Thursday 31 July 2008

Western Icon: Billy the Kid

UPDATE - Interview with kid expert Fred Nolan on the Archive HERE

Billy the Kid keeps riding through the dreamscape of our minds-silhouetted against a starless Western Sky, handsome, laughing, deadly. Shrewd as a coyote, feared as a hawk. The outlaw of our dreams - forever free, forever young, forever riding......

Not my words, I only wish they were, but from Paul Hutton's excellent 1990 feature of The Kid.

That paragraph took its author to over 150 appearances on the History Channel as well as appearing on multiple documentary DVD's. The paragraph gave Mr Hutton worldwide fame as an expert on Billy The Kid.

But what is its about the Kid that keeps him large in our minds, making him perhaps the most famous outlaw of the old west?

(pictured - a 19 century engraving of the kid gunning down a foe. Even then the media were Billy the Kid groupies.)

For a man who only lived to be 21 (although this is disputed and census evidence suggest that he was 26) the outlaw has been an enduring legend. Many movies have been made about him, cartoons made and more words have been written about him than any other wild west figure. There have been novels, magazine articles comic books, non fiction biographies, historical studies The character has even been sent off into outer space and fought monsters from Dracula to werewolves in the film and comic book

There is much controversy over the generally accepted fact that the kid was gunned down by Pat Garrett on July 14th 1881. For over the years there has been much doubt cast on the prevailing history relating to the outlaw. And although it seems likely that Garrett did indeed kill the kid it is impossible to say with full confidence.

Some even believe Billy the Kid actually died in Hico Texas in 1950 where he had been living under the name of William Henry Roberts, or, has he became to be known, Brushy Bill Roberts. I myself, am dubious about this but it would be nice to think that Brushy Bill was indeed the Kid and there is some evidence to suggest this may have been the case.

(Pictured Bushy Bill - is this an Elderly Billy the Kid?)

In the late 1940's William Roberts approached a startled journalist and told him he was in fact Billy The Kid and that he wanted his help to secure a pardon which had been promised to him by Governor Wallace.

At first the reporter was sceptical but as the story was looked into it became clear that William Roberts, known as Brush Bill could indeed have been Billy the Kid. There are still those that believe this to this day and, on times, I kinda' believe it myself.

The principle facts around the kid being killed by Pat Garrett were Garrett's own book, The Authentic life of Billy the Kid but large chunks of this book have been proven to be fabrication. Pat Garrett was prone to legend building and, of course, if he hadn't shot the kid on that fateful 1881 night and had instead been in on the cover up with the kid, then his book ghostwritten by Marshall Ashmun is not to be trusted.

(pictured: Is this actually Billy the Kid's resting place?)

When discovered Brushy Bill was riding scout for a stagecoach line in Idaho - he had the look, the size, the eyes and even, according to those who knew the outlaw, the same laugh. A photograph of Roberts was placed under comparison with the only known picture of the kid by the University of Texas and the findings, which were validated by the FBI, were that Billy The Kid and Brushy Bill were in fact the same man. Importantly when Roberts was interviewed about his background it became he knew more about Billy the kid and knew more about the history than the scholars of the day. These revelations caused a frenzy of new research and a bible found amongst Robert's possessions after his death showed family members with the named Bonney, Antrim and McCarthy which were all known alias of the Kid.

Doubt was cast by the only known photograph of the kid showing he was right handed (though for many years the Kid was thought to have been left handed before it was discovered the only photograph was reversed) while Roberts was left handed - in truth he was ambidextrous. It was also reported that Roberts was illiterate while the Kid was very much a reader and writer as his letters to Govoner Wallace prove. However Brushy Bill was not illiterate at all and also spoke fluent Spanish as did the kid.

Evidence that Brushy Bill was the Kid:

