming lack. But I suppose that given they pay a small amount to the author, and then make up that amount two times over or more by taking half the money from the large-print rights sale, they may see any expenditure on promotion for these unworthy of the effort. When I started writing them I sold out the print run on a number of my early books ... and naively waited for them to inform me it was going back to press for the royalty-paying second printing....

"They [BHWs] are a unique package and one of the few outlets left anywhere world over for this type of Western tale."


Fortunately, developments since Howard posted those comments in 2003 allowed him to write at his Dark Bits blog on January 9, just three days before his sudden passing:

"The good news for those of us authors and readers who work in the electronic book arena is that Kindle reigned supreme with holiday sales among ereaders, and Nook also did quite well. In the fading hours of Christmas my own Nightmare Club paranormal series for children saw a huge increase in sales that has continued over the proceeding week, as well as a decent increase in my paranormal horror series The Chloe Files and my newly inaugurated western line that began with Blood Creek and Johnny Dead Kindle releases.

"The trend is certainly encouraging, and the very fact people are turning back to the escapism of reading in these troubled economic and personal times is hopeful. Even more so is the trend toward young readers picking up books again, something that had been becoming a bit of a lost art over the past decade with the advent of video games.

"With the recent announcement that the publishers of Black Horse Westerns, for whom I have penned 34 novels, have opened their own ebook line, in which the first of my 'Pass' series, Vengeance Pass, will see e-print in 2012, the year looks to be a new renaissance for the Western."

Of his westerns, Howard wrote:

"I for one am not a big fan of the historical type western, or western bio style. I like the mythical West. Hale is one of the very few publishers who deal with our type of fiction, though a good story should be a good story regardless, and have appeal to a large audience."

When an author colleague once broached the subject of lack of longevity among fiction writers, Howard replied at length:

"Now there's a cheerful thing to look forward to.... In fact, I saw some studies years back – can't recall where – that a predominance of writers had an above average incidence of manic depression, alcoholism and suicide, among other things. Writers tend to be solitary, introverts, self-absorbed and sensitive, so maybe that has something to do with it.


"Many artistic types wind up under so much pressure to create, stay creative and competitive, or just make it to begin with, it may put an unnatural burden on our coping abilities and pull resources from other areas in our bodies, affecting health indicators such as blood pressure, cholesterol levels. Or that pressure may cause more reliance on chemicals such as alcohol, drugs, nicotine, which in turn affects health. Maybe combinations of all. I think writers are capable of reaching into emotional levels probably non-creative types don't bother with, and maybe this leaves some vulnerable to other things.

"Writing is tough; creating is tough. I always have to kind of chuckle (in a perversely annoyed way) when some of the people I come in contact with think writing a book is nothing more than sitting in a chair typing all day. I have had them say that to me – 'Oh, you just type all day, you've got it easy.' Yep, it's easy – computer pretty much does all the work. In fact, I have a serial port in the back of my neck and I simply plug into the PC and let it out. Sure. Easy as vomiting a bowling ball....

"Personally I have always been painfully shy socially and strung too tight, blessed with such garbage as panic and anxiety attacks and a few other stress-related annoyances healthwise. (Before I discovered Nexium I might have driven TUMS stock up a good 10 per cent!)

"One thing I would recommend for all writers, since it is a sedentary practice, is to make sure to get out and walk, run, bike-ride, go to the gym, anything, to relieve some of the pressure. Tai Chi is probably good, too, or yoga or something like that. For me, it's bodybuilding and bike-riding, but whatever one is comfortable with. It can help with the creative process, too. And having a hobby unrelated to writing might help....


"One notable exception would be Walter Gibson, writer of the Shadow. The guy lived to a ripe old age. And he wrote two novels per month for many years in the '30s, hundreds of books, stories, articles, etc., and chain smoked and drank all the way. But he's probably like the guy who fell out of a plane without a parachute and somehow miraculously lived to tell about it!"

Howard is survived by Dominique, his wife of 22 years, his parents, his sister, a goddaughter, a niece and a nephew.

Greg Mitchell catches up with a 'usual suspect'


Outlaws are plaguing the Santa Rosa area and Marshal Tim Cleary is sent there to investigate the theft of military rifles. He joins forces with Sheriff Lou Braga in an attempt to break up the gang and to determine the fate of Red Baxter, the freight company driver moving the rifles. Diaz, a delusional Mexican goat herder, claims to have seen the bandit leader and believes him to be the Devil. Now the two lawmen must try to decipher Diaz's terrified ravings and weave their way through false trails and desperate situations before they finally track unmask the Devil and bring retribution.
Track Down the Devil
now reissued as a BHW ebook
UNLIKE some contributors to the Black Horse Extra, I don't have much access to other writers, but have always wanted to do an in-depth interview with a literary personality. How it happened is a long and complicated story but eventually I managed an interview with a character whose professional title is Stereotype Western Villain (SWV).
He was squat and ugly with bad teeth and a breath that made a billygoat seem delicately perfumed by comparison. A floppy black hat was pulled low over his small, piggy eyes and a black soup-strainer moustache hung limply from his upper lip like a dead, furry animal. Just between us I have seen better-looking Gila monsters, but I digress. Alternately he was chewing tobacco and spitting or sipping from a large bottle of what looked like pure rotgut.
Our interview as I recall it was roughly as follows.

