Thursday, January 31, 2013


Uh, so why did I decide on western romance when I reckoned it was time to sit down and write? Well, cowboys are hotties, for one thing. Next up, the western T.V. shows of my childhood wouldn’t stay still in my imagination. Last, college days in Nebraska and student teaching in Colorado sorta iced the western cake.

But I’m a California beach girl raised in a suburb. Whatever to do to live the life of the West and feel the love? The Writer's Guide to Everyday Life in the Wild West could only do so much. I did call up horseback riding in Girl Scout camp eons ago and Audra Barkley in The Big Valley. But I just needed some first-hand help

And I found it in a city slicker wagon train adventure where I trekked by horse and civilized Conestogas around the Tetons! Wow, do Jess Warburton and his family at Teton Wagon Train and Horse Adventure make it real. (

First off, upon discovering this treasure, I had to convince hubby to ride along. I thought I’d be in for a lot of whining and cajoling, but he was on board right away. Second to hook were our favorite travel-buddies, his sis and her man.

On a hot August day, we left Jackson Hole for the trip of a lifetime. Four days in Paradise. Our group of city slickers included us four Californians as well as faux cowpokes from Pennsylvania, Texas, Florida, Illinois as well as Bermuda, Japan, and Brighton, England.

We set off both riding the wagon and going horseback. The tourist-friendly trail horses were friendly, accommodating and extremely patient. But unspeakably grand were the draft horses who pulled the wagons, the Percherons and Belgians. They were named in teams, such as Lady and Tramp, Gun and Smoke, Sandy and Sage, Jack and Jill. The first name is always the horse on the left. These glorious beasts are capable of pulling up to 4,000 as a team, and they love to work. (In winter, to stave off boredom, they lead sleigh rides to the elk refuge outside Jackson.)

Ah, there was nothing like Dutch oven meals prepared for us over an open fire. “Cowboy potatoes” are good enough for any city restaurant. Waking up to the scent of piles of bacon simmering was, well, enough to make my mouth water still!

After suppers, we huddled around the campfires to hear guitar strumming, legends and lore of the Old West, cowboy poetry, and home--on-the-range music. Our last night--not to reveal company secrets-involved gunfire and mountain men!

Our tents were rustic, but comfy. And the “facilities”, well, suffice it that often there was “girl meadow” to the left, “boy meadow” to the right.

Although I admit the wagons had rubber tires and padded seats, the rocky trail is laughingly and rightfully called “cowboy rollercoaster.” Our driver Marisa told us she’s paid extra to hit every pot hole and rock in the road for “authenticity.” I’m not sure she was joking!

Our last day, a “Pony Express” rider burst into camp bearing letters from home.

As for Wyoming, ah, the trees and wildflowers and the endless starshine at night will live inside my head until my last moment.

As for this wannabe-cowgirl, I even managed to rope the pretend cow, Corndog, after my lariat lesson in “spoke” and “honda”. It took me three tries, but I nailed it!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013


I’d like to say a little something about “MURDER IN DOGLEG CITY,” Wolf Creek Book 3.

My character Quint Croy is 25 years old; burned out and wizened by four cattle drives from Texas to Kansas. He came to Wolf Creek flat broke and disillusioned after the untimely death of his best friend and fellow drover Randy Grey in an Abilene saloon. Taking the job as deputy marshal gave Quint a livelihood as well as, hopefully, a chance opportunity to catch up to the man who shot Randy Grey. The only identifying feature that Quint could remember being a dollar sized birth mark on the man’s jaw.

There’s a lot of vice and corruption in Wolf Creek, particularly in Quint’s assigned territory of Dogleg City. Quint is a little too honest and it pains him to look the other way when some of those in authority are clearly being dishonest. But when it comes to doing his job, Quint can be as tough as a situation calls for. He’ll charge right in on saloon brawls and won’t hesitate to pull his six-gun when deemed necessary. I’m hopeful that Quint will be able to confront Randy Grey’s killer in a future episode.

Troy Smith, our editor, has done a masterful job of streamlining each chapter to flow smoothly into the next one. Special thanks also to Livia Washburn for her brilliant work on the Wolf Creek book covers and getting this series into print. It’s an interesting series; fiction yes, but believable as well and was a whole lot of fun to write!

After a hitch in the Navy, I went to work as a lumber salesman for a redwood sawmill. I spent the next 25 years as a sales representative for various northern California sawmills.I liked the life, wrote about it and lived it. My wife has said that at the time, the only thing that came out of my mouth was sawdust. I took that as a compliment because when I take something on it is wholeheartedly. I haven’t asked my wife what she thinks comes out of my mouth now that all I speak of is writing about cowboys and horses.

I have been writing about one thing or the other for thirty years. At first it was bit pieces for magazines. It took a while to get over the rejection slips; that is until I realized that writing for hire is like fitting a piece to a puzzle. It has to fit. The subject matter has to be relevant to the publication. You must know something about what you are writing about. The timing has to be right as well. Old news is just that, whereas something new and exciting is generally well received if it is pertinent.

I wrote “Matsutake Mushroom” a nature guidebook in 1997 using a word processor. It was one of those that had a selectric ball that did the typing one letter of the alphabet at a time. It was slow but fun to watch and not much of a comparison to today’s computers. Thank goodness for computers, though I am mystified as to how to use one efficiently as I would like. There is so much to learn in regards to the value of what a computer is capable of doing.

In 2011, I was fortunate enough to become a member of Western Fictioneers. I had stories appear in “Award Winning Tales” by Moonlight Mesa Assoc. and “The Traditional West” by Western Fictioneers.I wrote the novel “Drover’s Vendetta,” which was released by Create Space in November.

I had a story appear in “Outlaws and Lawmen” by La Frontera. Appearances in “Six-Guns and Slay Bells” and the first chapter in “Murder in Dogleg City Wolf Creek book # 3 for Western Fictioneers rounded out the highlights of 2012.

As for 2013, I have been informed by Robert Hale Ltd. London, that my novel “Drover Bounty” will be published as a Black Horse Western at a future date. I am currently working on the sequel and am hopeful that it will be accepted as well.
I plan to write more short stories this year and hopefully make the jump into novellas and novels. I am looking forward to any challenges that may come my way this year.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Western Comics Focus: John Ostrander

Presented by Troy D. Smith

Welcome to the Western Fictioneers blogsite! If you're joining us for the first time, Western Fictioneers is a professional writers' organization that focuses on promoting and preserving the traditional western genre in its many forms.

A couple of years ago, we enlisted a panel of experts to compile a list of the all-time Greatest Western Comics wound up being the most popular blog post we've ever had. So now that we're expanding the site's content, I have decided to use one of my segments to focus the spotlight on western comics. Our first installment will feature John Ostrander -Jeff Mariotte has agreed to come join us next month.

