Wednesday, April 18, 2018


Hi everyone! It’s near the end of winter, thank goodness, and spring is right around the corner. I have never been a “winter” person, and it seems like the older I get the less I like to see the approach of those cold, dreary winter months. We had our yearly ice storm—we get a lot of that here in Oklahoma—but it’s over!

Growing up, I don’t remember having “cabin fever”—I was always able to entertain myself with indoor activities—coloring, paper dolls, board games, reading, and yes, even writing. This winter I was asked to participate in a little fun exercise that was very different, and not my “norm” for my writing self.

The story was to be a western historical very short piece. Two sentences were given: The shot rang out. I heard her scream at the same time the bottle crashed to the floor.

These sentences had to be used in this exact form—without any modification. The only “change” that was useable was the fact that they could come anywhere in the story, as long as they came together as shown here. And the story must be 500 words long—no longer. Mine came in at 497—and let me tell you, that was not easy for me!

It’s been a long time since I was this excited over something different like this—just something fun to try. There are 51 other participants as well, using these same two sentences. I’m so curious to see where this leads! The book will be sold for Kindle, but none of us are anticipating getting rich from it—whatever royalties it garners will go into a scholarship fund for a young writer. For me, the rewards were huge.

Also, keep your eyes peeled, as there'll be one of these coming out each quarter. I just got my copy today, and plan to settle in this evening and see what everyone else wrote with their 500 words. My imagination took off, and I know my co-authors' did, too.

I had such fun with this! Here it is—see what you think!

Two men, waiting for something. One of them is in for a huge surprise. What about the other one? Will he make it out alive?



“Let’s see…‘The shot rang out. I heard her scream at the same time the bottle crashed to the floor.’ That’s your story, right, fast gun?” Marshal Ferris smirked as he moved closer to the chair where his prisoner, Johnny Kilgore, was tied.

“Yeah,” Johnny muttered through split lips, blood streaming from the busted nose Ferris had given him. “It’s my story because that’s how it happened, pendejo.”

Ferris shot him a wary glance, unsure if he’d been insulted.

Johnny looked toward the narrow, barred window just in time to see a small hand disappear. Seeing things? Hoping for a miracle… He shook his head to clear it in the stifling air.

Ferris leaned down close, blocking Johnny’s view of the window. “You killed that woman, and you’re gonna admit it, you son of a bitch. We got all night. I can wait.” Ferris cracked his knuckles. Another vicious uppercut rocked Johnny’s head back. “You’re gonna write your confession.”

Who was the kid outside the window? Damn…why even think of that? I’ll be dead before midnight. There’s no help coming. No miracle for me…not this time… Wrong place, wrong time, just once too often…

He’d killed—but he’d never murdered a woman—especially not this one. Maria Lopez had been little more than a girl herself—and her scream from her upstairs room had been one of pure terror. By the time Johnny’d gotten to her, she was already dead. She wasn’t going to tell who did it, but Johnny had a fair idea from the dogged way Ferris kept after him about a confession.

Ferris crossed his arms. “It’s gonna be a long night. I got a powerful hunger. You just sit tight—I’ll be back after dinner. Just in time for you to confess…before you try to escape, and get killed doing it. Think about that while I’m gone,” he chortled as he walked away toward the outer office, banging the door shut like a death knell.

Johnny slipped his hands through the loose knots of the rope Ferris had tied him with. He untied his ankles, then stood and stumbled to the window. He told himself he didn’t believe in miracles anymore, but a pistol had been placed on the sill inside the bars—if that wasn’t a miracle, he didn’t know what was. He broke it open to be sure it was loaded. Six bullets.

“Señor.” The husky whisper with a hint of tears came from the outside wall. “Marshal Ferris killed my sister. I beg you…”

“Lo siento, m’ijo,” Johnny answered quietly. “I’ll do what I can. Thank you for this.”

The small hand appeared again, laying a hatpin on the ledge. His “key” to the cell door. Johnny smiled, even though it hurt.
One last miracle was his tonight, and with a little luck, he’d be halfway to the border by sunrise. After he killed Ferris.

He settled in behind the door. It's gonna be a long night. But I can wait…

PROCEEDS GO TO A SCHOLARSHIP FUND FOR A YOUNG WRITER SET UP BY SCOTT HARRIS. You can't find a better reading bargain anywhere for only .99!

