Where are the Good Westerns?

Are there Any Good Westerns Out there Anymore?

That depends on what you believe a “good” western fiction story should be. Some believe a good western is an “authentic” western. They are convinced that the writer was obligated to “tell it like it was” and not add the glitter and glamour, nor romanticize.  They seem to forget that the main reason so many writers of western fiction became popular was because they did add some of those elements to their stories. Zane Grey was one of the first to brush broad colors across his canvas and inflame the imaginations of tens of thousands of readers. James Fenimore Cooper did it a generation or three before him.  Others are firm believers that a good western ought to be decent, without the sex, without the language and coarseness and vulgarities that were, of course, prevalent. There is much to their argument and frankly, where the western story is littered with corpses and sex, many minds simply become turned off and the writer’s story is ultimately one of those corpses.

The Dean of Western Fiction, Louis L’Amour once said that a writer of westerns should simply tell a good story. Of course, he did that better than just about anyone else when it came to writing westerns. 
 That really is the essence of it all: telling a good story. A writer who wishes to have a following, to have readers who desire to read the next western that comes from the writer’s pen, has to tell a good story. That, of course, involves some mechanical skills, but mostly, it involves the writer’s imagination, his or her ability to create scenes that are acceptable to the reader, scenes which enhance the story and make the reader want to turn the page.

Ultimately, every reader will decide for himself what a good western story is or should be, and they will do that by not purchasing certain books that don’t measure up.


Texas Past

Texas bred some hard men, but few men were as tough as Luke Adams. He grew up jerking a Navy .44 from the front of his pants as a kid, and could hit a rabbit on the run by the time he was twelve. Luke left home early and headed for Texas where he worked for awhile as a marshal for a small town, then went to work as a cowboy on a large ranch.

One white hot Texas day, Luke is with another cowboy at a line shack when they are confronted by the son of a local rancher and two other riders. The two cowboys are falsely accused of rustling. A fight breaks out and when it's over, the son of Amos Briner is dead beside his horse.

Luke leaves Texas with some hired gunmen on his trail. He also learns he is wanted by the Texas Rangers. Luke evades his pursurers, crosses over into New Mexico Territory, and for over a year, manages to stay hidden. In fact, he even teams up with three other men and they buy a ranch. But one day, trouble rides back into his life in the form of several gunmen who ride into town looking for him. Amos Briner rides with them.

Briner and his gunmen will eventually wish they'd never have found Luke Adams. Some will not live to have any regrets.

This is a nearly 200 page action-paced western adventure story. There's not a boring page in the book. If you like westerns, you'll like this one. Even the Dean of Western Fiction, Louis L'Amour, would have enjoyed this tale of the Old West.
Footnote: A gunslinger in the Wild West was fairly uncommon. A cowboy chasing “cow critters” could be found throughout the Old West. In western books, historical fiction novels, or western novels, the western cowboys are a dime a dozen . (Maybe that’s where the phrase “dime novel” arose.)

Cowboy stories were common on the western open range, and those cowboys told a lot of those stories, but cowboy novels were not. A “cowboy western,” was pretty uncommon during the early days of western novels. Usually, the greatest westerns were about some gunslinger in the Old West, or a marshal or sheriff made larger than life, or a mountain man or Indian fighter (such as Buffalo Bill).

This western book is another western fiction novel of the highest caliber, an action packed adventure from Brevia Books by Voyle Glover, an author one reader said “reminds me of Louis L’Amour’s books. He was my favorite when it came to westerns.”


Stetson Hats: The Boss of the Plains Hat

Stetson HatThe Stetson Hat was created by John B. Stetson. During the Civil War in 1862, Mr. Stetson, having no desire to die an untimely death, headed for Colorado to pan for gold long after John Sutter’s fabulous discovery of gold in California. He’d been working as an apprentice milliner but had grown weary of the work. After not finding much gold, Stetson tried his hand at trapping and found it to be a bit more profitable. It would turn out to be the genesis for an idea that would make him rich.

Stetson made himself a large, wide-brimmed hat from beaver pelts sewn together. It was a utlilitarian hat in that it not only provided a large, sombrero-like cover that shaded the entire face, but it doubled as a water bowl (and some say, was often used for hot stew).

