Switching Genres – Peter Grant

Switching Genres – Peter Grant



I’ve just had the fun of publishing my first Western novel.  In the process, I’m learning a lot about marketing across different genres and categories, and its implications for success.

Brings The Lightning’ is a considerable departure from my earlier science fiction novels, plus one volume of memoir; but there are also similarities.  Someone – I have no idea who – is alleged to have said that “Space opera is Westerns with rayguns”.  Sounds reasonable to me, particularly in the light of my Laredo War trilogy, which explicitly begins on a planet named Laredo where old-fashioned Western-style chemical firearms are deployed in the very first chapter!  There’s even (according to Wikipedia) a literary genre known as ‘Space Westerns’.  I’d never heard the term until I started researching this article, but there you are.

I got into the Western genre through three different, but mutually supportive avenues.  The first is that I was born and raised in South Africa.  Its history is not unlike that of the United States in terms of internal expansion.  The USA saw the opening of the Western frontier through early settlers and the so-called ‘Mountain Men’ in the first half of the nineteenth century.  After the Civil War, emigration to the west accelerated and expanded, so that by the end of the century the west was no longer wild, but settled.

In South Africa, internal expansion was to the east, not the west, and was driven by resentment among the Boers (descendants of the original Dutch settlers) against British colonial policies, including freeing the slaves. However, whereas in the USA settlers and emigrants overwhelmed the resident Native American tribes by sheer weight of numbers, in South Africa the opposite was true.  White settlers never amounted to more than 10% of the total population of the country, and were usually a far smaller minority in the frontier regions.

The inevitable wars between settlers and native tribes were decided by the superiority of firearms over primitive local weaponry, and by a xenophobic racism fueled by a strict, ill-educated and very primitive Calvinism. The Boers regarded black Africans as the Biblical children of Ham, and therefore subject to the so-called (and mis-named) ‘Curse of Ham’. They were regarded as divinely predestined to be in perpetual subjugation to the white race. (This, in turn, went on to form the often unspoken underpinnings of the later policy of apartheid.) Having grown up studying in school the history of colonial expansion into the African interior, and the wars with native tribes that were thus engendered, it was natural for me to see the parallels between it and white expansion into the interior of the USA.

This was reinforced by the second avenue by which I came to the genre: reading Western novels during my youth, and particularly during my military service, where they were endemic in army camps, barracks and other installations. The latter was frequently frustrating, because a book would become so tattered and worn through being handed around that the first and last few pages would often go missing. One might find a particularly engrossing tale, only to be left in ignorance of how it ended until one could get one’s hands on another, intact copy at the next base and learn how things unfolded.

The third element in my interest in the Western genre was moving to the USA in the 1990’s, and being able to see many of the places mentioned in the books for the first time. Frontier towns such as Dodge City and Abilene were no longer just names, but places I could actually visit. Exotic-sounding locales like Tucumcari (used to good effect by Sergio Leone in his ‘spaghetti Western’ movies) and Taos (infamous for its eponymous bootleg alcohol) were no longer all that exotic, but every bit as dusty and beat-down as the histories described them. I renewed my acquaintance with Westerns from the benefit of that new perspective, and enjoyed them all the more.

The big question for a writer (and, in the case of my new book, the small press that’s published it) is: how does one reach readers in a genre where one hasn’t previously written? I note from initial sales that the book is popular with readers of my blog, and the shared Mad Genius Club writers’ blog, and other books from my publisher. However, despite using categories and keywords typical of the genre, it doesn’t seem to be attracting much attention – yet – from ‘regular’ Western aficionados. That’s not surprising, given that most of them don’t know it exists yet; but what channels should be used to inform them? The genre’s been moribund for so long that it’s hard to think of a commercial outlet that will reach them.

One avenue I’m going to explore is the shooting community. The sport of Cowboy Action Shooting is very popular, and the various organizations involved have their own Web sites, forums and newsletters. Since I’m a shooter, and I’ve striven for authenticity in my descriptions of the weapons involved, there might be a natural tie-in there. I’m also going to talk to the Western Writers of America about potential marketing outlets. If anyone knows that market, I guess they will.

Finally, I’m going to have to learn to fine-tune my Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Choosing categories and keywords for the book is an important part of marketing, and knowledge in one area (such as science fiction) doesn’t necessarily carry over to another, like Westerns. My wife and I made an initial study of that area, but we’ll have to analyze closely who’s getting to my new book, and in what way. We’ll look to reinforce avenues that are proving fruitful, and modify or replace those that aren’t bringing in new readers.

