Tuesday, September 24, 2019


Post by Doris McCraw
writing as Angela Raines

Photo property of the author

I have been watching the PBS documentary by Ken Burns, "Country Music" when time and schedule allow. As a student of film, writing, and history, I am enthralled by the way stories of the stars and growth of the industry are interwoven with each other.

It also brought to mind how both fiction and nonfiction writers tell the story of history.

When we write fiction, myself included, I am thrilled when those pieces of history about an area in my stories that can be seamlessly added, thus fusing elements of authenticity to the story. I also enjoy reading stories that use elements of the past. I become so excited reading the authors who use history's elements, and I am aware of them, is almost like the story becomes even more real for me.

When growing up most of my history classes were names, dates. and places. The stories of those names, the people behind those names, were left out. That ended up making history very boring, although I still found it fascinating, it seemed to be lacking. As a student during the Vietnam era, a contentious time in our country, I had a world history/civics teacher who had colored pictures of the soldiers both living and dead and the surrounding countryside plastered upon the walls. Whatever his thoughts about the right or the wrong of that conflict, I appreciated his evenness in simply telling the story of the men and women on, of the background that led to that conflict, and both sides of the argument that was occurring in our country. It was through him that I fell in love with the stories of the people who made history.

Now, when I tell the stories both fiction and nonfiction I remember his evenness, his ability to not draw conclusions and allow his students to draw their own. I try for that same evenness when I tell the stories of the people I research. Sometimes it's difficult to keep my personal and modern thoughts from the words I write. At the same time, I try to weave a story that will imbue the excitement I have for the subject to the people who are reading it.

Photo property of the author
This is also true of fiction writing. Although I am relatively new to having both my fiction and nonfiction published, I am always reminded of the power of story to engage the hearts and minds of people. In that respect, I have a lot to learn from the way Ken Burns and his production company tell the stories of the subjects he is presenting. He weaves history's story into a tapestry that is beautiful and constantly challenging the watcher to find the truth they need to know.

Doris Gardner-McCraw -
Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women's History
For a list of Angela Raines Books: Here 

Friday, September 13, 2019

Top 10 Western Websites, Blogs and Newsletters 2019

Did you know that our own Western Fictioneers blog is #1 in the Top 20 Western Fiction Blogs, Websites and Newsletters to Follow in 2019?

I was surfing the net, as a writer will do, looking for new and interesting information on our favorite topic, and I came across this article.

This gave me an idea for a useful blog post of my own, so I present my …
Top 10 Old West Blogs, Websites and Newsletters (in no particular order):

A good bit of information about Native Americans and cowboys, including a list of good museums you can visit. I’m a little disappointed that they’ve let their YouTube video channel lapse, but you can browse the written material on the site for inspiration.

A UK-based website whose author enjoys reviewing Western fiction. They review around three books a month, and it’s a good place to get a taste of what’s new in Western fiction.

A huge website with sections about American History, Destinations, and even Ghost Stories. This is often my first stop when I’m researching the Old West.

With sections like Inside History, True Westerners and Heritage Travel, almost anyone can find something of interest on this website. They post about 14 times a week.

Our own James Reasoner gives us information about books, movies, and other matters of Western-related interest. 

“We use print, internet, radio and television to give you the experience of the authentic Old West.” This is a rather eccentric website that reminds me of a rummage in your Grandma’s attic. For $30 (USA) or $50 (other countries), you receive 12 twenty-page newspapers composed of actual articles from the 1800’s. You can also purchase an e-subscription for $20 a year, listen to radio shows on CD, and even order some Arbuckles Ariosa coffee. 

This is a blog dedicated to Western movies and books from the 1950’s. The author is writing a book with the same title, endeavoring to bring to light 50 of the less-well-known movies of the period. Interesting reading.

“True stories, tall tales, and memorabilia of the Old West.”

“The blog that brings you the latest news about Western movies, TV, radio, and print.” 

These folks have another huge website, but it covers all historical fiction, from the prehistoric era to the 20thCentury. They have a good section with information about Western fiction.

If I’ve left out your favorite website or blog, please leave me a comment with a link so we can enjoy yours, too!

J.E.S. Hays

Monday, September 9, 2019

Have Gun – Will Travel — Television Debut 1957 by Kaye Spencer #classicwesterns #classictelevision #westernfictioneers

Have Gun – Will Travel – September 14, 1957

During my growing-up years, I watched reruns or as-they-aired episodes of what are now classic television westerns: Bonanza, Gunsmoke, Lone Ranger, The Big Valley, High Chaparral, Rawhide, Laredo, The Virginian, Sugarfoot, Cheyenne, Maverick, Wagon Trail, Tales of Wells Fargo, Branded, Wyatt Earp, Johnny Yuma, Laramie, Broken Arrow, Guns of Will Sonnet, Zorro, Lancer, Cimarron Strip,Yancy Derringer... The list goes on and, no doubt, you have your favorites, too.

It just so happens that one of my favorite classic western television shows is celebrating its premiere date this week.
The adventures of a gentlemanly gunfighter for hire.

