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Thursday, November 23, 2017

BRIT—WEST: SIX-GUNS DOWN UNDER WITH BRENT TOWNS

 
BRITWEST: SIX-GUNS DOWN UNDER
WITH 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...
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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?

Easy—westerns.

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.
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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…

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

BRIT-WEST: ON THE PROD WITH RAY FOSTER

BRIT-WEST: ON THE PROD WITH RAY FOSTER

Following in the footsteps of Brit-West writers such as J. T. Edson, Matt Chisholm (pseudonym for the prolific Peter Watts), and the Piccadilly Cowboys, Ray Foster—behind his Jack Giles pseudonym—is another fine example of English wordslingers taking on the Western genre.

Ray’s story, however, is a bit different. In 1999, Ray suffered a stroke, which ended his career in the law. However, the stroke had even greater consequences: “This happened on the 9th August, 1999. When I woke up, I thought it was 1969. I had lost 30 years of memories. I didn’t know I had become a published writer. My wife told me while I was reading one of my own books. After reading a review of one of my books, I discovered the Black Horse Western site and linked up with many of the writers who encouraged me to write a short story for their first anthology. This was followed by a book Lawmen, which began with something I said to my wife while taking off a red plaid jacket.”

Ray’s wife and son participated in the following interview to help Ray answer the questions...
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If it was tacked up in the Sheriff’s office, what information would be included on a Wild West wanted poster with your picture on it? 

I was born in North London at the end of the Second World War. Ten years later, we moved to Orpington, Kent. Workwise, I was a residential conveyance [solicitor/lawyer] until a stroke ended that career.

What was your introduction to Westerns—movies, TV, or books? 

None of those things—it was play. It was what we did as kids—pick up a stick and it became a pistol or a rifle. I didn’t see a cowboy film until I was about six years old and went to the Saturday morning pictures. Then Gene Autry and Tex Ritter came to the Haringey Arena—this was like the Wild West for real. The sight of a stagecoach chased by Indians for a kid like me was—wow! I got to meet Gene Autry. I was so gobsmacked I couldn’t say a thing.

What was the first Western you read? 

Horn Silver by Frank C Robertson

What was it about the genre you found compelling enough for you to want to write a Western? 

Now here’s a thing—I always wanted to write a western or, at least try my hand at one, but westerns were written by Americans, so I thought I had no chance. The only British western writer I knew of was Oliver Strange (and I only knew that because my granddad was a typesetter for Geo. Newnes [publisher]). Still, I wrote a couple and shoved them in a drawer—until I discovered that George G. Gilman was British.

With that in mind, I sent one story off to various paperback publishers and I had some very encouraging rejections. Anyway, I wrote to George G. Gilman for advice. Simply, I had arrived at the end of the era—but he did suggest I send my books to Robert Hale, where both were accepted and published. But to answer the original question—ever since I was a kid I’ve grown up with the western in all forms, so it was just natural to want to write westerns.

Had you written books before, or was your first Western your literary debut? 

Yes, I had started a novel, but life and bikes ended the process. Then I wrote another about 1964, set during  the Battle Of Brighton and the aftermath from a Rockers point of view. However, I was told it was obvious I had not done my research—hadn’t I read the newspapers? In actuality, I had been there at the time. I still have the manuscript.

Were you aware of the legacy of the Piccadilly Cowboys and their impact on the genre before you started writing Westerns? 

No, they were all Americans as far as I knew—that was until I read an article in Wild West magazine on George G Gilman. 

How do you see the current state of the Western genre? 

Apart from Black Horse Westerns and Piccadilly Publishing there is not much going for the western in the UK. I once took Penguin to task over the lack of westerns from their U.S. market, but they were dismissive—claiming they had to look after their authors interests. Surely, it is in the US authors interests to get worldwide sales. British kids today do not grow up knowing the western as we kids did. There is an exception to every rule though when, a few years back, my sixteen year old (as she was then) had her first western short story published in an anthology.

What was your journey to getting your first Western published?

Pretty smooth—only had to lose a fistful of words. My wife tells me, it was six months from beginning to end.

Have you been to the West, and if not, how do you do your research?

Sadly, I’ve never made it to the West. Therefore, it is imagination, looking at photos of landscape, reading reference books. As my wife says, if I couldn’t see it then it wouldn’t be written.

Is there any difference between Westerns written by British writer’s and Westerns written by homegrown American writers? 

If there is then I can’t see the join.

Do you currently read Westerns, and if so, who are your favorite Western authors?

I rather like Brent Towns books, including all his other names; I always go back to L’Amour and Robertson; Jory Sherman (I miss him because we conversed over the net about one of my favourite non-western writers, Jack Kerouac); and also James Reasoner.