This will be a long-term effort, because the picture doesn’t remain static. For example, who could have predicted, twenty years ago, that changing tastes would put ‘Mail Order Bride’-themed books – which in the past were considered to belong to the romance rather than the Western genre – squarely in the Western category on Amazon.com today, and well up in its bestseller lists? Being a traditionalist, I think that’s nothing less than heresy, but I’m sure the modern fans of those books regard that as the opinion of an unreconstructed stick-in-the-mud. Oh, well… just as long as they don’t expect me to write one!



117 responses to “Switching Genres – Peter Grant

  1. *waits for the rest of the post*

    Oh wait, that was all for now….

    • Now you know how Peter felt when he read the Western with the last 2 chapters missing!
      I considered the post as high content density.

      • Sure, but it just seemed like it was going to go on for awhile, and he wrapped it up…

        • Well, the 2nd to last paragraph started out “Finally, …” Now, you might have thought it was like those boring speeches where ‘In conclusion’ usually means at least another 15 minutes of blah blah blah.

  2. Laura Montgomery

    The cover of the new book is, as usual, just perfect.

  3. I tried the first book of the Maxwell Saga on Kindle and liked it enough that I got the rest of the series, too. The Laredo War series isn’t quite so much to my taste. My dad was a reader and Westerns were among his favorites; which stands to reason since he came from a long line of Utah and Arizona pioneers. I think his favorite author was Louis L’Amour, in part because of his attention to accurate geographical and historical detail. I liked the sample on “Look inside” on Amazon, so I went ahead and got it.

    • On the other hand, I far preferred The Laredo War series to the Maxwell Saga. Just goes to show that different people have different tastes.

      And I’m not aware of a reader of classic westerns whose favorite author ISN’T Louis L’amour. 😉

      • And I’m not aware of a reader of classic westerns whose favorite author ISN’T Louis L’amour.

        Me neither.

        I’m not saying it isn’t possible. Who knows, there may be someone out there … someone who probably hasn’t read him yet.

      • And I’m not aware of a reader of classic westerns whose favorite author ISN’T Louis L’amour.

        I like L’Amour, but I also like Zane Grey. I don’t much care more most of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ westerns, but his two white-Indian books are among my favorites. (Think Tarzan of the Southwest.) Almost no one today even recognizes the name Clarence E. Mulford; although, many still know the name of his most famous cowboy, Hopalong Cassidy. The Hoppy of the books bears only a slight resembles to the character portrayed on screen by William Boyd.

        • I like Zane Grey’s work quite a bit, but I have to be in the right mood to read it. Mulford is a long-time favorite. I still remember tearing through most of the Hoppy books the summer I was 11 years old. What I’ve reread since then holds up very well.

        • I like Mulford*, and I used to like Zane Grey, but I got entirely sick of his in-depth descriptions of the scenery interfering with the story.

          *William Boyd was a relation of my grandmother’s; she always claims that Hopalong Cassidy was her uncle.

  4. The Keylock Man was a “mail-order bride” book, and it was a classic western.

  5. Well I’m waiting until I can read this in paper. Peter can you sell me a copy at Soonercon? Or at Libertycon?

    • The print book (both paperback and hardcover) will be out shortly, as soon as my publisher can finalize arrangements. Look for it on Amazon.com.

      • Do Not Rely On Our Memories — prompt us again when the book is in print and be sure you provide a link for it at Amazon or wherever.

        Many of us are extensive readers and prone to forget what is in the “To Be Read” stacks and is the “Be On The Lookout For” stacks. Make it EASY for us to impulse buy.

        I find one of the unanticipated virtues of Amazon is that it keeps track of what I buy, so it is easy to check which was the latest book I’ve bought in a series (Oh My! Two more Bob Lee Swagger novels!) or whether I’ve been picking up a TV series in BluRay or DVD. Sadly, they don’t cross-track formats, requiring me to remember to check for both HB and PB versions, but once burned* should suffice to prompt thoroughness.

        *Should the Wicked Witch fail and Sanders ascend, the slogan against his reelection should be Once Berned Is Enough!

        • Yes, being knocked gently over the head with a link to something by an author whose work I like and whom I personally wish to support/encourage is much easier than remembering to look for everything….

      • Already have the ebook. Going to get the paperback, because Dad loves his physical books- and is a yuuuuge Western fan. Looking forward to it.

      • rawlenyanzi

        I’ve reviewed Brings the Lightning here, if you’re interested.

