Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Is It True, Mr. Adams? (Andy Adams)

Post by Doris McCraw
writing as Angela Raines

Many people talk about Andy Adams and his writings. Many speak in fond terms about his book, "The Log of a Cowboy". Manly Dayton Ormes (yes, that's his real name) in his book, "The Book of Colorado Springs" wrote the following about Adams:

            Andy Adams, another of our own, came to Colorado during the Cripple Creek gold excitement, after his Texas cowboy life. He took up mining and story writing; he lost a fortune in the first venture but retrieved at least part of it in the second; after he wrote "The Log of a Cowboy", his work was sought far and wide. His insight into cattle life "was not obtained from a Pullman car window, but close to the soil, and from the hurricane deck of a Texas horse." These are his words. He tells of seeing one night after his money was gone, Charles H. Hoyt's "A Texas Steer." The opera house was crowded with a delighted audience. With his 20 years in the West, 12 of them in the saddle, he told Henry Russell Wray, who was a great friend of his, that he felt he could contribute something of the real romance of the cattle trail which should please the public even more than the sensationalism of "A Texas Steer." So being encouraged by his friend, he tried his hand and one. He has since lived here, an interesting figure connecting present and past.

Andy Adams
photo from Wikipedia

Yes, the iconic book, "Log of a Cowboy", if not written, was probably finished in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and published in 1903. The play of Hoyt's he spoke of played in both Pueblo and Leadville around 1900. In 1903 he was rooming in the St. James Hotel. He later moved to The Albany Hotel, which was built in 1902, where he remained until his death in 1935.

Photo Property of the Author

The local papers would note when Mr. Adams was writing another book. He was a celebrity in what was then a modest-sized town. Yet, almost all speak of Adams with great affection. Of Scotch/Irish heritage, Adams was six foot tall and was said to have a kindly smile and modest manner. The biographical/obituary articles after his death had this to say:

             He did not give the impression that he was one of the world's greatest literary figures either. With his rather wide-brimmed Stetson, his black string tie, and slightly oversized caller, he seemed more the big ranch owner or foreman than one who had written the finest novel of the cowboy and the trail that has ever been written. Like his friend Rhodes, he did not regard the writing of a good book as constituting any greater distinction than the writing of a good horse or the capable driving of a trail herd.
            And he rarely "talked literature." He alluded once in a while to the novels by Rhodes and Hough, as he mentioned now and then the paintings by Russell and Charles Craig, because he admired them and saw in them true portrayals of the West and the cattle range as he knew them. But literature as a thing separate from reality met little if anything to him.
            "I don't know anything about fancy writing," he said once, "any more than I know about this fancy writing you see in the pictures. When I sit down and write I go about it the best I can, tell what I have to say and quit. That's the way I did when I wrote a horse. I leave the fancy stuff to the fancy fellows."
            Which is one of the reasons why Andy Adams was a great — a great writer and a great cowman.

Photo of Adams from The Colorado Springs Gazette
around 1926

In 1923 Adams received a letter from a Mr. B. Youngblood from the Texas Agricultural  Experiment Station in College Station, TX. requesting some biographical information as they were using his books to teach about Texas ranch life. Adams reply read:

Adams had joined the Masons after moving to Colorado. He is buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Colorado Springs.  He died on September 26, 1925, of a heart attack, the following was posted in the biography/obituary that appeared in the paper:

            Andy Adams, the last of the great cowmen who abandoned the cattle drives and roundups to travel the trails of Western literature and art, has gone to join the other members of that noble brand — Emerson Hough, Charlie Russell, an old Gene Rhodes. Andy headed down the last trail early yesterday morning.
            "Just get an early start, well before sunup, as any good cowboy out to do," he himself would probably have said that had he known that the bars were down for the last, lone trek.
            Though his death was unexpected by his friends, he himself seemed to of had a premonition that the end was near. Only a few days ago, when informed in the course of one of those short walks he was in the habit of taking daily, that his health appeared to be improving, he smiled and asked, "Do you really think so?" Then he shook his head. "The old pump's worn out," he said. "I'll have to junk it one of these days."
            But he didn't look as if the "old pump" was worn out. Large of body, full of determination to keep going, he did not give the impression of a man who stood at the brink of the grave.

Thus ended the days of Andy Adams, a writer many know, and an unknown to so many others. Yet, like all writers, his words live on in the stories he told. 

Photo property of the Author

For those who might be looking for an ebook copy of "Log of a Cowboy". There are also newer versions and paperbacks.