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Fair Fight or Foul - By Michael R. Ritt

(The following story originally appeared on my own blog and is about a controversial – but little-known incident in the life of an iconic western figure. I am a huge fan of Paul Harvey, and this story was written in the style of his The Rest of the Story radio program. My sincerest apologies to Mr. Harvey.)
It was a Wednesday afternoon, December 2nd, 1896, and J.J. Groom and his associate, John Gibbs hurriedly walked across the busy San Francisco street, dodging horses and carriages as they made their way to the Baldwin Hotel. The two men were desperate and were hoping that one of the hotel’s guests would be able to help them out.

Groom and Gibbs were boxing promoters and had arranged for the Heavyweight Championship boxing match to take place that very night between Bob Fitzsimmons and Tom Sharkey. There hadn’t been a championship bout since the reigning champ, James Corbett, retired the previous year.

Bob Fitzsimmons
In the closing years of the nineteenth century, baseball was only about fifty years old; the first college football game between Rutgers and Princeton had been played only thirty years ago, and a new game that was being called “Basketball” was still in its infancy. Boxing, however, had been around as a sport for thousands of years. And this fight between Fitzsimmons and Sharkey was the most anticipated boxing match in the country.

The two boxing promoters had obtained San Francisco’s Mechanics’ Pavilion as the venue for the match, and nearly fifteen thousand tickets had been sold. The only problem – and the thing that had Groom and Gibbs so desperate – was that they still did not have a referee for the fight. They had made numerous attempts to obtain someone to judge the contest, but so far had been unable to get someone that both sides would agree to. After all, not only was there a ten thousand dollar purse on the line for the winner, but as was always the case with sporting events, there was considerable money being bet on the side on each of the two participants; Fitzsimmons being the heavy favorite, drawing three-to-one odds in the days leading up to the fight.

As the two men made their way to the lobby of the Baldwin, they spotted their man sitting in a chair reading the newspaper. They had heard that he was staying at the hotel and were feeling hopeful that they would be able to persuade him to lend a hand with their problem.

He was a forty-eight year old with the unusual name of “Berry” who was currently working as a private security consultant. He had in the past worked as a miner, a gambler, and had even done some work as a lawman. But most importantly, he had officiated at a number of other boxing matches, and he had a reputation as being fearless, cool-headed and honest.

The two boxing promoters laid out their predicament to Mr. Berry. Would he agree to referee the match that evening? After a few minutes of thought, Mr. Berry related that he really wasn’t interested in the job, but he did tell Groom and Gibbs that he would be dining that evening at Goodfellow’s Restaurant across the street from the pavilion, and if they couldn’t find anyone else, they should come and get him and he would referee the fight for them.

Groom and Gibbs did not find anyone else. So, only minutes before the opening bell was scheduled to ring, they retrieved Mr. Berry from his dinner.

As he parted the ropes and stepped in to take his place in the center of the ring, Mr. Berry removed his jacket to reveal a .45 caliber Colt Navy revolver sticking out of the pocket of his trousers.

San Francisco Police Captain, Charles Whitman, who was watching the fight from ringside, climbed into the ring and informed Mr. Berry that it was illegal to be carrying a weapon in town. Mr. Berry promptly turned over the weapon to Captain Whitman and the fight began.

It was pretty clear to most in attendance that evening that Fitzsimmons was dominating his opponent from the first round. He was taller and quicker than Sharkey, and he had a combination left-hook/right-uppercut that had proved devastating to his previous challengers.

By all accounts, Mr. Berry did a good job with his responsibilities as referee, making sure that each boxer adhered strictly to the Marquess of Queensberry rules.

Tom Sharkey

Suddenly, in the eighth round, the two boxers came at each other with vigor; exchanging blows so quickly, and with such fury, that it was difficult to see which boxer was prevailing. Then Fitzsimmons landed his combination left-hook/right-uppercut and Sharkey went down. Fitzsimmons stood over his opponent who was sprawled out on the canvas, “limp as a rag,” as some witnesses described him.

Then referee Berry did the unexpected. He called the fight. Reaching down and grabbing Sharkey’s arm, he raised it up into the air, declaring him the winner. He said that Fitzsimmons had landed an illegal punch below the belt which automatically disqualified him.

The spectators were in an uproar. For his own safety, Mr. Berry had to quickly exit the ring and leave the pavilion before the angry crowd fully realized what had taken place.