Do you have a writing mentor? 

No—Writing is something I learned at school. It was just my imagination that got me into trouble.

When you start writing a new Western, do you pick a standard Western plot (I think there are about six) and look for a way to turn it on its head, or do you look to history or some other source for inspiration?

Never planned a book—I start at page one and write like I was reading a book. My son tells me a story of how he challenged me to write a story where the bad guy turns out to be the hero and the other the antagonist. Got the job done.

Where do you stand on indy versus small press versus traditional publishing?

I’ve read some good independently published books, but so many are badly written. I had a couple of old books picked up by a small publisher, but it wasn’t a great experience. Not enough to be dismissive though. So, I’m not so much sitting on the fence, but swinging on the gate with this one.

What is your latest Western and what are you currently writing?

Due to the stroke, writing is very hard. I hate not writing. I’ve done some short stories to help a friend and one to support the Felixstowe Scribblers. This is a marvelous group who encourage writers and writing, and certainly took me out of my comfort zone. I’m looking at some of my old stuff, and when I say old, I refer to something I wrote aged 17. If it was good back then, I kept and copied it onto old floppy discs. As for a western—I have no choice in the matter.
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I very much appreciated Ray taking the time to work through challenges to answer my questions, so I was delighted to receive the following note from Ray shortly after he sent me the answers to the interview question: 

Quick update: Funny how things happen—like buses, you wait and wait for and then 3 come along at the same time. I’ve started 3 westerns—First, a sequel to my first published western, which is my morning job now. Afternoons, I am working on the first of two new westerns. First pages/chapters done.

This is terrific news and I can’t wait to read the finished stories...

TO VISIT RAY'S BLOG, BROKEN TRAILS, CLICK HERE

 

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

BRIT—WEST: RIDING THE RANGE WITH JO WALPOLE

BRIT—WEST: RIDING THE RANGE WITH JO WALPOLE
 
During its long love affair with the Western, England has produced a long list of iconic genre writers, most of whom have never been West of the Mississippi. Bestselling Western authors such as J. T. Edson (English author of 137 Westerns, many of which are still in print), Matt Chisholm/Cy James/Luke Jones (all pseudonyms for Peter Watts), and the revered Piccadilly Cowboys (the subject of an upcoming blog post) have all made significant, enduring, and popular contributions to the Western genre. This Brit-West tradition continues today with a number of English authors gaining popular acclaim for their six-gun shoot-‘em-ups.
 
Over the next few blog posts, I’ll be sharing interviews with a few of England’s current Western genre practitioners. First to pull up a seat around the chuck wagon campfire is Joanne ‘Jo’ Walpole...Joanne’s first western was published in 2005. Since then she has written five more westerns, one civil war drama and a collection of contemporary shorts published under her own name and her better known pseudonym Terry James. She is currently writing a new series under the pseudonym, Joe Slade. She lives in central England with her husband Terry, where she reads, walks, follows current affairs, and continues writing westerns.
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If it was tacked up in the Sheriff’s office, what information would be on a Wild West wanted poster with your picture on it?
 
WANTED
ALIVE
JO WALPOLE
aka Terry James
aka Joe Slade
Responsible for writing Westerns since 2005
Including, 5 Black Horse Westerns
New series: Maggie O’Bannen
REWARD
Free Cake And Sandwiches
 
What was your introduction to Westerns—movies, TV, or books?
 
Definitely TV. Definitely Alias Smith and Jones when I was a young child. I still watch the series from time to time. I love the dynamic between Heyes and Curry, their unbreakable friendship, and the humor.
 
What was the first Western you read?
 
I can’t remember, but I’d guess it was by Louis L’Amour, possibly Sackett. It’s definitely the first one that registers on my radar. Although I don’t read much L’Amour nowadays, he is one of my all time favorites and definitely an inspiration with his strong sense of justice and solid values.
 
What was it about the genre you found compelling enough for you to want to write a Western?
 
The good vs bad or white hat vs black hat element. It always seemed very clear-cut in the Saturday afternoon John Wayne, Glenn Ford type movies. I’m also a romantic at heart, so the guy getting the gal at the end was also a draw. Nowadays, I like it because it was a simpler time—no CCTV, no fast cars, no gadgets.

Had you written books before, or was your first Western your literary debut?

My first Western—actually, a romance/western crossover—called Raven Dove was my first full book. Prior to that, I never seemed to get further than chapter three. However, I think the first full story I ever wrote would have been classed as a novella and revolved around footballers (soccer players) and their wives. I was about thirteen, so it wouldn’t have been very sophisticated. However, Westerns have always been the mainstay of my writing life, which was verified when a school friend who I hadn’t seen for 30 years contacted me on social media and asked, Do you still write Westerns? Do you still like Clint Eastwood?
 
