Thursday, October 31, 2013


Two short months ago, Livia J. Washburn and I decided to take a plunge and open our own publishing house, PRAIRIE ROSE PUBLICATIONS. It was a dream come true for me because I definitely do not have the computer skills and savvy that Livia possesses! So I would never have undertaken this project on my own. My part of the partnership is publicizing, acquiring new manuscripts, and editing. It is a match made in heaven for both of us. May I share with you all what our “dream company” has done in two short months?

Let’s start with our debut anthology WISHING FOR A COWBOY. We were so fortunate to have such wonderful contributors to this collection! Phyliss Miranda, Tanya Hanson, Sarah McNeal, our own Jacquie Rogers, Tracy Garrett, reviewer Kathleen Rice Adams, Livia and me. This short story grouping is western historical romance, in the sweet to sensual category. All the stories mention a certain holiday food, and the story is either built around the food or can just bring it up casually. The recipes will be included in the back of the book, so there'll be lots of great eating! WISHING FOR A COWBOY was (surprisingly!) available early, as of yesterday, October 29 rather than the planned November 1 release date. It is available in print and digital formats—it’ll make a great Christmas gift for anyone!


Our next anthology, HEARTS AND SPURS, will be available on January 15, 2014, for Valentine’s Day gift-giving and reading for those who want to “self-gift.” We were thrilled to have every one of the above authors sign up once more for this anthology as well, and we added another author, Linda Broday!

Also in the mix, one of our anthology contributors, Tanya Hanson, has a brand new inspirational historical western romance, CLAIMING HIS HEART, coming out this month, and we’re all very excited about this one…because she’s talking about a sequel!

We’ve also got two other authors who have novels coming out with PRAIRIE ROSE PUBLICATIONSin the near future, so we’ll be sure to keep you posted.

Livia and I decided to “go for the gusto” when people began to ask about other submissions avenues—Do you publish contemporary or science fiction stories? Do you publish children’s westerns or historicalstories? What about children’s contemporary stories?

Well, what could we do? With that much support and those requests, we had to immediately branch out! We opened PAINTED PONY BOOKS, an imprint for youthful readers of historical/western stories with three levels of submissions/readership: Middle Grade readers (ages 9-12), Young Adult (ages 13-17) and New Adult (ages 18-24)

TORNADO ALLEY PUBLICATIONS is the “sister” imprint for these same ages, but for the contemporary, futuristic, and fantasy categories.

Finally, FIRE STAR PRESS is our imprint for contemporary, futuristic and fantasy categories for adults.

Already, we have several unique and wonderful books and anthologies planned for these different companies that offer a wide variety of reading for all ages.

While PRAIRIE ROSE PUBLICATIONS accepts submissions from women only, the other imprints are co-ed! If you know of anyone who might be looking for an honest publisher, please send them our way! We appreciate you spreading the word for us, and all the support and well wishes we’ve received in the short time we’ve been in business.

You can e-mail us here:
We have a brand new website here:

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Weird Western Tales

Since tomorrow is Hallowe'en, it seems appropriate to take a look at the long-standing tradition of mixing horror with the Western, producing the so-called Weird Western. This is a subgenre that cuts across all formats, from pulp fiction and paperbacks to movies, TV, and video games.

Robert E. Howard created the Weird Western during the 1930s with several stories published, appropriately enough, in the pulp magazine WEIRD TALES. Howard combined the supernatural with the traditional Western in such yarns as "The Man on the Ground", "The Horror From the Mound", and "Old Garfield's Heart". His story "The Dead Remember", published in ARGOSY, is a stylistically daring ghost story unlike anything else being done in the pulps at that time. All of these stories are available in the massive, soon-to-be-published collection ROBERT E. HOWARD'S WESTERN TALES, for which I provided the introduction.

As usual, Howard was ahead of his time, and Weird Westerns continued to be rare during the Forties. Every now and then an author would introduce a seemingly supernatural element in a Western story, such as the Masked Rider novel "The Trail of the Blue Snake" by Gunnison Steele (the pseudonym of Bennie Gardner), but these stories invariably fell back on the "Scooby-Doo" ending, where all the mysterious happenings turn out to have logical explanations.

During the Fifties, however, some genuine Weird Westerns began to appear again, most notably a long-running series by Lon Williams in the pulp REAL WESTERN which featured as its hero a deputy marshal named Lee Winters. In the course of his duties, Winters ran up against witches, ghouls, werewolves, and other supernatural creatures, and although occasionally they were explained away, for the most part the reader is left with the impression that these occult menaces were real. Many of the Lee Winters stories can be read on-line for free at

It was during the Fifties, of course, that movies such as JESSIE JAMES MEETS FRANKENSTEIN'S DAUGHTER, BILLY THE KID VS. DRACULA, and CURSE OF THE UNDEAD began to appear. These were low-budget projects shot on a very tight schedule and their quality shows that, but they're definitely horror Westerns. Similar plots were used in Western TV series from time to time, as Cheyenne went after a Bigfoot-like creature or a monster stalked the alleys of Dodge City . . . but invariably the writers of these episodes resorted to the old Scooby-Doo ending again.

