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Tuesday, January 2, 2018

COWPOKE CRITIC

COWPOKE CRITIC
EVERYONE’S FAVORITE REVIEWER OF WESTERNS,
STEVE MYALL, SPEAKS OUT

Steve Myall is my go to source for all things in the Western genre. His Western Fiction Review blog covers the best current and old school Western novels as well as in-depth interviews with Western wordslingers and Western cover artists. There are many Western blogs and websites on the Internet, but Steve’s Western Fiction Review would be my choice if I could only have access to one from the dial-up Internet feed on the proverbial desert island.  Steve has stepped out of the saddle and sat down around the campfire with me to share his thoughts on the Western genre...
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What pertinent information would a Wild West Wanted poster for Steve Myall contain? 

Steve Myall, an Englishman who often uses the alias Steve M. Mostly seen in Nottinghamshire, England. Often armed with a camera to shoot strangers. Reward—reviews.

You are obviously a huge fan of Westerns. What is it about the genre that makes you such a fan?

The American landscape is so different to the UK, and to survive in what could be such a harsh environment due to natural phenomena, or from mankind, is a challenge that captured my imagination, along with the clash of cultures. Watching Spaghetti Westerns, with their stylized violence overlaid by their strange and haunting soundtracks, also struck a chord in me. I became well and truly hooked. 

What is the first Western you remember reading?

It was a small hardback book published by The Children’s Press (London & Glasgow) called The Rimfire Riders by John Robb. It’s starred a character called Catsfoot, and I eventually got the other two books in which he appeared.

What was the first Western series you began collecting?

Edge by George G. Gilman began my obsession with collecting paperback Westerns. Whilst waiting for new Edge books to be published, I started buying all the other UK series from a group of writers later known as the Piccadilly Cowboys.

How many Westerns are currently in your collection, and where do you keep them?

I have no idea as to the number, a wild guess would be around five thousand series paperbacks. Two to three hundred standalones. Five to six hundred Black Horse Westerns. Plus other hardbacks and e-books. I have a few pulp mags too.

I have custom made bookshelves for paperbacks in three rooms. There are a few stacks of books in my man-cave. The others are all stored in boxes in the loft (attic). I am seriously starting to think about selling some, but it’ll be a heart-wrenching decision to make.

You have stated your preference for Western series over standalones. Why?

Because I like to see what happens next. I also enjoy how some authors continue storylines over several books.

In 2018, your Western Fiction Review blog will celebrate its 10th anniversary. What prompted you to start the blog and what has kept you posting quality interviews and reviews?

A couple of years before starting WFR, I’d found a long gone western chat board on the Internet and came into contact with James Reasoner. I mentioned I liked the Wilderness series and The Trailsman. James told me the author of the Wilderness books—David Robbins—also wrote for The Trailsman series. He then directed me to Robbins’ Yahoo chat group. David and the group members encouraged me to post mini review of the westerns I read on their board. These were only a few lines long. David suggested I start posting them on a blog, which was how WFR began. 

Your FIRST BLOG POST in July 2008, was for the 1967 novel, Incident at Butler’s Station by Richard Wyler—a pseudonym for icon English Western wordslinger, Mike Linaker. Was there a specific reason you chose to start the blog with this post?

I’d always enjoyed Mike Linaker’s work and seem to remember I’d not long read the book in question. I wanted my first post to be a tough, action packed western without too much graphic violence or any explicit sex, so the review would appeal to all western fans, and this book fitted that requirement perfectly.

You posted an INTERVIEW with Mike Linaker in 2009 as well as a number of REVIEWS of his books under his many pseudonyms. Do you consider Linaker a major influential name in the Western genre and, if so, why?

Mike wrote the Bodie the Stalker series (as Neil Hunter), which came out at the same time as the other Western series I was reading by English authors. His series was one of those that hooked me early on, and he was the only UK author from those days I could easily track down. The fact he is still writing today, having new and republished work put out by Piccadilly Publishing, shows he still has great appeal.

What do you feel is the legacy of the Piccadilly Cowboys?

