Wednesday, March 21, 2018


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 Sixguns have been replaced by .45s, bows and arrows by hunting rifles, and horses by Jeeps, pick-up trucks, motorcycles, and ATVs, but the men and women of the modern western are the same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.
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. 
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.

Monday, March 19, 2018


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



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...

Tuesday, March 13, 2018


If you are a Sherlockian purist, I admire your standards, but please stop reading now. I am not a Sherlock Holmes purist. Heck, I was the one who suggested putting Sherlock in the boxing ring—An inspiration brought to life by the masterful Sherlockian pastiche scribe Andrew Salmon in three Fight Card: Sherlock Holmes novels (see Queensberry Rules: The Fight Card Sherlock Holmes Omnibus for a complete collection). The Guy Ritchie directed, Robert Downey Jr. starring, Sherlock movies, the Benedict Cumberbatch modern day Sherlock, the Jonny Lee Miller Sherlock of Elementary, I enjoy them all and many more. 
There have been uncountable variations on the Holmes theme, some brilliant, some terrible, most mundane. The most singular characteristic of Sherlock Holmes is how adaptable the world’s greatest consulting detective can be while still retaining a recognizable version of Sir Conan Doyle’s archetype. The background can change. The time period can change. The species can change—there have be mouse Sherlocks, vegetable Sherlocks, and even garden gnome Sherlocks. Actors’ and their interpretations of Sherlock can change like underwear. The medium used to deliver Sherlock can change—from short-stories to novels to plays to comics to movies to television to YouTube videos. Any or all of these things can change, but Sherlock remains constant—our rock in a world gone mad.
I’m always willing to give any new Sherlockian iteration a chance—even the current gender switching going on with Watson and with Sherlock himself, or herself—whatever. The first female Sherlock I encountered is in the ongoing contemporary young adult novels featuring the teenage Charlotte Holmes and her friend Jamie Watson. I found the trilogy of novels (a fourth is on the way) written by Brittany Cavallaro compelling and the nature of Holmes captured quite perfectly in Charlotte. 
But there is another Charlotte Holmes, this one Victorian set and written by Sherry Thomas, with currently three books in the series. In another variation, we meet the daughter of Sherlock’s Holmes—and Irene Adler (who else)—in two novels by Leonard Goldberg.
But the distaff Sherlock isn’t confined to the page. HBO Asia will be releasing Miss Sherlock in 20 countries this April. There is also an unsold pilot, Herlock, available on YouTube along with an unrelated short film, Herlock: The Parody.
If all of this is blasphemy to you, I warned you ahead of time to stop reading. But for Sherlock fans willing to stretch, some of you will enjoy some of these interpretations and perhaps be unmoved by others. The joy is in knowing the game is always afoot...
Jamie Watson has always been intrigued by Charlotte Holmes; after all, their great-great-great-grandfathers are one of the most infamous pairs in history. But the Holmes family has always been odd, and Charlotte is no exception. She’s inherited Sherlock’s volatility and some of his vices—and when Jamie and Charlotte end up at the same Connecticut boarding school, Charlotte makes it clear she’s not looking for friends...But when a student they both have a history with dies under suspicious circumstances, ripped straight from the most terrifying of the Sherlock Holmes stories, Jamie can no longer afford to keep his distance. Danger is mounting and nowhere is safe—and the only people they can trust are each other...
Jamie Watson and Charlotte Holmes are in a chase across Europe to untangle a web of shocking truths about the Holmes and Moriarty families...Jamie and Charlotte are looking for a winter break reprieve in Sussex after a fall semester that almost got them killed. But nothing about their time off is proving simple, including Holmes and Watson’s growing feelings for each other. When Charlotte’s beloved Uncle Leander goes missing from the Holmes estate—after being oddly private about his latest assignment in a German art forgery ring—the game is afoot once again, and Charlotte throws herself into a search for answers...So begins a dangerous race through the gritty underground scene in Berlin and glittering art houses in Prague, where Holmes and Watson discover that this complicated case might change everything they know about their families, themselves, and each other.
It’s been a year since the shocking events recounted in The Last of August, and Jamie and Charlotte haven’t spoken...Jamie is going through the motions at Sherringford, trying to finish his senior year without incident, with a nice girlfriend he can’t seem to fall for...Charlotte is on the run, from Lucien Moriarty and from her own mistakes. No one has seen her since that fateful night on the lawn in Sussex—and Charlotte wants it that way. She knows she isn’t safe to be around. She knows her Watson can’t forgive her...Holmes and Watson may not be looking to reconcile, but when strange things start happening, it’s clear that someone wants the team back together. Someone who has been quietly observing them both. Making plans. Biding their time...Someone who wants to see one of them suffer and the other one dead.