Doris Gardner-McCraw -
Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women's History
Angela Raines - author: Telling Stories Where Love & History Meet

(c) Doris McCraw  All Rights Reserved.

Monday, July 26, 2021

After The Cattle Drives


Cattle Drive by Charles M. Russell

Cattle drives are iconic to the old west, and a staple of both Western literature and film. Books such as We Pointed Them North, by E. C. (Teddy Blue) Abbott, as told to Helena Huntington Smith, 1939; and The Trail Drivers of Texas, compiled and edited by J. Marvin Hunter, 1925, are a wealth of first-hand accounts of life on the cattle drives. Some of our best Western entertainment also centered around cowboys pushing cattle north along the cattle trails; movies such as Lonesome Dove, Red River, and The Cowboys come to mind.

But what happened after the cattle drives? What happened after the cattle went to the slaughterhouses and meat-packers in Chicago, Omaha, and Kansas City? To find out what happened after the cowboys pushed the last of the longhorns into the holding pens in Dodge City or Abilene, we need to look at another great piece of literature, and an early example of investigative journalism – The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair.

The Jungle is a fictitious account of a Lithuanian immigrant who went to work in Chicago’s meatpacking industry. It first appeared in serialized form in the Socialist magazine Appeal to Reason in 1905 and was afterward collected into a book and published in 1906. It was an immediate and an international best-seller, eventually being published in dozens of languages and selling millions of copies. Probably not since Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin has a work of fiction had such a profound impact on a nation.  Upton Sinclair’s work brought about legislation that vastly improved food safety and consumer confidence in America’s food supply and the food industry which feeds not only our own people but millions of people around the world.

At the turn of the twentieth century, the meatpacking industry in the United States was controlled by four major companies known as the “Big Four:” Amour, Swift, Morris, and National Packing. Chicago was one of the largest meatpacking centers in the country, with feedlots, stockyards, slaughterhouses, and packing plants all clustered together in an area known as Packingtown, on the south side of the city on former swampland.

In 1904, the union representing the meatpackers in Chicago went on strike to protest the working conditions and poor pay being received by the mostly immigrant workers who worked in Packingtown. The Big Four broke the strike by bringing in strike-breakers who kept the plants in operation.

Upton Sinclair, who was working as a writer for Appeal to Reason was sent to Chicago to do a story on the strike and its impact on the workers. He spent seven weeks investigating the meatpacking plants and interviewing workers. He witnessed first-hand the grossly unsanitary and unsafe conditions that the workers had to endure. He reported on the horrendous suffering of the workers, who were paid only pennies per hour and worked ten-hour days. He also wrote about the sick and diseased animals that were slaughtered and turned into food; and about the unsanitary practices that took place. In one section of The Jungle, he writes:

“The meat would be shoveled into carts, and the man who did the shoveling would not trouble to lift out a rat even when he saw one—there were things that went into the sausage in comparison with which a poisoned rat was a tidbit. There was no place for the men to wash their hands before they ate their dinner, and so they made a practice of washing them in the water that was to be ladled into the sausage. There were the butt-ends of smoked meat, and the scraps of corned beef, and all the odds and ends of the waste of the plants, that would be dumped into old barrels in the cellar and left there. Under the system of rigid economy which the packers enforced, there were some jobs that it only paid to do once in a long time, and among these was the cleaning out of the waste barrels. Every spring they did it, and in the barrels would be dirt and rust and old nails and stale water—and cartload after cartload of it would be taken up and dumped into the hoppers with fresh meat, and sent out to the public’s breakfast.” 

Chicago Meatpackers circa 1900

Another section of the book tells about how cattle in the stockyards were being fed “whiskey-malt” which was a waste-product of the breweries. This caused the cattle to become covered in boils and abscesses which would burst open when a worker cut into them with his knife, spreading foul-smelling puss all over the workers and the carcasses. There were no facilities provided for the workers to wash up, so people and carcasses alike would become contaminated.

Within a month of the book’s publication, the White House was receiving one hundred letters a day, demanding that the government do something to clean up the meat industry. After inviting Sinclair to the White House to discuss his book, President Roosevelt appointed a special commission to investigate Chicago’s slaughterhouses.

In May of 1906, the commission issued its report which confirmed the horrible conditions that Sinclair had written about, and criticized the existing meat inspection laws that only required inspection of animals up to the time of slaughter. Many of these inspectors took bribes to look the other way, and if the inspector was honest, the meatpackers would wait until after hours, when the inspectors were not present, to slaughter the sick and dead cattle. In a letter to Congress, President Roosevelt urged that a law was needed that would, “…enable the inspectors of the [Federal] Government to inspect and supervise from the hoof to the can the preparation of the meat food product.”

