"One of the most vapid and infantile forms of art ever conceived by the brain of a Hollywood film producer." ...Dwight Macdonald, The Miscellany 1929
"The western remains, I suppose, America's distinctive contribution to the film."...Arthur Schlesinger Jr, Show April 1963
Geographically and historically the concept of "The West" is very
loosely defined, when associated with the literary and film genre of the
western. With the possible exception of the Eastern Seaboard almost
every part of the USA had been called "The West" at some stage in the
federal government defines "The West" as including the following
states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada,New
Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. But from the movies and
books both Kansas and Nebraska can be added. And maybe Hawaii and
Washington should be removed. The West of popular imagination usually
contains those areas associated with the final frontiers of American
settlement - anything West of the Mississippi River. An area associated
with cowboys, Indians, outlaws and lone lawmen.
earliest western literature with artistic merit were the works of James
Fennimore Cooper, his most famous works being 1826's Last of the
Mohicans - though by the true definition of the genre none of the
author's works are strictly westerns. The books were set in colonial
America and featured the British rule but true westerns are set in
EZC Judson, writing under the pen name Ned
Buntline was an early writer of traditional westerns. He earned himself
the nickname of, 'Father of the Dime Novel' and turned Buffalo Bill into
a figure of mythic proportions. However the first western with the
classic ingredients was Owen Wister's The Virginian in 1902, which
largely invented the guidelines that western writers still follow today.
names Louis L'amour and Zane Grey have dominated the genre for many
years and still do to some extent. But an early European champion of the
genre was Karl May with his popular Shatterhand books. He wrote over 60
books but Shatterhand remains his most famous character. Indeed Shatterhand
was revived by B.J. Holmes in a series of books for the successful UK
western house, Black Horse Westerns.
The cinema has always had a
love affair with the western and during the silent era there were many
hundreds of westerns made. Most of these have been lost but
there are still some prime examples of early westerns to be sought out
Some of the most important silent westerns that still
exist and can be found on DVD or in many cases for free download from
The Iron Horse (1924) directed by John Ford
The Covered Wagon (1923) directed by James Cruze
Battle of Elderbush Gulch (1914) directed by D W Griffith
cinematic terms there is little doubt that the Golden Age of the
western took place between the years 1940 - 1970. There were many
classics before and since but during these years there was never a time
when most major studios didn't have at least one western in production.
the Fifties and Sixties in particular the western also dominated the
small screen with many western TV series being aired. Among the most
well known are:
The Big Country
Have Gun will Travel
Wanted Dead or Alive
modern era has also seen many classics of the genre, both on the screen
and between the covers - Lonesome Dove, Sons of Texas, Blood Meridian,
Tombstone, The Unforgiven to name but a few. And of course in recent years we've seen the Coen's re-make of True Grit and next year will bring us Quentin Tarantino's long awaited take on the genre with Django Unchained.
The Western truly is
THE GENRE TOO TOUGH TO DIE. Kevin Costner is working on a new western,
there are remakes in the works of both True Grit and Butch and Sundance.
American greats like Dusty Richards and Larry McMurtry continue to write quality western works. And British western house,
Black Horse Westerns are continuing to bring out new western fiction
written by writers from all over the world. Among these you will find
such loved writers as B. J. Holmes, Ben Bridges, Jack
Giles,Nik Morton, Mathew P. Mayo, Chap O'Keefe, Jim Lawless and and myself, Jack Martin. And this is just a
small selection of the writers producing all new traditional westerns
under The Black Horse banner. And of course there is the story of John Locke who became the worlds' first self published writer to sell a million eBooks on Amazon, and several of his titles are westerns.
So if you've never tried a western then maybe now is the time to do - they've never been so easily available and online giant Amazon has many titles at good prices.
Come on saddle up and let's ride.