SIX-GUNS DOWN UNDER ~ BRENT TOWNS
There’s a new wordslinger in town...or in this case, Towns. Much as the mean and dangerous British writers known as the Piccadilly Cowboys did in the ’70, writing uber-action filled westerns from the wilds of London (and surrounding environs), Brent Towns has recently exploded onto the stage of the western genre from a far distant land—Australia. With six-guns blazing from his key board, Brent has trigger fanned over a dozen top-notch westerns under his own name and a trio of wanted alias: B. S. Dunn, Jake Henry, and Sam Clancy.
Many traditional western fans may be unaware Australia has deep roots in the genre. Australian writers such as Leonard Meares (alias Marshall Grover, Marshall McCoy, Johnny Nelson, Ward Brennan, Glenn Murrell, Shad Denver), Keith Hetherington (alias Jake Douglas, Hank J Kirby, Clayton Nash, Tyler Hatch, Kirk Hamilton, Brett Waring), and Paul Wheelahan (alias Emerson Dodge, Brett McKinley, E. Jefferson Clay) have literally produced thousands of western tales between them for the likes of Cleveland Publishing and the Horowitz Group—The Kangaroo Cowboys itching for a showdown at high noon calling out The Piccadilly Cowboys.
Brent has already earned his writing spurs finding an eager audience for his western actioneers with a number of new titles heading for publication. Taking a short break to reload his word bullets, Brent has hitched his horse to the rail and joined us in the saloon to share his personal tale...
Thank you, Paul, for the great introduction, kind words, and the chance to tell readers a little about myself and my works and inspirations.
What biographic details would be on the wanted poster for Brent Towns?
Let’s say I’m a middle-aged western fanatic with a very supportive wife and a young son. We live in Queensland, Australia, in a town on the sunshine coast. In a previous life I worked in a meatworks, a seaweed factory, in the hire industry and in a few caravan parks doing different jobs. I also mowed lawns and did gardening for a living too. Now, I’m a caregiver for my wife and son. For the first part of my life I lived on an island in the middle of Bass Strait between Tasmania and Victoria. A place renowned for Its cheese, beef and shipwrecks. After leaving there I’ve lived in Queensland, Western Australia, and Victoria.
When did you start writing?
When I was young, I loved free writing at primary school and had a great imagination, even then. I was even lucky enough to have a poem published in a local paper. Later on, in high school, I had to write an essay for English class. After I handed it in, my teacher accused me of getting it from a book. I didn’t take too kindly to the accusation and eventually failed English that year. As a result, I moved away from writing to play golf and football instead.
What drew you to the western genre?
My love of all things western. I used to watch The Lone Ranger as a boy in the school holidays. I can also remember watching Night Of The Grizzly starring Clint Walker when I was about eight. Scared the crap out of me and I had nightmares for weeks after, but it was a great western. Later on, when I was eleven or twelve, a close friend of the family gave me a paper bag filled with Cleveland westerns. They’re quick, action-packed reads you can knock over in a couple of hours. I was hooked from then on.
*Since the early 1950s, Cleveland has published as many as eighteen stapled together, digest-sized, pulp westerns a month—continuing to this day.
Were you aware of Australia’s history in the western genre?
I wasn’t aware until I started reading Cleveland westerns along with the Marshall Grover penned Larry and Stretch books. I didn’t find out for a long time that many, if not most, of the books were written by a handful of Australian authors who used to write like machines.
*Marshall Grover was a pseudonym for prolific Australian writer Leonard F Meares, who wrote hundreds of Larry and Stretch books and others for Cleveland. He later took his characters another publisher, Horowitz, writing them under the pseudonym Marshall McCoy.
Did you start out self-publishing or did you sell your first books to a traditional publisher?
I started with the self-publishing route in 2015. It was easier, plus I had the self-doubt fears of rejection, which kept me from sending it off only to have it dismissed. My first self-published book was Last Stand in Sanctuary. In its first month, it sold a grand total of three copies. I didn’t care. I’d written a book and someone had bought it.
Next, I wrote and self-published High Valley Manhunt. It did a little better, but not much—enter the little doubting voice inside my head once more. I sent the manuscript to Ben Bridges, who I was friends with on Facebook, and asked him if he could please read it and tell me what he thought. He had it for a couple of weeks before I heard back. He told me there was nothing wrong with the story, which gave me the boost required to continue with my third book, which I sent to Robert Hale publishing in the UK.
After a month, I heard back from Robert Hale stating they were happy to take the manuscript off my hands. Once accepted there, I never looked back. All I wanted to do was keep writing. No sooner would I finish one, before I would start on the next. Later the same year, I was also lucky enough to have Edition Barenklau in Germany pick up my self-published Laramie Davis series.
Then, in 2016, I wrote my first book in The Drifter series for Piccadilly Publishing.
*Bestselling western author Ben Bridges (pseudonym for David Whitehead) is also the head honcho at Piccadilly Publishing
How did you come to use pseudonyms and how do you decided which one to use?