  • Brushy Bill’s knowledge of the Lincoln County War and the life of Billy the Kid was too extensive to have all been read. Several of the things he knew were known to only a few people at the time, including historians. For example, he knew that Colonel Dudley's soldiers that entered Lincoln on July 19, 1878 were black, he knew all the details of how the Kid had to pay his lawyer for his services in his trial, he knew that Billy the Kid wrote a letter to Gov. Wallace proclaiming his innocence in the murder of James Carlyle, and he knew exactly how the McSween house was set up before it was burned.
  • In 1949, Morrison took Brushy Bill to the old Lincoln County courthouse, which also once served as the Murphy-Dolan-Riley store. In the building, Brushy described how the building looked during the Kid's incarceration there to a T. Every little detail of how the building looked in 1881, Brushy knew. He said how when he killed Bell, one of his guards, the bullet first hit the wall and then ricocheted into Bell's side, which is true.
  • In Brushy's possessions, he had a very old scarf that he claimed to have gotten from Deluvina Maxwell after he was captured at Stinking Springs and brought to Fort Sumner. He said he gave Deluvina the tintype of himself and she gave him the scarf. This really did happen, but only posse member Jim East knew of it and he only spoke of it in a letter he wrote to fellow lawman Charlie Siringo.
  • Brushy said that when he went to trial, his first indictment was for the murder of Buckshot Roberts and he was represented by Ira Leonard. He also said that Leonard was able to get the case thrown out. This is true, but very, very few researchers knew of this back during the time Brushy made his claim.
  • Severo Gallegos, Jose Montoya, and Martile Able, all surviving friends of Billy the Kid, met with Brushy Bill separately. Brushy talked with them all about events from his past as Billy the Kid and all three signed affidavits attesting to the fact that Billy the Kid and Brushy Bill were one and the same.
  • Bill and Sam Jones, also surviving friends of Billy the Kid, also met with Brushy Bill. Although they did not sign affidavits in support of Brushy, due to the fact that they wanted to avoid any publicity that would bring, they did tell Morrison they believe him to be the Kid.
  • Jessie Evans, or Joe Hines as he was later known, confirmed to Morrison that Brushy Bill was the Kid.
  • Bob Young, a native of Round Rock, Texas, visited Hamilton, Texas in 1930 and first met Brushy Bill. The two became friends and Brushy informed Young that he would like to accompany him on his return to Round Rock. When the time came for Young to return home, Brushy regretfully said he couldn’t accompany him, since his wife was sick. Still, Brushy asked Young to look up an old friend of his, Jimmy McDaniels (a former member of the Jessie Evans Gang and veteran of the Lincoln County War), who also lived in Round Rock. Brushy went on to tell Young that when he found McDaniels, to simply tell him ‘’the Kid says hello.’’ When Young returned to Round Rock, he met with McDaniels and delivered Brushy’s message. Upon hearing this, the old man looked as if he had been badly frightened.
  • One day in the 1940s, Brushy was walking down a street in Hico. Also walking down the street was a five year old boy and his mother. When the boy ran into the street and was almost hit by a car, the mother yelled out her son's name, Billy, loudly. Witnesses said that Brushy whirled around and reached for an imaginary pistol. After Brushy realized his name wasn't being called, he hurried away. Although this is not technically evidence in support of Brushy’s claim, and in no way connects him directly to Billy the Kid, it does indicate he was a man used to danger.
  • One day in 1945, Brushy was walking down a Hico street. An old lawman named Henry Anthony and his sons were also on the street and when Anthony saw Brushy, he jumped up and yelled at Brushy, calling him Billy Bonney, and told him to throw up his hands. When his sons calmed him down, Anthony said that Brushy was the Kid. He swore for the rest of his life that Brushy was the Kid.
  • In 1990, the famous tintype of Billy the Kid, a purported photo of the Kid at age 12, a photo of Brushy at age 14, and a photo of Brushy at age 90 were analyzed in the Acton-Bovik photo study. The study used the most advanced photo comparison equipment around as well as the best scientists. The photo purported to be a 12 year old Billy the Kid was determined to not be him. The photo of 14 year old Brushy was close match to the tintype. The photo of Brushy at age 90 had a 93% match to the famous tintype. The missing seven percent can be explained due to age and dental work, so said Dr. Bovik and Dr. Acton.
  • Brushy Bill had each and every scar Billy was said to have (and more).

And against:
  • Sheriff Pat Garrett said he killed Billy the Kid, and Dep. John Poe, Dep. Thomas McKinney, and the vast majority of everyone else who claimed to have seen the body of the man Garrett killed agreed to this.
  • No contemporary account carries any mention of the gunfight that Brushy claimed transpired between himself and Garrett, Poe, and McKinney after Barlow was killed.
  • There exists no evidence, other than the word of Brushy Bill, that Billy Barlow, the man Brushy said Garrett really killed, ever existed.
  • When retelling his story, Brushy did make several historical errors. Although a good portion of these dealt with events and facts that were questionable in the first place and therefore dubious (i.e Brushy saying he was present at Tunstall‘s funeral when it is very possible the real Billy the Kid was or Brushy saying that it was Fred Waite who was shot by Billy Mathews during the Brady assassination, not Jim French, when contemporary sources differ as to who the wounded Regulator was), there were some that were definitely wrong. For example, Brushy said that John Selman fought on the McSween side in the Lincoln County War. However, Selman did not fight for either side and didn’t even arrive in Lincoln until after the final battle of the war.
  • Brushy claimed that throughout 1871-1874, he left the care of Catherine McCarty a few times to visit his biological father, James Roberts, in Texas, and ended up staying with him a total of two years. However, there exists no contemporary evidence that the real Billy the Kid ever left the care of Catherine McCarty, especially for so long a time period.
  • Brushy also claimed that after he fled Silver City in 1875 up until fall 1877, he basically traveled over the entire West (Arizona, Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska, and Oregon), making a living as a bronc rider. However, although documentation of Billy the Kid’s life during this period is sparse, the documentation that does exist seems to indicate he spent this time in Arizona operating as a horse and saddle thief.
  • In 1988, physicist and amateur photo expert Thomas Kyle underwent a photo comparison study between the tintype photo of Billy and a photo of Brushy taken at his meeting with Gov. Mabry. Although he used his own methods and his home Apple Macintosh II computer, he announced that in his opinion, the two photos were of two different people.
  • Brushy Bill had a well-known association with J. Frank Dalton, a proven false Jesse James claimant. Although this is technically not evidence against Brushy’s own claim, it does cast a serious shadow of doubt on his own credibility.