Congress went to work, and the following month, Roosevelt signed into law two pieces of legislation that would guide food inspection to this present day: the Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act.

The irony connected with The Jungle, and the thing that vexed Upton Sinclair at first, was that he had written it to bring to light the horrible condition of the workers at the meatpacking plants. His goal was to effect social change that would lead to higher pay, shorter hours, and a safer working environment. But what outraged the nation so much were the unsanitary conditions and the mislabeling of food, and not the plight of the workers. Sinclair quipped in frustration, “I aimed at the public’s heart, and by accident, I hit it in the stomach.”

Upton Sinclair died in 1968 at the age of 90, one year after attending a White House ceremony to witness President Lyndon Johnson sign into law the Wholesome Meat Act, which amended the Meat Inspection Act of 1906. The new legislation required states to have inspection programs “equal to” that of the federal government. He authored close to one hundred books and won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1943

About the Author

Mike is an award-winning Western author currently living in a 600 square foot cabin in the mountains of Western Montana. He has been married to his redheaded sweetheart, Tami, since 1989. He is a Western Fictioneers Peacemaker Award Finalist three years in a row and his short stories have been published in numerous anthologies and are available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other online retailers as well as brick and mortar bookstores. His first Western novel, The Sons of Philo Gaines, was released in November of 2020. It is available everywhere books are sold. Mike is a member of Western Writers of America and Western Fictioneers. You can find him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/MichaelRRittAuthor, or at his website https://michaelrritt.com.


Wednesday, July 21, 2021



Dr Keith Souter aka Clay More

As I continue my research into medical history the medical textbooks that were used by the military of both sides in the Civil War continue to be a fascinating resource. The these  snippets from JJ Chisolm's Manual of Military Surgery for the surgeons in the Confederate States army

He does not just talk about surgery, but begins the book in the very first chapter by talking about susceptibility to disease. Indeed, the very first sentence:

"As the strength of an army depends more upon the health and physical development of the soldier than its mere numbers, the hygiene of camps, and the susceptibility of soldiers to disease, has long been a worthy study for military leaders."

After extensively going through all of the equipment and clothing needed for a soldier he then says:

'In the above list we have purposely omitted shaving apparatus, as every soldier in the field should allow his beard to grow. It protects his throat, and often prevents lung diseases, catarrhal affections, etc. A heavy moustache is known to protect the wearer, to a certain extent, from malarial influences, acting as a sieve to the lungs. It also purified from dust the atmosphere inhaled during marches, and thereby prevents many troublesome diseases. Cleanliness dictates that the hair be cut close to the head, and, although the beard be allowed to grow, it should be kept within bounds.'

Malaria - bad air?

Hippocrates, the father of Medicine, writing in the sixth century BC described the condition  beautifully. He actually differentiated the different types of fever associated with it. He thought that it was caused by bad air, which thought persisted until the 19th century in the name 'mal' 'aria', literally meaning 'bad air.'

You can see why JJ Chisolm thought that the heavy moustache might be so beneficial in filtering out this bad air. 

The actual  cause

Malaria is still the most common and serious of all the tropical infectious diseases. It is still endemic in large areas of the Pacific, Southern Asia, Central and Southern America and Africa. If it is not treated promptly it is frequently fatal.


Malaria is caused by protozoal parasites of the Plasmodium group. They are spread by a single bite of an infected Anopheles mosquito. There are many different Plasmodium parasites, but only five of these cause the disease in humans.


Three of these, Plasmodium vivax, Plasmodium ovale and Plasmodium malaria cause a relatively benign illness with tertian (alternate day) fevers, or occasionally quartan (every third day) fever. Plasmodium falciparum causes a more serious  type of malaria, which used to be called 'malignant malaria' or 'blackwater fever.' In this the kidneys are affected and broken down blood appears in the urine to make it appear extremely dark, like black water. This is called haemoglobinuria.


The different types of fever, which Hippocrates described, relate to the life cycle of the malarial parasites in the blood. The condition causes the variable fevers mentioned above, chills, headaches, abdominal pains, muscles pains, vomiting and diarrhoea and general prostration. The spleen can become extremely enlarged, as outlined in Fevers and Pest Houses.


