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Western Writers

for writers and fans of the Old West....

Manhunter/Deadwood, double novel by Matt Braun
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I cannot in good conscience recommend this double novel. The writing is pretty bad over all. Full of cliches and Lots! Of! Exclamation! Marks!!! which is the sign of amateurish writing.

The first novel, Manhunter, was downright unreadable only because it was so incredibly ridiculous. Luke Starbuck is patterned after the old "Paladin" TV series. There are many similarities. The "love" interest isn't interesting, and, as I said, Braun depends on overuse of exclamation marks to try and generate excitement. I had to give up on the first novel after about six chapters. It was just awful.

When I started reading the second novel in this double I found it much better written and the story more believable. But then again Braun gets sloppy and starts throwing around exclamation marks like M&Ms. It's just bad writing and, frankly, embarrassing.

I must say I have from time to time both praised and dinged Braun for his writing. But lately I've hit a bad patch of rather bad writing on his part, and this did it for me. He's off my list of western writers to either watch for or read. He's too inconsistent. When he's good...he's pretty good. But when he's bad, as he often is, you can't help but shudder at how juvenile his prose becomes.

Don't waste your time with this double novel. And, though it pains me to say it, don't waste your time with Braun. He's just not that good when you get right down to it.


"Redemption Bound" at Frontier Tales
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My new Haxan story "Redemption Bound" is now up at Frontier Tales. I tried to do something a little different here, a little more psychological.  Hope you like it! :)

Redemption Bound

Pictures from Caprock Canyon
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From our last camping trip in Caprock Canyon. This is about 80 miles or so southeast of Palo Duro, for those of you who know the geography.  I love this area of the country, everything about it. A lot of the landscape has the look of Haxan about it, or how I imagine it, anyway. So that is helpful when working on the stories a little bit.

Caprock Canyon isn't as developed or has as much infrastructure (stores, amenities, etc) as Palo Duro. It's extremely isolated in every sense of the word, which makes for a nice quiet (and deeply spiritual) experience. A good battery recharger for writers, especially western ones. Not entirely primitive, they do have electricity and showers, but I only recommend Caprock Canyon for those who like/crave deep solitude.

Updates at The Western Online
We published a new edition of The Roundup:

We have two new short stories:

If you missed any of the short stories we've published in the past few months, stop by the Fiction Page of The Western Online and stay awhile. You won't be disappointed.

This Powder Keg Fizzles
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Cavalry Man: Powder Keg by Ed Gorman

This novel has a lot of faults, many of them I would never expect to see from a writer of Gorman's caliber. There's a lot of telling and not showing in this novel, along with dialog and prose that has a strong contemporary feel. If this were a novel by someone new I would give it a higher rating. But I expect more from Gorman so that's why he's only getting two stars.

As far as the story itself, it's not bad -- for a pedestrian noir mystery with the West as a backdrop. The final denouement about the baby in swaddled blankets isn't all that shocking if one had been paying attention beforehand. Gorman often telegraphs the ending with sentimental descriptions of how the mother, Wendy, is carrying the child. Sentimentality is another deep fault of this novel. Gorman is well known for his hard hitting fiction. Sentimentality doesn't have much room to maneuver in field like that. But in this case the author forces the sentimental and emotional nature of events by telling us about them rather than showing -- a cardinal sin from any writer and one particularly egregious from a talent like Gorman.

I like Noah Ford, the main character. I think Gorman can do a lot of good with someone like him. It would be nice, though, to see Noah Ford operating in a true Old West theater deconstructed of myth as Gorman often does with his other westerns, rather than straddling genres: Old West/Noir/Detective.

As much as I like Gorman (and I continue to be a huge fan) I cannot recommend this novel unless you have a quick afternoon to kill and don't mind reading a story that is ultimately forgettable the next day....

Southern Fried Weirdness: Reconstruction
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I am very happy to be a part of this new charity anthology from Southern Fried Weirdness Press called Southern Fried Weirdness: Reconstruction. This collection has 46 stories/poetry from 40 different contributing authors -- including my Haxan story "Till Death Do Us Part". All profits will be donated to The American Red Cross to aid tornado disaster relief efforts.

The anthology is available at Smashwords in multiple formats and will be coming soon to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other online retailers.