Another area in which the Weird Western has, if not thrived, at least been used fairly often is the Western paperback series. The most iconic example is the SPECTROS series, a series of four (or possibly five, there's some debate about that) novels by Logan Winters, a pseudonym of the prolific author Paul Joseph Lederer. SPECTROS is a flat-out supernatural series centered around a sorcerer/gunfighter who encounters all sorts of occult menaces in his travels. The house-name books have featured supernatural plots as well, including werewolves (SLOCUM AND THE WOLF HUNT and LONE STAR AND THE KANSAS WOLVES), mysterious creatures (the Gunsmith novel SASQUATCH HUNT and my Trailsman novel HIGH COUNTRY HORROR), zombies (LONGARM AND THE VOODOO QUEEN, by yours truly writing as Tabor Evans), and demons from another realm (LONGARM AND THE DEVIL'SBRIDE by, yes, me). I'm sure there are many, many other examples among the house-name Westerns that I'm not aware of, and if some of you who have read (or written) them want to mention them in the comments, that would be more than welcome.

Other notable novels that feature both horror and Western elements are FEVRE DREAM by George R.R. Martin (yes, the "Game of Thrones" guy, and while this is more of a historical novel, it has riverboats in it and that almost makes it a Western), MOON DANCE by Somtow Sucharitkal, and recently DUST OF THE DAMNED by Western Fictioneers' own Peter Brandvold, which features a ghoul hunter instead of a bounty hunter. C.L. Werner's trilogy BLOOD MONEY,BLOOD & STEEL, and BLOOD OF THE DRAGON, while set in the Warhammer epic fantasy universe, features a bounty hunter named Brunner and the novels are very much Western-influenced.

Then there's a volume near and dear to the hearts of many of us, SIX-GUNS AND SLAY BELLS, the Western Fictioneers Christmas/paranormal anthology, which features a number of stories that can only be called Weird Westerns. Vampires, ghosts, possessed toys, aliens, Sasquatch . . . these yarns are prime examples of the subgenre.

A number of Weird Westerns have been published as comic books, too. There was even a comic book called WEIRD WESTERN TALES from which I've swiped the title of this blog post. It was the home of bounty hunter Jonah Hex (funny how so many of the entries in this subgenre seem to feature bounty hunters) as well as El Diablo, a series about a mild-mannered bank clerk possessed by a gunfighting spirit of vengeance. The original Ghost Rider (not the guy on the motorcycle with the flaming skull) wasn't supernatural, but many of the stories featured eerie elements. Joe R. Lansdale's two Jonah Hex mini-series "Two-Gun Mojo" and "Riders of the Worm and Such" are definitely horror Westerns. Lansdale is also the author of the novel DEAD IN THE WEST, quite possibly the first novel to combine the Western with a zombie apocalypse, long before zombie apocalypses were cool. Even the popular video game RED DEAD REDEMPTION features supernatural elements, as does the role-playing game DEADLANDS.

This just scratches the surface of the Weird Western, but I hope I've intrigued a few of you enough that you'll try some of the novels and stories I've mentioned. If you have some favorites I hope you'll share them with us in the comments. There are numerous blogs and websites devoted to the subject where you can find out much, much more about Weird Westerns if you're interested. I know there are some Western readers, and probably writers and editors, who are very opposed to including anything fantastical in Westerns. For me, though, it just broadens the field and provides more opportunities for me to be entertained. In the meantime, watch out tomorrow night for any trick-or-treaters dressed as buckaroos.

There might be something . . . weird . . . lurking under those cowboy hats.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Western Comics Focus: Timothy Truman

This month we turn our spotlight on writer/artist Timothy Truman, whose name has popped up more than once on this blog the last few months (he has worked often with Joe R. Lansdale and John Ostrander, both of whom we have also recently interviewed.)

Truman burst onto the comics scene in the early 1980s, when he and Ostrander co-created GRIMJACK for First Comics -a very influential title, which ushered in the "grim and gritty" movement that would dominate comics for the next decade. He has since worked on various comics, from TARZAN and CONAN to STAR WARS, as well as revamping the DC superhero Hawkman in HAWKWORLD. He has also created artwork for album covers and posters, doing several pieces for the Grateful Dead.

He has also been prolific in creating western and western-related comics, approaching the genre from several different angles. With Lansdale he produced several Jonah Hex "weird western" miniseries in the '90s, as well as a Lone Ranger miniseries. With Ostrander he created THE KENTS, a long miniseries following the western adventures of Superman/Clark Kent's adopted father's ancestors.

His 1985 series SCOUT was a dystopian, futuristic sci fi comic whose hero was an Apache. His two-part graphic novel about Revolutionary Era renegade Simon Girty won much critical acclaim; he also did a graphic novel adaptation of Allen Eckert's outdoor play TECUMSEH!