JOHN OSTRANDER came into prominence in the comics world in the early 1980s. In 1983 he introduced GRIMJACK, along with artist Timothy Truman, at First Comics. He has written several titles for DC Comics, including memorable runs on SUICIDE SQUAD, MARTIAN MANHUNTER, FIRESTORM THE NUCLEAR MAN, and THE SPECTRE. For the last several years he has worked on Dark Horse Comics' STAR WARS titles. I became an Ostrander fan during his run on Marvel's HEROES FOR HIRE in the 1990s.

Grimjack Omnibus at amazon

Ostrander has also worked on several western titles. In 1997-1998 he wrote a 12-issue miniseries for DC called THE KENTS, with art by Timonthy Truman/Michael Bair on issues 1-8, and Tom Mandrake in issues 9-12. The story focused on the Kent family of Kansas -ancestors of the Ma and Pa Kent who would one day adopt Superman, or Clark Kent. The Kent brothers Nathaniel and Jebediah navigate through the major events of 19th century Kansas, widing up on opposite sides of the Civil War and later the law. Along the way they cross paths with practically the entire stable of DC's classic western characters.

In 2000 he wrote a four issue miniseries for Marvel called BLAZE OF  GLORY: THE LAST RIDE OF THE WESTERN HEROES (art by Leonardo Manco.) The story brings together the whole pantheon of Marvel western heroes, culminating in a confrontation that leaves only a few standing (you'll have to buy the trade paperback to find out which ones.)


Ostrander and Manco followed that one up with APACHE SKIES, featuring the Rawhide Kid.


John Ostrander was gracious enough to join us today and answer a few questions...

1.   Do you have a favorite western comics character? Is there one you haven't written for that you'd like to?

A: I’ve written most of the ones I’d like to write. One of my faves was Caleb Hammer. I always liked the look of GHOST RIDER. I think I would have liked a stab at BAT LASH over at DC. There was a feel of TV’s MAVERICK to it and I liked it a lot.

2.   2.   There is a lot of historical detail in your work, especially THE KENTS. How do you approach historical research, and  the role of history in your writing?

A: Some of my westerns, like THE KENTS, are more historical westerns and the ones at Marvel are more what I call “movie westerns”. But there’s some history in all of them, In APACHE SKIES there’s a chase on a railway at the end. I looked at actual routes until I found one that worked for what I was planning. Of course, THE KENTS involved TONS of research. I checked chronologies, histories, first person narratives. It was a fascinating era and I really enjoyed both the work and the result. Always wanted to do a sequel.

3. You've included many (most, even) of the western characters from both Marvel and DC in your stories. Do you have any thoughts about the differences between the "West" of those two publishers?

A: Mostly a difference in tone. The Marvel characters reflected their approach to superheroes so most of the characters had deep flaws, angst, and a certain melodramatic approach. They’re sort of Sergio Leone type characters. The DC characters, for the most part, were more stand alone. More John Ford type characters. Both reflected the eras in which they were first written.

4. What writers have influenced you the most?

A: In terms of Western WRITERS, I’m not sure. I’ve read some Louis L’Amour and so on. Movies influenced my Western writing a lot more. Ford, Leone, Hawks among many many others. Charlier and Giraud’s BLUEBERRY series influenced me as well but so did Stan Lynde’s RICK O’SHAY.

5. How does writing western comics compare to writing about superheroes or science fiction?

A: Story is story no matter what genre. Each has its own conventions and you have to know them and respect them. Even if you’re going AGAINST convention, you need to know what it is and why you’re NOT using it.

My thanks to John for participating... needless to say, I highly recommend all the works we've talked about. If you are a western fan but have never experienced the genre in four-color format, these books are a great place to start.

Troy D. Smith

Monday, January 28, 2013

Review Roundup: Blood, Blood, and More Blood

Wolf Creek: Book 2
Kiowa Vengeance

By Ford Fargo
Western Fictioneers, November 2012
$8.99 paperback, ISBN 1480238376
$2.99 Kindle, ASIN B00A4FO8DQ
138 pages

Several months after an outlaw raid left the residents of Wolf Creek, Kansas, bloodied but not broken (Wolf Creek Book 1: Bloody Trail), a band of renegade Kiowa hits the warpath just as the main body of the tribe is about to talk peace with the army at a nearby fort. The renegades, a brutal, savage bunch, spare no one as they cut a swath across the prairie on a collision course with a town woefully unprepared to fend off a full-scale Indian attack.

Book 2 in the Wolf Creek series might be subtitled “Blood All Over the Place.” In chapters penned by (in order) Bill Crider, Jackson Lowry, Kerry Newcomb, Troy D. Smith, Frank Roderus, and Robert J. Randisi, readers are sucked right into the action by new characters and a couple of favorites from the previous volume. Danger is more palpable in this novel; the pacing much quicker. Readers whose pulse doesn’t pound for a good portion of the tale might want to make sure their scalp is still intact.

Without exception, the new characters in Kiowa Vengeance are fascinating. No one is what he or she seems, and that ought to make for some interesting stories in future books. Keep an eye on Wilson Marsh, who emerges as the sort of oily slug it’s easy to detest. There are precious few glimmers of deeper humanity in that character, so one wonders where he may go from here.

The resolution seems a tad too easy, but by then readers will be thankful for a reprieve from non-stop action. Kiowa Vengeance is great fun on both emotional and intellectual levels.

Kane’s Redemption
By Cheryl Pierson
Western Trail Blazer, January 2012
$7.95 paperback, ISBN 1469971895
$2.99 Kindle, ASIN B0072FW5TA
100 pages

Kane’s Promise
By Cheryl Pierson
Western Trail Blazer, June 2012
$7.95 paperback, ISBN 1477667032
$2.99 Kindle, ASIN B008BTUB3S
94 pages

A 10-year-old boy witnesses the brutal murder of his family during an Apache raid on their homestead. Taken captive by the Indians, Will Green resigns himself to torture and death, only to be rescued by a mysterious, haunted man whom he grows to love.

Readers avoid stories for all sorts of reasons, most of them idiosyncratic. For me, two things that engender a healthy amount of skepticism and avoidance are first-person narration and stories told from a child’s point of view. I’ve seen far too many authors handle both badly, at least in my opinion.

With that bias in mind, I was stunned to find myself captured by the first two novellas in Cheryl Pierson’s Kane series. Pierson falls into none of the major traps often presented by first-person narration and children’s perspective. Will’s voice is enchanting: honest, determined, confused, desperate, vulnerable, and amusing. He leaps right off the page and into the reader’s heart almost immediately—the type of kid one wants to hug and throttle, sometimes simultaneously. At his best, Will evokes comparisons to Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn: an old soul in a child’s body, covering vulnerability with bravado.

Though both novellas are packed with grit and action, one of the of the most striking things about the Kane stories is Will’s gradual realization that “family” can be an evolving concept. Will loved his slain parents and sister, and he remembers them mostly with fondness. Not until he begins to bond with the titular character, Jacobi Kane, though, does he begin to acknowledge his family had as many warts as any other. Will’s father was a good man and a good father, but according to Will, Pa Green considered even minor displays of affection unmanly. That throws Will, at first.