B.S. Dunn was the original name I used when I started this journey. It is a mix of my wife’s and my initials and the name of a street where we once lived. Black Horse Westerns in the UK only take four westerns per year per author. After I gave them two books in two months under the name B.S. Dunn, they said I needed to change my name for the third. I had an idea the third book would have a recurring character (Josh Ford), so I came up with the handle, Sam Clancy.
The Josh Ford book was originally to go to Piccadilly Publishing, but things changed and, after a brief discussion, The Drifter and the Jake Henry pseudonym were born. The Jake Henry pseudonym is to be exclusive to The Drifter series. Lastly, I have two books, possibly three, set to be published under my own name this year. One is a Black Horse western and the other two are stories in the Company ‘C’ series started by Ben Bridges. This new series is something about which I’m extremely excited. I’ve been reading Ben’s books since the mid-eighties, so to be able to work with him on this project has been fantastic.
Have you traveled the American west or do you work from research?
I’ve never been to America before and considering it’s a twenty-something hour flight, and the personal understanding I have with the big silver beast (hate flying), I probably never will step foot on those distant shores. All my work comes from research. I figure out where I want to set my story, then I look at pictures, research history, flora and fauna, clothing, etc., and make the rest up. I’ll glean a few facts to add to the story for authenticity (hopefully) and go from there. I currently have a book in the planning stages based around Crook’s 1883 campaign against the Apache, which is requiring a lot more research than usual.
Do you think you bring an Australian perspective to your westerns and if so how would you describe it?
I think the only Australian perspective I bring is my spelling. Once, I sent an electronic manuscript to a publisher in the US and he had to turn his spellcheck off because it went crazy.
What do you look for when you read a western?
It all comes down to the story grabbing my attention within the first few pages. If it doesn’t, I won’t get past page 20. Because of this, I tend to pack (or try to have) so much action into my stories. I always have something happen within the first page or two for the reader to latch onto. I try not to read westerns over 200 pages as I feel there is too much fill, which outweighs the action. However, I sometimes I have to buy a longer book because of its cover. I like reading about range wars or gunfighters, so they get first preference when I’m looking for something to read.
What western novels and writers influenced you?
There wasn’t any one novel, but there were a number of writers—starting with the master (in my opinion), Louis L’Amour. I still remember the first book I read by L’Amour. It was called Kid Rodelo. There were many other L’Amour books I enjoyed—Kilkenny, The Key-Lock Man, The Sackett books—the list goes on and on. From Australia, I was always reading Paul Wheelahan, Keith Hetherington, and Len Meares. Of the British writers, Terry Harknett tops the list long with the Neil Hunter and the Ben Bridges westerns. The US writers are too many to name.
What book you would read to your kids?
Thomas the Tank Engine and Mr. Men books. My son loves them.
What is your favorite classic?
Hahaha. I have to laugh, sorry. As far as the classics are concerned, I guess you could call me a literary heathen. I’ve never read one.
What book would you like to see as a movie?
When I’m not reading westerns, I’m quite partial to a good Swords-and-Sandals story, so it would be great to see some big budget movies surrounding the Simon Scarrow tales about Macro and Cato.
What imaginary place from a book would you want to live?
Nothing so imaginary about this answer. I’ve always liked the look of the English countryside. If I had to choose, it would be there.
What genre would you read if you were limited to one?
Is there a book you’ve returned to again and again?
I used to read my Cleveland westerns over and over. Now, however, there are too many books going forward to go back.
What fictional character would you like to have a beer with?
Dutchy Holland. He was a fictional character created by J.E. MacDonnell in a naval series set in World War Two. One which, I have over 50 copies of sitting on my bookshelf. Holland was a destroyer commander with a gung ho, damn the torpedoes type of attitude and a small soft center somewhere deep down. Early in the series, he skippered a destroyer in the middle-east with virtually no air-defense capability. His solution—arm his crew with machine guns and rifles and have them shoot at the Stukas as they came down.
What was the last novel to make you cry?
It wasn’t a novel, it was a non-fiction book called Dead Men Risen. It was about the Welsh Guards in Afghanistan. It gave me at least one I’ve-got-something-in-my-eye moment.
What are you reading now?
It might be easier to ask me what I’m not reading. Currently, I’m into Red Rock Rampage by Ben Boulden, Black, Red, and Deadly by Art Burton, SOG by John L Plaster, and The Apache Wars by Paul Andrew Hutton.
What is coming up for you in the realm of the wild west?
Currently, I’m writing the latest Josh Ford book for Black Horse. Next on the list is a new entry in The Drifter series, followed by a new Company ‘C’ book. This month an e-book edition of Brolin will be published by Piccadilly Publishing and Company ‘C’—To the Death! should be available soon from Bookends Publishing. July sees the release of the second Josh Ford book, Even Marshals Hang, from Black Horse. And there should be at least three more books in The Drifter series later this year.
Thx to Brent Towns for chatting while reloading his keyboard with word bullets. Be sure to check out all his westerns, which are available via Amazon and other book outlets…