GM: It was nice of you to allow this interview.

SWV: My mistake, I didn't intend to be nice. I have more destructive ways to spend my time.  Cut out the soft soap and say your piece.

GM: What do you like most about being a villain?
SWV: Where do I start? There's heaps of things. While dumb heroes are out busting their guts in the [expletive deleted] cactus, us villains are enjoying ourselves in saloons. It's great fun terrorizing innocent customers, beating up people who can't fight and insulting women, but I must admit that the latter pastime ain't as popular as it used to be.

GM: Why is that?
SWV:  Maybe it's a sign of the times but modern fictional heroines are pretty hard to insult. There was a time when they would faint or scream for a hero but these days they are more likely to answer you in language that would make a sailor's parrot blush. Us villains have not exactly led sheltered lives but molesting a lady who swears at you like a muleskinner can be really unnerving.
GM: Look on the bright side. At least the modern reaction does not immediately bring a hero who gives you a thrashing.

SWV: So that's what brings the heroes – I hadn't figured they'd always be hanging about in earshot. I had put those minor disagreements down to coincidence. But thrashings ain't always one-sided. Give me a couple of good villains to hold him and I can belt the tripe out of any [expletive deleted] hero. I don't know how many gun butts I have busted just knocking heroes on the head.

GM: I was meaning to ask you about that. Have you ever thought of taking a bit of target practice? Your record against heroes is not particularly good.
SWV:  I'm working on that. I can kill innocent people from all angles but heroes are sneaky. I've figured out it's something to do with their [expletive deleted]  faces. They make guns shoot high. I've shot dozens through the shoulder or creased their skulls but have yet to do a nice heart shot or drill one right between the eyes.

(The interview paused while SWV extracted a large Bowie knife from somewhere and proceeded to pick his few remaining teeth. He gave an enormous belch and the subsequent expulsion of breath wilted all cactus within a fifty-yard radius.)

SWV: That's better. I should not have shot my previous cook but I had nothing better to do at the time. The current son of a bitch can't cook rancid rattlesnake for sour apples.
GM: You eat rancid rattlesnake?

SWV: Of course. It's the best way to get bad breath. I wouldn't want to be mistaken for a hero. Those sweet-smelling bastards live on steak or hash and apple pie.
GM: You don't see yourself as a suave type of villain like a saloon owner or a crooked lawyer ?

SWV: Hell, no. I have some standards. Real villains rob banks and coaches and steal horses and cows. Them indoor types are a bunch of [expletive deleted] pansies.
GM: What about the religious fanatic types who turn up in so many westerns?

SWV: They can be tricky. It takes more than misquoting the Bible and being narrow-minded and objectionable to sound convincing. Too many of these characters only reflect the attitudes of their authors and a good villain never lets an author intrude into the story. See one religious fanatic and you've seen them all. It's a sort of niche market and Psalm Singing Sam plays the same character in hundreds of westerns.

(There was another pause as my companion cuffed a passing orphan under the ear and administered a kick in the slats to a stray dog.)

SWV: I shouldn't do things like that but can't help myself.

GM: You mean you are reforming?

SWV: [Expletive deleted] no . It's just that I've done it so often that I'm getting Repetitive Strain Injury, RSI, I think they call it now. I'm not as young as I used to be, albeit I ain't in bad shape for someone who must be nearly a hundred and fifty years old.

GM: What do you think of Indian villains?

SWV: They became extinct years ago and are politically incorrect. Now they are called Native Americans and shooting them down in heaps is a real no-no. These days they might be led astray by evil white men like me but speaking forked tongue to them can be a little wearing. The days are gone when we could fill them up with rotgut, trade a few guns to them and send them yipping and yahooing around to destroy the countryside. These days they are giving villains a bad name. Suitably bad Indians are as rare as frog feathers but there are some talented half-breeds about.
GM: What about Mexican villains? It seems to be open season on them.
SWV: You're dead right there. Mexican villains are popular and they breed like rabbits so there's no chance of them being wiped out. But it's a trendy thing. You can take any sort of villain, put a Mexican sombrero on him, hang a few cartridge belts and knives around him and get him to make frequent references to gringos, and you have the game skun. Mexican villains are no worse than the rest of us but they seem to be more disposable. If I was interested in the equality of races, and no good villain is, I would query why the [expletive deleted] hell Native American villains can't be as bad as Mexes and the rest of us.