The uproar had not diminished by the next morning. If anything, it had increased in intensity and scope. Fitzsimmons’ manager got an injunction against distributing the prize money, and the papers were calling for an investigation to determine if the fight had been fixed. Within a week, Judge Sanderson from Oakland began hearing testimony in the incident. Mr. Berry, who a few days earlier had to appear in court and pay a fifty dollar fine for wearing his revolver into the ring, testified that he was never offered money to throw the fight and that had he been asked to do so, he would have refused. He added that anyone who knew him would not doubt his word.

Finally, on December 17th, Judge Sanderson ruled that the evidence presented to show that the fight was fixed was insufficient and was all hearsay. Furthermore, as it turned out, boxing exhibitions were illegal within city limits and the city supervisors had no right to issue a license for the event. Therefore, because it wasn’t a properly sanctioned fight, it was not something worthy of the court's consideration. In the end, Sharkey was issued the prize money, but his title to Heavyweight Champion was disputed and would have to wait for some future date to be settled.

Although he was never officially found guilty of being involved in fixing the fight, Mr. Berry was never fully vindicated of any wrongdoing. Furthermore, the story had been reported not only throughout California but across the country by the Associated Press. He became a pariah and as much as thirty years later, his name became a synonym for “crooked referee.”

Not able to bear the ostracism that the un-forgetting and unforgiving public bestowed on him, Mr. Berry eventually moved to Alaska and only returned to California years later.

It’s funny which events history decides to hold onto, and which events slip into obscurity and out of the collective national conscience.

Although hurt and humiliated by the incident that first brought him into national scrutiny in 1896, most people today don’t remember the Heavyweight Boxing Championship fight of December 1896 or Mr. Berry’s part in the scandal that followed. Instead, they remember an earlier incident from his life; a rather insignificant incident of only local importance. It happened more than fifteen years earlier when Mr. Berry was working as a lawman in Arizona. It was a mere thirty seconds of history in the town of Tombstone when Wyatt Berry Earp got in a little scuffle behind the OK Corral.

Mike describes himself as Conservative, Christian, Pro-life, and Pro-gun. Drinker of copious amounts of coffee. Happily married to his redheaded sweetheart, Tami. They live in the mountains of western Montana. He is a writer of western short stories and humorous fiction and has been published in a number of anthologies and magazines. You can visit his blog at and his Facebook page at

Friday, April 13, 2018

The Wily Coyote

The coyote has been a mythological creature in Native American culture for thousands of years. These members of the dog family are highly adaptable and clever. Your characters would certainly have encountered the coyote in their day-to-day lives.

Coyotes are smaller than wolves – about as large as a medium-sized dog. They measure 32 to 37 inches, head to rump, and their bushy tail adds another 16 inches to their length. They typically weigh between 20 and 50 pounds. They have elongated snouts, lean bodies, yellow eyes, and thick fur. The fur can be gray, white, tan or brown depending on where the coyote lives. Mountain coyotes have darker fur than desert coyotes. They can run up to 40 miles per hour.

Nocturnal animals, coyotes hunt at night and communicate with one another by howling. They are anything but picky eaters, consuming small game such as rodents, rabbits, fish and frogs, and larger game like deer. They’ll also eat snakes, insects, fruit, grass and even carrion. Usually solitary creatures, they will form packs in the Fall and Winter and hunt together to take down larger game.

In the Spring, female coyotes will start to build dens for their pups. Breeding season is in February and March, and the gestation period is 63 days. Females will give birth to anywhere between three to twelve pups, depending on the local coyote population. In more crowded areas, they give birth to fewer pups. Both the male and the female care for the pups. The male coyote hunts for the female and protects her and the pups. The female stays in the den until the pups’ eyes are open, which usually takes eleven or twelve days.

By Fall, the pups are old enough to hunt for themselves, and are ready to mate at 20 to 22 months. In the wild, coyotes live around ten years.

Because they sometimes kill young livestock and pets, many people consider them pests, but they also reduce the population of such true pests as rodents and insects. You’ll have to decide how your characters view the “wily” coyote.

J.E.S. Hays

Monday, April 9, 2018

Today in U.S. History: April 9, 1865 – Lee surrenders to Grant by Kaye Spencer #WesternFictioneers @kayespencer

The end of the War Between the States was at hand…

In the spring of 1865, after four years of war on American soil, General Ulysses Grant was closing in on General Robert E. Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia.  At this time, Lee’s army was still a Confederate force to be reckoned with, but just barely.

