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Monday, May 7, 2018

WEST OF THE WEST

THE SHOT RANG OUT

The Shot Rang Out: 52 Western Short Stories is a compilation of 500 word Western micro-shorts, each starting with the same 18 words: The shot rang out. I heard her scream at the same time the bottle crashed to the floor. 

These 52 stories by 52 different writers scatter off in 52 fascinating, action-filled directions, no two alike...To give you a taste of the tales you'll find inside The Shot Rang Out here is my contribution, West of the West, which finds Annie Rose, a desperate young girl, forced to choose between two untested skills in order to survive...

WEST OF THE WEST
PAUL BISHOP

I was fourteen and a girl on the bloom that August of 1895. I had the cheapest room on the second floor of the Magnolia boarding house in El Paso. The rundown building was on the edge of Chihuahuita where Mexicans and darkies lived with the Chinese coolies from the railroad.

Except for whores and drunkards, no white folk lived at the Magnolia. I wasn’t a drunk, but if I didn’t do something I’d soon be a whore at the Gallows Saloon across the street. Through the flyspecked glass of my room’s crooked window, I could see the batwing doors of that fine establishment. They swung open and closed, letting in the rough men who might soon be getting me to open and close my legs.

Mother died of fever when I was ten. Daddy took to drinkin’ for a while, but he was a doin’ man who made a livin’ with his wits. When he stuffed down his grief, I stuffed mine down too. We was pretty companionable.

Daddy taught me to read and write when I was real young. I think he only did it so I could read the stories he churned out for them penny dreadfuls. They sold by the bushel to folks back East who don’t know how boring the West really is.

I asked him why he made up such nonsense. He said he wrote about a place West of the West. It was a place that paid us eatin’ money. I read all them stories. They were pretty exciting, full of shooting and manly heroes who always won.

With mother gone, Daddy took me on his trips to get more stories. We traveled in a mule drawn wagon. I drove. Daddy sat in back writin’. In every town, Daddy went to the Western Union office and telegramed the editor who published his made up West of the West tales. When notified back, Western Union gave Daddy the money he was owed. Daddy would then go to the post office and send off his new stories.

Daddy used to write on big paper pads, but then he bought a newfangled thing he called a Ford typewriter with tippy-tappy keys. I don’t know if he wrote better stories, but he did tap ‘em out faster in the back of our wagon.

Daddy got scratched by a rusty wagon nail when we got to El Paso. It turned  gangrene and he died. Now all standing between me and becoming a soiled dove was what Daddy left behind...his Ford typewriter, blank paper, two ink ribbons, and the address of his editor—who didn’t know Daddy was dead.

I was scared. I didn’t know if I could do it. I’m not talkin’ about being a whore. That scared me more. I decided I best get West of the West. I rolled paper into the typing machine and began to tap out the words to my first story—The shot rang out. I heard her scream at the same time the bottle crashed to the floor.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

THE SHOT RANG OUT

THE SHOT RANG OUT
Now available in paperback and ebook—The Shot Rang Out: 52 Western Short Stories. Each tale starts with the same 18 words: The shot rang out. I heard her scream at the same time the bottle crashed to the floor.

These 500 word micro-shorts scatter off into 52 fascinating, action-filled directions, no two alike.

My contribution is entitled West of the West, and finds Annie Rose, a desperate young girl, forced to choose between two untested skills in order to survive...

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

THE NEW WILD WEST

THE NEW WILD WEST
The Longmire novels by Craig Johnson and the popular television series based on the character have sparked a renaissance in the modern day western. Films like Hell Or High Water and Wind River have also raised awareness of contemporary stories dealing with the themes and challenges of the modern Wild West. Sixguns have been replaced by .45s, bows and arrows by hunting rifles, and horses by Jeeps, pick-up trucks, motorcycles, and ATVs, but the men and women of the modern western are the same tough breed of self-reliant, independent, individuals who ain’t got no back down in ‘em. Right and justice might not be a matter of white hats and black hats anymore, but there are more than enough modern outlaws, greedy land barons, crooked sheriffs, and scofflaws to go around. 