More recently, with his son Benjamin Truman, he has introduced HAWKEN- an aging Wild West hired killer who is haunted by the ghosts of everyone he has killed. Literally.

Timothy Truman has agreed to answer some questions for us today.

1. Simon Girty: Renegade was a very powerful work, and an unusual subject choice. What can you tell us about it, and why you chose Girty?
TIMOTHY TRUMAN: Growing up in West Virginia, along the Kanawha River and Ohio River country, Simon Girty was a historical figure that we used to read about in our state history classes. he was always described as a deplorable traitor, cutthroat, and lawless renegade. However, in the 1990's I started reading a lot of historical fiction and happened upon a book called the Frontiersman by the late, great Allan W. Eckert. Girty figures into the story as a secondary characater-- a friend of the great Ohio Valley scout, Simon Kenton. Allan's painted Girty as far more sympathetic and likeable person than the version of him I'd grown up hearing about. I became fascinated with Girty and decided to research his story. The more research I did, the more I saw how unfairly he'd been treated by American history. So I became determined to tell a more truthful history about the man. As a result of the work I did, many other people began reexamining his reputation and his place in history.  His relatives in Canada and the U.S.A. even made me an honorary "cousin." So I'm very proud of the Wilderness graphic novels, to say the least. 

2. How did you come to adapt the outdoor play
Tecumseh! as a graphic novel?

TT: Through the relationship that I established with Allan W. Eckert, mainly. I got to know Allan through my Wilderness work. He was very kind in suggesting some reference materials I might want to check out. We became friends. Allan was the writer of the Tecumseh! outdoor drama in Chilicothe, Ohio. Anyway, we thought that doing a graphic story adaptation would be a really cool thing to do. The promoters of the play were all for it. We made a deal with Cat Yronwode and Dean Mullaney at Eclipse Comics, and the graphic novel happened. As a result of the graphic novel and the research on frontier and Eastern American attire that I had to do for it, I was asked to redesign a lot of the costuming for the drama a few years after the graphic novel was published.  All in all it was a really rewarding experience. I just wish I could go back and redraw all that stuff! I'm such a better artist these days! My style has changed a lot.

3. Native American Indians figure prominently in your work, as do frontiers -even in some of your science fiction. Do you have a particular attraction to those themes, or did it just work out that way?


TT: I'd always been interested in Native American history and culture, even as a kid. I suppose it sprang out of stories I'd heard growing up about my great grandmother, Belle Truman, who was a Cherokee full blood who was raised in Kentucky. I've since learned that the stories were true. Anyway, the older I got, the more interested I became in Native culture, especially the Southwestern and Ohio Valley people.

4. You've been credited with helping launch the "grim and gritty" trend in comics in the early 80s. Why do you think so many other writers and artists followed your lead in this regard?

TT: I think it was a genre whose time had come. Remember that I was there in the beginning of the 1980's "independent" comics scene. The Indy movement was itself largely inspired by the '60's Underground and '70's-'80's European comics movements-- a fact that is unfortunately overlooked in most histories and documentaries about American comics. When we started doing creator owned stories and characters with the independent publishers, we gravitated towards creating material that was akin to the stuff people were doing in "respectable"  mediums such as novels and film. Still, for the material to be successful, it had to retain the action and more colorful, fantastical elements of comics, at least early-on. So it was a marriage of mediums, of sorts. Guys like me who enjoyed action films, science fiction and the like in the films and fiction we liked started doing our "movies on paper".  We proved it was possible and viable to own or co-own our own characters and get a fair share of royalties for the books and any merchandising or film that resulted from them. A few years later other folks got interested and started doing the same thing. Major publishers like DC and Marvel had to start offering creators better contracts. And "mainstream" folks like Frank Miller and the Image guys started jumping ship and getting better deals for the work they were doing.  

5. Your series Scout blended westerns with post-apocalyptic sci fi, and Hawken and Jonah Hex blended western with horror. Why do you think the western genre can be stretched into such diverse shapes, and yet still feel "western"?

TT: It's a question of environment and atmosphere,  I guess. Westerns speak to all of us. It involves certain character types and arch-types that are exciting to explore, whether you're a creator or a reader. There's an old adage that westerns are the American mythology, and I think that's true to a great extent. Myths are a reflection of history and culture. Westerns tell us a lot about America and Americans and are fertile ground for seeding stories of all types. In many ways, just giving a story a Western flavor or ambiance does about a quarter of the work for a writer or artist. It kind of "places" what it is you want to do. Of course, the most interesting stories take the tropes and expectations of the Western genre and play with them-- turn them on their heads, open them up, re-examine them. So mixing Westerns with other genres is probably an offshoot of that impulse. That was certainly the case with Scout, Hex and Hawken. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. I and the people I've worked with have been pretty lucky in that regard, I suppose.