False evidence used against Brushy Bill:

  • It has been claimed that Brushy Bill was illiterate, and therefore could not have been Billy the Kid. In truth, Brushy was completely literate. He had several diaries when Morrison found him, he wrote several letters to Morrison and other people, and he had thought for a time to write his autobiography, but later decided not to, fearing the press he might get. Jim Tully, a good friend of Brushy's, signed an affidavit that Brushy was completely literate. Bob Young, Alton Thorton, W. F. Hafer, Jimmy Ramage, Ablo Norman, Tom Turner, and L. L. Gamble, all surviving friends of Brushy, said he was either literate, or not sure, but none of them said he was illiterate. The theory that he was illiterate sprang from a quote C. L. Sonnichsen wrote in his book, that Roberts was "not a literate man." However, Sonnichsen later said he wished he never wrote that because he meant that Brushy wasn't the type of person who would sit around all day reading history books. He meant to say he was not a literary man.
  • It has also been claimed that Brushy could not speak Spanish, whereas Billy the Kid could. However, when Morrison took Brushy to visit with Severo Gallegos, Brushy spoke with Severo's Mexican neighbor, Josephine Sanchez, in perfect Spanish. Jim Tully signed an affidavit that he could speak Spanish as well as a native. Bob Young, Alton Thorton, W. F. Hafer, Jimmy Ramage, Ablo Norman, Tom Turner, and L. L. Gamble also said Brushy was fluent in Spanish. The reason people think he was non-fluent in Spanish is because a myth started that Jarvis Garrett (or Oscar Garrett or Arcadio Brady, depending on which version of the myth you heard) asked Brushy a question in Spanish at the meeting with Gov. Mabry, to which Brushy couldn't respond. This is false. Not one person who was at the meeting ever mentioned this happening.
  • Another false piece of evidence used against Brushy was that he was left-handed, and the Kid right-handed. In fact, both the Kid and Brushy were ambidextrous. According to people who knew them, both Brushy and the Kid could write and shoot just as well with either hand.

Pictured - Brushy Bill's original grave before the Billy The Kid surround was added as seen above.

The evidence is compelling and it's nice to think that Billy the Kid actually lived to be an old man.

Genre specific feature: Black Horse Westerns

(photographed - some of the BHW's in the author's own extensive collection. Click om image for larger)

In the UK the western book scene would be dead were it not for publisher, Robert Hale LTD, a London based company, who have for over forty years published westerns on a regular basis to great success. These days westerns come out under their, Black Horse Westerns imprint, ever since 1986 in fact when the range was streamlined, and their list of writers is truly international.

The books are all action traditional westerns and are printed in lush hardcover editions with some evocative pulp style cover illustrations. And although there is a formula for these books they are usually highly inventive and page turners in the truest sense of the word. Several time, I've found myself, cursing a writer for their devious plot twists. But cursing them in admiration for foxing me, the reader, and making my heart skip a beat.

There is something old fashioned in the books in that the violence can not be too graphic and virtually no sex is allowed. This however is not due to a prudish publisher but because the main market for these books is the library trade and it is all too easy for a child to pick up a book. This point can be argued since children can pick up adult themed books or magazines elsewhere, but the librarians insist on this. And upsetting library book selectors would greatly diminish the market for these books.

The rigid formula is not detrimental to the books and in many ways it enhances them. The posse of shrewd and talented writers know the boundaries they are operating in and within them they create thrilling western adventures that are usually good, often excellent and seldom bad. My own first western novel, The Tarnished Star is being published by the company. I apologise for blowing my own trumpet but given my opinions in this post it is important to know that I am one of the stable of authors. However there is no bias in this piece - I genuinely love these books. It would be impossible to write one myself were that not the case and I have over two hundred in my own collection.

On times the company will publish a long out of print classic but the majority of the books are new and original work.

Some shops stock the books and most can order them. They're always available on Amazon and of course, as stated, there is the library.

There is a thiriving online community for writers and readers of western fiction and and this is run by respected Black Horse author Howard Hopkins. Join this group - I, myself, am a member and can confirm it as one of the most knowledgeable and friendly groups on the interweb.

"Darn it, I wish I was still alive to check out the latest Black Horse Westerns. Confound that Pat Garrett!"

Tuesday 29 July 2008

Louis L'amour - a brief intro

Louis L'amour has long been a towering figure in Western fiction. During his lifetime he published over ninety novels and to date there are twenty seven short stories collections available. The publisher's figures state that there are some 270 million copies of his work in print.

A level of market penetration that most of us western scribes can only fantasize of. And then only in our wildest moments.

Born in 1908 and died in 1988.

He is probably the most well known western author in the world and still continues to sell well today. If you're lucky enough to find a bookshop with a western fiction section then it's a fair bet L'amour's titles will outnumber other authors by at least two to one.

Collecting L'amour today is a fairly easy process since all his work remains in print and is easily available. But there are so many different publications of each title out there that anyone wanting to build a collection will have to be selective to get the better editions for their cash.

On the short story front there is an handsome hardback collection which goes under the title: The Collected Short Stories of Louis L'amour. Four volumes thus far -These are lovely looking books from Bantem and will rise in value on the collectors market. The real money will always be with first editions but many of the titles in these collections are previously unpublished which makes them sought after items.

