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Sunday, 31 May 2009


When I was a kid the local book shop was a much more interesting place - the shelves were filled with brightly coloured paperbacks of all genres - crime, horror, science fiction, fantasy, war, westerns and even erotic fiction - writers with names like Guy N. Smith, Sven Hessel, George Gilman, Oliver Strange, Shaun Hutson and Mark Slade were household names. Most of these writers worked in the mid range - they would never trouble the bestsellers of the day but they would shift tons of books between them.

However as the Seventies turned into the Eighties something strange happened - apparently all book buyers started to demand books which were 500 pages plus and in which each story was basically a retelling of the one before. And the gems - the quick reads that were purchased by teenagers and young adults started to disappear. A new phenomenon started to appear - the mega- seller - Stephen King, Jeffrey Archer, James Herbert and in latter days J K Rowling and Martina Cole.

Now don't get me wrong I love some of these writers but even the great Stephen King ( a man who in my opinion has written at least a dozen all time classics) took a dip in quality after Misery as he tried to pad each book out to a size dictated by the market place. What no-one seemed to notice is that writing is a creative process and creation cannot be set by market forces. Not every story needs a billion willion squillion words to be at its most effective. Nevertheless books of this size started to dominate which was why we often got to learn, as well as the major plot, what kind of shirts our hero favoured or where he went to school. Irrelevances often ruined a story and dare I say it - "reading got boring"

So that's what Wild West Monday is all about - OK the emphasis is on westerns but it's about more than that. It's about telling the publishers what we want, about bringing back quick exciting reads that can compete with the latest DVD or Video Game in the thrills and spills department.

So take part tomorrow - visit your local bookshop or library and ask about their western section. If they don't stock any then ask them to do so. It's all as simple as that - but if we take part in large numbers then shops, libraries will be getting similar requests all over the globe.

Someones gonna notice.

Come on take part



Laurie Powers said...

Nice post. People have moved away from the 500-page Stephen Kings and towards shorter books because of the time it takes to read them but also the quality, the re-treading of plots, the price of hardbacks, and public fatigue when overexposed. Our attention span now runs about 15 minutes. One exception is the Harry Potter books because they are clever enough to captivate younger audiences but also because it's a serial. Serials do very well. Large house publishers, like many major companies, work on outdated business models and operate at the speed of glaciers. Look at GM for example.

Charles Gramlich said...

Amen to the shorter, punchier reads. I don't mind reading an occasional long book but man there is no reason for all of them to be tomes.

Anonymous said...

Definately - I miss the days of the slim paperback series novels. You are correct in saying bookshops are far less interesting these days.

Chap O'Keefe said...

The whole question of what shops are stocking/not stocking couldn't be put better.

I read the other day at Ed Gorman's blog that, despite the recession, slim romance paperbacks of the Harlequin/Mills & Boon type are selling better than ever. So maybe there is light at the end of the tunnel. Let our genre be heard on WW Monday!

Kerby Jackson said...

Too true on those short reads. I yearn for the days when most westerns ran about 140 pages. They moved fast, kept you entertained with every page and when you were done, you could read another one.

Anonymous said...

I like short reads. Series are ok to an extent but i don't like the ones where the "beginning background" of the lead character has to be included in each successive book.
As to the Stephen King type novels I never read them. Read one years ago and decided that I don't like horror type books. I also won't read the long ( or short) romance type books either. And the sickly sweet Harlequin type books are never on my reading agenda.
I get a lot of the older slim westerns at local flea markets and really enjoy them.

Trelawney Gal