As Grant continued, slowly and doggedly, to take control of roads and thus supply lines, Lee experienced increasing numbers of deserters, which steadily weakened his forces. Grant knew and Lee knew that Grant knew that Lee needed to hook up with General Joseph Johnston’s army to the south. But the way was not an easy one to traverse.

The Union army met the Confederate army at the Battle of Ft. Stedman at Petersburg, Virginia in late March. This was Lee’s final offensive, but his casualties came at too high of a price to keep going much longer. Still, Lee hung on.

The Battle of Five Forks in Dinwiddie County, Virginia followed on April 1st. Again, Lee’s troops sustained considerable loss. So Lee retreated from the Richmond and Petersburg areas with Union troops hot on his heels.

Lee’s troop rallied for a bit, but the Federal army came on. By this time, Lee’s men numbered around 30,000. Lee met the Union forces for a final confrontation in the Appomattox Campaign. Lee’s intent was to make a hard march to join forces with Johnston, but General Sheridan had other ideas. He caught up with Lee on April 6th for the Battle at Sayler’s Creek [sic per Gallagher, The Great Courses, 2000).

Lee’s troops suffered great losses through death and capture. Many of his men were too hungry to continue, and others simply threw down their weapons and walked away. Then the Union army maneuvered into position in front of the Confederates, and there was no place left for Lee to go.

“I would rather die a thousand deaths [than surrender],” Lee said (Gallagher, 2000). Nevertheless, Lee sent the message for terms of surrender to Grant.

Lee and Grant met in the parlor of Wilmer McLean’s red brick house in the small Virginia village of Appomattox Court House on the afternoon of April 9, 1865 to sign formal surrender documents. When Lee offered his sword to Grant, Grant refused it.
Signing the surrender from a contemporary sketch -
According to Gary W. Gallagher, Ph.D., University of Virginia professor of history with specialty in the American Civil War, “…Lee showed up for this meeting immaculately dressed—a dress uniform, his saber. He expected to be taken prisoner, and he wanted to look like a soldier. Grant showed up for the meeting in muddy clothing. This has often been construed as a deliberate affront on Grant’s part that he wanted to humiliate Lee by showing up dressed shabbily. It isn’t true at all. When Grant learned definitively that there would be a meeting, he wanted to hurry to get to the spot, so that Lee didn’t have to sit and wait. He believed that would be humiliating to Lee to have to sit and wait…”

On the terms of surrender...

     ‘…the terms of surrender were simple. Confederate officers could keep their side arms [and swords]. All soldiers would be fed and allowed to keep their horses and mules. None would be tried for treason. “Let all the men who claim to own a horse or mule take the animals home with them to work their little farms,” Grant said. “This will do much toward conciliating our people,” replied Lee.

       As Lee rode off, Union troops started to celebrate the Union victory, but Grant silenced them. “The war is over,” he said. “The rebels are our countrymen again.” After the surrender, Lee returned to his men and quietly told them: “I have done for you all that it was in my power to do. You have done all your duty. Leave the result to God. Go to your homes and resume your occupations. Obey the laws and become as good citizens as you were soldiers.”’ (Boyer 394-395)

Chamberlain at Lee's Surrender - Kaye Spencer's personal collection

On April 12th, Confederate soldiers formally stacked arms at Appomattox Court House, but Lee and Grant were no longer there. However, General Joshua Chamberlain of Gettysburg’s Little Round Top fame was on hand for the surrender.

But the word was slow in spreading…
  • On April 26th, General Joseph Johnston surrendered to General Sherman a Durham Station, North Carolina.
  • On May 4th, General Richard Taylor surrendered at Citronelle, Alabama.
  • On May 10th, Jefferson Davis was captured in Irwinville, Georgia. He was imprisoned at Fortress Monroe for two years. He was never tried for treason.
  • On May 13th, the last land battle was fought at Palmito Ranch near Brownsville, Texas.