The hat became popular with some of the miners and trappers, so after selling a few, he left Colorado for Philadelphia where, with a mere $100, he started making hats in earnest. But, that first year was pretty dismal and he neary went bankrupt since he only managed to sell about a dozen hats.

Old West Novel Down from the Mountain

Suddenly, Stetson’s  hat caught on with the cowboys who spent all their days under blistering hot suns, and with the gold miners who sweated under the hot sun day after day, and he found himself deluged with orders. The hat became known as the “John B.” or as it was popularly called, “The Boss of the Plains,” and his hats became as popular as the Colt revolver. At his death in 1906, the company was selling hats internationally and sales were reported in excess of 2 million hats a year. Beaver top hats became quite the rage in New York City and even in Paris and London and other European cities.

Today, the company pulls in more than $200 million a year in sales.

Below is a video that shows some rare, vintage film of the making of a Stetson hat, circa 1920′s.

Stetson Men's Stetson Airway Vented Panama Straw Hat, Natural, Large

  • Sleeveless crew-neck T-shirt featuring patch pocket with small logo tag at left chest
  • Tagless neck label
The ultimate hat for an active outdoor customer. This vented panama features a UV protective underbrim that provides ultimate protection from the sun. The chin strap feature makes it ideal for all outdoor activities. The tear drop bubble crown is a 4 1/2 inch tall pinch. The brim is 3 inches wide. This is the top selling Stetson outdoor style and is a featured style in the 150th. Anniversary collection from Stetson.

Price: $ 45.81

Western Books|The Old West in Science Fiction

Western Sci-fi or science fiction westerns have been somewhat rare, and have not been totally accepted by true western fiction affectionados. There are some who have espoused ideas about aliens visiting the Old West. Whether or not aliens actually visited the west during the years of the gunfighters and the Indian wars is an intriguing question.

One fascinating movie of recent vintage was Cowboys & Aliens It had all the flavor of an Old West movie, plus the imaginative thrill of a good sci-fi movie.

Gene Autry, the classic western fiction movie star in the early days of “westerns” learned that. (Below is a movie starring Autry in an early attempt.)

Some have said that every sci-fi is, at heart, a western. The series Firefly
certainly carried that flavor. Another book that carries the flavor of a western, at least in terms of good guy bad guy aspects, is the book Millennium Soldier.

The Millennium Soldier: The Ancient Ones

During the time called The Millennium, a thousand years of peace enveloped Earth. During this time, Earth is ruled by one called Messiah, and governed by men and women who had died, and who now lived, and were said to be indestructible.

Disease has been conquered. Life spans are expanded to hundreds of years. Crime is non existent. Technology explodes as a result of expanded minds, of the absence of evil and disease, and other impediments to human knowledge. Suddenly, travel to the stars is not merely possible, but common. As Earth fills with people, many seek out new worlds in which to live.

But, long ago in Earth history, there roamed a malignant being whose origins were off-world. This alien inserted himself into the life of mankind, wreaking havoc, bringing wars, and seeking to destroy all of mankind. He is assisted by beings like himself. They are able to take control of some humans, possessing their minds and bodies and bringing them under complete domination. Humans who become controlled by one of these aliens have no will of their own.

In time, after many wars and much destruction, this being and his army are imprisoned by Messiah. However, at the end of 1000 years, he is again loosed, to test all of mankind.

This malignant entity who calls himself Lucien, begins a crusade of seduction, deception and corruption of the humans governments and humans on Earth. Lucien was known in the past records of that ancient book called The Holy Book, as Lucifer, or Satan. He is a magnificent creature, beautiful to behold, powerful beyond any human, and able to bend humans to his will.

His will now is to conquer Earth, the universe, and all life. But, his ultimate goal is what he’d always sought: the throne of God. His intention is to mount an assault on Heaven itself.