  6. Were mail order brides really common in the old west? I don’t have an issue with ‘Fantasy Romance’, but most of the ‘Science Fiction Romance’ books seem to be heavy on the fiction and light (to none) on the Science.
    I don’t mean the SF books with romance as a plot item, I mean the romance as a gynecologicaly exact description suitable for True Confessions (do they still publish that?) or as a non-illustrated Joys of Sex.
    Some of the good SF books are cross-referenced in the romantic SF genre, but when Amazon offers recommendations in the category, they seem to be what I call torrid romance novels: on a space ship/alien planet. Is there a genre of romantic tentacle novels?

    • You have to remember that the country was just coming out of a war that had cost us some 600,000 lives, mostly able bodied men. There was an abundance of unattached females with few prospects in the eastern more civilized regions.
      Keep in mind that for many of European heritage arranged marriage was not at all uncommon.
      And in those days homesteading a farm or ranch was grueling backbreaking work in which it took a partnership of man and woman to make a go of it.

      • This sounds reasonable, but has me wondering about the actual demographics. This assumes there were close to identical numbers of men and women prior to the Civil War, and a disproportion of those of marrying age thereafter. I’m also thinking of a great-grandmother in the early 1900s and a grandmother in the 1930s who didn’t remarry. Note they already had families, and, as was the norm, kids participated in farmwork. It’s worth noting a grandfather had to drop out of school to help provide for the family, and my father’s supplemented income by doctoring horses and mules, running a store, and selling whole shelled black walnuts at Christmas. That said, my father saw her run a potential suitor off with the hoe she was using in the field. Even though financially things were on the tough side, neither chose to remarry; whether this was the norm after a certain age or not I haven’t a clue.

        It’s something worth thinking about, though, along with per capita casualties. Will note that the Civil War is a banned topic, and not trying to herd things in that direction, just trying to look at post-war demographics.

        • Wasn’t common, wasn’t uncommon. But they really did have a few ships and trains full of unattached women who were recruited to go out West to young frontier towns and try to get married. There were also a lot of jobs which “coincidentally” were designed to bring young women out to such towns and become marriage material. There were also a lot of penpal things which basically amounted to mail order brides.

          (The old Seattle series, Here Come the Brides, was based on the Mercer Girls. Barbara Hambly’s Star Trek novel Ishmael is a crossover with Here Come the Brides, inspired by how the villain Aaron Stemple was played by Mark Lenard, who also played Spock’s dad and the male Romulan commander.)

          • ” There were also a lot of jobs which “coincidentally” were designed to bring young women out to such towns and become marriage material.”

            Schoolmarm was a time-honored favorite, but any waitress in a town where the available men outnumbered the available women twenty to one (or more) was bound to get innumerably offers, regardless of her looks or lack thereof.

            • Hence the genius of Mr. Fred Harvey, who made it possible for respectable, but willing-to-work-hard young women to come west and work in the railroad concession restaurants along the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe. The saying was that he supplied the west with good food … and wives.

            • Waitress/cook offered a healthy young woman an opportunity to demonstrate her talents and enhance her selection of available swains.

              Hence the adage about the way to a man’s heart being through his stomach.

              In one of his early Nero Wolfe novels (the one introducing Lily Rowan: Some Buried Caesar) Archie relates a tale of a woman whose temper was so bad her husband left her several times … and whose cooking was so good he returned again and again. Upon sampling her chicken & dumplings at the county fair Archie marvels at how bad a temper she must have.

        • As a boy my grandfather would take my brother and me out into the woods to gather black walnuts and hickory nuts. Grandpa would shell and crack the nuts and we would sit for hours picking out the meats. Some grandma would use in her baking, and the rest my brother and I would sell to the neighbors for Christmas money.

          • Dad remembers that Granny allowed no one else to crack the black walnuts because she had the knack of extracting the meats whole, and those commanded a higher price.

    • From what I’ve read of the period, Mail order brides were only found in areas where there was disproportionate early immigration of men, such as among the miners in California, and loggers in the Oregon territory,

    • They’re still not unknown, although now they usually come from Asia or the Eastern Bloc, rather than the Eastern US.

      On review, the way the Eastern US, particularly the NE is headed, we may see a resurgence of brides-to-be looking for an escape from there again, in the future.

  7. I think I mentioned over at MGC that the Western hasn’t so much been abandoned by its readership as by the publishing industry. Which seems to be largely run by the kind of people who think “John Wayne” is an insult…

    Hopefully the WWA is more useful than the SFWA, but I wouldn’t pin my hopes on that. I’d definitely follow up on the Cowboy Action angle.