A difficult diagnosis

In the 19th century before the malarial parasite was discovered it was found difficult to differentiate it from typhoid fever, hence it was often called typho-malarial fever. I can attest to the difficulty of distinguishing them on purely clinical grounds, having worked in an infectious disease hospital in India back in the seventies. Fortunately, we now have blood tests, which will distinguish them, as the parasites will be found in the blood.

According to Medicine of the Civil War by Paul E Steiner, publish  by the National Library of Medicine, there were almost 3 million enlistments to the Union Army and between 1.3 - 1.4 million to the Confederacy.


The total deaths in battle amounted to 204,070, compared to 388,586 deaths from disease. Effectively, diseases caused almost twice as many deaths as did  actual battle.


Figures for admissions to hospital for the Union:












Typho-malarial fever



Acute diarrhoea



Chronic dysentery













These sickness figures show that some conditions had an alarmingly high mortality rate. The mortality rate for typhoid was over 35 per cent of cases. Typhus was less common, but had a mortality rate of 34 per cent. Typho-malarial fever, a common diagnosis, which showed the lack of understanding about the conditions of typhoid and of malaria (which are separate conditions) and the non-specificity of diagnosis, had a mortality rate of 8 per cent. Other conditions like acute diarrhoea caused huge numbers of cases, throwing a terrific drain on resources and taking so many men off the field of battle, without having a high mortality rate. 

Drug treatment of malaria

Quinine was used to treat malaria since the 17th century. The bark of the cinchona tree (quina quina) was called Jesuit's bark, Cardinal's bark or Sacred bark. It was discovered by a Jesuit priest in South America in 1630, although their are legends about it being used by the local native population before then. 


The introduction of quinine to Europe involves the Spanish Countess of Chinon, who contracted malaria in Peru.  She was given a draught concocted from the bark of a tree and recovered.  When she returned to Spain she introduced quinine to Europe in 1638. It was known as the Countess's powder. In 1742 the botanist Carl Linnaeus called the tree Cinchona in her honour. 


The Union Naval Blockade

Supplies of quinine were critical during the Civil War. The Union Naval blockade cut off supplies to the Confederacy, who were forced to find alternatives. 

Dr John Chisolm, the inventor of the Chisolm inhaler and the author of The Manual of Military Surgery was tasked with doing this, which he set about quite ingeniously. He  established a laboratory in Columbia, where he developed medicines that were also in  scarce supply because of the Union Naval blockade. The drugs were made from indigenous plants


Members of the public were asked to help the war effort and grow plants, which were sent to Chisolm. There he had in his laboratory 'a series of copper kettles for evaporating.' He recommended  staffing other laboratories with chemists from Europe, skilled in extracting alkaloids from plants. In particular, he gave the example of finding a substitute for  quinine, which was in extremely short supply and which was needed to treat malaria. The normal source of quinine was the  cinchona trees, which do not grow in  the south.  A tincture could be made of willow, dogwood and poplar bark as a substitute.

Science gives the answer - or part of it!

Although there was a  treatment for malaria in the form of quinine, or perhaps the tinctures that JJ Chisolm came up with, yet the cause was still not known.  It would come three decades later.

Sir Ronald Ross (1857-1932) was a British doctor working in India. In 1895 he discovered the Plasmodium parasite in the stomach of the Anopheles mosquito. He conducted research over two years and managed to cultivate mosquitoes from eggs,  effectively elucidating the life cycle of the mosquito. He then had a volunteer patient who already had malaria and managed to get them to bite him. When they did they sucked up blood into their stomachs. He examined them over the following days and was able to see how the parasites developed in their stomach. He had found that the mosquito was an important link in the chain.


 Notebook belonging to Ronald Ross, describing the parasites from the mosquito stomachs he had seen down the microscope


Ross knew that he was on the verge of a discovery that could save countless lives. By attacking the life cycle of the mosquito which develops in stagnant water, the sort of surroundings that hippocrates had thought produced 'mal' 'aria'.


In 1902 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for medicine.

Malarial campaigns targeted the anopheline mosquito. Unfortunately, it is still a major cause of death and morbidity in many parts of the world. 



SHANE! COME BACK! by Cheryl Pierson

Jack Schaefer’s book, Shane, has been classified in many sub-genres, but to me, it will always remain my favorite western romance.

Romance? Shane?

This story cannot have a truly happy-ever-after ending for all the principal characters, so it normally wouldn’t make it to my “Top Ten” list for that very reason. But the story itself is so compelling, so riveting, that there is no choice once you’ve read page one—you are going to finish it. And it’s not just a story about a very odd love triangle, but also about Shane discovering that he is worthy, and a good person, despite what he’s done in his past.