Lucien seeks to enlist a human whose origins are mysterious. This strange warrior soldiered in many wars for the causes of Earth governments, even fighting against ruthless alien invaders from other planets. He is called Cubal. In all of the universe there is no one quite like him. His fighting skills are legend, and he is trained in the mysterious fighting discipline called D’vru, a fighting technique only one man ever truly mastered, though many achieved rank in the art. Cubal was the only one to achieve the highest level of , D’vru. , He is the unstoppable soldier, a warrior without peer.

There is another who also seeks Cubal for the coming war. Messiah seeks him, too.

But, one who is a Wearer of the Black, the garb of all who trained in the ways of D=vru, does not believe in gods, nor in devils, but only in superior beings, of which he knows he is one.

This is a Christian Science Fiction thriller. If you liked Star Wars, you'll love this action-packed, mind-boggling story set in Earth's future, when devils descend upon mankind in a way never before seen, and when strange aliens invade Earth, seeking to set up a demonic kingdom populated with aliens and cloned humans who worship the being called Lucifer.

One man will oppose them.

But, even this man cannot realize the enormity of the battles ahead, nor the power of the alien he will face in battle.

List Price: $ 12.95 Price: $ 8.98

America’s Love Affair with Western Fiction Began with James Fenimore Cooper

Western Novel Red Mountain Ranch WarWestern Fiction Impacted America as early as 1813

Westerns have been with us (Americans) since at least 1813 with the release of Daniel Bryan’s The Mountain Muse, and in James Paulding’s The Backwoodsman in 1818. But, the man who would impact American culture more than any man for generations was James Fenimore Cooper, who began life in the new America in 1789 in New Jersey.   Back then, one didn’t have to wander very far to be in the “wilderness.”

While his early days were in New Jersey, after the end of the Revolutionary War, Cooper’s father bought land in Central New York. Cooper was just ten years of age. The family house his father built was in the wilderness on the shore of Otsego Lake, an area in central New York that was surrounded by the Iroquois of the Six Nations. It would later become Cooperstown, New York. His father would become a United States Senator.

These years of close proximity to the wilderness, the “leather-stocking,” bearded hunters, and the wild, savage Indians that roamed the region colored Cooper’s mind. He would pass those images along to the world with his many tales, the most famous of which would be The Last of the Mohicans, written in 1826 as part of the well-received Leatherstocking Tales, a series of 4 books spaced years apart. Life was an adventure and Cooper was as wild and adventurous as the land in which he was born.

Cooper’s father was very well off, enough to send him to Yale. Alas, after 3 years, Cooper was expelled when he blew up the door to a fellow student’s room. Apparently, Cooper was a bit of a rebel in his teen years. 

Cooper decided that college was not for him so at the tender age of 17, he picked up work in 1806 as a sailor, signing aboard a merchant ship. He managed, by 1811, to  obtain the rank of midshipman in the fledgling United States Navy. Cooper obtained an Officer’s Warrant signed by none other than Thomas Jefferson.  

His years in the wilderness and later, the navy, would greatly influence his writings. He was perhaps the world’s first true “western fiction” writer. True, there were others, such as Paulding, but none of the others had the richness, the reality and the sense of “being there” that Cooper conveyed. Cooper wrote a lot of history (such as The History of the United States Navy, which today is considered the authoritative work for that history). He even did some political writings.

But, nothing has endured like his book, The Last of the Mohicans. It endured because it captured the very best elements essential to a good novel. It had adventure, passions of fear, love and hate, and best of all, it had a memorable, bigger-than-life hero. Some things just don’t change and if you’re honest, you’ll agree that you enjoy those stories that have good prevailing over evil, and if the hero is of  heroic proportions, even if flawed, that makes the story memorable.

This was one of the reasons why the Louis L’Amour westerns were so popular. It wasn’t that he gave beautiful descriptions of the land in which he placed his characters. It wasn’t that there was good and evil. 

The reason his novels were so popular was because L’Amour brought to life a protagonist who was as strong as the land in which he found himself. Readers always loved his strong, virile heroes who were willing to meet the challenges of the Old West head on.
Probably, there was no better characters created by L’Amour thanThe Sacketts (preview the movie below). All of them are perfect illustrations of why Louis L’Amour was considered the Dean of Western Fiction.