    Far too much cover art wavers between “fugly” and leaning away from the monitor in disgust. Wherever your cover came from, it *rocks*. It’s obvious from the cover that it’s a Western, and that someone cared enough to put forth the effort and money to do it right.

    • Yep – the western genre was pretty much abandoned by the Establishment Publishers and their minions. When I was trying to go the traditional route with my first novel (about a wagon train party of 1844 on the California Trail) either the various agencies had a snotty statement on their websites to the effect that they didn’t “do” Westerns, or I got a rejection letter to that effect. Saying that “To Truckee’s Trail” was a historical novel set on the 19th century American frontier got me precisely nowhere.
      Since I went indy – with seven more historical novels set on the 19th century American frontier, I have marketed them as westerns. May as well embrace it.

      • Westerns: white people overcoming adversity, killing Native Americans and an occasional Chinese cook.
        Nothing there that the established publishers could possibly approve.

        • The surprising thing is that there’s some tropes that’s right up their alley. The big rancher baron trying to intimidate the homesteader fits right in with their Big Business Bad narrative.

          • Yeah, but the plucky little homesteader taking things into his own hands and solving the problem; rather than wait for a nonexistent government agency to do it for him?

    • Glad you like the cover. It’s Frederic Remington’s famous painting, “The Lookout”, with the sky extended upwards to provide a backdrop for the title and author name. Wait ’till you see the cover for the next book in the series! It’ll only be published next year, but we’re already working on it.

    • The late Elmer Kelton wrote two sub-groups of westerns. One was the classic western, cowboys, Indians, lawmen, cattle drives, miners, and such, all of them very well written and true to the times. The other are more literary westerns, including _The Day the Cowboys Quit_ about the attempted strike against the XIT and LS Ranches in the Texas Panhandle, and _The Time it Never Rained_ about the drought of the 1950s on the Edwards Plateau. And about relations between generations, and between spouses, and between Hispanics and Anglos in that part of the world, and . . . It’s still a great, heart-breaking read, but not a “Western” in the Louis L’Amour style.

      My favorite western novel (not Western) is Conrad Richter’s _Sea of Grass_ set on the plains of San Augustine in New Mexico. My favorite Westerns are _Shalako_ and _The Lonesome Gods_, both by L’Amour.

      • I confess a fondness for Sackett’s Land and To The Far Blue Mountains … a fondness enhanced by the audio-book productions, superbly read by John Curless.

        I find it best to think of L’Amour as a great storyteller rather than a great writer. Frequently (especially in his earlier days when he was still establishing himself) his tales could suffer minor flaws and indifferent editing, he was prone to certain repetitive tropes — almost all his protagonists are tall, raw-boned, broad-shouldered and lean-hipped — and the occasional historical revisionism (see: The First Fast Draw‘s “history” of Cullen Baker) but dang, he could tell a rip-roarer of a story, hooking you within the first few paragraphs and not letting go until the last page.

        And his geographical accuracy is legendary.

      • The Time it Never Rained The nearby small town in the book was loosely based upon Stanton Tx, which has had a sign at the city limits for years telling everyone “The home of 2000 friendly folks and a few old soreheads”.

        A very good novel.

      • The Lonesome Gods with have to rate up there near the top, but my favorite would have to be either Flint or Reilly’s Luck… or possibly The Sackett Brand, or….

        One of my favorite books of his (and it is so hard to choose a favorite) isn’t a ‘traditional’ western. L’amour commented in his memoirs that the one genre he wanted to write in, but never had, was science fiction. If you squint at it The Haunted Mesa fits in that genre about as well as it does in the western genre.

        • “The Haunted Mesa” is the only L’amour book I have read (I need to remedy that) definitely a sci-fi/weird western vibe to it as I remember.

          How well did the movie of “Sea Of Grass” adhere to the book? I really like the movie (Tracey and Hepburn, what’s not to love?).

          • I must confess that I’ve never seen the movie. I discovered the book by accident as I was starting to study environmental history and the US West. It is considered the first major* (non-genre) novel where the landscape is a character. Having spent time in that region, I can attest that Richter got the place very, very well.

            * Westerns and the Leatherstocking Tales do not count, exactly, and Rølveg’s _Giants of the Earth_ is too regional. And the environment isn’t really a character IMHO despite what some literature types say.

          • Christopher M. Chupik

            And a few of his straight historicals, like Jubal Sackett, have some speculative elements, like mastodons surviving into historical times and hints of pre-Columbian contact.

            • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

              IIRC Thomas Jefferson thought the Lewis & Clark expedition might discover mastodons.

