Follow by email

Friday, 4 March 2011

The New Old West

There's a certain irony in the fact that the thing that may bring the western, one of the oldest genres of popular fiction, back to popularity is a spanking new piece of cutting edge technology. The western, with all it's Nineteenth Century trappings is being reinvented as well as repackaged for this new digital age.

We're talking eBooks here - equally loved and loathed. Many readers are still resistant to electronic books - they claim that the printed book cannot be replicated on a screen, that the reading experience is somehow unique to pressed pulp and ink, eBooks, they say, have no soul. Yet, surely the soul of any book is in the story itself and not in the medium used to present it. But that's an argument for another time and the reasoning behind this article is to point curious readers towards westerns that are available for their shiny new devices.

Recently my own publisher, Robert Hale Ltd, dipped their toes into the electronic market with several titles, one of which was a bundle of their Black Horse titles in one eVolume - if this proves a success then more and more of the imprint's back catalogue will no doubt find their way to eBook. I, for one, would love to see my own Black Horse titles come out in an electronic format. The Black Horse Western Collection Volume 1 is available on Amazon and all other eBook retailers and if anyone wants to discover this highly regarded western line, then the bundle makes great sense. It offers great value for money and will allow readers to sample four differing voices, all of whom are published by Black Horse Westerns. I have provided the link to the US Amazon site as this is a way to avoid the dreaded UK VAT. And the sooner the UK government treat eBooks as books the better. Books are not subject to VAT but the government, in their wisdom, are treating eBooks as software which is subject to VAT. Fucking tories!

There are already scores of western titles available electronically. Virtually all of Louis L'amour's titles are now available as eBooks, but there are also works by today's western luminaries - James Reasoner, Johnny D. Boggs and Jory Sherman are just a few of the big names available as western eBooks. And of course Edge The Loner by George G. Gilman ,arguably the greatest western series of them all, is also available for download.

The curious reader wanting to discover western fiction can also trace the history of the genre for virtually no cost. Many of the early classics are in the public domain and available as free downloads from sites such as Amazon - Zane Grey, Max Brand and Owen Wister. Look around and you'll also find many classic of the western genre from the pulp age, some free, others at low cost. The western stories of writers like Edgar Rice Burroughs and Robert E. Howard are just some of the ancient stories now brought back to life and print thanks to the digital medium.

The western as a genre of literature may have peaked sometime around the mid-Seventies, and virtually vanished for a period, is making something of a comeback thanks to the genre's availability in the electronic format.

Readers curious to try a western have never been better served - the western is not all about cowboys and Indians, you know. The genre can be both as juvenile and adult as any other, and like all genres there is good and bad work out there.

If you thought all the western was about is six gun clich├ęs, then you need to educate yourself on the merits of the genre. The western at its best is a deeply moral tale that is always larger than life, and never boring.

Go on try an eWestern today.


Randy Johnson said...

Regulation books will always be my favorite form. That said, e-book reading is not nearly as onerous as some would have you believe. I've gotten quite used to read in the new form and there are just some titles that one can't get any other way.

Charles Gramlich said...

yeah, what Randy says. "Utah Blaine" is a great L'Amour work.