Monday, May 20, 2013


The first time I met editor Jim Frenkel from Tor/Forge, we were talking about western movies, of course, and then movie tie-ins. I love them. Always have. Since about the age of 11, when the paperback boom of the late 60’s was giving us great editions of Conan and Tarzan with Frank Frazetta covers and reprint adventures of Doc Savage, the paperback racks were stuffed with tie-ins. If I had the financial means, I was buying the latest HEC RAMSEY adventure or the novelization of HANNIE CAULDER, along with my Famous Monsters of Filmland. That’s when Jim mentioned that one of his first jobs was as editor of the movie tie-in for THUNDERBOLT AND LIGHTFOOT, written by Joe Millard.

The scotch almost leapt out of my hand, because I loved Joe Millard. Millard was a true western voice to me, not well known, but when I looked at my shelf full of dog-eared paperbacks, his work was there, over and over. If a car trip to my grandpa’s was in the offing, then I was in the backseat with Millard, re-devouring CAHILL: U.S. MARSHAL or CHATO’S LAND.

Millard first came into my life via a grocery store in Pawley’s Island, South Carolina, where I found a yellowing copy of his novelization of FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE. The movie was years old, and I’d only seen it on television, but I grabbed that paperback and carried it with me everywhere for the rest of the summer, opening to random pages and losing myself in his recreation of Sergio Leone’s world.

He didn’t just follow the storyline he gave me new details about deadly, pipe-smoking Colonel Mortimer, and The Man With No Name. Somehow, the characters were more alive in my mind’s eye than when I watched the movie.

The tie-in to THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY was next, and from then on, I charged at any paperback spinning rack, looking for Millard’s work. There was a tie-in to FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, written by Frank Chandler, which was another pen-name used by British author Terry Harknett, who created the EDGE series, as George Gilman. It took me a while, but I had to have that one, too.

While stealing a look at his dad’s men’s magazines, a friend of mine stumbled on a Millard gem from the 1950’s called HOUSE OF EVIL that had to be one of the first graphic-novels ever published. It was digest-sized, written by J.M. and illustrated in that great EC-comics style, with missile-breasted girls hiding axes behind their backs, as they kissed their lovers

All these years later, and I still didn’t know that much about him, except that he’d come from the pulps, and ground through 100’s of stories, in all genres. I saw his name on the credits, as novel source, of a pretty lousy British science-fiction flick, THEY CAME FROM BEYOND SPACE, directed by Freddie Francis. I love Francis, who made some cool Hammer horrors, and was the brilliant, Oscar-winning cinematographer behind GLORY, but this was a true turkey. Still, I wanted to read Millard’s original novel. I did, and as I figured, it was better than the film, with a great, direct style to the prose that came from the years of pulp training. Millard wrote it hard and clean, so any reader could embrace his wild story.

Millard was a journeyman, taking on projects, but even the worst of them had an energy that leapt off the page to me, but even though I am true horror geek, nothing impressed me more than his westerns. It took a few more years before I found the true goldmine: The Man with No Name series.

I don’t know why the Woolworth’s near my parents' home, or the local pharmacy didn’t carry the series from Award Books, published in the early ‘70’s. It was when I spied the brother of a friend reading THE DEVIL’S DOLLAR SIGN that my new quest began. It didn’t end until two years ago. Thirty years of marriage, career, and life in general, derailed the mission, but when something popped up, I grabbed it, and began to discover Joe Millard westerns again.

A COFFIN FULL OF DOLLARS, BLOOD FOR A DIRTY DOLLAR, THE MILLION DOLLAR BLOODHUNT and DOLLAR SIGN were the four, that made-up a cohesive whole, expanding on the themes of greed and corruption in the original films, with Millard bringing the action right off the page, as he always did. It wasn’t LORD OF THE RINGS, but it was more impressive to me, because Millard’s writing style was relatable, readable.

Brian Fox, who had written the tie-in to THE WILD BUNCH, wrote A DOLLAR TO DIE FOR, the other book in the series. A solid job, but it wasn’t Millard. To this day, I don’t know what spoke to me about his writing, except that I enjoyed it. It could be that simple. I read Millard’s tie-in to THE HUNTING PARTY, and thought he’d actually ironed out some script problems in that notorious “Splatter western,” while he captured Burt Kennedy’s sense of humor when he tackled THE GOOD GUYS AND THE BAD GUYS.

In the hotel bar, I quizzed Jim Frenkel about Millard, and was sorry to hear that he’d died, but really wanted some help to get to the core of his writing secret, and what made it work for him, and his readers. Jim said, “Joe was one of the most dependable writers working.”

Dependable. Joe Millard gave people their money’s worth with his paperbacks. In a time when I’ve been disappointed by more than my fair share of expensive books and their creators, that sounds like a damn good thing.

As I started to work a bit in the world of fiction, first in short stories, and more recently kicking off a new novel series for Pinnacle, which was an enormous climb for an old screenwriter like me, I turned to Joe Millard. I discovered his work in comics, writing for DALE EVANS, and other golden-age western titles,

Re-reading those dog-eared paperbacks helped me with the task at hand. Sometimes I’d escape into the feelings I had, pursuing a movie tie-in on a hot August Sunday, and other times I looked at the writing, and tried to be as “dependable” as he was.

If you check the back of your shelves, you’ll probably find Joe lurking in there somewhere. If not, go on your own Blood Hunt to the used bookstores or Ebay, for a little dog-eared entertainment. I've included some of Joe Millard’s westerns above (and I may have missed a few!) As a side note, I picked up the memoir A QUIET JOURNEY by Joe Millard. It’s a very fine book, from a fine writer, but not the Joe of our spinning bookracks.