6. We've recently interviewed John Ostrander and Joe R. Lansdale, both of whom you have worked closely with. Can you tell us about your professional relationships with them?

TT: They are like brothers to me. We're very, very close. John, Joe and my son Ben are my writers of choice if I'm not going to write a story myself. We operate on the same wavelength in many reagrds, yet we're also very different from each other. We each can bring new colors to the final mix. As far as John and Joe go, they're both very different from each other. We get into these gabfest story conferences to figure things out. Ideas fly like mad-- hot and heavy. Then we do our work and bring our differences into play. Since there's a lot of mutual admiration and respect there, we each trust what the other is going to do. The funniest thing about working with Joe and John is the fact that I handle their stories quite differently. For one thing, John and I work "Marvel" method-- plot first, then art, then John scripts what I've drawn. We've tried it a few times full script, but have found that the so-called Marvel method is the way we work best. It makes for a better mix. With Joe and me, it's the opposite. Full script all the way-- mainly because that's the way that Joe insists on working. Also, Joe is a really wild writer. Given the material I've done over the years, you might be surprised to know that I'm a tad more mild-mannered in the kinds of material I like and the types of things I like to portray. So I usually end up turning things down a notch for Joe, just to stay comfortable with my own sensibilities. With John, it's the opposite: John is more mild-mannered than me. So as a result I find myself turning up the wildness and violence factor about 20% in the stories we do. As far as Ben goes, we're pretty much on the same wavelength. The only difference is that I prefer to do characters who have some sort of nobility or redemptive qualities about them-- damaged angels, if you will. So we've learned to meet in the middle in that regard.  

7. Of all the western characters you've worked with, have you had a favorite?

TT: Kit Hawken, without a doubt. So far he's my favorite character I've ever drawn. He's the only character whom I've drawn six entire issues of and still wanted to go on and do more, more, more. I've loved them all, but Hawken is the best, and I'd love to continue his adventures someday. There's so much more to tell! Ben and I are putting together a new Scout project though, Scout: Marauder, and it seems like it will have just as much energy to it.

If you could choose one fictional or historical character you haven't done that you'd like to do, who would it be?

TT: Fictional? Hard to say. I'd really like to do a real crime drama one of these days-- some sort of hard-boiled thing. It might be via prose: A few years back I started writing a detective novel set in West Virginia in the 1920's-- constructing my own genre of "Appalachian Noir", as I call it...  and I'd like to get back to that. But it would be great to draw some crime stuff, too. I got a big taste of it when I was drawing plates for the box set by late Irish guitarist Rory Gallagher which just came out this month, Kickback City, where I got to do pulp crime style illustrations for a short story written by best-selling author Ian Rankin.  As far as historical charcaters go, I've always wanted to do the story of turn-of-the-century labor activist Mother Jones. She is a fascinating woman-- a real hell-raiser, way ahead of her time. I love her so much. That woulod probably be better done as a screenplay than a comic, though. Anyway, it's a dream project I'd love to be able to take some time off and get into. 

8. Not a western question- but I never thought an artist could approach John Buscema as the definitive Conan artist, and in my mind you have done so. You have said that the (very western-like) Robert E. Howard Conan story "Beyond the Black River" sums up the theme of the character: that "the powers of civilization will always end up praying for a man with a sword." Do you think this helps explain the enduring (though vacillating) popularity of the western, as well?

TT: To a degree, sure. Sounds good, for certain types of Westerns. Call it the High Noon syndrome, I suppose? Of course, there are some great tales that explore what happens when you pray for that guy and he finally comes: I'm thinking of The Unforgiven here, and a few others. Just goes to prove what I was talking abuot earlier: take the genre, turn it's conventions inside out, and fish through the guts awhile with your bare hands. You'll find a story that's worth writing about or drawing. 

9. Do you have any recent or upcoming projects you'd like to make us aware of?

TT: The two that I mentioned above: The Rory Gallagher box set that just came out. That was a really cool project to be involved with, since I'm such a Rory Gallagher fan, and also because of the fact that there's never, ever been anything like it ever done.; And the Scout: Marauder project that one of my publishers has asked Ben and me to work up a pitch for. That's really exciting. I've wanted to return to the Scout saga for a long time, and people are always asking me when I'm going to get back to it. So it seems the time has come. Stay tuned!

Visit Timothy Truman's website and order some of these great books!

Many thanks to Tim for visiting us today!

-Troy D. Smith

Monday, October 28, 2013

Review Roundup: Benevolent Torture

Leaving Kansas
By Frank Roderus
Western Fictioneers, March 2013
$0.99 Kindle, ASIN B00BNQFZTQ
192 pages

Harrison Wilke is anything but heroic. In fact, on most days he’s doing good to rise to the level of milquetoast. He’s afraid of horses. He doesn’t like cattle. Thanks to living in the east after his father’s death, he’s far too erudite and cultured to waste his talents on the Kansas frontier where the most sophisticated of the locals is about as polished as a rusty nail.