Shane is the perfect hero, or anti-hero;—a drifter, a loner, and no one knows why. He plans to keep it that way. If only his pesky conscience didn’t get in the way, he might have stopped briefly at the Starrett’s homestead, then moved on.

But from the beginning of the book, we know there is something different about Shane. The story is told through the eyes of Bob Starrett, the young son of Joe and Marion. Bob is about ten years old, and his account of the people and action that takes place are colored with the wonderment and naivete of a child who will be well on his way to becoming a young man before the story is over.

The book starts with tension, as Bob is watching the stranger, Shane, ride in. Shane comes to a fork in the road. One way leads down toward Luke Fletcher’s, the cattle baron who is trying to force the homesteaders out of the valley. The other branch of the fork leads toward the Starretts, the homesteaders who will ultimately force Fletcher’s hand. Shane chooses that path, toward the Starretts, and the die is cast.

He would have looked frail alongside father’s square, solid bulk. But even I could read the endurance in the lines of that dark figure and the quiet power in his effortless, unthinking adjustment to every movement of the tired horse.

He was clean-shaven and his face was lean and hard and burned from high forehead to firm, tapering chin. His eyes seemed hooded in the shadow of the hat’s brim. He came closer and I could see that this was because the brows were drawn into a frown of fixed and habitual alertness. Beneath them the eyes were endlessly searching from side to side and forward, checking off every item in view, missing nothing. As I noticed this, a sudden chill, and I could not have told why, struck through me there in the warm and open sun.

In a nutshell, Shane drifts into the Wyoming valley, and is befriended by the Starretts. Once there, he is quickly made aware of the brewing trouble between the homesteaders and the powerful local cattle baron, Luke Fletcher, who is set on running them all out of the valley. Shane is firmly committed to helping Joe Starrett and the homesteaders who want to stay. Fletcher’s men get into a fistfight with Shane and Joe in the general store, and Fletcher vows his men will kill the next time Joe or Shane come back into town.

Fletcher hires Stark Wilson, a well-known gunhawk, who kills one of the homesteaders that stands up to him. Joe Starrett feels it is his duty, since he convinced the others to stay, to go kill Fletcher and Wilson.

Shane knocks Joe out, knowing that, though Joe’s heart is in the right place, he’s no match for a hired gun like Wilson. There’s only one man who is—Shane himself, and that’s going to set him back on the path he’s so desperately trying to escape.

Shane rides into town and Bob follows him, witnessing the entire battle. Shane faces Wilson down first, and then Fletcher. Shane turns to leave and Bob warns him of another man, who Shane also kills. But Shane doesn’t escape unscathed—Wilson has wounded him in the earlier gunplay.

Shane rides out of town, and though Bob wishes so much that Shane could stay, he understands why he can’t. No. Bob does not utter one of the most famous lines in cinema history—“Shane! Come back!” There’s good reason for this. In the book, Bob’s growth is shown because of what he learns from Shane. To call him back would negate that growth process.

He describes Shane throughout the book, and in many ways, with a child’s intuition, understands innately that Shane is a good man and will do the right thing, which is proven out time and again. So, he also realizes that there is no place for Shane there in the valley, now that the trouble has been handled.

Bob witnesses the conversation between his mother and Shane, as well, where so much is said—and not said. It’s one of the major turning points in the book, though Bob, in his telling of it, doesn’t realize it—but the reader is painfully aware of it. If Shane really is a good man, he will have no recourse but to leave.

This happens as the novel is drawing to a close, when Marian, Bob’s mother, asks Shane if he’s going after Wilson just for her. He has knocked her husband out to keep him from going after the gunman.

Shane hesitated for a long, long moment. “No, Marian.” His gaze seemed to widen and encompass us all, mother and the still figure of father huddled on a chair by the window and somehow the room and the house and the whole place. Then he was looking only at mother and she was all he could see.

“No, Marian. Could I separate you in my mind and afterwards be a man?”

Shane was Jack Schaefer’s debut novel, published in 1949. It was honored in 1985 by the Western Writers of America as the best Western novel ever written—beating out other works such as Owen Wister’s The Virginian, Zane Grey’s Riders of the Purple Sage, and Louis L’Amour’s Hondo.
In 1963, Schaefer wrote Monte Walsh, a book that chronicles the passing of the Old West and the lifestyle of the American cowboy.