(I could see that SWV was getting restless. His bottle of rotgut was empty and his hand was hovering above the heavily notched butt of a large gun on his hip.)

GM: I would not like to take up too much of your time.

SWV: Good. I have a reputation to maintain and talking to a pen-pushing [expletive deleted] bastard like you could be bad for my image.

GM: Just out of curiosity, what would you do if I tried to keep you here talking?

SWV: I'd just walk away.

GM: That doesn't sound very villainous.

SWV: I didn't say you would walk away.

 I got while the going was good.

– Paddy Gallagher, whose most recent BHW is Breakout

[The pictures accompanying Greg Mitchell's article are from the work in the 1950s of Derek C. Eyles (1902-1974), a prolific British illustrator and comics artist. For some 40 years, Eyles's art was in continuous demand by publications like Wild West Weekly, Comet, Sun, Knockout, Western Library, Pearson's Western Novels, and Cowboy Comics/Picture Library. As well as western villains of the stock type, he was particularly adept at drawing horses, and therefore a natural choice for editors of western story papers, comics and books. Amalgamated Press editorial director Leonard Matthews gave samples of his work to new artists as examples of "how to do horses properly". But by the 1970s the western adventure genre had fallen out of fashion, and Eyles was battling the twin problems of vanishing markets and poor health.]



Published by Robert Hale Ltd in February, March and April

A Message for McLeod
Emmett Stone  0 7090 9262 9
Hell and High S
Clay Starmer
0 7090 9269 8
Death on the Devil’s Highway
Josh Lockwood 0 7090 9343 5
Shooting Stars
Dale Mike Rogers 0 7090 9344 2
Rogue's Run
Tyler Hatch 0 7090 9345 9
Fugitive Run
Chet Cunningham
0 7090 9348 0
Sabinas Kid
Steve Ritchie
0 7090 9349 7
Gone To Blazes
Jackson Davies
0 7090 9351 0
The Comanche’s Revenge
D. M. Harrison
0 7090 9390 9
Praise Be To Silver
Ethan Flagg 0 7090 9309 1
Dollar a Day
Chuck Tyrell 0 7090 9310 7
Mystery Herd
Logan Winters
0 7090 9324 4
Range of Terror
Billy Hall
0 7090 9354 1
The Venom of Iron Eyes
Rory Black
0 7090 9367 1
Last Man in Lazarus
Bill Shields 0 7090 9368 8
The Vinegar Peak Wars
Hugh Martin
0 7090 9369 5
Owen G. Irons
0 7090 9218 6
The Search for the Lone Star
I. J. Parnham 0 7090 9303 9 
Blood Trail
Corba Sunman
0 7090 9326 8
No Peace For a Rebel
Peter Wilson
0 7090 9370 1
Riders On the Wind
Vance Tillman
0 7090 9383 1
Old Guns
Ross Morton 0 7090 9380 0
Silver Track
Caleb Rand
0 7090 9379 4
Sundown at Singing River 
Ty Kirwan
0 7090 9480 7

Black Horse Westerns can be requested at public libraries or ordered at bookstores. They can also be bought from the publisher at, or from other retailers including Amazon, Amazon UK, WHSmith, Blackwells and The Book Depository.

Selected backlist titles are now republished as ebooks, available from online retailers for $4.66 / £2.86. February titles are:
Miller's Ride, Caleb Rand;  Dead by Sundown, I. J. Parnham
The Blood of Iron Eyes, Rory Black;  Broken Star, Terry Murphy
The Colorado Kid, Dale Mike Rogers; The Bonanza Trail, John Dyson
The Shadow of the Gallows, Steven Gray;  Two-Gun Trouble, Gillian F. Taylor; High Gun at Spurlock, Terrell L. Bowers; Buck and the Widow Rancher, Carlton Youngblood; Death Rides Alone, Dale Graham



"A rider in faded garb drifts into a Colorado mining town ringed by towering, near-bald crags. . . The scene is set for another Chap O'Keefe western. The reader slips into familiar territory, eager for all the reassuring touchstones . . . you could as well have been watching a movie as reading a book . . . O'Keefe writes westerns with the coolness of a hired gun."
– New Zealand Herald

"Chap O’Keefe has created some excellent characters in this book.
Lord Buckhampton really comes across as a pompous man you will be hoping will get his comeuppance soon after you meet him. The book
 moves quickly from beginning to end, and has many action-packed scenes. Throughout the tale there is a growing attraction between Tod and Julia
but this can’t possibly become anything more than that, can it? There are plenty of surprises along the way too, some of the characters not being
quite who they say they are. And a savage gang of outlaws adds further hardship to the task of finding Buckhampton’s son. . . Definitely worth picking up a copy, if you can find one."
– Western Fiction Review






