June 1st is Wild West Monday, a promotional activity to increase the awareness of westerns. So I'm asking you to take a moment this week to think about reading a western, especially if you've never read one before.
I've rarely come across anyone who doesn’t love a good western. But usually that's a good western film. The novels are not as well known. This is strange, as fans of other genres such as science fiction usually become fans of the novels too.
It's hard to pin down a reason why fans of western films don't then go on to read the novels. Maybe it’s down to a perception that they'll be outdated and full of 'Ah, shucks, ma'am'. Or maybe it's down to the fact that most people aren't aware they are being published, as retail shops tend not to stock them in favour of pushing celebrity autobiographies.
But the genre has many enthusiastic fans. In Britain the Black Horse Western series is the premier imprint, providing seven new books every month written by authors from all around the world. Styles vary and there's guaranteed to be something for every taste. Whether you prefer a John 'The hell I am' Wayne traditional western, a Clint 'My mule ain't happy' Eastwood spaghetti western, or a James 'Basically I'm on my way to Australia' Garner comic yarn, you'll find the written equivalent.
So I'd urge you to think about trying one. The books are written by modern authors in a modern style, contain plenty of action, a dash of romance and mystery, and plenty of strong heroes, feisty gals and black-hearted bad guys. And best of all, the books are short. There's none of that modern trend of writing 750 page epics with 600 pages of padding and 150 pages of story; westerns are 150 pages of pure fast-paced story. What more could a reader ask for?
So where should you start if you've not tried one before? A starting point would be the authors I like. There's Lance Howard, the acclaimed Spider Man scriptwriter, whose westerns are as gritty and vividly written as any fiction you could ever hope to find. There's the purveyors of action-packed yarns like Jack Giles and Ross Morton. There's the authentic flavour of the West from historical experts like Chuck Tyrell and Steve Hayes, the latter having been around for so long he knew John Wayne before he was famous. But not all the authors are long-established. New voices come along all the time like the star of Doctor Who and Merlin Jack Martin whose debut novel arrives this month. And neither is this a masculine stronghold. Many fans and writers are women, including Blakes 7 enthusiast Gillian Taylor, who this year nearly won Mastermind, and there's Terry James who made her debut last week with her first book. And then there's me with my no-nonsense shoot-'em-ups.
Oh and all those writers are very nice people who are appoachable through their websites and blogs. If you're tempted to try, I'd recommend visiting your local library and checking out a Black Horse Western. If you prefer, you can buy the latest titles from on-line retailers for around the cost of a retail paperback, or you can bid on eBay where you can pick up numerous titles, often for two or three pounds.
So, why not try one? And if the answer is thanks, but no thanks and you've visited this blog to read my Ashes to Ashes reviews, then remember this: Gene Hunt is the sheriff and he loves the glorious genre of the American Western…