Until next month on the 2nd Monday for another episode of 'Today in U.S. History',

Kaye Spencer

Writing through history one romance upon a time

Instagram - kayespencer
Twitter -
Pinterest -
Facebook -
Amazon -
LinkedIn -
Prairie Rose Publications -
YouTube Channel -

*Boyer, Paul. American Nation. Austin: Holt, Rineholt and Winston, 2000.
*Gallagher, Gary. The American Civil War, Part 4, Lecture 46, "Petersburg to Appomattox", The Great Courses. Chantilly: The Teaching Company, 2000. DVD
*"Surrender at Appomattox, 1865," EyeWitness to History, (1997).
*Wikipedia Contributors. "Battle of Appomattox Court House." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 27 Mar 2018. Web. 08 Apr 2018. <>

Saturday, April 7, 2018


Despite the demands on frontier lawman, I’ve always been amazed at how many ended up in court defending themselves for carrying out their responsibilities. Of course, every profession has a bad apple or two, three, or more. But one of the most effective law keepers was Sheriff George Scarborough.

In the fall of 1887, Sheriff George Scarborough sat in a Haskell, Texas, saloon with his back to the doorway writing a letter to his wife. He glanced up at a mirror on the wall and happened to see an outlaw he had been pursuing for three years walk through the door.

The Jones County, Texas, lawman had crossed paths twice before with A.J. Williams, the leader of a gang of cattle rustlers operating in the area. Scarborough once tracked Williams and a couple of gang members to a ranch in Lincoln County, New Mexico Territory, but Williams escaped.

Scarborough returned a second time, captured him again, and returned him to Jones County. But Williams staged a breakout. Although he was recaptured, the five-foot-eight gang leader, with coal-black hair and cold gray eyes, eventually made bail and skipped town.

According to a witness, when Williams walked into the "Road to Ruin Saloon, he spotted Scarborough and drew his gun. 

Before he could fire, Scarborough spun around, gun in hand, and killed the outlaw with one shot. 

Another account says Scarborough's brother fired several shots at William. Both the sheriff and his brother were arrested and charged with murder. The jury took less than five minutes to return a verdict of not guilty.

Following other shooting incidents, Scarborough lost a bid for another term as sheriff in 1888. He moved to Deming, New Mexico, where he worked as a hired gun for the Grant County Cattlemen's Association.

Five years later, Scarborough accepted an appointment as a deputy United States Marshal for the Western District of Texas.

Scarborough had little formal knowledge of law enforcement and relied mostly on courage and common sense to make it from one day to the next.

During his career, he built a reputation as tenacious Manhunter who had no quit in him. Once, he arrested a suspect in a murder case committed twenty-eight years earlier.

According to Robert K. DeArment, in his book, George Scarborough: The Life and Death of a Lawman on the Closing Frontier, the frontier peace officer seemed to leave a lasting impression on others. Most remembered him as a big man with black hair and long, flowing mustache. In reality, Scarborough stood under six feet, weighed about 150 pounds with brown hair. He did, however, wear a mustache.

Attorney J.F. Cunningham, who spent fifty years in Texas courts, praised men like Scarborough as among the best of their time, "as game as any men I ever knew." 

Despite the respect and admiration, Scarborough spent plenty of time in court defending himself against murder charges for carrying out his duties as a lawman. 

On June 29, 1895, he and two fellow officers killed a Texas cattle rustler Martin Morose. Once again, Scarborough was arrested, went to court, and won an acquittal. 

The following April, he got involved in another killing, this time in El Paso Texas. His victim: John Selman, the gunman who killed John Wesley Hardin with a bullet to the back of the head while Hardin stood at the bar of a saloon.

For the third time, Scarborough stood trial for murder. Although acquitted, he agreed to resign as Deputy U.S. Marshal.

During a gun battle with cattle rustlers in San Simon, Arizona, on April 5, 1900, Scarborough got wounded. After being transported to his home in Deming, the lawman had his leg amputated.
The following day, George Scarborough died. He was 41.


Rediscover the Historical West

Read Tom's Blog for stories of:

            •  Law Keepers
            •  Lawbreakers
            •  Tales of the Unexpected


Friday, April 6, 2018


This article was first posted in WWA Roundup Magazine April 2009. I am not sure if it later appeared on Western Fictioneers Blog or not. In speaking with Cheryl Pierson, she suggested I post it again. (I recall spending a great deal of time writing this article; hope you enjoy it).
Charlie Steel

There are many articles in magazines, on blogs, and on the World Wide Web that criticize traditional
Westerns and their authors. This is unfair. Certainly John Steinbeck would not be categorized very
well in any specific genre. That great writer also happened to pen some unforgettable Western

His writing is filed mainly in libraries and bookstores as Fiction. Readers and writers don't really think of him in
any specific genre, other than to judge his work as it stands.