I had a quick whiz around the Internet and dug up some of the more interesting new series to check out after binging the last season of Longmire and turning the last page of the latest Longmire novel, Western Star... There are also any number of ongoing series similar to Longmire starting with the brilliant Navajo Tribal Police mysteries by Tony Hillerman. These series have been steadily enjoyed by readers for many years, but the exposure Longmire has brought to the genre of the modern Western has given them new exposure. I’ve listed a few of these at the end of this post...And then there is my favorite of the bunch, Patrick McManus’ Blight County, Idaho, Sheriff Bo Tully series. McManus never fails to make me laugh and can string along a good shaggy dog mystery.
BORDER PATROL AGENT
DOLPH MARTINEZ SERIES
JIM SANDERSON
In the thirty years that Jim Sanderson has been writing seriously, he has been given many labels. He went from being an "aspiring writer" to a "working class, Texas" writer when he won the Kenneth Patchen Prize and had his short story collection, Semi-Private Rooms, published. With the publication of his essay collection, A West Texas Soapbox, he became a Texas humorist and essayist. When he won the 1997 Frank Waters Prize, he was a new "rural Southwestern literary writer." When the novel that won that prize, El Camino Del Rio came out with his editor's label as a "mystery" and was subsequently reviewed in the Washington Post and New York Times as a mystery, he became a mystery writer. With the University of New Mexico Press's publication of two more novels, Safe Delivery and La Mordida, he became a "literary mystery writer." With the publication of Nevin's History (Texas Tech University Press, 2004), he became a "historical writer" or a "Western writer. 
EL CAMINO DEL RIO
Circling buzzards lead U.S. Border Patrol agent Dolph Martinez to the corpse of a man executed in the desert…a murder that shatters the fragile calm in a dusty, Texas town. His investigation pits him against the Mexican Army, the DEA, big-money Houston real estate interests, a Catholic nun who practices voodoo, a revolutionary wanted on both sides of the border, and perhaps deadliest of all, the demons from his own, tortured past.
LA MORDIDA
There's Death on Both Sides of the Razor's Edge...Dolph Martinez leads a U.S. Border Patrol task force battling crime and corruption in the empty desert borderlands of Texas and Mexico where la mordida, the payoff, is a way of life. He's a walking embodiment of the violent, cross-cultural clash, his soul torn between the two cultures that make him a very special lawman in an unforgiving place. But now he's become an unwitting pawn in a dark conspiracy that could end with his corpse among the sunbaked bones of the border dead.
FBI SPECIAL AGENT
MANNY TANNO SERIES
C. M. WENDELBOE
C. M. Wendelboe is a sheriff’s deputy in Wyoming. He began his law enforcement career shortly after his discharge from the Marines. He had served successful stints as police chief, tactical team member, and other supervisory roles for several agencies during his thirty-eight year career in law enforcement—yet he always has felt most proud of “working the street.” He was a patrol supervisor when he retired to pursue his vocation as a writer. In the 1970s, he assisted federal and tribal law enforcement agencies embroiled in conflicts with American Indian Movement activists in South Dakota towns bordering three Indian reservations, including Pine Ridge. He now lives in Gillette, Wyoming, within a morning’s drive of Devils Tower, Bear Butte, the Black Hills, and the Badlands—tourist sites, which are actually sacred places to the Lakota people. The distance of geography and expanse of time has accorded him an appreciation of their culture and spirituality. His developing awareness of their diverse perspectives on historical and contemporary issues is reflected in the themes of his Spirit Road Mysteries, which feature FBI agent Manny Tanno—a Native American returning to the reservation home he thought he left behind and finds his oldest rival now in charge of the Tribal Police.
DEATH ALONG THE SPIRIT ROAD
The body of local Native American land developer Jason Red Cloud is found on the site for his new resort on the Pine Ridge Reservation. A war club is lodged in his skull-appearing as if someone may have performed a ritual at the crime scene. FBI Special Agent Manny Tanno arrives in Pine Ridge to find that not everything has changed since he left. His former rival, now in charge of the Tribal Police, is just as bitter as ever, and has no intention of making Manny's life easy. And the spirit of Red Cloud haunting Manny's dreams is not much help either, leaving him on his own in hunting down a cold-blooded killer-and one misstep could send him down the spirit road as well.
DEATH WHERE THE BAD ROCKS LIVE
FBI agent Manny Tanno thought he had left his tribe and the Pine Ridge Reservation behind him years ago. But now with a cold case unearthed in the hot plains sun, he knows that the past never really goes away. In Badlands National Park, there is a desolate area the Lakota refer to as the Stronghold. General Custer called it hell on earth. During World War II, the Army Air Corps used it as a bombing range. At the end of the war, many unexploded ordnances were swallowed up in its sweltering sands. But that’s not all that’s buried there.
 