"There's nothing about this  I didn't enjoy ... I have two O'Keefe novels on the way and this has whetted my appetite for them.... I'm loving this western. I was travelling today and  The Sheriff and the Widow was my book for the trip."
– David Cranmer,
of  Beat To a Pulp

"Events become a race against time, although those involved never know this. There is also a surprising – and somehow fitting – death for one of the main characters, a type of death  you don’t read about that often in westerns... The Sheriff and the Widow is available now at a great, giveaway price..."
Western Fiction Review

Read an excerpt here



"This book is a lot of fun, pulpish but with a sharp, contemporary edge. The dark, complex plot, the emotional angst, and the
gritty storytelling remind me very much of many westerns published in the fifties by Gold Medal, by authors such as Lewis B. Patten, Dean Owen and William Heuman. The pace is very fast,
the action scenes are handled well, and 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.... If you’re a fan of hardboiled action westerns, I definitely think you’ll enjoy it."
– James Reasoner



"Take it from someone who has collected and read westerns for more than 40 years, Misfit Lil Cheats the Hangrope stands head and shoulders above the current crop of competitors! It has a fabulous story with – to this reader, at least – a completely unforeseen dénouement, vivid, lively characters and regular bursts of action which ... aren't just shoehorned in to beef things up a bit. I have read Chap O'Keefe for a long while now, but genuinely feel that this is his best to date!"
– David Whitehead,
aka Ben Bridges

"Read it earlier this week and it's terrific."
Cullen Gallagher,
of Pulp Serenade



"One of Chap O'Keefe's early novels and the second to feature range detective/hired gun Joshua Dillard. In this one, Dillard gets a letter from his brother-in-law, who is serving as a deputy marshal in a small town in Nebraska, asking him to come help prevent a range war brewing in the sandhills area. At the same time, Dillard is summoned to Omaha by a wealthy businessman who also has connections in the sandhills. Naturally, the two cases turn out to be related, but Dillard doesn't discover that until  several attempts on his life, in one of which he's shot and left for dead. Chap O'Keefe takes a traditional Western plot and as usual spins it into something more with clever plot twists, well-developed and interesting characters, and plenty of tough, hardboiled action scenes. Joshua Dillard has turned into one of my favorite Western characters.... Available in an affordable ebook edition....  I highly recommend it."
James Reasoner at his pulp blog Rough Edges

   "DOOMSDAY MESA shows a darker side of the West.... O’Keefe mixes the bitter truths of Western history with a compelling fictional narrative, and the result is another winning Western drama....
The protagonist is Yale Cannon. Once a wild, gun-toting youth, he matured while fighting for the Union in the Civil War and was eventually appointed as a Deputy Marshal. He may be older, wiser, and grayer, but he hasn’t forgotten his youth – or the girl he loved, Jane Bell. So, when he is ordered to proceed to Antelope to bring back wanted murderer William Effingham, he decides to find out what happened to his old crush. But the town of Antelope has other plans in mind for the Deputy Marshal.

Arriving in Antelope, Cannon is mistaken for a cattle rustler cultist and narrowly escapes a showdown. Investigating the matter further, Cannon discovers the town’s boiling resentment towards Brother Abel Anson Pryor and his followers who have taken over Jerusalem Pastures, which the locals are now calling Doomsday Mesa. Meanwhile, Cannon seeks out the town elder, the Reverend Ephraim McDowell, and his daughter, schoolteacher Kate, to learn about Jane Bell. Disaster looms, however, as tensions between the townspeople and the cult reach the breaking point, and Cannon finds himself caught between two firecrackers – Effingham and Pryor – and must save Kate’s reckless younger sister, Rose, before she becomes victim to her own naïve delusions.
Doomsday Mesa  O’Keefe has assembled a terrific ensemble cast whose individual stories weave together a complex narrative layered with drama and anticipation ... O’Keefe excels at crafting rugged, independent, and believable female characters that defy stereotype. Kate doesn’t fit the conventional mould of a schoolmarm whose spinster ways melt at the first sight of the hero. Far from it! Kate is a forthright suffragette, but she’s also cognizant of her responsibilities, both to the town and to her near-blind father. And of all the characters in the book, Rose is perhaps the most relatable, human, and vulnerable of the bunch. Young, brash, and a romantic at heart, she longs to run away with her lover and rebels against everything her family stands for. How many of us were like that in our own youth? Locating those universal emotions in his characters is what makes O’Keefe’s West so compelling.... He doesn’t treat the West as some static, dusty entity, but engages with the emotional and moral issues the way real people would have."
Cullen Gallagher, Pulp Serenade

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