Larger-than-life Jacobi Kane never misses an opportunity to pat Will on the head or offer a kind word. Kane has suffered enormous losses, too, and he imposes artificial distance between himself and the boy. With a child’s guileless frankness, Will sees through the effort, and watching the two wounded characters grow into a new kind of family is heartwarming.

Kathleen Rice Adams is a Texan, a voracious reader, a professional journalist, and a novelist in training. She purchased Kane’s Redemption and received review copies of Kiowa Vengeance and Kane’s Promise from the publisher and author, respectively. Her opinions are her own and are neither endorsed nor necessarily supported by Western Fictioneers or individual members of the organization.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Keepers of Camelot by Cheryl Pierson

Today was to be Charlie's Short Story Sunday day but he was unable to make it, so I'm pinch hitting for him and putting up this post about a book filled with some wonderful short stories by many of the Western Fictioneers. On top of everything else, Blogger is not letting me put up pictures.

Who likes the stories of King Arthur and his knights? I do! I have been fascinated with the entire legend of Camelot since I was a child. The Sword In the Stone, the Disney cartoon movie, was a favorite when I was young.

As I got older, I couldn’t get enough of the movie musical, Camelot, with Vanessa Redgrave, Franco Nero, and Richard Harris in the starring roles. I valiantly tried to struggle through T. H. White’s “The Once and Future King” but finally had to admit, it was too heavy for a twelve-year-old. As an adult, I enjoyed it, along with Mary Stewart’s series of the Arthurian legend as told from Merlin’s POV—a “must read” set if you’re a Camelot fan.

So, the story I wrote for the “Six Guns and Slay Bells: A Creepy Cowboy Christmas” anthology is one that is dear to my heart in many ways. Even the title, “The Keepers of Camelot”, was not something I had to think about for long.

Legend says that Arthur will rise once more when the world needs him the most. But in my story, something goes awry, and Arthur has returned in many times, many places, throughout the centuries since his final battle.

The story opens with Arthur on a stagecoach in the American west—Indian Territory—of the 1880’s. But in this life, he comes across two people he’d never thought to see again—Lancelot and Guinevere. Why are they here—and how will it all end…this time?
The stage is attacked by Apaches minutes before the driver gets the passengers to the safety of the next stage station. Though they’re safe for the time being, a nerve-wracking Christmas Eve is in store as the Apaches wait for them outside.

Arthur has a plan. He’s seen the fearless leader of the Apache—the man they call “Sky Eyes”, a man he knew as Lancelot du Lac a hundred lifetimes ago.

Will Lance’s prowess as a warrior combine with his legendary arrogance to seal the fate of the people inside the station—including Guinevere, the woman he gave up everything for in the past?

One young boy in the group unknowingly holds the key to Lance’s decision. But will the glorious legend of Camelot be remembered?

There are some excellent stories in this book by many great western writers, including Troy Smith, Courtney Joyner, Robert Randisi, L.J. Washburn, James Reasoner, and many more. They’re all paranormal in some way, and they all take place in a western setting.

This makes a great gift for others—or for yourself!
All my other short stories, anthologies, novels and novellas can be found here:

Last Call for Peacemaker Awards Submissions

Submissions have to be postmarked by January 31, 2013.  Any postmarked after the 31st will not be considered.  More information about rules and where to send entries can be found at the Western Fictioneers Website.

Saturday, January 26, 2013


The fact is, asking me to choose my favorite western is a little like asking me which is my favorite of my four sons. Here are my three favorites, and for much different reasons.

One-Eyed Jacks

One-Eyed Jacks is a classic in that it has no true protagonist, only antagonists. Brando's character, Rio, is characterized in the first scene as an amoral son-of-a-bitch who's only loyalty is to himself and/or to those who could be of help or service to him. Maldon's character is bad, but not quite so as Brando's, until the roles reverse. Brando becomes one of those anti-heroes with whom you can't help but begin to empathize, and Malden becomes a true bad guy, but one with good motivation. The cinematography was ahead of it's time and the score was good, if not great, but very limited and not a major player in the film. As one whose written about old California extensively, see my Clint Ryan series, I can tell you that the time and place was excellent, as was the art direction generally (with the exception that many characters were much too clean). Ben Johnson was at the top of his game (and playing a bad guy), as was Slim Pickens. It's one of those great screenplays where what's not said is as important, or more, than what's said…something in storytelling that only works in a visual medium such as film or stageplay. But what is said is great as well, like, "…there's dirt between you," and "you scum-suckin' pig." The latter being the dirtiest clean line ever delivered. And after Brando knocks a woman beating bully down, "…you get up, you big tub of guts." One of my most revered compliments as a western writer was as to my Nemesis, where a reviewer said "the vernacular was worth the read." As it is in this screenplay. EVERYTHING about this script and film rings true.

The movie:
Rio (also called "The Kid"), his partner Dad Longworth, and a third man named Doc, rob a bank. The robbery is successful, but some Mexican Rurales attack and kill Doc. Dad and Rio manage to escape in the desert followed by a posse.

Rio figures the Rurales will be "swarming all over us inside an hour." One partner might take the remaining pony and ride to a little jacalito down the canyon about five miles and return with fresh mounts. They shake for it, with Rio fixing the deal so his pal Dad can be the one to go.

Dad gets to a corral, strapping the swag bag onto a fresh pony, but he gets second thoughts. He casts one eye towards a point on the ridge sure to be taken by the Rurales, and with the other he gazes off in the opposite direction out past a low-lying treeline towards the border and safety. One way leads to danger and a poor chance at surviving with half the booty, the other towards a virtual certainty with all of it. After a decidedly short moment of reflection, he takes the latter and leaves his friend to be taken by Rurales. Rio is arrested, and is transported to prison by way of the jacalito, where he learns firsthand of Dad's betrayal from the owner.

Rio spends five years in a "stinkin' Sonora prison," which allows him to concentrate on Dad's having abandoned him. When he locates his former partner in crime, Longworth has become the sheriff of Monterey, California. Dad finally gets a chance to "explain" why he left his friend back in Mexico but tries again to deceive Rio by lying about why he never returned.

Rio plans a bank robbery in Monterey with his new partners Chico Modesto and Bob Emory. But his plans are sidetracked when he falls in love with Longworth's stepdaughter, Louisa, and when Dad administers a vicious beating with a whip in front of the entire town.

While recovering from his wounds near the ocean, Rio struggles with his conflicting desires to love the girl and to kill her stepfather for revenge. He decides to forgo vengeance, fetch Louisa and leave, but Emory kills Chico and pulls off the bank job. However, the heist goes wrong and a bystander is killed. Rio is falsely accused and locked up by Longworth, who desperately wants to kill Rio in an attempt to absolve his own guilt over the earlier betrayal. Rio is due to be hanged in two days.