Sixty-five years after the war, the Sioux tribe has contracted an ordnance removal company to defuse any remaining ammunition in the Stronghold. When the company finds a human arm near a live bomb, Tanno and the Tribal police are called to investigate. As the body is exhumed, two more are discovered. The remains are close together, but the murders were decades apart—and the story behind them is about to blow up.
DEATH ON THE GREASY GRASS
FBI agent Manny Tanno is taking some much needed R—and—R at the site of the Battle of Little Big Horn. But when a death on the reservation cuts his vacation short, he learns that the secrets of the past have a way of stirring up trouble in the present. As a scout for the legendary General Custer, Crow tribe member Levi Star Dancer kept a journal chronicling his exploits from the Battle of the Greasy Grass onward. Now, the missing journal has been found and the descendants of those mentioned in the account, including Levi’s own, want to keep their family secrets hidden at all costs.
 
Manny’s trip to the Crow Agency Reservation turns out to be ill timed when a reenactor of the Battle of Little Big Horn is killed right in front of him. It turns out the victim was the one who found Levi Star Dancer’s famed diary and was planning on selling it to the highest bidder. And while the dead body is hard to miss, the coveted book is nowhere to be found. Now, Manny has to watch his back while searching for a murderer and the missing journal, because this slippery killer will do anything to make sure the past stays buried.
SHERIFF CHRIS CHERRY SERIES
J. TODD SCOTT
J. Todd Scott was born in rural Kentucky and attended college and law school in Virginia, where he set aside an early ambition to write to pursue a career as a federal agent. His assignments have taken him all over the U.S. and the world, but a badge and gun never replaced his passion for books and writing. He now resides in the American Southwest, and when he’s not hunting down very bad men, he’s hard at work on his next book.
THE FAR EMPTY
In this gritty crime debut set in the stark Texas borderlands, an unearthed skeleton will throw a small town into violent turmoil...Seventeen-year-old Caleb Ross is adrift in the wake of the sudden disappearance of his mother more than a year ago, and is struggling to find his way out of the small Texas border town of Murfee. Chris Cherry is a newly minted sheriff's deputy, a high school football hero who has reluctantly returned to his hometown. When skeletal remains are discovered in the surrounding badlands, the two are inexorably drawn together as their efforts to uncover Murfee's darkest secrets lead them to the same terrifying suspect: Caleb's father and Chris's boss, the charismatic and feared Sheriff Standford "Judge" Ross...Dark, elegiac, and violent, The Far Empty is a modern Western, a story of loss and escape set along the sharp edge of the Texas border. Told by a longtime federal agent who knows the region, it's a debut novel you won't soon forget.
HIGH WHITE SUN
Even though the corrupt Sheriff Ross is dead and gone, outlaws still walk free, peace comes at a price, and redemption remains hard to find...In the wake of Sheriff Stanford Ross's death, former deputy Chris Cherry--now Sheriff Cherry--is the new "law" in Big Bend County, yet he still struggles to escape the shadow of that infamous lawman. As Chris tries to remake and modernize his corrupt department, bringing in new deputies, including young America Reynosa and Ben Harper--a hard-edged veteran homicide detective now lured out of retirement--he finds himself constantly staring down a town unwilling to change, friends and enemies unable to let go of the past, and the harsh limits of his badge.
 