              Also, there were plenty of theories about who were the “Mound Builders” including the “Lost Tribes Of Israel” reaching North America.

              So those ideas could reflected the ideas floating around when those books were set.

              • There is also some evidence that the Egyptians went up the Mississippi maybe as far north as present day St. Louis. Then there’s that Egyptian mummy with traces of cocaine and nicotine.

              • It is fairly well known (at least among those who know about such things) that Northern Europeans had fished the outer banks for a long time. Which is something he brought up repeatedly in his books.

          • The only one I’ve read is Last of the Breed, about the adventures of a test pilot who it’s lost and presumed dead after the crash of the experimental bomber he was piloting. It was a very investing Western in that it really focused on the Indian side instead of the cowboys.

            • It’s a great book, but considering it happened in Siberia in the later part of the Cold War, I never considered it a Western.

        • FLINT and TO TAME A LAND are my favorite L’Amour books. And THE DAYBREAKERS, the first Sackett novel (in order of publication) is right up there, too. It borrows a lot from TO TAME A LAND, which is one of my favorite Westerns by any author.

        • I generally find that my favorite L’Amour tends to be whichever one I am currently reading.

          Fretting about genres is just a distraction; Last of the Breed is as good a Thriller as any I’ve ever read. The first L’Amour I read was The Ferguson Rifle, which I s’pose qualifies as Western but certainly predates the era commonly associated with the genre. Some of his best works (e.g., Fair Blows The Wind) don’t even cross the Smokey Mountains. One of his best novels involves little more than a trip to Philadelphia and back to the Smokies by Miss Echo Sackett and I remain gob-smacked that no clever Hollywood actress has bought it and turned it into a feature film or even a television limited series.

          For those who like to read while driving or engaged in household chores, his audiobooks are congenial companions.

          • The first L’Amour I read was The Ferguson Rifle, which I s’pose qualifies as Western but certainly predates the era commonly associated with the genre.

            Which raises a question: Say “The West” to a Pennsylvanian, circa 1750, and he’d probably think of across the Allgehenies. Say “The West” to a Georgia, circa 1830, and he might think of across the Chattahoochee. At what point do stories of the “Wild Frontier” become stories of the “Wild West?”

            • Terry Sanders

              I gather the usual demarcation is the end of the Civil War. You don’t really have a Western until you have commonly available repeating firearms–before that even the Rangers couldn’t really take on a marauding band of Indians.

              Colt and Winchester made the small party alone in the wilderness doable. The Mountain Men and the isolated cabins existed more or less on sufferance before that.

              An exaggeration, of course, but hey…

      • I’ve got to study this. I still have that whacked idea that technically falls into Science Fiction Western category, but is set back East. I’ve tried shifting it to Texas, but for that time and place only the East really works, and I doubt there’s a market for “Easterns”

        • I don’t know, L’amour managed to sell plenty of them (Ride the River, and all the Sackett books that predate it, chronologically, with the possible exception of Jubal Sackett would qualify) Just advertise the same way Bantam did for L’amour, “A Great New Frontier Novel by Bestselling Author Louis L’amour.

    • rawlenyanzi

      I think I mentioned over at MGC that the Western hasn’t so much been abandoned by its readership as by the publishing industry.

      They have a nasty habit of declaring this or that genre or plotline “Dead,” as if by dictate.

      Far too much cover art wavers between “fugly” and leaning away from the monitor in disgust. Wherever your cover came from, it *rocks*. It’s obvious from the cover that it’s a Western, and that someone cared enough to put forth the effort and money to do it right.

      Brings the Lightning does have a rather impressive cover. It doesn’t look glossy; rather, it has a dusty look that you would expect from a book about the very un-glossy Old West (on of the things the book shows is that the Old West was not an antiseptic environment.)

  8. There are a number of groups on Facebook devoted to traditional Westerns: Western Fictioneers, The Old West in Fact and Fiction, American Western Fiction Readers, etc. There’s also the organization Western Fictioneers (affiliated with the Facebook page of the same name, but the organization came first). Most of today’s traditional Western writers belong to WF. Their website is http://www.westernfictioneers.com. In the spirit of full disclosure, I’m one of the founders of the group and have been writing Westerns for more than 30 years. By all means check out Western Writers of America as well. They do have some good marketing ideas. I’m a former member of that group and still have a great fondness for it and its membership, but they’ve become a little too concentrated on non-fiction and literary fiction for my taste.

    As someone who’s been reading Westerns for even longer than I’ve been writing them, I like many of L’Amour’s novels, but he’s never been my favorite. There are a lot of writers from the pulp era I think were better, including T.T. Flynn, Eugene Cunningham, Luke Short, and Walt Coburn.