There are countless paperback editions out there but the latest 100 year issues are double novels with the author's pictures on the covers. These sell for a very reasonable £6.99 over here in the UK. Which is a bargain considering you are getting two full length novels in one.

Many of the author's books are available as audio-books and these are well produced and make wonderful listening material when driving. Believe me long car trips are a dawdle with a good audio book in the stereo system.

Newcomers to L'amour may find the wealth of material available a but daunting but the books can be read in any order - even the series titles, the best known of which is The Sackets, can be read independent of one another as most are stand alone novels.

So anyone that stumbles across this post and is tempted to try some L'amour then my advise is leap straight in. These are traditional westerns without pretensions - the most important thing with these books is the story and boy are they good stories.

There is a wealth of information about the author on the web and several thriving communities dedicated to the great man and his works. Perhaps the best place to start is the official site but do a Google search and take a journey of discovery.

In short anyone who likes western fiction must like L'amour.

Monday 28 July 2008


I love movies. I'm of that age when going to the cinema was the highlight of the week. I grew up in the seventies and was twelve when Star Wars came out so I suppose I'm of that generation - the sci-fi kids, the blockbuster bunch. And yet my favourite movies have always been westerns.

I have an extensive DVD collection and most of my films are stored by genre - pictured left is my western collection. Click on image for a bigger view.

There are some classic westerns in my collection - from the acknowledged classics to curious B-westerns that are often far better than they have the right to be.

Look at the top shelf and there is a box set called 50 great westerns and there really are 50 films there - from early Roy Rogers to Italian Westerns. I got this off Ebay a few years back and I've watched every film even if the transfer is not of the finest quality with none of the films remastered. But it contains the unusual White Comanche which features a very young Captain Kirk as a half breed Comanche. This is actually a very strong B WESTERN. Anyone know of any other westerns to feature William Shatner - did he do any others? I know Doctor McCoy featured in a number of westerns classics but not too sure about Kirky and just can't be bothered to Google it. I have got the feeling that I may have seen him in an episode of Rawhide once but am not sure.

There are several Wyatt Earp movies in my collection - Tombstone, My Darling Clementine, Gunfight at the Ok Corral, Hour of the Gun and Wyatt Earp - I'll have to be contrary on this but Wyatt Earp is my favourite simply because it covers so much of Earp's life when most others concentrate on the infamous gunfight . Probably Tombstone features the best filmed version of the gunfight, though but the best film for a cinematic experience is John Ford's Clementine which features a brilliant performance by Henry Fonda even if it does play loose and fast with historical fact.

I've actually got an original wanted poster for Wyatt Earp framed above my desk - this is one of my proudest possessions.

There are both 3:10's to Yuma - and the original is my favourite. And there's a large selection of JoHN Wayne westerns - I've even got his debut as Singing Sandy - yep, the Duke was the first singing cowboy. My favourite Wayne would be The Searchers, Red River or the elegiac The Shootist. I'm not one of those who thinks Wayne couldn't act and everytime someone says he always played himself I point them to Red River, The Searchers, True Grit,The Shootist- all very different performances, all technically brilliant. Wayne was an excellent actor.

I've got the full three seasons of Deadwood - I'm still furious this was cancelled and left so open ended. This really was a brilliant series.

On a lower shelf - not visible in the pic - is Ken Burn's eleven and a half hour documentary masterpiece , The West. This covers the West from 1500 - 1914 and was hailed by The New York Times upon its first release. This may be the definitive documentary on The West and I plan to cover each part in separate postings on this blog. I paid £80 for this set which is the most I've ever spent on a DVD but it's well worth it. I've watched it several times and as someone who writes, Western novels, I tend to dip into it from time to time

Sheriff Cole Masters is up against it.
At war with a town boss who wants nothing more than to see Masters dead.


today's freebie movie download is

plan 9 from outer space

go to

today's promotional code is Cosmos

Sunday 27 July 2008


It may seem an odd match but romantic novel publishers, Mills and Boons have joined forces with the British Rugby Football Union for a series of romantic novels where the male protagonists would be rugby players.

Mills and Boons spokeperson, Clare Sommervile said -"We plan a lot of girl meets rugby player story lines as part of our 100th anniversary."

Apparantly Mills and Books Australia have had great success with their rugby player themed books.

We know the English rugby team played like girlie girls in this years Six Nations so will they fare better as romantic characters? I can imagine it now:

She looked across the table into his perfectly blue eyes that seemed to reflect the light in the room, creating an almost hypnotic swirl of pure wonder. She felt herself drawn towards him and she was sure she had glimpsed his soul deep within those seductive eyes. She felt his breath on her lips and she kissed him, passionately.

He pulled away quickly and those ever so delightful eyes registered pain. 'Ow,' he said, in a thick West Country accent. 'Watch me cauliflower ear.'


I caught an old Study in Scarlet on the TV this morning with Peter Cushing as Holmes and it got me to thinking about the great detective.

Now I'm far from a Holmes expert but I'm certainly no layman either. I became hooked as a kid from the Basil Rathbone movies they used to show on BBC2 and I remember my English teacher encouraging me to read the short story collection in the school library after I asked about the character.