Louisa visits Rio in jail, first to confess that she is going to have his baby, and then to attempt to smuggle a miniature pistol. Rio bluffs his way out of jail with the unloaded pistol, and helps himself to the revolver of sadistic deputy Lon Dedrick. In the center of town, under fire and left with no choice, he kills Longworth in a final showdown.

In the closing scene, Rio and Louisa ride out to the dunes and say a sentimental farewell. Rio will now be a hunted man and tells Louisa that he's going to Oregon but to look for him in the spring.

Marlon Brando as Rio
Karl Malden as Dad Longworth
Ben Johnson as Bob Emory
Katy Jurado as Maria Longworth
PinaPellicer as Louisa
Slim Pickens as Lon Dedrick
Larry Duran as Chico Modesto

Dances With Wolves

John Williams never composed a bad score, and this one is among his best. Of course Jaws, Star Wars, Jurassic Park, and many, many more weren't bad…as his many Oscars and awards testify. Interestingly, I once signed a book for Michael Blake's mother, who, when asked about the book said, "I couldn't get through it." I apologize for ratting her out and she probably couldn't get through mine either. However, I had the same problem with the book, and consequently think Costner was brilliant for digging the great story out of some not-so-compelling writing (my apologies to Mr. Blake, as you all know, opinions are like a-holes, we all have one). As I understand, Costner and Blake were roommates or frat brothers in college, so I guess he was highly motivated to find a story somewhere in the book. The fact is, it has some great vernacular and lines buried in a lot of expository. Lines such as that given by the filthy plainsman (Timmons) hired by Dunbar to transport him and his goods to the fort, and they finda arrow riddled body on the plain and Timmons says with a crazy grin, "…there's someone waiting for him to write." There's so much good about this film one could write a book about it, much less a blog. The fact the Army is portrayed as the invader is an interesting twist over most westerns, and God knows, we and our Army did some despicable things, along with many more great ones, in "winning" the west.

The movie:
In 1863, First Lieutenant John J. Dunbar (Kevin Costner) is wounded in the American Civil War. Rather than having his leg amputated, he takes a horse and rides up to the Confederate front lines, distracting them in the process. The roused Union army then attacks and the battle ends in a Confederate rout. Dunbar survives, is allowed to recover properly, receives a citation for bravery, and is awarded Cisco, the horse who carried him, as well as his choice of posting. Dunbar requests a transfer to the western frontier so he can see its vast terrain before it goes. Dunbar arrives at his new post, Fort Sedgwick, but finds it abandoned and in disrepair. Despite the threat of nearby Native American tribes, he elects to stay and man the post himself. He begins rebuilding and restocking the fort and prefers the solitude afforded him, recording many of his observations in his journal.

Meanwhile Timmons who transported Dunbar to Fort Sedgwick is killed and scalped by Pawnee Indians on his way back to Fort Hayes. Timmons's death and the suicide of Major Fainborough, who sent them there, prevented other soliders from knowing of Dunbar's assignment to the post, effectively isolating him, and he notes in his journal of how strange it is that no other soldiers accompany him at the post.

Dunbar initially encounters his Sioux neighbors when several attempts are made to steal his horse and intimidate him. In response, Dunbar decides to seek out the Sioux camp in an attempt to establish a dialogue. On his way he comes across Stands With A Fist (Mary McDonnell), who has injured herself in mourning her deceased husband. She is the white adopted daughter of the tribe's medicine man Kicking Bird (Graham Greene), her original family being killed by the aggressive Pawnee tribe when she was young. Dunbar returns her to the Sioux to be treated, which changes their attitude toward him. Eventually, Dunbar establishes a rapport with Kicking Bird and warrior Wind In His Hair (Rodney A. Grant) who equally wish to communicate. Initially the language barrier frustrates them, so Stands With A Fist, though with difficulty remembering her English, acts as translator.

Dunbar finds himself drawn to the lifestyle and customs of the tribe and begins spending most of his time with them. Learning their language, he becomes a hero among the Sioux and is accepted as an honored guest after he locates a migrating herd of buffalo and participates in the hunt. When at Fort Sedgwick, Dunbar also befriends a wolf he dubs "Two Socks" for its white forepaws. When the Sioux observe Dunbar and Two Socks chasing each other, they give him his Sioux name "Dances with Wolves". During this time, Dunbar also forges a romantic relationship with Stands with a Fist and helps defend the village from an attack by the rival Pawnee tribe. Dunbar eventually wins Kicking Bird's approval to marry Stands with a Fist, and abandons Fort Sedgwick.
Because of the growing Pawnee and white threat, Chief Ten Bears (Floyd Red Crow Westerman) decides to move the tribe to its winter camp. Dunbar decides to accompany them but must first retrieve his journal from Fort Sedgwick as he realises that the journal is the blueprint to the army for finding the tribe and that he knows too much about their ways. However, when he arrives he finds it occupied by the U.S. Army. Because of his Sioux clothing, the soldiers see him as a native and a threat and open fire, killing Cisco and capturing Dunbar, arresting him as a traitor. Sgt Bauer (Larry Joshua) with the generals and major, interrogate him, but Dunbar cannot prove his situation, as Corporal Spivey (Tony Pierce) had secretly stolen his journal. As a result, along with Dunbar's refusal to serve as an interpreter to the tribes, he is put on trial for treason and transported back east as a prisoner to be hanged. While travelling in the armed caravan, the soldiers shoot Two Socks when the wolf attempts to follow Dunbar despite Dunbar's attempts to intervene.

Eventually the Sioux track the convoy, killing the soldiers and freeing Dunbar. At the winter camp, Dunbar decides to leave with Stands With A Fist, since his status will put the tribe in danger. As they leave, Wind In His Hair shouts across to Dunbar, reminding him of their friendship. U.S. troops are seen searching the mountains but are unable to locate them, while a lone wolf howls in the distance. An epilogue states that thirteen years later the last remnants of Sioux were subjugated to the American government, ending the conquest of the Western frontier states and the livelihoods of the tribes in the plains.

Kevin Costner as Lt. John J. Dunbar / Dances with Wolves / Narrator (Lakota: ŠuŋgmánitTȟáŋkaÓbWačhí)
Mary McDonnell as Stands With A Fist (Lakota: NapépȟečaNážiŋWiŋ)
Graham Greene as Kicking Bird (Lakota: ZiŋtkáNagwáka)
Rodney A. Grant as Wind In His Hair (Lakota: PȟehíŋOtȟáte)
Floyd Red Crow Westerman as Chief Ten Bears (Lakota: MatȟóWikčémna)
Tantoo Cardinal as Black Shawl (Lakota: ŠináSápaWiŋ)
Jimmy Herman as Stone Calf (Lakota: ÍŋyaŋPtehíŋčala)
Nathan Lee Chasing His Horse as Smiles A Lot (Lakota: IȟáS’a)
Michael Spears as Otter (Lakota: Ptáŋ)
Jason R. Lone Hill as Worm (Lakota: Waglúla)
Charles Rocket as Lt. Elgin
Robert Pastorelli as Timmons
Larry Joshua as Sgt. Bauer
Tony Pierce as Spivey
Kirk Baltz as Edwards
Tom Everett as Sgt. Pepper
Maury Chaykin as Maj. Fambrough
Wes Studi as the fiercest Pawnee
Wayne Grace as The Major

Open Range
This is one of those films, like the two above, that one just can't turn off when surfing channels. It's a classic tale of big interests and small, and the conflict between them. The gunfight is, I think, the most realistic in film…much better, for instance, than the Oscar wining Unforgivenof Eastwoods (whose best movie, in my opinion was his Play Misty For Me, which he also directed.