Reliant on his late father’s brother for charity, Harrison chafes under his uncle’s uncouth insistence that he “man up.” As far as Harrison is concerned, the ranch his father co-founded is good for only one thing: A ticket back to civilization. The minute his uncle dies — and surely the tough-as-rawhide old coot will kick off one of these days — Harrison plans to sell the property and escape to the life he should have had all along.

At least that’s his plan until his only friend, a clerk at the local bank, comes up with a get-rich-quick scheme that won’t require Harrison to get dirt under his fingernails. The arrangement seems perfectly sound…until the hemp neckties come out.

Frank Roderus’s Leaving Kansas won the Western Writers of America Spur Award for Best Western Novel when it was released in 1983. The Western Fictioneers’ re-release of the book in digital format pays tribute to the enduring spirit of an uncommon tale. Not a classic western by any stretch of the imagination, Leaving Kansas may be all the more intriguing because it turns the western a bit sideways.

As a protagonist, Harrison Wilke is annoying in the extreme, but like a car accident on the freeway, readers won't be able to look away. Part of the reason is an unseemly eagerness to see Harrison get his comeuppance. It’s unusual to find oneself rooting against the protagonist — and downright confounding to reach the end of the story and find yourself missing the whiny stuffed shirt.

Fortunately, Leaving Kansas is the first in a trilogy. No doubt Harrison continues to trip all over his clueless self-indulgence in Reaching Colorado and Finding Nevada (also re-released by Western Fictioneers), but frankly, between Roderus’s engaging voice and absorbing storytelling, I’m looking forward to the excursion.

Kathleen Rice Adams is a Texan, a voracious reader, a professional journalist, and an author. She received a review copy of Leaving Kansas from the publisher. Her opinions are her own and are neither endorsed nor necessarily supported by Western Fictioneers or individual members of the organization. Links in the review are for convenience only; they do not produce affiliate revenue.

Sunday, October 27, 2013


“It seemed to the young Englishman that if anyone had been watching from the bench he would have seen them like a print of Life on the Western Plains….”

So begins my favorite Western short story, “Genesis” by Wallace Stegner. Those are the thoughts of the tale’s central character, Lionel “Rusty” Cullen, a 19-year-old Englishman who migrated to the cattle country of Saskatchewan in search of adventure. His musing reveals that by 1906, when the story is set, dime novels and the art of Charles M. Russell, Edward Borein, Frederic Remington, and others had already romanticized the Old West and made the cowboy a mythical figure. For Rusty, and the reader, this story corrects those notions.

“Genesis” is a long story, 82 pages tucked into the middle of the memoir of the author’s childhood days in Eastend, Saskatchewan, Wolf Willow. Stegner, born in 1909, said he “lived in twenty places in eight states and Canada,” spending his developmental years in Eastend, Great Falls, Montana (where he mowed Charles M. Russell’s lawn), and Salt Lake City, Utah. He ran the creative writing program at Stanford for many years, teaching several noted Western writers including Edward Abbey, Thomas McGuane, Ken Kesey, and Larry McMurtry. His novel Angle of Repose won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1972, The Spectator Bird won the National Book Award in 1977, and he claimed three O. Henry Awards for short fiction. Stegner died in 1993.

But, back to “Genesis.” It didn’t take Rusty long to realize his romantic notions of cowboy life were misguided.

“Already, within a day, Rusty felt how circumstances had hardened, how what had been an adventure revealed itself as a job.”

Rusty also realizes he is but a pilgrim, least among the nine men who ride out on a late fall roundup to bring in calves for winter feeding. Still, he is determined, eager, even, to give it his best, to prove himself a man among men.

“He had the feeling that there would be a test of some sort, that he would enter manhood—or cowboyhood, manhood in Saskatchewan terms—as one would enter a house. For the moment he was a tenderfoot, a greenhorn, on probation, under scrutiny.”

The nine cowboys on the fall roundup comprise the cast of “Genesis,” but like many Western tales, the land is also a character.Stegner shows it in passages like this:

“When he chopped through the river’s inch of ice and watched the water well up and overflow the hole it seemed like some dark force from the ancient heart of the earth that could at any time rise around them silently and obliterate their little human noises and tracks and restore the plain to its emptiness again.”

And, later, this:

“They got what they deserved for daring Authority; the country has warned them three separate times. Now the punishment.”

Weather, too, is a character in the story and the source of the punishment. The roundup is interrupted repeatedly by a series of snowstorms, early blizzards that scatter the cattle time and again and challenge the cowboys.

“The darkness was full of snow pebbles hard and stinging as shot, whether falling or only drifting they couldn’t tell, that beat their eyes shut and melted in their beards and froze again.”

Eventually, the storms become so violent and the cold so brutal the men are forced to abandon the herd, even the remuda, to race across the plains at a snail’s pace, trying to outrun death itself.

“He does not need to be told that what moves them now is not caution, not good judgment, not anything over which they have any control, but desperation.”

