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Tuesday, 2 February 2010


Due to a problem with receiving emails, a post by Laurie Powers intended for the Black Horse Weekend didn't arrive. However I've read the piece, which looks at the BHW range from a girley perspective, and it's too good to cast aside. And so here, better late than never, is Laurie Powers' contribution to the Black Horse Weekend.

Why would a nice American girl (well, I guess “nice” is a matter of opinion) be so interested in Black Horse Westerns?

I blame Matthew Mayo for this. A little over two years ago, Matthew emailed me and said that he had just read Pulp Writer, my grandfather’s book about writing pulp Westerns during the Golden Age of pulp fiction magazines. Matthew was a member of a small group of writers based in the United Kingdom writing what he called “fun and pulpy westerns” called Black Horse Westerns. He offered to introduce me to the group and to join their online forum.

At first I was a little reluctant. I wasn’t writing fiction myself and what would I have in common with fiction writers in England? But being a professed Anglophile who loves anything having even remotely to do with England, I was intrigued. Plus it would be good Pulp Writer marketing, I figured, to advertise the book overseas. So I confess: my original interest in the Black Horse Western online group was purely from a capitalistic viewpoint.

Then I read a Black Horse Western. Matthew’s WINTER’S WAR. I could not get over how much I loved it.

Most Black Horse Westerns are fairly short – I think the word count has to be around 40,000 – 45,000 words – which makes for a good fast read that you can do in a couple of days at the most. They are good, traditional westerns, with plenty of action but not skimping on characterization. But even though they are deemed “traditional,” sometimes they push the boundaries of traditional western conventions. Such is the case with Lance Howard’s THE DEVIL’S RIDER, which deals with the stigma attached to homosexuality in the Old West. Some writers are skilled in more than one genre, like Terry James (Joanne Walpole), who was an established romance writer before writing her first BHW, LONG SHADOWS, so you get a good mix of both genres in her story. Some of the Black Horse Westerns are some of the finest westerns I have ever read on either side of the Atlantic, such as THE TARNISHED STAR by Jack Martin and Mayo’s WINTER’S WAR.

I guess the final reason I love these books is purely for aesthetic reasons. They are small hardbacks with glossy colorful covers. It’s not the covers that I love so much as the size – they are small hardbacks that remind me a lot of the old Random House Modern Library hardbacks. I know it’s minor, but for some readers and many book collectors, how a book feels in your hand means a lot.

It’s not easy to get a hold of these if you’re in the U.S, and for now the only way to buy them in the US is online. That’s because Hale has primarily geared the Black Horse Western line to libraries. But you can get them easily through the Book Depository or Amazon UK, and sometimes Amazon in the US has a supply. If you go through the Book Depository, that’s great because they don’t charge for shipping, but it will take at least a couple of weeks for the book to show up.

Two years later, I feel as if I’m firmly entrenched in the Black Horse Western group. And next month I’ll be going to England. While some people would come back from the UK with a suitcase full of the traditional souvenirs like key chains, postcards, and coffee mugs with pictures of the Tower of London and Big Ben, I plan on coming back with a suitcase full of Black Horse Westerns.


Laurie said...

Thanks for posting this, Gary. I guess we can blame the internet superhighway for this mix-up.

Matthew P. Mayo said...

Hi Laurie,
I'm pleased to have been the one who made the introduction!

Here's to years of reading and writing fun for us all.


Ray said...

Interesting insight, Laurie.
Hope you enjoy your visit to UK.

David Cranmer said...

Aesthetically pleasing, quick reads, and featuring high quality writing. BHW carries it all.

Terrific post Laurie.