The movie:

In 1882, veteran cowboy, retired gunslinger and widower "Boss" Spearman (Robert Duvall) is now an open range cattleman, who drives his herds across the vast prairies at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains without care of barbed wire, ranches or civilization. His decade-long right-hand man is Charley Waite (Kevin Costner), a mostly reticent former soldier quietly battling his own inner demons and who struggles with guilt over his past as a saboteur/killer in the American Civil War. Also among Spearman's other hired hands are the jovial gentle giant Mose Harrison (Abraham Benrubi), a young Mexican orphan the others refer to as Button (Diego Luna), and Waite's aging guard dog Tig.

Whilst attempting to catch up with a free-grazing cattle herd in Montana Territory, Spearman sends Mose to the nearby town of Fort Harmony for supplies, only for Mose to discover it has been renamed Harmonville. The town is controlled by a ruthless Irish immigrant rancher, land baron and cattle baron, Denton Baxter (Michael Gambon), who hates open-rangers because they are not compatible with his own controlled ranches. Mose is set upon and badly beaten by Baxter's cattlemen in the general store, and jailed by the corrupt local lawman, Marshal Poole (James Russo), who is on Baxter's payroll. Spearman and Waite become concerned when Mose does not return. They go to Harmonville to look for Mose and get pointed toward the jail by Percy (Michael Jeter), the livery stable owner. Spearman and Waite retrieve Mose from the jail but not before getting a warning from Baxter about free-grazing on "his" land, and get a hint as to what has happened to previous free-grazers in the area. Spearman and Waite take Mose to doctor Walter Barlow (Dean McDermott) to have his broken ribs reset and wounds tended to; there they meet Sue Barlow (Annette Bening). Waite is attracted to Sue immediately, but assumes that Sue is the doctor's wife.

After catching ghostly-masked riders scouting to rustle their cattle, Spearman and Waite sneak up on their campfire in the night, ambush them and disarm them, before learning they are working for Baxter. At the same time, some of Baxter's other roughnecks led by a hired gun and wanted outlaw named Butler (Kim Coates) attack Spearman's wagon, shooting dead Mose and Waite's guard dog Tig. Spearman and Waite discover Button barely alive and struggling for life with a gash in his head, and Spearman digs a bullet out of his chest. After burying Mose and Tig, Spearman and Waite vow to avenge this injustice. They leave Button at the doctor's house and go into town, where they lock Poole in his own jail. Boss knocks him out with chloroform he has stolen from the doctor's office. The deputies are locked up as well.

Sue tells the open rangers that it will take a federal marshal over a week to get there, and Spearman and Waite decide to take matters into their own hands. Waite learns that Sue is the doctor's sister, not his wife. He declares his feelings for her, and she gives him her locket, a family heirloom, for luck. Waite leaves a note with Percy, in which he states that if he should die, money from the sale of his saddle and gear are to be used to buy Sue a new tea set (he previously complained about the handles being too small). After riding together for a decade, and now knowing that it is probably their last day, Spearman and Waite finally confess their true names to each other. They also spend $5, a month's wages, on luxuries such as Swiss chocolate as their last meal.

Waite begins the ending gunfight by shooting Butler through the head, and soon after Poole. An intense gunfight erupts in the street, with Spearman, Waite, Percy and an injured Button outnumbered before the oppressed townspeople begin to openly fight against Baxter. Most of Baxter's men are killed in the gunfight and Spearman stops an enraged Waite from killing Baxter's surrendering and injured. It ends with Baxter alone in the jailhouse, mortally wounded, with Spearman stood over him. Spearman tells Baxter that he will not use a bullet to end his suffering.

Sue's brother Doc Barlow tends to the wounded townspeople and open-rangers. Waite clears out the (now-ownerless) saloon and speaks to Sue in private, telling her he is going back to the open range. She counters that she has a "big idea" about their future together and that she will wait for him to return. He does return, and proposes to Sue. Spearman and Waite agree that their whole way of life is ending, and maybe it is time to settle down; Spearman says that he longs for warmth in his aging years. They decide upon giving up the cattle business for good and taking over Harmonville's saloon, but not before going off to get their cattle on the free range one more time.
Robert Duvall as Bluebonnet "Boss" Spearman
Kevin Costner as Charles Travis Postlewaite / Charley Waite
Annette Bening as Sue Barlow
Michael Gambon as Denton Baxter
Michael Jeter as Percy
Diego Luna as Button
James Russo as Marshal Poole
Abraham Benrubi as Mose Harrison
Dean McDermott as Walter Doc Barlow
Kim Coates as Butler
Herb Kohler as Cafe Man
Peter MacNeill as Mack
Cliff Saunders as Ralph
Patricia Stutz as Ralph's Wife
Julian Richings as Wylie
Ian Tracey as Tom
Rod Wilson as Gus
Alex Zahara as Chet

My All Time Favorite Movies:
Master & Commander
Out of Africa
Lawrence of Arabia
The Quiet Man
The African Queen
Rear Window
Dr. Zhivago

My thanks to Wikipedia for information used in this blog.

L. J. Martin is the author of over 30 book length works, including a dozen westerns, mysteries, thrillers and a number of non-fiction works, including one on killing cancer and a cookbook. He's married to NYT bestselling, internationally published, romantic suspense author Kat Martin. The Martin's live on a small ranch in Montana and winter in California. L. J. is also a screenwriter, with one script optioned to an NBC approved producer. For more see,,, facebook: his Amazon author page:

Friday, January 25, 2013


I love research. Always have, always will... and I soak up lush, wonderful details in the westerns I've read. Most of them since DOUBLE CROSSING, my western mystery set in 1869, was published -- but I cut my teeth on television and movie westerns since early childhood.
Did I rely on all that when I started writing my book? Heck, no! I knew costumes, sets and such generated in Hollywood were far from accurate. I spent months delving into fashion changes from hoops to bustles, what a Bowie knife looked like, Colt revolvers, train schedules and routes, what a UP Pullman Palace car looked like versus the CP Silver Palace car, Texan cowboys, etc. etc.
I knew better than to rely on western TV and movies, where the soiled doves wore glittering gowns worthy of a Ziegfeld Follies girl. Other big problems are the cliches stemming from dime novels of the 1800s, still popping up in current western novels. Lawmen tracking murderers who kill without reason. Helpless women who sat around waiting for their man to rescue them.
Pioneer women that I've researched knew how to handle weapons and protect themselves, how to survive snakebites and nurse sicknesses or wounds, and many adapted after being kidnapped by Indians. I rather doubt they lounged around in the stable (after pitching some clean hay) with their bosom exposed like Jane Russell.
Okay, maybe that is an extreme example. But take for example the Stetson hat.
Some writers have their heroes wearing these famous hats as far back as the 1850's. Check out this link for a fascinating history on how John B. Stetson got started making the trademark hats in 1865. Yep. AFTER the Civil War. Or weapons -- here's a link to a great website on military sabres, rifles, revolvers, etc. manufactured during the 1800s. And here's another link, similar to it. With dates of when those weapons were in use.
Trains are another big pitfall for writers. I've read some books where characters found their way west on the railroad before the Civil War or immediately after it ended. The first railroad crossed the vast expanse of the American west in May of 1869, when the Union and Central Pacific lines joined together at Promontory, Utah. For the first time, travelers could ride from New York to Chicago to Omaha and then to Sacramento -- not San Francisco. That took another few years. Other rail lines to Kansas and Arizona and Montana were completed by the mid 1870s or late 1880s.
I've read and seen a wide range of stories with either the total absence of native Americans or a bloodthirsty savageness of tribes (and not always the right ones in the right spots!) set on revenge. Savagery happened on both sides. The main point is to avoid "stereotypes" --  characters need reasons for the choices they make in our stories. Readers might forgive a modern word or phrase in dialogue, but when such things add up, they're "thrown out" of the story and may give up reading the rest of the book.
I love a good, juicy western where I can walk the dusty streets or ride the prairie on horseback, smell the goods on display in a general store, taste the grit in the air or touch the sweat-soaked shirt of the hero. Go beyond the visual. Make sure your characters have a goal and a motive in mind. And for your reader's sake, do the research.
They'll thank you with great reviews and word-of-mouth sales in your future career.
Meg Mims is an award-winning author and artist. She writes blended genres – historical, western, adventure, romance, suspense and mystery. Her first book, Double Crossing, won the 2012 Spur Award for Best First Novel from Western Writers of America and was named a Finalist in the Best Books of 2012 from USA Book News for Fiction: Western.

She is currently working on the sequel, Double or Nothing, which will be released this year. Interested in a sneak peek? Check out Meg's blog for The Next  Big Thing!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

THE DOCTOR'S BAG by Keith Souter aka Clay More

Doctors in the Old West

If you ever watched Gunsmoke you would be sure to know good old Doc G. Adams. If you had bellyache, a touch of rheumatics or a bullet that needed digging out, he was your man. He seemed the sort of guy that you could trust your life with, for he was wise, well read, skilled with a scalpel and familiar with all of the latest advances in medicine.

As a character he had evolved from his CBS radio incarnation, played by Howard McNear, when he was Doc Charles Adams, to Milburn Stone’s television role as Doc Galen Adams. Of course, he was usually just known as ‘Doc.’ The radio version was apparently a lot darker, for he was a man with a past. His real name was Charles Moore, a doctor who fled from Richmond, Virginia after killing a man in a duel. Settling in Dodge City, he took on the name of Doc Adams. His radio persona was a near alcoholic, but by television days he merely had a taste for whiskey at the Long Branch Saloon.

The change of name is interesting. Milburn Stone was given free rein, and so for ten years the name above his office read Dr G. Adams. It was a good choice, since Galen was an ancient Greek physician whose teachings on medicine dominated medical thought right up until the early nineteenth century. The essence of it was the archaic Doctrine of Humors, the belief that there were four fundamental humors or vital fluids that determined the state of health or illness of a person. These were blood, phlegm, black and yellow bile. Diagnosis of the imbalance led the doctor to the right treatment, which could be to blister, bleed, purge or give an enema.


Although things had advanced a little by the time of the Civil War, they had not advanced very far. By then the dominant view was that inflammation caused most diseases. The four characteristic signs of inflammation – heat, pain, swelling and redness – had been known about since antiquity, when they were described by the Roma doctor, Aulus Cornelius Celsus in the first century. Yet the cause of inflammation was not known. Doctors were taught that there two types – direct and indirect inflammation. Direct inflammation was caused by a breach in the body’s integrity - from a blow, a wound, a burn or the presence of a foreign body, such as a splinter, an arrow or a bullet. Surgery was indicated for direct inflammation.

Indirect inflammation was caused by malfunction of an internal organ.This was treated medically, by bleeding, scarifying, purging with calomel, or using a diaphoretic to induce a perspiration or sweating reaction. Tartrate of Antimony, or ‘Dover’s Powders,’ containing opium and Ipecachuana, were favoured diaphoretics.

The actual causes of inflammation were not known until Dr Ignaz Semmelweiss published a treatise in Budapest in 1861, entitled‘The Cause, Concept and Prophylaxis of Puerperal Fever.’ He suggested that women who died from puerperal fever (childbearing fever) had been contaminated by doctors who had not washed their hands between attending morning autopsies and going to the labour wards. Unfortunately, it would not for another twenty years until Louis Pasteur was able to prove the Germ Theory. That would be too late for the many thousands of men who would die from contamination and gangrenous wounds in the Civil War and beyond.

The Doctor’s Bag

In this monthly blog I am going to talk about the state of medicine and surgery in the nineteenth century, and about what the western town doctor had available for his patients. I will be delving into the medical bag to look at the instruments, pills, potions and mysteries of the doctor’s bag.
But first a biographette.

I was born in St Andrews, Scotland, the home of golf and graduated in medicine from the University of Dundee in 1976. I started training in psychiatry, but for several reasons changed tack to become a General Practitioner. I have practiced as a town doctor in Wakefield in the county of Yorkshire, England since 1979. For a while I was a tutor in General Practice at Leeds University and I am also a medical journalist, having writing a weekly newspaper column for thirty years.

My interest in medical history was kindled when I joined my medical practice. I was going through the junk cupboard, a repository for all the old medical instruments that had fallen redundant over the years. There were surgical kits, post-mortem (autopsy) sets, jars with ‘sutures as used by Professor Lister,’ and even a couple of very early scarificators for the letting of blood. Our surgery, you see, had been founded in 1847, so we had a long history and I felt it needed to be on display. So I researched the history of the surgery and set up a large museum case full of old instruments, to delight the patients and make them glad that they did not live back in the nineteenth century. The picture is of the author holding a set of early nineteenth century dental instruments, back in 1983.
The picture earlier in the blog of the doctor’s bag and the medical paraphernalia on the desk are actually mine and have seen good service over the years.

