I love everything western. The land itself. Western TV shows. Western movies. And I especially love western novels – novels full of action and adventure and peril and larger than life characters who push me to higher moral standards.
Zane Grey inspired my lifelong passion to write the west. I still remember very clearly when I lived on Maryland's Eastern Shore, I used to go to the Caroline County Public Library as a kid and come home with stacks of Zane Grey novels almost taller then I was!
His mastery at crafting the physical land as a character in his novels, his mastery of description, has never been topped by any other writer I’ve ever read. My all time favorite novel, Forlorn River, I must have read a dozen times by now.
But you know, it was a lot easier to feed my western addiction when I was a kid. All forms of western media, whether film or print were far more accessible in the olden days. And I was always able to find good quality fiction that didn’t have objectionable content. Nowadays that’s a lot harder.
And so the status of the western novel has been on my mind a lot lately, both from the perspective of a reader desperately seeking quality fiction and as a writer who is trying to find her voice and her niche in a market of extremes in publishing. By extremes I mean that fiction labeled western runs the gamut from soft, fluffy fiction set in the west to westerns with hardcore gore and sexual situations. That sure makes it hard for a western fan to find something to sink her teeth into.
But this subject has many nuances – too many to address today. So over the course of the next several weeks, I’ll be looking at the various issues surrounding western fiction from several angles.
Why? Mainly because I feel like I’m the sole survivor of a lost era, desperately seeking others who want high action westerns and great characters, yet who also want content that is readable for almost any age group.
And also because there is constant debate over whether the era of the western is ‘dead’. It is not dead and will never die, not while there is a shred of independent spirit in our hearts. But it’s worth taking a look at the state of the western now and where it’s going – and maybe we’ll learn a thing or two in the process.