    Yes, with only a few exceptions, the Western has been abandoned by the New York publishing industry, but self-published and small press books are still doing fairly well. I don’t like seeing the romances on the “Western” bestseller lists, but if you did deeper on Amazon you can find lists of “Classic Westerns”, which seems to have more to do with the style of the books than when they were published.

    • You mention Luke Short, as an author you liked better than L’amour. I have some Luke Short books and they are much better than the average run-of-the-mill western (in fact I would rate some right up there with L’amour) but from my understanding wasn’t Luke Short a pen name owned by the publishers? And weren’t there several different authors that ghost-wrote books published under the Luke Short name?

      If I had to pick a second choice to L’amour, it would either be Elmer Kelton or a Luke Short author (some books are decidedly better than others, with a different authorial flavor).

      • Luke Short was really Frederick D. Glidden, and as far as I know he wrote all the novels and stories under that name. In the Eighties, Dell did a couple of paperback original Westerns as by “Luke Short, Jr.”. I have no idea who really wrote those. Fred Glidden’s brother Jonathan was also a Western writer and had a long, successful career writing under the pseudonym Peter Dawson.

        There’s a behind-the-scenes connection between Luke Short and Louis L’Amour. In the late Fifties, Luke Short was Bantam’s bestselling Western author. They asked him if he could increase his output to three novels a year. He refused, and the folks at Bantam, supposedly irritated by his refusal, turned to L’Amour and asked him if he could write three books a year. Good pulpster that he was, he said sure. So Bantam threw all their promotional weight behind L’Amour and made him hugely successful.

        I’ll second any recommendation of Elmer Kelton’s work. Wonderful writer, and an even better man. I was privileged to be friends with him for the last twenty or so years of his life. You’ve probably seen his quote, “Louis L’Amour’s heroes are six-four and invincible. My heroes are five-seven and nervous.”

        • Thomas Monaghan

          I started reading westerns in Kadena AFB, Okinawa. I was an E-2,3 and ran out of SF/F books to read at the small Base paperback library. I tried Westerns and only 2 authors stuck. Louis L’Amour and Luke Short with LL being my favorite.


    • Surprised to see Centennial on the list. Read it, and didn’t like the end of chapter ties back to the framing story – it drew me out of the novel. Think there was some controversy about it, but that could be confusion with another novel.

      • There’s plenty to argue about in the book, just like the historical events he drew from. Anything with water in it, in the west . . . There’s a reason for the saying “Whisky’s for drinkin’ and water’s for fightin’ over.”

      • I’ve never read Centennial, so all I have to go by is my husband’s review:

        “The beginning took forever to get going. It was enough to make even a 10-year-old boy say, ‘Enough with the damn dinosaurs already.'”

        • Once did a short spoof with “excerpts” of a thousand plus page Michener work that started with the Big Bang and ended in our present time. It was suppose to be how he’d write a recipe for a Spanish Omelet.

    • I find it interesting that three of the top five books were made into movies starring John Wayne, I wonder how much this propelled them into that top five? I would never put anything written by either McMurty or Michener in the top anything, myself; but then tastes vary.

      • Funny – IMHO the ’60s True Grit was a John Wayne movie based on the story, the 2010 one is a film of the novel.

        • Really liked the 2010 version better. Wonder about the dialog, which matched letters somewhat, but are letters how they talked?

          Oddly, what drew me to it was the rendition of Leaning on the Everlasting Arms. So when I saw it on TV one night, I watched it. Wasn’t disappointed.

          • Terry Sanders

            John Dickson Carr, in a preface to one of his Regency period mysteries, said he based his dialogue on period court transcripts. The witnesses, not the lawyers. He figured someone answering questions with life and death in the balance didn’t pay as much attention to rhetorical flourishes as a letter-writer might…

        • I’ve neither read the book nor seen the 2010 version, so I really can’t comment on which movie followed the book, better. What I meant, however, was that I wondered how much having a movie starring John Wayne based on it, inspired the producers of the list to consider and read the book in the first place.
          I would venture to guess that the 2010 version would have been much less likely to be produced, if John Wayne hadn’t already made True Grit a household name with the 60’s version. But I have nothing to back up that assumption.

  9. If you look at the Sci Fi written by H. G. Wells and Jules Verne you will not see a similarity to Westerns. However if you look at Edgar Rice Burroughs and his John Carter you see western influence all over. The hero falls for a Princess (who is red(think Indian Princess)), the similarities are numerous

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      Yeah, the parallels to the time period ERB was living in have become more and more apparent the older I’ve gotten. The mix of advanced technology and swords becomes more understandable when you realize that’s the way things actually were in the late 19th century when he was growing up.