But it's only when a local Rio Grande guide is brutally and inexplicably murdered, and America and Ben's ongoing investigation is swept aside by a secretive federal agent, that the novice sheriff truly understands just how tenuous his hold on that badge really is. And as other new threats rise right along with the unforgiving West Texas sun, nothing can prepare Chris for the high cost of crossing dangerous men such as John Wesley Earl, a high-ranking member of the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas and the patriarch of a murderous clan that's descended on Chris's hometown of Murfee; or Thurman Flowers, a part-time pastor and full-time white supremacist hell-bent on founding his violent Church of Purity in the very heart of the Big Bend.
 
Before long, Chris, America, and Ben are outmaneuvered, outnumbered, and outgunned—inexorably drawn into a nearly twenty-year vendetta that began with a murdered Texas Ranger on a dusty highway outside of Sweetwater, and that can only end with fire, blood, and bullets in Murfee's own sun-scorched streets.
 
OTHER SUGGESTED
CURRENT DAY WESTERN SERIES
ELLA CLAH SERIES
BY AIMÉE AND DAVID THURLO
CAITLIN STRONG SERIES
BY JON LAND
GABRIEL DU PRÉ SERIES
BY PETER BOWEN
WIND RIVER SERIES
BY MARGARET COEL
HOWARD MOON DEER SERIES
BY ROBERT WESTBROOK
GAME WARDEN JOE PICKETT SERIES
BY C. J. BOX
 

Monday, March 19, 2018

TRUE GRIT

TRUE GRIT
Coming up in two weeks, I'll be talking True Grit (the novel and the movies) at the Camarillo Library prior to hosting a free screening of the original True Grit starring John Wayne.

1pm-4pm Saturday March 31, 2018
Camarillo Library
Community Room
 

 


 
 

Saturday, March 17, 2018

WORDSLINGERS AND HOT LEAD

WORDSLINGERS AND HOT LEAD

Justin Marriott and I had a blast working long distance via email putting together the premiere issue of Hot Lead: The Fanzine of Vintage Western Paperbacks. We had so much material, the first draft of the issue ran to 100 pages. We wisely decided to split the material into two issues and push back the original Issue #2 line-up to Issue #3 (you can see where this is going). 

Despite the higher cost per issue ($9.99 in the USA), we believed printing the interior illustrations and exterior covers in full-color was the only choice. We wanted to fill the pages with pertinent articles, reviews, and interviews, but also make the zine visually appealing—especially as we are huge fans of the vintage covers so much ourselves.

And therein lies the joy of Hot Lead for Justin, myself, and or other contributors. Hot Lead is a throwback to the days of fanzines—magazines produced by fans for fans in which appreciation of the genre trumps the bells and whistles of the professional newsstand magazines known as slicks. Fanzines are for those of us in the trenches...quick reading with great insights into the genres we love.

Fanzines are also notorious for being irregularly published. It's the Zen of the Fanzine, and we embrace it...We have started Hot Lead with the best of intentions—2018 should see 3 published issues—but it is a labor of love produced in the best tradition of DIY Kitchen Table Publishing. We’ll keep you posted.

Meanwhile, I have received my first physical copy of Hot Lead in the mail to day and...WOW! It's everything I hoped it would be and more. Our goal is for other Western fans to find as much fun within the pages of Hot Lead as we do...