Hi- Troy Smith here, publisher at Western Trail Blazer and editor of WF's Wolf Creek series. I decided to use this space to talk about something that has been on my mind as I wrapped up my first year as WTB ramrod and prepare to start my second... and that is something that I don't believe anybody thinks about when they take on a job like this. And that is... the mortality of us all. It has felt very surreal preparing sales records for authors who have passed on, and communicating about their legacies with their bereaved families. So while we're celebrating the new and recent releases we have, and the writers of the future, I wanted to take a moment to celebrate the memories of three writers who put their brand on the western genre, and on the hearts of those who knew them well.
The first such author did not leave this mortal coil in the past year, but a little before that- in September of 2012. However, WTB is still working with his wife to release his unpublished work.
I am speaking of Lee Baldwin, who wrote westerns as Lee Aaron Wilson. Lee was one of the first writers to come onboard WTB in the first months of its existence. His novels include COLORADO JUSTICE, KILLDEERE CHALLENGE, and PA'S JOURNAL. (By the way, I am deliberately not including links or cover images -they are easy enough to find, if you are interested -because I want this post to be about paying tribute rather than advertising.)
Phyllis Baldwin provided these words as a memorial to her husband:
"Lee Aaron Wilson passed away suddenly in September, 2012. He lived for his writing and hardly a day went by that he wasn’t at his computer either writing a new story or modifying an existing one. Lee loved discussing and recounting various scenes and became very emotional as he described them. As anyone can see when they read his stories, his characters definitely come to life and one can imagine him being a part of some of them. The writing world lost a good storyteller."
Mart Shaughnessy loved horses, showing his Appaloosas in four world championships. He came late to writing- as his website informs us:
"Mart has a Masters Degree in education and spent twenty years teaching and coaching football, then went into the family business until retirement. His first published work was a short story, Frontier Justice, which won the genre fiction category of the 2OO9 Writers Digest 78th Annual Writing Contest."
WTB published his western/time travel novel PALOMINO DAYS several years ago, and he had recently completed a sequel that we corresponded back and forth via email about publishing- when I received word he had passed away on May 22, 2014. We will be releasing that sequel, ESCAPE TO THE PAST, before spring.
The third writer WTB lost recently is well known to many of us here at Western Fictioneers, and a recipient of our lifetime achievement award -and deservedly so. Jory Sherman had a long and storied career, winning a slew of awards. His novel THE RUNNING GUN has been a mainstay at WTB for some time. While I knew Lee and Mart through their work and occasional email, I had considered Jory a close personal friend for many years and was struck especially hard by his passing. I am honored by the fact that one of his last works was a contribution to the Wolf Creek novel STAND PROUD; his character Roman Hatchett only showed up a few times in our fictional town, but he was distinctive and memorable.
I am a big fan of The Highwaymen, both as a group and individually. Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash, in particular, always seemed to me to be good artistic role models- they had their own voices, and their own visions, and they refused to conform to the restraints of Nashville. This particular song by the two of them, "Heroes," is especially poignant to me, as they died in such similar circumstances and so close together in time... and because it is about the Hollywood cowboys of yesterday, and about the strength and frailty of our heroes, and of ourselves. So I'm posting a link to it below, in honor of Lee, and Mart, and Jory, and everyone else we have lost... who showed us the path to follow.
"Heroes, facing the fight
Calling for courage, trying to do right,
When the dust blows, and the light goes...
Give me a reason we all must carry on,
Like all the heroes have done."