A good well-written story is exactly that---a good well-written story. It stands alone separate from any labeling.
That holds true for Westerns as well. It is unfortunate that we cannot categorize all contemporary, historical, and
traditional Westerns as simply Fiction.

First, it is wrong for anyone, especially writers, historians, professors, and bloggers to publicly make suppositions
that the Western is in an unhealthy state. Its health is fine and will remain fine; it just no longer dominates the
media like it once did.

Most disturbing are statements declaring traditional Westerns as passé. It is repeatedly emphasized that writers
and readers should concentrate on contemporary and historically accurate Westerns written by living authors.
Some discussions seem to declare embarrassment of traditional forms and state they are tiresome, cliché, and
should no longer be promoted. Specifically, some writers today lament the fact that Zane Grey, Max Brand, and
Louis L'Amour seem to continue to dominate bookshelves, book sales, and Western author name recognition.
It is difficult to comprehend why current writers complain about the continued success of these three famous
Western authors. Envy is not an appropriate response to their vast achievements. Wishful thinking is not going
to rescind their continued fame or past triumphs. Negative pronouncements are embarrassing and conceited.
They show contempt and a vast lack of respect for the success of these three writers and their inestimable
contributions to the status of the Western. There is a reason why these three writers continue to dominate sales
and it has to do with their historical timing, talent, and marketing skills, and very little to do with luck. New authors
may someday reach their stature but will never replace them. Such iconic acclaim comes only from an equal
status in sales and public recognition. And, for most living writers, that will be a long time coming.

Authors of traditional fiction have the right to be recognized without ridicule, and to write in any form they choose,
so long as it is tasteful and a good story. The negative statements about writers of traditional fiction will forever
be out there in cyberspace and print, continuing to do damage. This creates an unhealthy separatist
atmosphere and is wrong for modern writers or groups to advocate one form of Western writing over another. It
should be recognized that traditional Westerns represent the very foundation of the Western.
The nearly exclusive interest in Westerns continues from the early 1900s until the 1960s. A shift in the focus on
traditional Westerns is not limited to books. When the movies and television were in their infancy, the primary
event in American history that entertainment portrayed was the conquering of the lands beyond the Mississippi.
The writer who can be attributed to that focus is Zane Grey, the man who primarily made the Western popular.
The concentration on the Western theme, first in the movies and then on television, slowly changed. Publishing
houses also followed this trend. This turn of events is a fact, nothing calculated.

This may seem like a quandary or contradiction, but it is not. Less exposure does not mean people throughout
the world are not reading or viewing Westerns---or that they ever stopped reading or viewing them. This just
means Westerns are not the predominate entertainment they once were. This is far from alarming. With the
massive growth in population, and proper marketing, there will be millions of new readers who will turn to

Money seems to be part of this argument. The one thing that all Western writers, contemporary, historical, and
traditional, realize with great lamentation is that the days of the $5000 short story sale to magazines, or large
book advances from publishing houses, are over. Across the spectrum of the publishing industry, the majority of
writers whose work is accepted must submit a marketing plan and outline of how they, the authors, are going to
promote their books once published. Only a very few writers are going to make a large amount of money in book
sales and residuals. Everyone else has to work for those sales.

Consolidation and harsh procedures of large publishing houses can also create obstacles. Writers are turning to
small publishers and to self promotion. Some handle book sales very well; others don't. This is a reality of the
publishing world. In this respect, Zane Grey, Max Brand, and Louis L'Amour had an easier time in gaining income
from their literary efforts. The end of that old publishing era is something to regret. On the other hand, writers
who partner or work with creative presses, buy back or publish and market their own books, can earn up to 70%
return on the sale of each book. A phenomenal salary potential has arrived in this computer age. This is
something that all Western authors should consider taking advantage of instead of lamenting the past.
Publishing and marketing are presently more fluid. Authors may have a book with a publishing house and
another they are marketing on their own. In either case, once greater renown of a title is achieved, a writer or
small publisher may or may not allow contracts with bigger publishing houses, (or larger book distributors) and
their work may end up on bookshelves beside the great icons. But, for most authors, this may not be where they
would receive the most reward for their efforts. Creative marketing with author owned books, and direct book
sales at special presentations, for many authors seem to have far greater income potential.