Were you aware of the legacy of the Piccadilly Cowboys and their impact on the genre before you started writing Westerns?

No, I wasn’t. Until I joined the Black Horse Western stable of writers and started meeting my peers for the first time, Piccadilly Cowboys had never even blipped on my radar. Through discussions on forums and the like, I became more widely aware of the world of Western fiction—including the Piccadilly Cowboys and their contribution.

How do you see the current state of the Western genre?

It seems to be very buoyant, especially with e-books entering the mainstream. The variety of available stories is amazing. There is something for everyone from traditional to ultra violent with everything in between. The release of old classic series—like Edge and Crow—and authors like John Benteen and JT Edson in to digital format is great, especially now their paperbacks are getting harder to come by. However, I despair at the Westerns being made into movies, which seem to promote art over action. Give me a straight forward, standard John Wayne Western any day.
 
What was your journey to getting your first Western published?
 
It wasn’t really a journey—more of a trip and fall. In 2003, I joined a romance forum on the Internet, and one of the sub-categories was work in progress. I started writing and posting a chapter at a time of an idea I’d always wanted to turn in to a novel. I received a lot of good feedback and advice. Before I knew it, I had a complete story. I thought I was done with it, but the people on the forum badgered me to submit it to a publisher, so I picked Whiskey Creek Press—because they were Internet based and it was an easy option. I sent it off just to stop people pestering me. I hadn’t thought about being published, didn’t consider myself good enough, and just wanted to get the refusal so I could wave it in their faces and say now leave me alone. As it turned out, I received a contract back by return e-mail.

Did you choose to use a gender ambiguous pseudonym for your first Westerns, or did Black Horse ask you to do it? What was your reasoning, or theirs?

I chose Terry James for two reasons. Firstly, I thought a man's name would be more acceptable on the cover of a genre read mostly by men. This quickly became irrelevant as I became known on forums, etc. Secondly, I picked Terry James as this is my husband's name, and I liked the idea.

With your Maggie O’Bannen series, you’ve again chosen to use a male pseudonym, but your real name and gender is acknowledged in the promotional author bio. Why choose Joe Slade this time and not go with Jo Walpole or Josephine Slade?
 
When I first decided to write the Maggie O'Bannen series, I was in two minds whether to reveal it was by me. I had a vision of graphic sex and violence, and I wasn't sure I wanted to be personally associated with it. However, friends seemed to think I should, and no one except me seemed to bat an eyelid at the content, which I find a bit shocking in places to be honest. So, when Piccadilly asked me for a bio, I just went with it. Again, a male pseudonym seemed to be appropriate to the style of the writing.
 
Acknowledging there are women who write action-centric Westerns (as opposed to cowboy romances), but comparatively, the genre is almost exclusively the domain of male authors. Has this been a challenge in any way, or have other Western authors and fans been accepting and supportive?

I have been wholeheartedly supported by peers since deciding to write a violent action-centric Western series. The response to the first Maggie O'Bannen book has been very positive. To have the writer of a successful series suggest Maggie would give one if his hard-boiled characters a run for his money was mind-blowing praise. The reviews so far have been good. The fact I'm a woman doesn't seem to matter.

Have you been to the West, and if not, how do you do your research
 
I’ve been to America a few times, but never to the West. Research has been a lifelong project and is ongoing. It started off with visits to the library and reference books before the Internet. Now my research is mostly done via the Internet, although, I do have a few reference books on my shelves at home I delve into when needed. These days, I also find fellow authors are a good source of information.
 
Is there any difference between Westerns written by British writers and Westerns written by homegrown American writers?
 
Not to me personally. I read Westerns written by British, Australian, and American authors and enjoy them equally.
 
Do you currently read Westerns, and if so, who are your favorite Western authors?
 
I pretty much only read Westerns. The ones cropping up week after week on my Kindle are John Benteen (Sundance, Fargo), Neil Hunter (Bodie), Ben Bridges (O’Brien) and relative newcomer—and friend—Brent Towns, who writes under the pseudonyms BS Dunn, Jake Henry and Sam Clancy.
 
Do you have a writing mentor?
 
I don’t think so, although, I do have good friends amongst my peers who allow me to pick their brains and blow off steam from time to time. They also keep me motivated because I’m a very lazy writer.
 
When you start writing a new Western, do you pick a standard Western plot—I think there are about six—and look for a way to turn it on its head, or do you look to history or some other source for inspiration?
 