Holmes and Doyle are well represented on the interweb and the character is worth discovering anew - you may, like I did, learn new things about him that gives an whole new appreciation of the canon.

Holmes may have not been the first real fictional detective character, that award probably goes to Edgar Allen Poe but Baker Street's consulting detective was certainly the first superstar fictional detective. And after all these years Holmes still sits at the top of the list - such is the success of the character in popular culture that there are people who still think he really existed.

The best place to start looking for information is The Sherlock Holmes Net which is a true labour of love and hold countless links - even one that takes you to the original stories.

Saturday 26 July 2008

Heaven on Earth

is a second hand bookshop.

Spent a lovely hour or so rummaging around and came away with a Raymond Chandler 1st paperback edition and several old westerns.

I love everything about old bookshops - the smell, being surrounded by millions and millions of words, the guy behind the counter who looks like he's never seen daylight and The thoughts and ideas of countless authors floating around in the air itself, almost tangible in the possibilites they offer.

There's something romantic thinking of long dead authors, imagining them at work in some bygone age. Mind you they were probably just like me, hunched over keyboard, or paper, or ink-well or parchment even, scratching their arse and staring off into space awaiting inspiration. Or even picking their noses and using the product to stick notes to the wall.

Still an afternoon searching through a secondhand book store.

Is there anything better?


Go here -

and enter the promotional code: Zombie

to get The Night of the Living Dead free as part of the UK Newspapers free download week. On Monday it's Plan 9 from outer space. I'll publish each day's promotional code so there's no need to even buy the newspaper.

Can't be bad.


The PC brigade have a lot to answer for.

These days the TV listings are filled with bland characters and if the PC lot get their way then society will follow suit. The modern Media is full of bland plastic people who couldn't form an opinion of their own if it came flat packed from Argos.

So travel back in time to the dim distant days when we still had freedoms, rather than the illusion of freedom, to a place where cigarette smoke drifts in the air and knife crime only ever happens on Starskey and Hutch.

This brilliant sitcom about loud mothed bigot Alf Garnet could never play on TV these days, well except for the odd episode tucked away on the more obscure channels. So this DVD release is very welcome.

The show was often charged with being racist but that was missing the point. Sure the character of Alf was racist and homophobic. But the show poked fun at his old fashioned British Imperialistic attitude and he always had his come uppance at the end with his bigotry showed up for the ignorance it was.

What the show did was to show real characters, exactly like old folk I knew growing up in the 70's and 80's.

Shame we won the bloody way, really.

An excellent series featuring a genuine British comedy icon.

NOTE: For US readers the show was bought by the US and became the long running Archie Bunker.


I lived for this comic book when I was a kid and I've still got an old collection tucked away in the bedroom wardrobe. I got this every week without fail - clutching my pocket money in my grubby hands I'd run down to Ronnie Wray's, my local newsagent (I thought this was the best shop in the world when I was a kid) and part with my pennies for the current issue.

When I read it, I'd reread it and then swap it with my mate Terry Jones for his 2000AD which he had every week. That way we'd each get to read each comic and only buy one.

This, I suppose, was the prehistoric version of file sharing.

Sometimes I'd tear out the posters and stick them to my wall - immediately regretting this as it ruined the comic and I couldn't swap it, meaning I'd miss out on this weeks adventures in Flesh or Judge Dredd. Mind you, the posters were often so good that I would not be able to resist.

The Comic, although containing many strips that glorified war in the boys own adventure type way, was far more realistic than most UK boys comics of the time. It was one of the few comic books of the time to feature main characters who were less than perfect and in some of the strips the artwork looked like a nightmarish Peckinpah version of the war.

The best strips over the years were - in no particular order:
Charley's War
Major Easy
Rat Pack
Johnny Red
D Day Dawson

The comic initially had a main character who was a kind of wartime secret agent which was in direct competition with IPC's Comics Warlord character Lord Peter Flint. But although Battle's character was never as successful as Peter Flint, the overall comic was far better than Warlord.

Warlord was good but it was much more reserved and didn't have the blood and guts of Battle. In Battle main characters would actually die, leaving the readership stunned.

Yeah, out of the two Battle would always have the edge.

It still reads well today and TITAN Books are releasing THE BEST OF BATTLE GRAPHIC NOVEL series - much in the same vein as the ROY OF THE ROVERS graphic novel covered in an earlier post.

Way to go - let's turn back the years and kill some Hun, blast some Nips and fall in behind Captain Hurricane for a full frontal assault.

Extract from the BATTLE WEBSITE

The first in the 'new wave' of comics from IPC Magazines Ltd. Following in the footsteps of D.C.Thomsons Warlord, Battle was a hard hitting war comic that was the inspiration for the controversial Action comic.

The first issue (8th March 1975) covered as many varied aspects of the war as possible. The Army was repesented by D-Day Dawson. The Air Force by Lofty's One Man Luftwaffe, The Navy by the ancient Flight Of The Golden Hinde. Secret Agent was Mike Nelson, who also occupied the two centre coloured pages. Special commandos were Rat Pack. Wannabe commando was one of my personal favourites, The Bootneck Boy, and finally we had the Japanese interest in the great story, Terror Behind The Bamboo Curtain.