With her inquisitive mind, Charlotte Holmes has never felt comfortable with the demureness expected of the fairer sex in upper class society. But even she never thought that she would become a social pariah, an outcast fending for herself on the mean streets of London...When the city is struck by a trio of unexpected deaths and suspicion falls on her sister and her father, Charlotte is desperate to find the true culprits and clear the family name. She’ll have help from friends new and old—a kind-hearted widow, a police inspector, and a man who has long loved her...But in the end, it will be up to Charlotte, under the assumed name Sherlock Holmes, to challenge society’s expectations and match wits against an unseen mastermind.
Being shunned by Society gives Charlotte Holmes the time and freedom to put her extraordinary powers of deduction to good use. As Sherlock Holmes, consulting detective, aided by the capable Mrs. Watson, she’s had great success helping with all manner of inquiries, but she’s not prepared for the new client who arrives at her Upper Baker Street office…Lady Ingram, wife of Charlotte’s dear friend and benefactor, wants Sherlock Holmes to find her first love, who failed to show up at their annual rendezvous. Matters of loyalty and discretion aside, the case becomes even more personal for Charlotte as the missing man is none other than Myron Finch, her illegitimate half brother...In the meanwhile, Charlotte wrestles with a surprising proposal of marriage, a mysterious stranger woos her sister Livia, and an unidentified body surfaces where least expected. Charlotte’s investigative prowess is challenged as never before: Can she find her brother in time—or will he, too, end up as a nameless corpse somewhere in the belly of London. 
Under the cover of Sherlock Holmes, consulting detective, Charlotte Holmes puts her extraordinary powers of deduction to good use. Aided by the capable Mrs. Watson, Charlotte draws those in need to her and makes it her business to know what other people don't. When her dear friend Lord Ingram stands accused of the murder of his estranged wife, Charlotte goes under disguise to help prove his innocence to Scotland Yard.
1914. Joanna Blalock’s keen mind and incredible insight lead her to become a highly-skilled nurse, one of the few professions that allow her to use her finely-tuned brain. But when she and her ten-year-old son witness a man fall to his death, apparently by suicide, they are visited by the elderly Dr. John Watson and his charming, handsome son, Dr. John Watson Jr. Impressed by her forensic skills, they invite her to become the third member of their investigative team...Caught up in a Holmesian mystery that spans from hidden treasure to the Second Afghan War of 1878-1880, Joanna and her companions must devise an ingenious plan to catch a murderer in the act while dodging familiar culprits, Scotland Yard, and members of the British aristocracy. Unbeknownst to her, Joanna harbors a mystery of her own. The product of a one-time assignation between the now dead Sherlock Holmes and Irene Adler, the only woman to ever outwit the famous detective, Joanna has unwittingly inherited her parents’ deductive genius.
The following case has not previously been disclosed to the public due to the sensitive information on foreign affairs. All those involved were previously bound by the Official Secrets Act. With the passage of time and the onset of the Great War, these impediments have been removed and the story can now be safely told...When an executed original of a secret treaty between England and France, known as the French Treaty, is stolen from the country estate of Lord Halifax, Scotland Yard asks Joanna, Dr. John Watson, Jr., and Dr. John Watson, Sr. to use their detective skills to participate in the hunt for the missing treaty. As the government becomes more restless to find the missing document and traditional investigative means fail to turn up the culprit, Joanna is forced to devise a clever plan to trap the thief and recover the missing treaty...Told from the point of view of Dr. John Watson, Jr. in a style similar to the original Sherlock Holmes stories, A Study in Treason is based partly on facts in our world and partly on the facts left to us by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle...This cunning locked room mystery is sure to be enjoyed by fans of Sherlock Holmes.
The television screen has Lucy Liu as Watson (and a fine job she does), but gender switching Holmes on the small screen has not yet happened—or has it? In April, 2018, HBO Asia will be releasing Miss Sherlock in twenty countries. The eight-part drama will pay homage to the classic novels by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle but will be set in modern-day Tokyo with both lead characters played by Japanese women – Yuko Takeuchi as Sherlock and Shihori Kanjiya as Watson (or Dr Wato Tachibana).

Following inspiration provided by his wife, Karen Dill-Shackleford), playwright and screenwriter Lee Shackleford (who starred as Holmes off Broadway in a play he wrote called Holmes & Watson) wrote the script for a TV pilot with a female Holmes and Watson. He then joined forces with colleague David Duncan who found and cast the actresses—Gia Mora as Sheridan Hume, and Alana Jordan as Jonny Watts...Below is the pilot episode, Silver Blade...