The doctors of the old west

We will be looking at one or two medical personalities in later blogs, including the great Dr George Goodfellow, physician and surgeon of Tucson, who treated the victims of the OK Coral shooting in Tombstone and who interviewed Geronimo.

For now I just wanted to say something about who practiced medicine back then. Doc Adams is, of course, part of the mythic west, yet there were many doctors, both qualified and unqualified who provided care for the people of those hard and dangerous times.

Since colonial days doctors could be trained by apprenticeship. That would last anything from two to five years. Or if one had enough money, one could study at a medical school and get a proper qualification. Up to the Civil War the average length of a medical course was a mere two years of nine months each. The truth is that there wasn’t much to learn then. And if one wished to bypass the bother of actually going to a medical institution, one could always buy a diploma for five dollars from one of the diploma mills.

Anatomical dissection was illegal in many states and medical instruments were in their infancy. The stethoscope as invented by Rene Laennec, a Parisian physician in 1816, was a monaural device. That is, it was a simple stiff tube with an earpiece at one end and a collecting horn at the other. It was essentially the same as the ear trumpet used by the hard of hearing. The binaural, flexible tubed stethoscope as perfected and designed by Dr George Cammann in 1852 did not become commonly used until after the Civil War. Few Civil War doctors would have a use for one. Indeed, the esteemed Harvard medical school did not even possess one until 1868!

Many doctors allied themselves with one or other of the medical philosophies of the day. There were allopathic doctors, who gave drugs that suppressed symptoms by creating opposite effects to the symptoms that were complained of. Thus they would give a constipating drug to someone with diarrhoea. Homoeopathic doctors would follow the teachings of Dr Samuel Hahnemann and use infinitesimal doses ofsubstances that created the same symptoms as the patient suffered from, using the principle of similia similibus curentur, or ‘like cures like.’ Thomsonians would use herbal preparations and only drugs made from plants. Eclectics would use a bit of this and a bit of that; essentially using whatever they found that worked. And finally, you would get hydropaths, who would advocate using water treatments, after the teachings of Vincenz Priessnitz, a Silesian farmer.

And digging for bullets

So back we come to Doc Adams and surgery. This is something that may be very relevant in western fiction. We’ll be looking at how to dig out bullets, as well as looking at amputations, midwifery and obstetrics and some of the glorious offshoots of medicine – like phrenology - back in the old days of the west.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Benefits of Civil War Reenacting

Matthew Pizzolato
By Matthew Pizzolato

For me, the joys of taking part in civil war reenactments are more than I could count.  It's a way of stepping back from the hassles of the real world and forgetting all the worries.  It's how I recharge sometimes.  It is a great time with good friends.  It's a lot of things.

There are practical benefits toward my career as a writer as well.  I write Westerns, so being able to immerse myself in the way of life during in that particular period of time is a huge benefit.  I've learned everything from how to fire cap and ball weapons to styles of clothing to understanding marching orders and different manuals of arms. 

Reenacting is a lot more than just firing blanks at each other on a battlefield.  That is actually a very small part of what we do that takes place for an hour or so each day.

A civil war reenactment is a living history event.  We camp in A-frame tents and our manner of living for the weekend is entirely as it would be during the 1860's.  Wearing wool in one hundred degree temperatures is not exactly fun, but it was historically accurate.  Needless to say, my favorite events are the ones during the winter months.

On Fridays, school children tour our camps and we give demonstrations on different aspects of life during the time period.  One of the talks I've given is on the life of a soldier.  Others display the rifles and pistols and show how to load and fire them, with blanks of course.  The favorite among the children happens to be the cannon demonstration.  Visitors can walk through our camps and ask any kind of questions they desire. 

Dances are held every Saturday night to period music and we learn how to dance in that style as well, from reels to waltzes and even the broom dance. 

Then, once the sun goes down and the spectators leave, we sit around the campfire telling stories.  There's something about staring into a fire at night that soothes the soul. 

If you've never been to a reenactment, I highly recommend it, and if you'd like to participate, the more the merrier.
I'll be writing a regular column each month on various topics, but primarily it will be about different aspects of the reenactments, from the battles to the dances and everything in between. 

Keep your powder dry, friends, and I'll see you next time.

Matthew Pizzolato's short stories have been published online and in print in such publications as: BEAT to a PULP!, The Copperfield Review, Pulp Mondern, Frontier Tales Magazine, The Pink Chameleon Online, Perpetual Magazine, Long Story Short, and The Storyteller. Matthew is the editor and webmaster of The Western Online, a magazine dedicated to everything Western. Matthew can be contacted via his personal website: or he can be found on Twitter @mattpizzolato.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Wolf Creek Day @paladin_68 #western

Hello the camp!

This is the first of a regular series we're going to be having here at the Western Fictioneers blogsite, wherein we take a closer look at the characters and writers of our collaborative novel series, Wolf Creek. We'll be doing this the first Tuesday of each month.

We're going to start off with our town doctor...

Clay More

 Logan Munro is a Scottish doctor. Shortly after graduating from Edinburgh University he served with the British Army Hospital in Scutari in Constantinople during the Crimean War. In 1856, at the end of the war he had the opportunity to go to India. While there he married Helen, a young governess. A year later The Indian Mutiny took place and he was involved in the siege. Sadly, Helen died from malaria. Disillusioned with life, and bereft at losing Helen, Logan sailed for America. Along came the Civil War, during which he served as a surgeon in the Union Army. When the guns ceased and the smoke cleared he settled down in Wolf Creek. He has seen a lot of action in the three wars he served in and he has honed his surgical skills on the battlefields. He is tired of all the killing and he just wants to settle down as a family doctor in a sleepy town.

CLAY MORE is also a Scottish physician -Dr. Keith Souter. In addition to being a medical writer, Keith publishes fiction in four different genres.

"I am a member of the Crime Writers’ Association, International Thriller Writers, the Society of Authors, Western Fictioneers and the Western Writers of America. With my medical hat on, I am a Fellow of the Royal College of General Practitioners and of various other professional bodies.
I live with my wife Rachel in Wakefield in West Yorkshire within arrowshot of historic Sandal Castle."
We asked Clay More a few questions about Doc Munro...

1) What is your favorite scene among those you've written for Logan Munro?
In his daily work as the town doctor Logan Munro strives to put folk at their ease. Practising medicine in a town like Wolf Creek requires him to be confident in his manner, both in his treatment of anxious patients and in his dealings with some hard-headed types who are used to riding roughshod over their fellow citizens. He is also aware that he has a very limited armamentarium of drugs, which is why he is so appreciative of the traditional remedies that Charley Blackfeather keeps introducing him to. 

In the first chapter Logan is going about his work, enjoying some banter with Charley Blackfeather, then boom - he sheds the doctor's mantle for a while and he is a British officer taking up arms to repel the enemy. He is happy to back Charley's play. I like this scene, because it shows that he is a man of action as well as a medical man.