There was also a true story double pager about the Battle Of El Alamein. There was even a one page written story about a boy who lied to join the Foreign Legion. With the coloured back page detailing unusual secret weapons used during WW2, this just about wrapped up the very first issue of Battle. All this in just 32 pages....Great Value!


Friday 25 July 2008


No cover image as of yet as it doesn't exist.

But I'd thought I'd share this with my readers. Had final confirmation from robert hale books that my western novel Tarnished Star will be published by them. It's written under the pen name, Jack Martin and will come out on the popular, Black Horse Westerns imprint...

So look out for it....


Wednesday 23 July 2008



What is it about the western genre that keeps it thriving despite often being proclaimed dead both on celluloid and in print? The genre has seen more comebacks than Frank Sinatra, it has swayed in and out of favour for decades. But still it refuses to roll over and die.

To call western fans a cult group would be improper because although there are sub-genres of the western that attract a cult user base, the genre is often rubbing shoulders with the mainstream.

Film makers keep the genre alive at the cinema by releasing truly epic movies and writers like Cormac McCarthy and Larry McMurty have crossed over into the mainstream. The former has even seen Oscar winning movies adapted from his work and McMurty received the Pulitzer prize for the seminal Lonesome Dove.

The western is evident in all forms of popular culture-From Comic Books with characters like Jonah Hex and The Apache Kid, to cartoons like Texas Ted and Deputy Dog, as well as of course films, television and books.

(PICTURED DC COMIC'S JONAH HEX -vicious bastard)

The west was being written about and mythologised while it was still happening with the dime store paperbacks. Real western characters like Daniel Boon, Buffalo Bill, Wyatt Earp and Billy the Kid all had the dubious pleasure of reading novels exaggerating their exploits. In fact one story exists in which an ageing Daniel Boon was shown a paperback of his own adventures and the lurid cover depicting him as an handsome youthful mountain man holding a buxom maiden while he fought off two bloodthirsty Indian savages with his free hand.

Boon told the reporter who had shown him the book, - 'It might have happened. But I don't recollect it.'

Perhaps the first really important western novel was Owen Wister's 1902 The Virginian which has long fallen out of copyright and is available on the internet. Though I would point anyone wanting to seriously study this genre defining work to the Oxford Library Classics edition which contains some interesting footnotes as well as a learned introduction.


Owen Wister (Born July 14, 1860 - Died in1938)

Worked in Boston as a bank employee until his health failed and came West in 1885. He went back to East to Harvard to become a lawyer.

Wister was a Harvard-educated lawyer from Philadelphia. He was originally from Pennsylvania.

1885 - Wister came West at the age of 25 for his health. He stayed at the Wolcott Ranch on Deer Creek, near Glenrock.

July 22, 1885 - Wister came to Medicine Bow with the owner of the ranch. As there was no rooms available so he slept on the counter of the General Store, South of the tracks, now known as the Owen Wister General Store.

Wister made several trips West, and the names and events over a period of the next 15 years were kept in a series of diaries. They contained a full and realistic account of his western experiences with cattle thieves, ranchers, cowboys, saloons and their keepers, and Indians. He used these colourful events to provide the material for his western novel The Virginian which was published in 1902. (The setting - Medicine Bow, Wyoming)

"The Virginian" was the first Western in the modern sense ever written. It brought world wide recognition to Medicine Bow and made famous the phrase "When you call me that, smile."

Legend has it that Owen Wister overheard these words when James Davis, one time deputy sheriff of Carbon County, was engaged in a poker game in Medicine Bow. One of the other players called Davis an "S.O.B." and Davis replied, "When you call me that, smile."


The Novel contains many of the scenes that would become a stable of the genre - the cattle round-up, the saloon brawl, the gunfights, the romantic entanglements - but told here for the first time and any serious student of the genre needs to read this seminal work. The book was an immediate best-seller with readers snapping up the book as fast as it could be printed. The book was an even bigger hit in Europe where readers were eager for colourful tales of the frontier.

And so Wister's romantic viewpoint of the West became the template for the modern western.

Another popular early writer who had much to do with shaping the genre was Zane Grey (1872-1939) who published his first western novel in 1903, a year after the Virginian.

His total novels were:

Critics hates Grey, say ing his books offered a romantic and simplistic view of what was an harsh reality but readers snapped them up and many of the novels found themselves being filmed as B-westerns.

Of equal importance to the genre is Louis Lamour (1908-1988) who may be the most read western author there ever was. The list of book published during his lifetime is impressive.