Sixty two years ago, the television-watching population enjoyed the premiere of the thirty-minute, Saturday night western show Have Gun - Will Travel starring Richard Boone as the somewhat mysterious soldier of fortune, but always a gentleman, Paladin. The premise of the show was Paladin worked as a gunfighter-for-hire who traveled the west c. 1875 offering his special kind of problem-solving skills. He was a high-dollar gunman—$1000 per job wasn’t unusual—but he also provided his services for free to those with a worthy cause who couldn’t afford him otherwise. However, violence by gun-play wasn’t his only weapon. He was a pugilist and dueling champion of some renown in his former life.

General Trivia

  • The word ‘paladin’ derives from the knights in Charlemagne’s Court, who were champions of worthy causes.
  • Paladin was a Union cavalry officer and graduate of West Point.
  • His residence is the luxury Carlton Hotel in San Francisco.
  • When not riding about the countryside doing good deeds—dressed as the original “Man in Black”—he lives the life of a cultured businessman who wears custom-made suits, consumes fine wine, plays the piano, and attends the opera. He also has a weakness for women.
  • With just a sip, he can determine a particular bourbon’s distillery.
  • Paladin is an expert chess and poker player, an accomplished swordsman, and possesses skill in Chinese martial arts having studied under a Kung Fu master.
  • His level of education is such that he quotes classical literature, philosophy, case law, and he speaks several languages.
  • Paladin’s weapons: 1) custom-made, single action .45 Colt (Army cavalry model) that he carries in a black leather holster adorned with a platinum chess knight symbol, 2) lever action Marlin rifle, and 3) concealed derringer.
  • He has a signature calling card/business card. In Paladin’s words:  “It's a chess piece, the most versatile on the board. It can move in eight different directions, over obstacles, and it's always unexpected.”

  • The show’s four note opening motif was done purposely to create a musical memory akin to other popular television shows at the time: Highway Patrol, Dragnet, Twilight Zone, and Perry Mason.

  • The show closes with the song, “The Ballad of Paladin”, which was written by Johnny Western, Richard Boone, and Sam Rolfe. Johnny Western sings the ballad.

  • The show ran from 9/14/1957 to 4/20/1963 with 225 episodes.
  • A radio version began in 1958 with actor John Dehner portraying Paladin.

From 1974 to 1991, a trademark lawsuit against the concept of the show moved in and out of court culminating with a substantial settlement. You can read the details here: HGWT Website

Hollywood Trivia

Notable Episode Writers:

  • Gene Roddenberry (Star Trek)
  • Bruce Geller (Mission Impossible)
  • Harry Julian Fink (Dirty Harry)
  • Sam Peckinpah (directed a plethora of western movies)
Unusual for the era, many episodes were filmed outdoors and not on the Old West film lots – Bishop and Lone Pine, California – Paladin Estates between Bend and Sisters, Oregon – the Abbott Ranch near Prineville, Oregon.

Notable Guest Stars:

  • Angie Dickinson
  • Ben Johnson
  • Buddy Ebsen
  • Charles Bronson
  • Dan Blocker
  • DeForest Kelley
  • Denver Pyle
  • Dyan Cannon
  • George Kennedy
  • Jack Elam
  • Jack Lord
  • James Coburn
  • Johnny Crawford
  • June Lockhart
  • Ken Curtis
  • Lee Van Cleef
  • Lon Chaney, Jr.
  • Pernell Roberts
  • Robert Blake
  • Suzanne Pleshette
  • Vincent Price
  • Werner Klemperer

Who was Paladin?

Paladin was a West Point graduate, a Civil War cavalry officer, and his base of operations was the Hotel Carlton in San Francisco, California. While it's been too many years since I've watched these episodes, I've read that in the episode entitled "Fandango", Paladin encounters a sheriff who knew him from their Civil War days. The sheriff calls Paladin 'Bobby' and goes on to say, "It's been a long time since Bull Run." Maybe Paladin's real first name was Robert.

Generally, though, the consensus is his real name is never revealed. However, Paladin’s backstory is shown in flashback sequence in the first episode of the last (6th) season, “Genesis”, which aired September 15, 1962. This episode explains how Paladin came by his pseudonym and his subsequent mission to champion the causes of the less fortunate. It isn't his shining moment. Through his actions, another man dies, and Paladin takes on the dead man's identity and mission as a type of penitence to atone for his own actions.

 Read the episode details at the HGWT Website link above.

Until next time,
Kaye Spencer
Writing through history one romance upon a time

Stay in contact with Kay via these venues:

Amazon Author Page | BookBub | Blog | Twitter | Pinterest


Tagline - IMDb website: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0050025/

Have Gun, Will Travel website: http://www.hgwt.com/

Have Gun, Will Travel Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Have_Gun_%E2%80%93_Will_Travel

Image: Richard Boone - By CBS Television (eBay item photo front photo back) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Image: Paladin - By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33548427

Image: Calling Card - By CBS Publicity; http://www.thrillingdetective.com/paladin.html, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15170596

Image: John Dehner - http://blogs.pjstar.com/mindingbiz/2013/12/23/before-he-was-mr-wilson-he-was-mr-radio-10-tv-stars-who-made-it-big-on-radio/