Romantic notions, if any still exist at this point, are further disabused by the awareness that these men, and others like them throughout the West’s cattle country, put their lives at peril…

“For owners off in Aberdeen or Toronto or Calgary or Butte who would never come out themselves and risk what they demanded of any cowboy for twenty dollars a month and found.”

As much as I like “Genesis” for what it includes—a realistic look at cowboy life and work, albeit in extreme circumstances—I like it for what it does not include. In all of its 82 pages, there’s not a single gunfight. No Hollywood walk-down quick-draw contest, no snarling packs of bad guys shooting up the streets and back alleys and saloons of a wooden town. There’s no damsel in distress—unless you count mother cows and heifer calves. No splendid super steeds racing at top speed across page after page with nary a stop for a blow, a sip of water, a mouthful of grass. And there are no six-foot-tall bulletproof heroes with broad shoulders, narrow hips, and a steely gaze.

That’s not to say there’s no courage, bravery, or heroics in “Genesis.” But it’s realistic valor, not the over-the-top imaginary superhero stuff so common in Western stories. Near the end of the tale, Stegner says this about Rusty:

“It was probably a step in the making of a cowhand when he learned that what would pass for heroics in a softer world was only chores around here.”


Friday, October 25, 2013



After several posts featuring western film and TV show funny sidekicks, dastardly villains and sweetheart heroines, we’re going straight to the horse’s mouth. Heh.

Sure, there are plenty of heroic cowboys – John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Clint Eastwood, Robert Duvall, Sam Elliott, Alan Ladd, Tom Mix, Tex Ritter, Clayton More, Lash LaRue, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Hopalong Cassidy, Buck Jones… the list goes on and on. But who would dare say that the horses these western heroes rode were mere transportation? They deserve their own post. Those I haven’t named – well, they also deserve a lump or two of sugar for their hard work.

Let’s start with Tom Mix’s famous horse Tony. Born in 1899, Tony had white stocking rear feet and became a celebrity after making his debut with Mix in 1917. They made well over a hundred and fifty films together – Tony even had equal billing! The horse learned a few marvelous tricks without any extensive training; he only needed Mix to show him how to untie the cowboy’s hands, or loosen his own reins, run after trains, open gates, jump a cliff and rescue Mix from a fire. He was the original “Wonder Horse.” Tony planted his hoof prints in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theater next to Mix’s hand prints in 1927. Three films featured his name in the title – Just Tony (1922), Oh! You Tony (1924), and Tony Runs Wild (1926). When the horse was 22, he retired. Tom Mix used Tony Jr. in other films he made, and Tony II when appearing in public. But the original Tony died on the second anniversary of Tom Mix’s tragic death in a car accident. Who knows – maybe they’re together riding the heavenly prairie in the sky right now.

Roy Rogers’ Trigger was the second most famous horse in films. Born in 1932, he was first named Golden Cloud due to his palomino breed. Rogers chose him in 1938 out of several “rented for the movies” horses. He bought the horse later that year and gave him the name Trigger due to his quickness and intelligence. The palomino was able to walk on his hind legs and perform over a hundred trick cues. Trigger also was featured in a Dell comic book series about his adventures. Rogers took the horse up three or four flights of stairs several times to visit the children’s wing at hospitals. Trigger did have a trainer, Glen Randall, and was housebroken – which made it easier for Rogers during public appearances. He once danced, reared up and pawed the air, and played dead at the Hotel Astor’s ballroom for an audience. Trigger planted his hooves in front of Grauman’s beside Roy Rogers’ hands in 1949. To take the strain off performing, Rogers used two other horses, Little Trigger and Trigger, Jr. After Trigger’s death, Roy Rogers had the horse stuffed and mounted. Once the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans’ museum closed, a family-friendly cable network in Omaha, Nebraska bought Trigger for display.

Silver, the Lone Ranger’s white stallion, was one of many Silvers on the big screen. The Lone Ranger radio show was inspired by the Zane Grey book before the character galloped onto film and television. According to a 1938 episode the Lone Ranger first rode Dusty, a chestnut mare. After the Lone Ranger saved Silver from a wild buffalo, the horse chose to pair up with the masked man. Silver starred in two films with Clayton More as well as the television series. And every time the Lone Ranger mounted up at the end of an episode, he would shout, “Hi-Yo, Silver! Away!” Both the Lone Ranger’s horse and Tonto’s horse, Scout, were intelligent and trained – but Silver won the “Patsy” in 1957 – the Award for Excellence given to outstanding animals in television and motion pictures.