Schaefer never deliberately wrote for young adults, but many of his works have become increasingly popular among younger readers. Universal themes such as the transformation and changes of growing up, the life lessons learned, and rites of passage from childhood to becoming a young adult in his writing have been responsible for the upswing in popularity with this age group.

Though I consider Shane a romance novel, it’s a very different and memorable love triangle because of the unshakable honor of the three characters. I love the subtlety that Schaefer is such a master of, and the way he has Bob describing the action, seeing everything, but with the eyes of a child. If you haven’t read Shane, I highly recommend it—at less than 200 pages, it’s a quick, easy read, and unforgettable.

A gun is a tool, Marian; no better or no worse than any other tool: an axe, a shovel or anything. A gun is as good or as bad as the man using it. Remember that. (Shane to Marian)

A man is what he is, Bob, and there’s no breaking the mold. I’ve tried that and I’ve lost. But I reckon it was in the cards from the moment I saw a freckled kid on a rail up the road there and a real man behind him, the kind that could back him for the chance another kid never had. (Shane to Bob)

Thanks for stopping by today! What's your favorite western novel? I know, there are so many good ones out there it's hard to pick just one, isn't it? So...maybe the top five on your favorites list? Let's hear them!

Saturday, July 17, 2021

A Million Words - Then Westerns James Reasoner Interview

If you're like me, the authors who make a living writing are a source of inspiration and in some way a role model for what is possible. Over the course of this continuing author interview series, there have been many such authors. James Reasoner is no exception. It is hoped you will enjoy and learn as much as I have in this fun and inspiring interview.

Author James Reasoner

1. When did you realize you wanted to be a writer? 

That started very early. When I was growing up in the late Fifties/early Sixties, my friends and I played mostly with toy guns. Instead of being content with running around and pretending to shoot each other, I had to come up with a story to explain who we were and why we were doing that. They probably thought I was crazy, but they put up with me. The first time I put pen to paper to write my own stories was in 1964 when I was in the fifth grade.

2. What was the nudge that gave you faith that you could and wanted to be published?

I wrote for my own enjoyment all through junior high and high school, started submitting to magazines, and trying to sell when I was in college but had no success whatsoever. I was just about ready to give up, but right after Livia and I got married, she told me that if it was something I really wanted to do, I should stick with it and work harder at it. Less than six months later, I sold my first story.

Book 1 of 6

3. Do your life experiences influence or hinder your writing?

My late good friend Ed Gorman once described a writer as somebody who sits in a room and types for 30 years. There’s a lot of truth to that, and in my case, it’s going on 45 years now. So maybe my lack of life experiences hinders my writing at times. Now and then, I get to work in something in which I have some direct experience, and that’s always nice. 

4. Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I’m mostly a plotter. I write fairly detailed outlines but try to give myself enough leeway to veer off if I want or need to. In a few cases, I’ve had to be a pantser, when I needed to write a book in a hurry. I’ve started books with only a vague idea of where I was going. They worked out fine, but the experience was a little nerve-wracking.

5. Is there a writing routine you follow or do you write when the muse strikes?

Life seems to be so busy all the time that it’s more a case of I write when I can find the opportunity. I always start by editing and polishing the pages I wrote the last time. On a “normal” day, I write for about three hours in the morning, break for lunch, and then write for three to five more hours in the afternoon. Recently, days like that seem to be rare, though.


6. If you had a choice, which is your favorite to write, short stories, novellas, or full-length novels?

I love books that are 40,000 to 50,000 words. I consider those to be novels, although some people refer to them as novellas. I’d spend the rest of my career writing that length if I could (unless I had some bigger idea that needed more words).

7. Is there a process where you find your next story or does the idea just hit you?

It’s really a mixture of processes. I work a lot in established series, so sometimes what comes next is just part of the natural flow of an overall storyline. Sometimes the editor will come up with a title or concept or both that he likes, and I take that and flesh it out. And then sometimes ideas just come to me, although those are usually for stand-alone books.


8. Do you write in other genres?

I’ve written in just about every genre there is. There must be at least one I haven’t tackled, but I can’t think of it. I started out to be a mystery writer and had written and sold more than a million words of mystery fiction before I wrote my first Western, although I always loved Westerns as a reader.

9.  What advice would you give to those who dream of writing, or what advice would you give your younger self?

Mystery writer Dennis Lynds once told me, “If you work hard enough at it, all your dreams will come true. It’ll just take you ten years longer than you think it should.” As I mentioned above, Livia told me, “If it’s something you really want to do, you’ve got to work at it.” I think that sums up my writing philosophy: patience and hard work. In fact, if I could talk to my younger self, I’d tell myself to work harder and try to take advantage of every opportunity.