(via southernweirdo )

Yellow Sky (1948) A Review
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Yellow Sky is a tough, savage little film directed by William A. Wellman, and starring Gregory Peck, Anne Baxter and Richard Widmark.

This is a noir western in the best tradition. Harsh and violent, tough and uncompromising, Yellow Sky tells the story about a gang of bank robbers who come upon a desert ghost town called Yellow Sky inhabited by an old man and his quirky grand daughter. Everyone involved tries to get their share of $50,000 worth of gold buried in an abandoned mine. (The gold itself is a McGuffin. What really matters here is the raw characterization.)

This film is very well directed with some fantastic imagery. It also ignored the candy apple mythology of the west which currently pervades our culture and instead presents the violence and brutality from that era in uncompromising terms. Being a Wellman film the violence is sometimes off screen, but it is no less understated or carries less impact. Everyone is good here, the characters come across as real people instead of cardboard cutouts, and the scenery, direction and writing are top notch.

This film isn't as well known as other westerns, mainly, I think, because it was shot in noir style. It wouldn't be until years later when another film came out using the same style called High Noon when noir became more acceptable for westerns. But this film was one of the first, and therefore groundbreaking. It's also just downright good.

I really urge you to check this one out if you have the opportunity. I don't think you will be disappointed.

WOO HOO! I won Best Story at Frontier Tales!
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YAY! I just learned my Haxan story "White Hawk" won Best Story for March, 2010 at Frontier Tales! I'm pretty happy about this recognition, guys. I didn't even know it was being voted on. 

Frontier Tales is an online magazine that publishes Spur Award winners. I really like that my western fiction is in that kind of company and was liked so well by so many readers.

You can read my story "White Hawk" if you follow the link below. This is the first line of the story:

I walked between the bodies. Everyone was dead. Horses, dogs, men.

Sacajawea by Anna Lee Waldo (a review)
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Sacajawea by Anna Lee Waldo is a novel filled with American history, deep characterization and human emotion. It is easily one of the best western novels I've ever read.

Over 1400 pages long Sacajawea is packed with meticulous research. Every note rings true, even when Ms. Waldo takes a look at what Sacajawea's life might have been like had she not died in Fort Manuel Lisa in 1812. Waldo continues the saga of Sacajawea and brings the story to an end with her death in 1884. This might seem a contradiction for a story so meticulously researched, but this novel is first and foremost an historical romance. It is understandable, therefore, why Waldo chose to pursue the oral tradition that Sacajawea died in 1884 because it gave the author the chance to examine the rapidly changing west through Sacajawea's eyes.

Of course, the crowning jewel of the entire novel is the Lewis and Clark expedition and Sacajawea's involvement. There is historical evidence the expedition might have failed if they had not brought Sacajawea along. Mostly because by her very presence she assured other Native American tribes this was not a war party.

The expedition to the Pacific Ocean is one of the most fascinating passages I have ever read in my life. And the inter-personal relationships all ring true, even when we don't want them to.

There has been speculation about a romance between Sacajawea and Captain Clark. But even here the author works with a deft hand. The romance we desperately want to happen never does. This is almost certainly historically correct. There is no doubt whatsoever Captain Clark held Sacajawea in great esteem and thought very highly of her, perhaps even harbored tender feelings toward her. He certainly thought enough of her to give her much credit for the success of their expedition in his writings (as did Lewis) and took it upon himself to pay for the care and education of her son (she was married to a French-Canadian trapper named Charbonneau at the time who accompanied them as translator) after they returned from the Pacific Ocean.

Waldo handles it all well and while the reader knows they care deeply for each other Waldo probably stays true to history in this regard and we don't feel cheated. As the novel ends Sacajawea begins to run into legends about herself. This is both closure to the story and bittersweet. It is a perfect ending.

This is a great novel, hands down.I cannot praise it highly enough.  If you have not read it I urge you to find a copy.  I think you will like it a lot.

Two New Paying (just barely) Markets
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1. How the West was Wicked Anthology by Pill Hill Press.

A new anthology of weird western fiction with overtones of horror. Only pays 1/4 cents/word. Submission Guidelines Here.

2. Leather, Denim & Silver: Legends of the Monster Hunter by Pill Hill Press.

Horror hunting in the Old West. Only pays 1/4 cents/word. Submission guidelines here.


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