(including series novels eg the Sackett novels)

  • Westward the Tide (London, 1950; first US publication 1976)
  • The Riders of High Rock (1951)
  • The Rustlers of West Fork (1951)
  • The Trail to Seven Pines (1951)
  • Trouble Shoot er (1952)
  • Hondo (1953)
  • Showdown at Yellow Butte (1953)
  • Crossfire Trail (1954)
  • Heller with a Gun (1954)
  • Kilkenny (1954)
  • Utah Blaine (1954)
  • Guns of the Timberlands (1955)
  • To Tame a Land (1955)
  • The Burning Hills (1956)
  • Silver Canyon (1956)
  • Last Stand at Papago Wells (1957)
  • Sitka (1957)
  • The Tall Stranger (1957)
  • Radigan (1958)
  • The First Fast Draw (1959)
  • Taggart (1959)
  • The Daybreakers (1960)
  • Flint (1960)
  • Sackett (1961)
  • High Lonesome (1962)
  • Killoe (1962)
  • Lando (1962)
  • Shalako (1962)
  • Catlow (1963)
  • Dark Canyon (1963)
  • Fallon (1963)
  • How the West Was Won (1963)
  • Hanging Woman Creek (1964)
  • Mojave Crossing (1964)
  • The High Graders (1965)
  • The Key-Lock Man (1965)
  • Kiowa Trail (1965)
  • The Sackett Brand (1965)
  • The Broken Gun (1966)
  • Kid Rodelo (1966)
  • Kilrone (1966)
  • Mustang Man (1966)
  • Matagorda (1967)
  • The Sky-Liners (1967)
  • Chancy (1968)
  • Conagher (1968)
  • Down the Long Hills (1968)
  • The Empty Land (1969)
  • The Lonely Men (1969)
  • Galloway (1970)
  • The Man Called Noon (1970)
  • Reilly's Luck (1970)
  • Brionne (1971)
  • The Ferguson Rifle (1971)
  • North to the Rails (1971)
  • Tucker (1971)
  • Under the Sweetwater Rim (1971)
  • Callaghen (1972)
  • Ride the Dark Trail (1972)
  • The Man from Skibbereen (1973)
  • The Quick and the Dead (1973)
  • Treasure Mountain (1973)
  • The Californios (1974)
  • Sackett's Land (1974)
  • Man From the Broken Hills (1975)
  • Over on the Dry Side (1975)
  • Rivers West (1975)
  • The Rider of Lost Creek (1976)
  • To the Far Blue Mountains (1976)
  • Where the Long Grass Blows (1976)
  • Borden Chantry (1977)
  • Bendigo Shafter (19 78)
  • Fair Blows the Wind (1978)
  • The Mountain Valley War (1978)
  • The Iron Marshal (1979)
  • The Proving Trail (1979)
  • Lonely on the Mountain (1980)
  • The Warrior's Path (1980)
  • Comstock Lode (1981)
  • Milo Talon (1981)
  • The Cherokee Trail (1982)
  • The Shadow Riders (1982)
  • The Lonesome Gods (1983)
  • Ride the River (1983)
  • Son of a Wanted Man (1984)
  • The Walking Drum (1984)
  • Jubal Sackett (1985)
  • Passin' Through (1985 )
  • Last of the Breed (1986)
  • West of Pilot Range (1986)
  • A Trail to the West (1986)
  • The Haunted Mesa (1987)

Sackett novels

In fictional story order (not the order written). [1]

  • Sackett’s Land - Barnabas Sackett
  • To the Far Blue Mountains - Barnabas Sackett
  • The Warrior’s Path - Kin Ring Sackett
  • Jubal Sackett - Jubal Sackett, Itchakomi Ishai
  • Ride the River - Echo Sackett (Aunt to Orrin, Tyrel, and William Tell Sackett)
  • The Daybreakers - Orrin and Tyrel Sackett, Cap Rountree, Tom Sunday
  • Lando - Orlando Sack ett, the Tinker
  • Sackett - William Tell Sackett, Cap Rountree
  • Mojave Crossing - William Tell Sackett and Nolan Sackett
  • The Sackett Brand - William Tell Sackett, and the whole passel of Sacketts!
  • The Skyliners - Flagan and Galloway Sackett
  • The Lonely Men - William Tell Sackett
  • Mustang Man - Nolan Sackett
  • Galloway - Galloway and Flagan Sackett
  • Treasure Mountain - William Tell Sackett
  • Ride the Dark Trail - Logan Sackett
  • Lonely on the Mountain - William Tell, Orrin and Tyrel Sackett

There are also two Sackett-related short stories:

  • "The Courting of Griselda" (available in End of the Drive)
  • "Booty for a Badman" (available in War Party)

Sacketts are also involved in the plot of 7 other novels:

  • Bendigo Shafter (Ethan Sackett)
  • Dark Canyon (William Tell Sackett)
  • Borden Chantry (Joe Sackett, killed in ambush that B Chantry solves murder)
  • Passin' Through (Parmalee Sackett is mentioned as defending a main character in the book)
  • Son of a Wanted Man (Tyrel Sackett)
  • Catlow (Ben Cowhan marries a cousin of Tyrel Sackett’s wife)
  • Man from the Broken Hills (Em Talon a main character in this book was in fact born a Sackett. Mentions William Tell Sackett)

Talon and Chantry novels

  • Borden Chantry
  • Fair Blows the Wind
  • The Ferguson Rifle
  • The Man from the Broken Hills (Em Talon a main character in the book was born a Sackett)
  • Milo Talon (Is a cousin to the Sacketts through his mother Em Talon)
  • North to the Rails
  • Over on the Dry Side
  • Rivers West

Kilkenny novels

Interestingly, the last story (in fictional story order) was published more than 20 years before the other installments.