Gene Autry’s Champion also had a radio, film and television career. The sorrel with a blaze and three white stockings first appeared on screen in Melody Trail in 1935. He could jump through paper-covered hoops and gallop and stop on command. Champion died in 1947 during Autry’s military service, so the singing cowboy had to find a second Champion. In 1949, Autry and Champion II left their marks in the famous sidewalk in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theater. He used other unofficial horses, named Little Champ, Lindy Champion, Touring Champion and Champion Three, to serve as movie stunt doubles or public appearances. Autry’s famous horse also starred in his own series, The Adventures of Champion, in 1955 and 1956. Champion also had a comic book series (he couldn’t let Trigger have all the glory!) The third official Champion died in 1991 at 42 years old. But all three Champions starred in almost one hundred films and TV shows.

Buck Jones’ horse, also called Silver, starred with the actor in 50 out of the 73 films for over twenty years, from 1922 until 1942. One silent film, The War Horse, features Silver being drafted into the cavalry – and Buck joins up as well out of loyalty. In France, Buck rides Silver across enemy lines and heroically stops an ambush by German soldiers to save the outfit and win the love of a Red Cross nurse. Perhaps Silver also earned the love of a sweet mare! Unfortunately, Jones’ star as a western cowboy waned by the end of the 1930s. On November 28, 1942, Buck Jones was the guest of honor at a party in Boston’s Cocoanut Grove, the city’s best nightclub. The actor died in a tragic fire, trapped along with 491 other guests celebrating over the Thanksgiving holiday including soldiers and a pair of newlyweds. Silver must have wept out of loyalty.

Hopalong Cassidy’s horse, Topper, replaced the actor's original horse after King Nappy was injured during filming in 1939. Topper, named by William Boyd’s fifth wife Grace – who loved the popular films and books – was a white Arabian stallion with black ears. Topper starred in over 60 films with the actor. Boyd wisely bought the rights and ended up making syndication deals along with tie-in products for the new Saturday TV matinee audiences until 1953, when he retired. Since he owned Topper, Boyd interred the horse after death in the Los Angeles Pet Memorial Park, also called Save Our Pets’ History in Eternity (S.O.P.H.I.E.) in Calabasas, California.

Leave a comment about the favorite horse you remember in westerns. This website - - lists many movie and television stars along with the animals associated with them. And here are a few more great websites to explore:;;

Meg Mims is an award-winning author with two western mysteries under her Eastern belt. She lives in Michigan, where the hills are like driveway slopes and trees block any type of prairie winds. LIKE her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter or check out her books on her website. Double Crossing won the 2012 Spur Award for Best First Novel and Double or Nothing is the exciting sequel. Her story, "A Savior Is Born," is included in A Wolf Creek Christmas published by Western Fictioneers.

Thursday, October 24, 2013


ELECTROTHERAPY - the shocking treatment

By Keith Souter aka CLAY MORE

In my first western novel Raw Deal at Pasco Springs, believe it or not, one of the main characters is a doctor. He considered himself to be an up-to-date doctor and used electrotherapy in his practice. He was not alone in that, for doctors in Europe and America were adding it to their range of treatments. 

Here is a snippet:

Lucinda squeezed Tom’s hand while Doc Hawkins deftly sutured the wound on her shoulder.
‘You were lucky my girl,’ the doctor remarked, peering through wire framed spectacles perched on the tip of his nose. ‘A few inches East and …’
‘Don’t even think of that, Doc,’ Lucinda said with a shiver. ‘It’s bad enough that they murdered poor Curly.’
The doctor straightened up and sucked air between his teeth. ‘Your arm’s going to feel real numb for a few days, unless I stimulate the nerves and muscle.’ He  crossed his consulting room to a table on the far side of his roll-top desk. It was bedecked with strange looking glass jars full of liquids, rods and copper coils. He selected one with long wires leading from it and returned to the couch.
‘The very latest in medicine from back East,’ he explained. ‘This is a galvanic battery for giving what they call Faradic Stimulation.’ He handed Lucinda a rod to hold while he strapped a paddle gently over her upper arm.
‘This’ll tickle a bit,’ he informed her as he twisted wires together on top of the battery. Immediately the muscles on her arm started to twitch so that despite herself, Lucinda giggled.
‘Why it’s making my arm move all by itself,’ she uttered in amazement.
‘This is the future, folks,’ said the doctor. ‘Copper! These wires transmit electric currents. Back East they have buildings illuminated with electric light.’ His  eyes twinkled almost reverently, as if he could see this vision of the future. ‘One day we’ll laugh at our primitive kerosene lamps and simple electric batteries like these.’
Lucinda giggled again. ‘I think you’d better turn this tickling machine of yours off now Doc, or I’m going to pee myself with laughing.’

 Electricity was definitely in the air in the nineteenth century. That is to say that the discoveries about electricity that had been made in the previous century had opened up whole new areas of research. The Italian Luigi Galvani (1737-1798) an anatomist and professor of obstetrics at Bologna University had performed experiments on frogs’ legs and discovered that electricity could make them twitch. Then Alessandro Volta (1745-1827), a professor of physics at Pavia University invented the first battery, the voltaic pile.
It seemed that this was a power that could have immense benefit in medicine – and all sorts of folk started using it.