Grey, Brand, and L'Amour certainly established a deep seated connection with their readers by writing stories
that captured the reader's heart. In the first half of the twentieth century their stories dominated the printed
market. Their stories sold around the world and many were turned into film. They remained famous and their
work still sells because their stories contain themes and ideals that continue to appeal to readers. Rather than
turn their backs on these authors, contemporary writers desiring to reach their readers need to study and
emulate what these famous writers have done.

Jon Tuska writes in a forward to Tales of the Golden West: Book Seven (Five Star, 2006):
The greatest lesson the pioneers learned from the Indians is with us still: that it is each man's and each woman's
inalienable right to find his own path in life, to follow his own vision, to achieve his own destiny---even should one
fail in the process. There is no principle so singularly revolutionary as this one in human intellectual history
before the American frontier experience, and it grew from the very soil of this land and the peoples who came to
live on it. It is this principle that has always been the very cornerstone of the Western story.

Tuska maintains this is the reason Grey, Brand, and L'Amour continue to be successful because their writing
contains all of these elements. These writers made vast contributions not only to the Western but to all fiction.
Everyone can learn from their prose and descriptive writing.

The reason all three authors remain in print is because they wrote exciting uplifting stories that will never die. It is
the financial force of the readers that directs the publishers to continue to print books written by the three noted
authors. The writers may have passed away, but their literature has not; they breathed life into their Western
stories that continue to sweep the world over.

Unlike Hollywood scenarios, success for most of us will not come overnight. For some, it may come after death.
For the rest of us, we will have to be content with a series of books or stories in print and be gratified that we are
published authors. We write our stories as well as we can and look for a place among our peers. Not
unexpectedly, some do better than others. One of the most acclaimed living Western authors, Elmer Kelton, has
documented that it took a lifetime to earn recognition.
It is recommended that Western writers persevere, be supportive to ALL styles of tasteful writing, and make a
positive contribution in whatever form. We should be more conciliatory to all Western authors: contemporary,
historical, or traditional. Let posterity and our readership determine what happens to our work.

Since the writing of this article, digital publishing has taken over the publishing industry making it
much easier for writers to publish their own work. Now a writer can choose between submitting to a
publisher or to self-publishing digitally and in print form. continues to dominate this field. Also note: Since the writing of this article, Elmer Kelton has unfortunately passed away.

Historical Perspective of the Influence Three Icons Had on Literature About the West:

ZANE GREY, starting with Betty Zane (as a self published novel) was slow to reach the reading public. But Grey wrote very well and readers responded to his later books about the West. He nearly single handedly---during his lifetime---developed the Western for mass audiences, provided stories and scripts for the very first movies, and briefly owned his own movie studio which eventually became Paramount. In his time, he was incredibly famous and he earned enormous amounts of money---the first American writer to be so well-known and so well paid. For many years in the early 1900s, he explored and researched the West on horseback. He was the first one who scouted and filmed Monument Valley, even if the credit goes to John Ford who happened to make better movies at that location.

MAX BRAND (Frederick Faust) was born to write. He was a genius. His Western stories gallop across the written page at a furious and powerfully entertaining pace. He wrote like a madman, millions of words, and is attributed to have written 500 plus books under 19 pseudonyms and in many themes (genres) other than the Western. A letter recently received from a publishing house that prints his work indicated that Max Brand Westerns are being discovered by young readers and it is they who are becoming the new book buyers for his thrilling work.

LOUIS L’AMOUR wrote some fantastic books. Look at Reilly’s Luck, one of his best. His short stories are wonderful and a few of them would stand up to any writer in the world. For the skeptic, read Trap of Gold. This author is revered by loyal fans who have passed his books down through at least three generations. His unique ability to make the reader feel uplifted after reading one of his stories, perhaps accounts for his continuing fame.

Wikipedia estimates that Louis L'Amour has sold over 330 million books. That would make him not only the best selling Western author of all time, but also among the twenty top selling authors, from any genre, in the history of mankind.

Charlie Steel is the author of Fight for Wet Springs, Desert Heat, Desert Cold and Other Tales of the West, as well as many short stories.

Text Copyright © 2010 by CONDOR PUBLISHING, INC