The fact they brought a new style to a static if not stagnant genre and grabbed a whole load of new fans to the western. A style that still draws in new readers and sees them the subject of many conversations today, so in some ways they can be seen as a group of writers that perhaps saved the western from slipping into obscurity, at least in the UK anyway. 

Do the Adult Western series have the same type of legacy?

I’m guessing you mean the westerns tagged adult in America and are referring to explicit sex? From what I’ve read in other people’s comments then the answer would be yes. It has been said by many that the adult westerns gave a new lease of life to the American western at the end of the seventies and in the early eighties. They must have had something going for them as the four longest running American western series came from that era, and they would have long since faded away if there wasn’t a market for them. 

Among the many Western wordslingers you’ve interviewed, are there any who stand out?

They’ve all given fascinating insights into their trade. I’m just grateful everyone I’ve asked said, yes. The odd comment has stood out, and one or two ways of answering the questions I put to them that gives a different feel to the interview. Check out my interview with STEVE HOCKENSMITH to see what I mean.

The great majority of your reviews are positive. No doubt this is an appropriate choice not happenstance. However, I’m sure you come across Western novels of inferior quality (we’ve all come across them—unfortunately too often). Do you always finish poorly written Westerns or do you toss them aside unfinished and move on?

Right from the beginning I’ve wanted the blog to have a positive approach. I want to bring readers to the genre not turn them away. Yes, I do come across books that are inferior quality or not to my taste, so I just stop reading them and pick up something else. That way I don’t have to post negative reviews.

Can you name a couple of your favorite Western series and tell us what it is about them that puts them high on your list?

There are so many and I feel to choose one or two over others wouldn’t be fair. Reasons for why they’d be my favourites would be the time period, the author(s) behind the series, or the main character(s) have more appeal to me than others. 

What are your favorite Western related blogs or websites to visit?

These days its more groups on Facebook and through these I’ll find myself looking at specific posts on blogs or websites rather than going regularly to particular sites. With Facebook all the posts from various groups/pages appear on my timeline, so I don’t have to do too much hunting to find out what’s going on. Lazy perhaps but time saving.

Who are the Western writers you recommend most often?

It all depends on who I’m recommending them too. If someone likes the mountain man era, then I’d suggest authors who write those types of book. These would probably be different authors to those I’d suggest to a reader who likes fiction featuring real events and people from the history of the West. They might not like books containing explicit violence or sex, so it’d be know good before pointing them toward writers whose work features graphic content. I think there are authors who have a broad appeal who I could recommend to almost all fans of the western, but I don’t want to name names in case I forget someone I really should include.

Is there one Western novel you find yourself returning to again and again?

With the amount of books waiting in my many to be read piles, I don’t have time to re-read books unless I’m specifically asked to review it. 

Who is the one little known Western writer you would recommend Western fans read right now?

TELL COTTEN. His LANDON SAGA is a must read for me.

Do you feel the advent of e-books has had a positive or negative effect on the Western genre?

Both. With most major publishers dropping the western genre, the e-book has stepped in to help keep it alive. Unfortunately, anyone can put out an e-book. This means there are a lot of poorly written e-book Westerns, which does have a negative effect.

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

Ticking over nicely. Including the explosion of e-publishing, there are far too many new Westerns for me, or any other Western fan, to keep pace. This has to be good for the genre. I just wish a bit more thought was put into cover art, as the same image or type of image keeps turning up again and again.

Have you written, or have plans to write your own contribution to the Western genre, or does the ongoing valuable contribution your blog provides to the genre keep you more than busy?

I’ve never had any aspirations to write my own stories. If I did anything, it would more than likely be to produce images to offer as cover art, but I really don’t have enough hours in the day to pursue that idea at the moment. Reading and writing reviews, along with a couple of other hobbies, takes up all my time.

Do you have anything special planned for the 10th anniversary of Western Fiction Review?

Nothing special planned at the moment, but it is in my mind.
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Thx to Steve not only for taking the time to share a tin cup of strong coffee around the campfire, but for all the effort and information he has provided over the years via Western Fiction Review.

TO VISIT WESTERN FICTION REVIEW CLICK HERE

1 comment:

  1. It's nice to see Steve getting the recognition he deserves.

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