10. Are there authors you grew up with or inspired you to take pen to paper?

Oh, my, yes. The list would be almost endless. But some highlights . . . Robert E. Howard, who taught me it was possible to live in a small Texas town, not know any other writers, and still be a success. Mike Avallone, who taught me it was possible for a writer to have a distinctive voice and write books that didn’t sound like anybody else’s. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, who taught me how to plot and write dialogue. Howard again, along with Lester Dent, who taught me how to write action. And a ton of Western, mystery, and science fiction pulp and paperback authors whose work I read and absorbed for many, many years. All that time I spent with my nose stuck in a book, flipping the pages so I could find out what was going to happen, I was actually studying and preparing for my career. I just didn’t know it at the time. (And let’s be honest. I probably would have read the books anyway.) 

For more of James' work, visit his Amazon Author Page

Post (c) Doris McCraw - All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

What’s Your Favorite Western Set in the 20th Century?

Do you have a favorite western movie that was set in the 20th century? For me, there are a lot to choose—I especially like Don Siegel’s The Shootist (set in 1901; released in 1976) and Sergio Leone’s Duck, You Sucker! (set in 1913; released in 1971). But at the top of my list would be The Wild Bunch (also set in 1913; released in 1969). This revisionist western was directed by Sam Peckinpah, starring William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, Ben Johnson, and Warren Oates as aging outlaws being tracked all the way across the Rio Grande by a former friend played by Robert Ryan. The cinematography, acting, and violence all ring true. The film never ages. 

David Cranmer is the editor of the BEAT to a PULP webzine and whose own body of work has appeared in such diverse publications as The Five-Two: Crime Poetry Weekly, Needle: A Magazine of Noir, LitReactor, Macmillan’s Criminal Element, and Chicken Soup for the Soul. Under the pen name Edward A. Grainger he created the Cash Laramie western series. He's a dedicated Whovian who enjoys jazz and backgammon. He can be found in scenic upstate New York where he lives with his wife and daughter.

Thursday, July 8, 2021

On This Day in the Old West: July 9

            I’ve been sticking pretty closely to the theme of the Old West thus far, but it seems fitting that I include a bit of my home state’s history today. On July 9, 1868, Francis Lewis Cardozo became the first Black cabinet member elected in South Carolina.


Clergyman, educator, and politician Cardozo was born in Charleston on January 1, 1836. His father, Isaac, was a Jewish weigher in the city’s customhouse. His mother was a free Black woman, Lydia Weston. Young Francis attended schools for free black children, then worked as a carpenter and shipbuilder before he enrolled in the University of Glasgow in 1858. After graduation, he studied at seminars in Edinburgh and London, becoming an ordained Presbyterian minister. He returned to the United States in 1864, taking a position as pastor to the Temple Street Congregational Church in New Haven, Connecticut. That same year, Francis married Catherine Rowena Howell. The couple had six children together.


In 1865, Cardozo returned to Charleston as an agent of the American Missionary Association (AMA) and replaced his brother, Thomas, as superintendent of the AMA school founded for Black children. Francis directed the transformation of that school into the Avery Normal Institute, which became an important training ground for Black leaders in South Carolina. 


Shortly after returning to his home state, Cardozo became involved in Reconstruction politics. He was a delegate to the 1868 constitutional convention and there served as chair of the education committee, advocating a statewide system of integrated public education. That same year, he was elected secretary of state, becoming the first Black in the United States to hold an elected statewide office. While in office, Cardozo oversaw and reformed the controversial South Carolina Land Commission, which distributed land to thousands of former slaves. 


In 1872, Cardozo was elected state treasurer, and drew praise from both Democratic and Republican newspapers for his honesty and scrupulous management of public funds. In 1874, a handful of legislators tried to have him impeached when he refused to cooperate in their corruption schemes. Cardozo successfully reputed the charges and was reelected in 1874 and 1876. His political career came to an end when the Democrats regained power in 1877. On April 14, Governor Wade Hampton III sent Cardozo a letter demanding he vacate his office. Cardozo eventually did so, and soon afterwards, was indicted for corruption as part of a systemic attempt by the Democrats to destroy the Republican Party’s reputation—especially it’s Black leaders. 