Television tie-ins: HEC RAMSEY: HUNTED.


To see all of C.Courtney Joyner's work, visit his AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE here:


  1. Great post, Courtney. I've read a number of Millard's novels and I agree--page after page of rich writing. I may have to rummage in the stacks again.

  2. Thanks so much, Matt! Joe Millard was indeed a talent, who I think rates a little discovery, that he never really had when he was grinding out the paperbacks. The Brian Fox who wrote THE WILD BUNCH, had better fortune. That's another pen-name of Terry Harknet (aka George G. Gilman), of EDGE, BLADE and THE UNDERTAKER fame.

  3. Those Man With No Name books were the first western series I collected, great entertainment.

    BTW Brian Fox was a pseudonym for W. Todhunter Ballard, and he too wrote a fair few movie tie-ins and the six Alias Smith and Jones books.

  4. Steve, thank you so much for the info on Todhunter Ballard! My website info re: Brian Fox, certainly had me going down the wrong road. So many of these guys wrote under so many names - and some of them "house names," - that it's like getting the Ranger to take off his mask when you find out who's really behind the pen-name. Thanks again for clearing up the mystery.

  5. Excellent post, Court! I am a newcomer to the world of "tie-ins" so this was very informative and something I had no idea about. Now, of course, I have a "whole new world" of reading I must explore, thanks to this post of yours. So glad to have you blogging with us now! And sorry I'm late getting the word out today--we were up into the night last night with the storms and are due for more of the same here in a bit. Great post!

  6. FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE was the first Millard novel I read as well, and I remember quite clearly buying it off the spinner rack at Lester's Pharmacy. Read it in an afternoon and thoroughly enjoyed it. Like most guys who came from the pulps, Millard knew how to tell a story. He wrote a science-fiction novel I haven't read, but it has a great title: THE GODS HATE KANSAS.

  7. Great post. I have several Millard books but haven't read them. Now I'll give them a try.

    Well, I take that back. I've read MANSION (not House) OF EVIL, which isn't digest size. It's a Gold Medal paperback. Hard to find copies these days. Here's a blog post I did about it:

  8. I, too, read a bunch of Millard's books as a good. Mostly the spaghett tie-ins, because I just couldn't get enough of the spaghettis. Usually when I read tie-in novels after watching the show, like Star Trek, or some movie, I was sorely disappointed, because most didn't live up to the movie or show. James Blish's ST is an example of that. But Millard's books were even better!!

    I'm gonna have to read some more.

    Mean Pete

  9. P.S. Where did he live and how old was he when he died?

    And that "good" in my first sentence above should be "kid." (Sadly, I was not a "good" kid!)


  10. Wow - thanks everyone for the great response - and also the new info! Jim, THE GODS HATE KANSAS was the novel basis for THEY CAME FROM BEYOND SPACE;
    Bill, a major tip of the hat for the post about MANSION OF EVIL; I held that thing in my hands once, and had to read it in my friend's room, because he wouldn't let it out of his sight! Good thing, as you know, that's a toughie to find. I think Joe M. would be pleased to know he's become so collectable.
    Peter, the date I have from J.M.'s death is Feb 18th, 1989, and still living in the midwest. I wish his biography wasn't so elusive.
    What has been great about these posts, is to see that these books had some impact, way beyond what J.M. or the publishers imagined - which is terrific.
    And Cheryl, thanks so much for all your great help with this post, and our thoughts are with you so completely at this time.

  11. He wasn't,t the same joe Millard who taught English in Iowa, was he? And wrote the memoir about growing up there in the 30s? I would have a hard time believing that.

  12. What a great post. But that's to be expected from Courtney. Thanks, friend, for all the extra stuff I knew nothing about.

  13. Great piece, Court! A lost art, the movie tie-in.

  14. Pete, and anyone else who is interested, here's what it says in 20th Century Western Writers:

    MILLARD, Joseph (John) - writes as Joe Millard. Born Canby, Minnesota, 14th Jan. 1908. He worked mainly in advertising and edited a couple of magazines. From 1936 he was a freelance writer.

    There is more (where he went to school, jobs, marriage etc.)

  15. Joe Millard's son was a helicopter air traffic reporter in Miami sometime in the 1990s. I saw an article in a Miami paper and ran it in my Westerns...All'Italiana! fanzine at the time.

  16. Hey Court,
    Thanks so much. We're hoping the worst of it is moving out with this afteroon's last gasp. Great post! I really enjoyed it.

  17. You guys would have made my father's day with your kind words for his work. His dad homesteaded land in the Dakota Territory, was the first sheriff in Deuel County, SD in the 1880's and moved his family and ranch across the border to Canby, Mn where Dad (Joseph John Millard) was born in 1908. Dad worked on his father's ranch, helped out with the county and state fairs which his father was instrumental in booking and running. And one of his first jobs was as 'advance man' for some barnstorming flyers, who'd fly him into their next stop to make all the arrangements and publicity for their shows. He wrote for the pulps first, then comics, and as they faded under public scrutiny, magazines and books at the end.
    Mike Millard
    Ft. Lauderdale

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  19. Actually, he does make it. I read A DOLLAR TO DIE FOR. Some solid writing. I've written a full review on it. My verdict is "Not good, not bad (And stop calling Tuco ugly!)"

  20. I've read in "Homestead to Sarasotaur - The book lover's guide to Florida" (page 315) that Millard wrote "The corpse maker" under the name David Wilson. This is a book about the TV detective McCloud. A haven't found this information at any other place. If this is correct I suppose that he also has written three other books about McCloud. It would be interestering to hear if anyone else know anything about this.


    My spoiler-free review.