Saturday, September 15, 2012

Spreading the Western Gospel

A good friend of mine just recently made a comment about Westerns; never mind the details of the comment, basically it was just a disparaging remark about the entire genre. Said friend is a great person, fairly well-read and pretty bright.

It stayed with me all day, because I just happened to be thinking about my two Hawthorne stories and how sales on them have slowed to a trickle lately. I'd been contemplating how to get more readers to notice them, or give them a chance, and my friend's comment made me realize that a HUGE part of the problem is this: people who've never read Westerns have pre-conceived and completely erroneous ideas about them, and so won't really give them a chance. "I hate Westerns" is a phrase you generally only hear from readers who've never read one, I think.

I say that because the very best Western fiction is great at distilling all those elements of conflict and character that make up good drama. There's a rawness to Westerns that's great at illuminating the human condition and how we respond to crisis. What's not to like about that, right?

Now granted, That Damned Coyote Hill and The Long Black Train are not straight Westerns. They're horror stories, really. But the Western aspects of them are essential, moving pieces-- without them, the stories would fall apart.

But still, these two stories (which I'm very proud of) are dying on the vine, in part because too many readers won't give Westerns a chance. That's not the WHOLE story, I know, but I think it's a part of it.

I would urge anyone who thinks they don't like the genre to read James Reasoner, or Luke Short, or Ed Gorman, or Lewis B. Patten. Or, if you want to ease into the genre with a horror cushion, try my two Hawthorne tales.

Then get back to me.

In the meantime, I'm going to be spreading the gospel about Westerns, urging my fellow readers to not be so dismissive, to give the genre a try. I'm convinced one good Western novel will change some minds, quick.


  1. It's interesting that you should mention this, because I'm in the midst of a real Western binge and it's a genre that I had only paid occasional attention to before. I was turned on to the Western writer Ben Haas recently by a couple of fellow sword & sorcery fans and that set me to seeking out current Western writers (Which is how I found Hawthorne) and I've been reading James Reasoner, Wayne D. Dundee, and Peter Brandvold. I particularly recommend Brandvold for people who like action oriented stories.
    I definitely agree that folks who don't like Westerns need to sample more of the genre. I think that fans of crime fiction in particular can find a lot to like in the Western. I'm trying to do my bit at my blog as well by reviewing lots of my new discoveries. Stay with it. I certainly want to read more Hawthorne.

  2. I have the exact same problem. People tell me they enjoy my writing but won't read The Guns of Retribution because they "don't like Westerns". Many of them have never even read one, but they possibly don't like the movies, or they just have an idea they won't like them. It's difficult, and it's part of why I tried to have my two week bonanza to celebrate Guns being out for a year, but I'm still just meeting apathy everywhere I go. I even tried describing it as pulp as opposed to a Western but people seem really prejudiced against it whatever I do.