John Wesley and Ethereal Fire
The name of John Wesley (1703-1791) is forever associated with Methodism, which he founded along with his younger brother Charles Wesley. He was an Anglican minister but found himself banned from many pulpits because his religious views were considered radical. He therefore travelled extensively, both in England and America, preaching in open areas to the poor whom he often found to be excluded from churches. In America he railed against the practice of slavery.

            Not only did he believe that he was called to help people with their spiritual needs, but he also wrote about medicine and how people could use self-help techniques when they were ill. His book Primitive Physick was published in 1747 and was widely sold and used.

In that same year he saw for the first time an exhibition of Galvanism, or the use of electric batteries called Leyden jars to create shocks. Wesley was quick to grasp the opportunities that this amazing power, which he called ‘ethereal fire’, could hold. He became a devotee of electrotherapy and began using it to treat the poor on his travels and in a special free dispensary that he established. In 1759 he wrote The Desideratum, or Electricity made plain and useful.
Wesley subscribed to the theory that ethereal fire, as they knew electricity, caused capillaries to dilate and that it released all manner of blockages that were causing disease.
Soon ‘ethereal fire’ was being used to give shocks to people to cure them of arthritis and rheumatism, epilepsy, blindness, paralysis, back pain, sciatica and that cursed affliction of the spirits, melancholia or depression. So successful were his treatments that other dispensaries were established and Wesley’s reputation as a healer soared.
            Many of the conditions that he treated may have been amenable to electrical shocks. Certainly his use of it in depression may have been one of the only effective treatments at that time.

Nineteenth century electrotherapy
The Victorians were ingenious at constructing machines and gadgets. There was something awe-inspiring about medical machines with wires, rotating parts and cylinders and flasks that sparked and produced shocks. Doctors all over Europe and America invested in electrotherapy machines to treat everything from headaches to piles. Indeed a common treatment for piles was called ‘anal Faradism’, which involved the insertion of a rod into the rectum, followed by an electrical discharge to singe the piles. It must have been excruciating.
            All manner of belts, straps, rings and supports, which could be ‘charged’ were devised. They all had a dramatic effect, since they would produce a sensation that people could feel, and since they felt it so strongly it would be likely to produce a strong placebo effect. This is not to say, however, that any beneficial effect would be purely placebic, since we know today that various types of electrical stimulation can be helpful in the management of pain. Transcutaneous Electrical nerve Stimulation, or TNS is such a method commonly used today.

              And the belt had an internal attachment to help with other problems!

            Of less certain effect, however, would be the Galvanic Spectacles, which were invented and patented by Judah Moses of Hartford, USA in 1868. A British patent for a similar invention was granted to John Leighton in 1888. These consisted of a spectacles frame with a zinc plate and a chrome plate which settled over the bridge of the nose, with leads that attached to a small galvanic battery. A discharge of electricity was thought to stimulate the optic nerve, which they proposed would improve the eyesight. Some users of the galvanic spectacles even suggested that it would clear sinusitis and cure the common cold.

            In Paris in 1853 Dr Guillaume Duchenne published an account of his success with electricity in various conditions.  His work A Treatise on Localised Electrization and its Application to Pathology and Therapeutics was to prove influential in medical circles.
            Doctors working in the medical asylums of the day had virtually no effective treatments. Patients were physically restrained and there was no drug that could help psychotic states or the harrowing condition of depression. Electrotherapy seemed to offer some help, even if no-one knew how it worked. There were three types of electricity that they could use. Galvanism, which produced a direct current. Faradism or an induced current. And Static electricity given directly or charged in a Leyden jar. However, despite initial promise and continued use during the Victorian era the results were quite disappointing and eventually it fell into disuse. It was not reintroduced until 1938 when Cerletti and Bini introduced a very specific therapeutic use of electricity in the technique of Electro-Convulsive Therapy, or ECT, in which electricity was applied to one or both hemispheres of the brain in order to induce a convulsion.
            Other doctors were not to rigid and thought that electrotherapy had a legitimate place in the treatment of rheumatic and arthritic conditions. Indeed, it was in this area that its use would thrive all through the Victorian era and well into the twentieth century. Even today in the twenty-first century it has a place in many painful conditions, when used under the guidance of appropriately trained practitioners. 

Hell on the Prairie, the sixth Wolf Creek book features Keith (Clay More's) character Dr Logan Munro, the town doctor in THE OATH, a story about a spectre from his past. 

Logan has been in Books 1, 4 and 6, and 8 and is scheduled for more.

And his other new character, Doc Marcus Quigley, dentist, gambler and occasional bounty hunter continues in his quest to bring a murderer to justice, in RATTLER'S NEST in his  ebook short stories THE ADVENTURES OF DOCTOR MARCUS QUIGLEY published by High Noon Press.

Raw Deal at Pasco Springs, featuring that electrotherapy-toting doctor was originally published by Hale as a Black Horse Western, but is now available as an ebook from Western Fictioneers Library.