Yes and no. Usually it’s something I’ve seen (TV, film) or read (news, fiction) that gives me a light bulb moment. Usually because it’s sent my mind off at a tangent wondering what if after the story ended, or just because it would be interesting or challenging to write it in a different way. For example Ghosts of Bluewater Creek is essentially a revenge Western, but I thought, what if the opening is the traditional gunfight ending and we see what happens from there. Other times, I can come up with a character I’d like to write and then decide what situations to throw them in to. Once or twice, I’ve had a scene in mind, maybe an ending, and written the story around it. I’m really quite random in my approach.
 
Where do you stand on indy versus small press versus traditional publishing?
 
Indy, as in self-publishing, I’m not keen on. My experience of reading it has been the editing is often poor, which for me as a reader is a deal breaker. Small press, like Hale/Crowood and Piccadilly, have been very easy to deal with and seem to get it right most of the time in terms of quality for the reader and lead times for the author. Traditional publishing is outside my experience, so I can’t comment.
 
What is your latest Western and what are you currently writing?
 
Maggie O’Bannen 1: Days of Evil, written under the pseudonym Joe Slade and published by Piccadilly Publishing, is my latest release. Essentially, Maggie is a victim who has the chance to take control of her life and grabs it with both hands. To survive, she has to dig deep and rely on new friends to help her survive and vice versa. As with all my stories, there is a strong sense of friendship and loyalty. However, in contrast to books I’ve written under the pseudonym Terry James, this series doesn’t pull any punches. Thanks to Piccadilly Publishing, I’ve been able to step well outside my comfort zone and unleash my inner maniac. The feedback I’ve received so far has been very positive and I’m currently writing the second book, tentatively titled Wanted: Dead.
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Thanks to Jo for stopping by and sharing her experiences.
 
TO FOLLOW JO ON THE WEB CLICK HERE

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

STARK HOUSE DESPERADOS

 
STARK HOUSE DESPERADOS

November is Western Month over Stark House Press. Last year, Stark House offered a trio of tales in a collection of Harry Whittington’s distinctive shoot-‘em-ups. This year, it’s a duo of connected Western noirs from Clifton Adams—The Desperado and A Noose for the Desperado. These were the first two novels to be published by Adams, who would go on to write some chilling hardboiled novels published as Clifton Adams and using the pseudonym, Jonathan Gant—plus one oddball crime novel as Nick Hudson. Adams also wrote a many more Westerns, bylined by his own name, as well as the pseudonyms Clay Randall and Matt Kinkaid.

About half the books he wrote as Clay Randall feature a series character named Amos Flagg. Under his own name, Adams didn’t use repeating characters, with the exception of the two Desperado books. These follow Talbert Tall Cameron as an impulsive teenager who is quick to defend his honor. He gradually morphs into a hard-bitten gunslinger, ready to shoot first whenever the situation demands—which, as far as he is concerned, it frequently does. 

The Desperado begins when blue-bellies kill Tall’s father. This sets off a series of self-justifications as Tall makes one bad choice after another on the way to becoming too quick on the trigger. He quickly alienates his friends and family, and finds himself a wanted outlaw with a bounty on his head. This is Western noir as dark, desolate, and deadly as any crime thriller. The sequel, A Noose for the Desperado, is just as harsh, bringing Tall’s story to its inevitable climax.

In this new Stark House collection of these two novels, Bud Elder, a fellow Oklahoma writer who knows the land and the people who inspired Clifton Adams, provides an informative new introduction. There is something timeless about a good western. Adams wrote these books 65+ years ago, but they are still as downbeat and gritty as they were when Gold Medal published them in the early 1950s.

Stark house is also featuring Clifton Adams’ bleakest crime thriller, Never Say No to a Killer, under their Black Gat imprint. The first of two books written by Adams using his Jonathan Gant pseudonym, Never Say No to a Killer is finally published under the author’s real name. The main character, Roy Surratt, busts out of jail with the help of a mentor crook, and now has plans to run the city. All he has to do is stay clear of the cops. The problem is his ego. Whenever he wants something, he figures he can take it, including the beautiful secretary of his first victim. She outclasses him, but he figures he can charm her into submission. He proceeds to try to lie his way into her bed, and out of every tight situation he gets in. And when lying doesn’t work, there is always the gun…

As self-deluded and sociopathic as they come, Surratt is quite a character—and one of Adams’ finest creations. Author James Reasoner, in his Rough Edges blog, calls Never Say No to a Killer, “a skillfully written book with a very effective air of impending doom. The narrator may be fooling himself, but he’s not fooling us.”

   

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CLIFTON ADAMS WRITING AS CLAY RANDALL