Cardozo was the highest-ranking target of Democratic prosecution and, with his reputation for honesty, demanded a trial. In November, 1877, he was tried for conspiracy to issue a fraudulent pay certificate. Despite the questionable evidence against him (and Cardozo’s own able defense), a jury of six Blacks and six Whites convicted him by an improper majority vote. Cardozo spent more than six months in jail before being pardoned in April 1879 by Governor William Simpson after federal election fraud charges against some White Democrats were dismissed.


In 1878, Cardozo accepted a position in Washington, DC with the US Treasury Department. He relocated to that city permanently after his official pardon, leaving the Treasury in 1884 to teach in Washington’s public schools. As principal of the Colored Preparatory High School (later renamed the M Street High School) from 1884 to 1896, Cardozo introduced a business curriculum and made the school the premier Black preparatory school in the country.


Cardozo died in Washington on July 22, 1903, leaving behind a legacy of honesty. Your characters would likely have heard of this man, either respecting him as a man of integrity or despising him as one more “uppity Black.” Remember that at that time, the Democrat and Republican policies were the reverse of today, with Democrats holding the moral positions that today’s Republican Party espouses. It would be interesting to see Francis L. Cardozo make an appearance in someone’s novel.


J.E.S. Hays




Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Letter From Wickenburg


In May of 1866 the Rev. Charles Morris Blake, his wife and two children moved from Pennsylvania to Fort Whipple, in Prescott, Arizona Territory. Rev. Blake had a spotty record as an Army chaplain in the Civil War, but he stayed in the service and was assigned to minister to the troops at Whipple and serve as the chaplain for the territorial legislature. He also had civilians among his flock.



 He had very high standards for his military charges, which they rarely met. He was especially irritated that few of them attended his services. But by the end of the year, he saw an improvement in the pews, and the Arizona Miner newspaper printed glowing reviews of his services.

 In October of 1867 Blake was transferred to Camp McDowell, about twenty-five miles from present-day Phoenix. He was immediately impressed with the personnel and the small library, although he was afraid of the Indians which “prowl the post nightly.”

 Blake felt safe enough to wander around the area near his new posting, though. In November he went on a visit to Wickenburg, probably after spending some time with old friends in Prescott.

 A man with the initials F.H., who was in Wickenburg that day, wrote a letter to the Arizona Miner about Rev. Blake’s attempt to give an impromptu service in front of a dry goods store while visiting the still-new mining town. It was printed in the November 16, 1867 edition.


 Blake wasn’t able to gather a very big crowd, and some of the people who did attend had a little trouble standing upright.

 He must have thought us a forlorn lot of sinners, as several men, from the effects of the “ague preventative” could not stand up to listen to the sermon and had to lie down to it, but it seems he had some hopes for us, as he promised to send us a lot of Bibles, etc., and said he hoped, soon, to see missionaries among us, to teach us the word of the Lord, but while trying to gather a few strays on the outside of his own flock (his escort) which was under his special care, were running wild at two-forty speed and still crowding on more steam.

His escort was a collection of soldiers from Camp McDowell, who were in about the same condition as Wickenburg’s residents.

 It seems to be an understood thing for all soldier boys, with few exceptions, both great and small, to get in a weaving way every time they come to this place, but the Chaplain’s escort beat all previous parties. Some of them were about town drunk for hours after he left, swearing and blackguarding worse than a lot of Pittsburgh coal boatmen.

            Then it got worse.

 At J.B. McWhorter’s ranch six miles below town they stole everything in the shape of tools, cooking utensils, etc. Mack was sick and away from home at the time. They afterwards offered some of the stolen articles for sale at Salt River station. Such things do very well for a little joke, but old Mack says he can’t see it in that light.

             Luckily for Blake, no one blamed him for his escort’s bad behavior.

 If there are many of that sort about Fort McDowell, I pity the friendly Indians and the Chaplain.

            Rev. Blake left the Army in 1869, not entirely voluntarily (that’s a story for another day). He moved to San Francisco to be near his children, and rejoined the service in 1878. He then went back to Arizona Territory, preaching at Camp Grant until his assignment ended in 1881. He returned to San Francisco and died on June 3, 1893.


Lynn Downey is an award-winning western historian, and published her first novel in 2020, titled Dudes Rush In. The book was just named a finalist in the Western Fiction category for the 2021 Will Rogers Medallion Award. Her next non-fiction book is a cultural history of dude ranching called American Dude Ranch: A Touch of the Cowboy and the Thrill of the West, which will be published by University of Oklahoma Press in 2022.