Charley Blackfeather pulled the door open and he and Logan rushed out. They saw a blazing wagon belching thick black smoke skewed across halfway up the street. A dead mule lay collapsed before it.
            ‘What in blazes?’ Logan began.
            Then a gun fired and a bullet sent them dashing back into the office. From all over town came startled voices and cries. The noise of horses’ hooves pounding could be heard and then the noise of more gunfire. Lots of it.
            ‘It is a raid!’ said Logan, rushing into his consulting room and grabbing his bag.
            ‘Where are you going?’ Charley asked him as he tried to go back into the waiting room.
            ‘If there is shooting, people might get hurt. I’ll be needed.’
            ‘You won’t be needed dead, doctor. Go the back way.’
            And together they left Logan’s place via a back window and gingerly skirted round the back of the office.
‘You there, lay down that gun!’ they heard a voice cry from Second Street. ‘I am Deputy Marshal Baker and I order you…’
There was a gun shot then a scream.
As they went round the side of the office they saw Frank Baker’s body lying in the dirt, blood gushing from a chest wound.
‘You mangy dog!’ cried Marshal Sam Gardner, running towards the blazing wagon, firing both guns through the smoke.
Another shot rang out and the Marshal was hit. Blood spurted from his left leg and he collapsed on his side. More bullets dug up clouds of earth around him and he crawled sidewinder fashion to the cover of a horse trough.
‘Have you a gun, Munro?’ Charley Blackfeather asked.
Logan opened his bag and drew out his Beaumont-Adams revolver. ‘And I can use it.’
‘We need to get past this gunman. If you pin him down, I will see if I can get round the back.’
Logan obliged.  Intermittently, he peered round the corner of the office and discharged a shot. With each one a returned shot gouged out part of the wall. Whoever was firing from the other side of the grisly barricade knew how to shoot.
Suddenly, there was a dull thud and a harrowing scream that went on and on, as if someone was in mortal agony. Then abruptly the noise stopped.
‘Munro!’ Charley Blackfeather called.
Logan peered round the corner and through the smoke saw Charley Blackfeather gesturing to him. In one hand he held his metal tomahawk and in the other his big Bowie knife. Both were dripping with blood.
‘Maybe you should take care of the marshal,’ he cried. And without another word he turned and disappeared into the smoke.

 2)  What is Logan's biggest strong point?
Honour (sorry, honor) is Logan's greatest strength. He is bound by his Hippocratic oath and he will do anything to help a patient, even if that patient is an enemy. He asserts this himself in a later scene when 

He started filling his meerschaum pipe. ‘I took the Hippocratic Oath and it is my duty to tend to the sick. I think I need to go, just in case any more of my friends here get hurt. And if we shoot any of that gang it will be my solemn duty to treat and keep them alive.’
He lit his pipe and his eyes narrowed as he blew out a stream of smoke. ‘Until we can hang the bastards, that is!’

His greatest weakness is his difficulty to form another relationship. He lost his wife during the Indian mutiny and he feels guilty that he couldn't save her. It shook his confidence in himself as a doctor and as a result he finds it difficult to let anyone get too close to him.

3) What can you tell us about what is coming up next for the good doctor?
In Book 4: The Taylor County War there is more about the disease and hardships that folk faced and the sort of cases that Logan has to confront in his daily life. An emergency to see and treat the victims of an atrocity takes him right into the centre of a desperate situation that could so easily turn into another massacre. 

In Book 6: Hell on the Prairie, which is composed of individual stories, Logan really finds himself in deep water, faced with a life or death decision, an ethical dilemma and one of the hardest operations that he has ever been called to perform in his life. Another aspect of his character  is revealed. 

(Here is a photo of the author, in character as Dr. Logan Munro  -for a gig at a pub in Newcastle, demonstrating how to use fire to burn syphilis!)

Monday, January 21, 2013



These are the type of comments I’ve heard since I penned my first novel, mostly from people who have never investigated the genre of the western. But I’ve made some converts.

The Old West, of course, is about time and place… but basically it’s about people, as every novel is about people. A western can be a mystery, a war story, a love story, or a taut tale of suspense. It can be drama, melodrama, heartwarming, frightening, a tale of good, of evil and everything in between. (Throwing in a loyal dog, a lovable kid and a good horse doesn’t hurt, either).

I belong to a group of men and women who meet regularly for spiritual study. We also play golf, go to meals together and meet often socially. A few bought my books at a signing I held at a local book store. The reactions of these new readers spurred others to try them. Now I get comments like:

“I couldn’t put it down, Pete. I was up half the night.”
“I need another book. When is your next one coming out?”
“Great read. Is there going to be a sequel?”
“You have any copies with you? I want to send one as a gift.”

Many years ago, with my first manuscript in hand, I attended a WWA conference in Albuquerque, where I was welcomed and befriended by greats like Tony Hillerman, Elmer Kelton, Robert J. Conley, Dusty Richards, Don Coldsmith and others. Some of the nicest folks I’ve ever met, not an out-sized ego in the bunch. It took until 2004, constantly submitting my writing to a long line of publishers, before I was published by Avalon Books… but it has been worth the trip. If you are an aspiring author, don’t give up. And read other fine writers in your chosen genre. I promise you’ll learn.

Granted, most of my readers are locals and acquaintances, having been introduced to my ramblings by word of mouth. But it’s a start toward introducing the western novel to a fresh audience. I have also referred readers to other authors who write tales of the Old West… my own favorites, many of them fellow members of the Western Fictioneers… some of the finest writers today or ever, regardless of genre.

Pete Peterson

Sunday, January 20, 2013


I kind of shy away from saying “My Favorite Western Novel” –it’s too hard to pick just one. But I can certainly say this is one of my favorite western novels of all time: The Ghost with Blue Eyes by Robert J. Randisi.

I read it when it first came out in 1999. Something about Randisi’s sparse prose and the powerful subject matter came together in a way few western novels ever have for me- on one level it was one of the most perfect examples of a traditional western (short, action-oriented, compelling), and on another level it affected me profoundly, remaining vividly in my mind ever after. It is one of those rare works –and I will probably write about others in this space, but they include Lonesome Dove –that leave me with a bittersweet feeling of the sublime, a mixture of professional admiration and intense envy. That probably sounds like hyperbole, and it probably sets the book up with unfair expectations if any of you read it after this –but that really is how I feel about it. I consider it one of the best westerns of the 1990s.
The story centers on a gunman named Lancaster. He hires himself out for protection, and one day –during a gunfight –something terrible happens. He accidentally shoots and kills a little girl. The memory of her blue eyes staring at him haunts Lancaster, to the point he becomes a drunk. Then, one day, he gets an unexpected chance at redemption:  another little girl is in danger, and her mother is killed. To keep her safe from her murderous father, Lancaster takes her to the only person he can think of –that first little girl’s mother.
And then it gets intense.
This is a darn good book, and it has a depth that few writers would be able to squeeze into 200-odd pages.
Troy D. Smith