      • I’m pretty sure folks wore at least a *bit* more clothing in the historic West than on Barsoom, though 😉

        • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard


          But of course, Burroughs didn’t go into the problems for people running around without clothes. 👿

          • Professor Badness

            Like epic sunburns in places you’d rather not have sunburns?
            (Not that a dragon needs to worry about sunburn.)

            • But all the Barsoomians other than the Therns (who generally lived out of the sun) were people of natural tannitude. Well, maybe the green men weren’t, but they were at least dark tinted.

              • Professor Badness

                Yes, I was just thinking that’s probably why they were red. I would expect any day dwelling race to develop a dark skin under those circumstances.
                Or at least freckle.

        • And in the Movie as well.

          • FlyingMike

            Disney just called, and they’d like you to forget that movie.

            If you’re a Disney stockholder, they also would like you to forget all the money they lost on it.

            Also please forget the Johnny Depp Lone Ranger movie.

            Look over there! Star Wars!! And Marvel!!!

  10. Send a review copy to Guns of the Old West. There are other magazines four Western history, I’ll try to get you some titles today or tomorrow.

  11. BobtheRegisterredFool

    Off-topic: new insight: I identify as someone who is not obliged to care about social justice. I identify as someone who is not obliged to make any concessions on LGBT ‘issues’. I identify as someone who has plausible reasons to think that the Democrats are attempting mass murder. 🙂

    • Someone should say they identify as 65+ and claim a senior discount. 😀

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        I identify as a police man for a hitherto unknown rail company with the power of high, middle and low justice.

  12. A. Calvinism isn’t what you claim. Or, since you’re writing from SA, it isn’t what maybe the Boers claimed. And really, not quite what is in Wikipedia.

    B. What the Germans did to the Herero, the Belgians to the Congolese, the Spanish to pretty much everyone, and the British just to the Chinese make the Pioneering Boers look like [expletive-deleted] saints. And I’m not saying they were in the right. They at least valued blacks; and they were equally hard on themselves. What happened later was a strictly British Empire phenomenon. Cast a glance northward to Boer-free British Empire graduates like Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Malawi. Look at their history.

    C. The whole idea of these so-called “lesser races” was a poor mix or misunderstood Darwin and misunderstood Genesis. It was never in the Bible, nor was permanent, hereditary slavery condoned. It came from pagan sources all across Europe. You’ll find the same folks who treat blacks as a “lesser species” often treated joos the same way, though one doesn’t find a equal but opposite response..

    D. Thinking further, you write excellent fiction: so never mind.

    • A) Christianity (including Calvinism), like Socialism, frequently gets misinterpreted by its advocates/would be practitioners, usually to their greater convenience.

      B) What the [BLANK} did to the [BLANK} throughout History is generally pretty appalling and attempted comparisons — or claims of sainthood — are largely pointless. In Britain alone you can start with the Picts and run up to the Normans without finding anything defensible (other than on utilitarian grounds) at any point. We needn’t get into the history of North America’s indigenous peoples beyond observing that most prior cultures are lost to History mostly on account of being on the losing sides of disputes. Defending lesser evils by contrasting them against greater evils does not avoid the fact that they were evil.

      C) See response at A) above, with particular attention to the part about misinterpretation “to their greater convenience.”

      D) This, of course, is the only important question. As a consumer it matters not whether the producer is Angel or Devil, only that they write good.

  13. I enjoyed the book, as I have enjoyed your other books as they came out. This one reads like a little bit of L’Amour mixed with a little bit of <a href="http://www.civilwarsignals.org/pdf/prairietraveler.pdf&quot; The Prairie Traveler .

    I think it would help the series if you could give a little more development to some good villains. So far the protagonist seems to make short work of whatever opponents he has encountered. A good villain can make a story much more exciting.

  14. Don’t know how much this helps, but Beat To A Pulp published westerns in a decidedly pulpy/noir vein http://www.beattoapulp.com/catalog.html

  15. Just finished the book in question, and I’d say it’s at least on par with the Maxwell books, if not a bit better.

    I enjoyed it, just not as much as the Laredo series.

  16. I never got into westerns as a genera, which is odd, since I like western films (generally) and some of my favorite books and stories qualify if you kind of squint:

    ROUGHING IT (Twain)


    The Yellowstone Kelly books (Peter Bowen)

    “Spud and Cochise” (Oliver La Farge)

    With Western films, I have two exercises in film watching that I love to do;

    1) Watch RIO BRAVO and then EL DORADO. Same star. Same director. Basically the same story. Made seven (?) years apart. Basically an exercise in how to ring the changes on a story without the second being a remake.

    2) Watch YOJIMBO, FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, and LAST MAN STANDING, and try to figure out why the first transition works and the second doesn’t.

    • The Seven Samurai, The Magnificent Seven, Battle Beyond the Stars.
      Judo Sugata and 70% of the martial arts films afterward.

    • ) Watch RIO BRAVO and then EL DORADO. Same star. Same director. Basically the same story. Made seven (?) years apart. Basically an exercise in how to ring the changes on a story without the second being a remake.

      Arggh! NBC used to run both incessantly. My father loved John Wayne westerns, and we’d have to watch every airing. Ever. One. After a while, even The Searchers can get old.

      • When I was a pup, I noticed that the UHF channels in my area ran some movies pretty heavily. I always wondered if they owned prints of those, while leasing others.

        The video revolution changed how films get perceived. Before, if you wanted to study movies you had to go to a college that had a film course. Now you can buy most of the movies that ‘serious’ intellectual filmies blather about. It undermines a lot of the mytique…which has to be a good thing. A lot of ‘classic’ films don’t really stand up too well to examination. Some of that is an artifact of how much they have been copied – it’s hard to watch CITIZEN CAINE without feeling “same old, same old” until it occurs to you that all those shots were done for the first time in the movie you’re watching. But a lot of it is simply that filmies liked to put popular films down by saying that they were inferior to obscure films that THEY had seen but the unwashed hadn’t. That’s hard to do now, and about damn time. Now they have to reference films that haven’t survived, and which they haven’t seen either. Doesn’t have the same snob impact.

        • They might have been part of some bundle of movies.

          One thing that I didn’t know until quite late was that TV series weren’t licensed in their entirety; broadcasters licensed them by bundles of selected episodes. Same for cartoons. Some of the bundles were only a dozen or so episodes.

  17. BobtheRegisterredFool

    I don’t want to sound like too much of a Chauvinist, but Bonaparte could totally beat Trump on the battle field. Trump and Clinton both seem likely to be laughably incompetent at commanding infantry. They would probably lose badly against any American infantry officer who doesn’t deserve to be relieved for cause. That said, I’d be just as incompetent, or worse.

  18. Grant adopts a “show, don’t tell” approach. This here member of the choir was up for an old-fashioned stemwinder with pontification and all the trimmings, but I may not be in the X ring of the target audience.

    I wanted a solid confirmation bias hit, I would have settled for Blackstone quotes, I got accufacts sneakily filling in the background. Admittedly, this is better storytelling and better superversion but… praising with faint damn.

    Write some more of these and Take.My.Money! When I’ve read them I’ll make sure to leave them laying about where salvageable snowflakes may cut their sign.

    • But you can’t really go to wrong with Blackstone quotes?

      Note to Peter: have your MC quote Blackstone in the next novel, it will be a well appreciated Easter Egg for western readers.

  19. Aaaannnd, the Calvinist vs. Darwinist vs. Progressive riot is set for TXRed’s blog, here; https://almatcboykin.wordpress.com/2016/06/03/stars-genes-or-the-will-of-g-d/comment-page-1/#comment-1227

    I’ve gotta head out, but when I gets back I intends to pop me-self a bowl a popcorn afor I sits me-selfs back down at the computer.

  20. Carl barthelette

    A really fine western writer was John H. Reese. If you like westerns treat yourself to Jesus on Horseback: The Mooney County Saga. It’s my favorite western.

  21. Mr. Grant, I recommend you branch out into a science fiction western about an e-mail order bride. The plot can revolve around a mail order bride, but electronic. Or, the plot could be about a femme-bot e-mail order bride who, instead of her positronic brain being programmed with Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics, is programmed with the Four Laws of a Happy Marriage. ‘Law one: the Woman is always Right’ and so on….

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      It seems to me that a gynoid bride might necessarily be equipped with a functioning artificial womb. It also seems that an artificial intelligence wired to always see its assumptions as correct must necessarily function unfortunately. This apparently conflicts with the engineering requirements of the former, so I am led to interpret the gynoids as concubines intended to subordinate themselves to a human wife.

      This causes me to envision a massive loss of human life, particularly men of military age, and society responding to that with a mad scheme to drastically increase population. Since you brought it up, I suppose there also must be space princesses.