  • The Rider of Lost Creek (1976)
  • The Mountain Valley War (1978), which previously been released as a magazine novella, entitled A Man Called Trent and was re-written for the Kilkenny trilogy. A Man Called Trent is included in the short story collection entitled The Rider of the Ruby Hills (1986)
  • Kilkenny (1954)
  • A Gun for Kilkenny Is a short story featuring Kilkenny as a minor character, from the collection Dutchman's Flat (1986).
  • Monument Rock, a novella in the story collection of the same name.

Hopalong Cassidy novels

Originally published pseudonymously as "Tex Burns".

  • The Riders of High Rock
  • The Rustlers of West Fork
  • The Trail to Seven Pines
  • Trouble Shooter

Collections of short stories

  • War Party (1975)
  • The Strong Shall Live (1980)
  • Yondering (1980; revised edition 1989)
  • Buckskin Run (1981)
  • Bowdrie (1983)
  • The Hills of Homicide (1983)
  • Law of the Desert Born (1983)
  • Bowdrie's Law (1984)
  • Night Over the Solomons (1986)
  • The Rider of the Ruby Hills (1986)
  • Riding for the Brand (1986)
  • The Trail to Crazy Man (1986)
  • Dutchman's Flat (1986)
  • Lonigan (1988)
  • Long Ride Home (1989)
  • The Outlaws of Mesquite (1990)
  • West from Singapore (1991)
  • Valley of the Sun (1995)
  • West of Dodge (1996)
  • End of the Drive (1997)
  • Monument Rock (1998)
  • Beyond the Great Snow Mountains (1999)
  • Off the Mangrove Coast (2000)
  • May There Be a Road (2001)
  • With These Hands (2002)
  • From the Listening Hills (2003)
  • Collected Short Stories of Louis L'Amour: The Frontier Stories - Volume 1
  • Collected Short Stories of Louis L'Amour: The Frontier Stories - Volume 2
  • Collected Short Stories of Louis L'Amour: The Frontier Stories - Volume 3
  • Collected Short Stories of Louis L'Amour: The Adventure Stories - Volume 4
  • Collected Short Stories of Louis L'Amour: The Frontier Stories - Volume 5
  • Collected Short Stories of Louis L'Amour: - Volume 6 coming october 28, 2008

Non-fiction books

  • Education Of A Wandering Man
  • Frontier
  • The Sackett Companion
  • A Trail Of Memories: The Quotations Of Louis L'Amour
During the 1950's through to the middle of the 1970's Western series would regularly play on Television, often making household names of their stars and the book world reflected this with hordes and hordes of new westerns hitting bookshelves every week. Writers like J T Edson, Oliver Strange and even Elmore Leonard became household names thanks to the steady stream of paperbacks. At Christmas kids would ask for the Bonanza or Rawhide annuals and the genre was now at its most popular.

Westerns would play on both the radio and television and at the cinema it seemed as if one in every three movies was a western.

By the mid-sixties the genre was changing and the crime and science fiction genres were taking away a lot of the westerns pulling power. But by the mid sixties movies were offering a more realistic view of the west and when the Italian Westerns starring Clint Eastwood with their uber-violent version of the west hit the screen the old style western was truly out of fashion.

Traditional westerns were still being published but at this time there was a movement of British writers collectively called the Piccadilly Cowboys that would dominate the genre in print for a great deal of the late sixties and Seventies. UK publisher NEL had a worldwide hit on their hands with their Edge series which was written by Terry Harknett under the name of George G. Gilman. And although the likes of Louis Lamour, J T Edson and Oliver Strane remained popular it was these violent UK written westerns that were the most visible in the bookshops of the UK.

These books were totally different to the traditional stuff and the character of Edge was probably the most violent western anti-hero to ever grace the written page. Harknett had another success with his Adam Steele character. He was also responsible for The Undertaker and the Dollars series of western novels.

Numerous other series characters popped up - Breed, The Gunslinger, Crow and scores of others.


as by Frederick H. Christian.

Author; Frederick Nolan, published by Sphere, UK

Kill Angel (Alt. US title: Bad Day At Agua Caliente)
Send Angel (Alt. US title: Ride Clear Of Daranga)
Find Angel (Alt. US title: Ride Out To Vengeance)
Trap Angel (Alt. US title: Ambush In Purgatory)
Hang Angel (Alt. US title: Showdown At Trinidad)
Frame Angel (Alt. US title: Shoot-out At Silver King)
Hunt Angel (Alt. US title: Massacre At Madison)
Take Angel (Alt. US title: Warn Angel)
Stop Angel

Note: Reprinted by Zebra, USA, 1975 - 1976, using the English titles. Books then switched to the Pinnacle imprint, first using the same titles then new ones. Zebra highlighted the name Angel on its covers. Pinnacle's first version also highlighted the Angel title. Then Pinnacle began a new version as Frank Angel, Federal Marshal (sub-titled "How the West Really Was") and re-titling the books, 1979 - 1980. They then switched to calling it the Justice Series still using the new titles.
Five further books by Mike Linaker were only published in Germany.

as by William M. James.
Authors; Terry Harknett (TH), Laurence James (LJ), & John Harvey (JH), published by Pinnacle (US), Sphere (UK), NEL (UK).

1. The First Death (TH)
2. Knife in the Night (LJ)
3. Duel to the Death (TH)

4. The Death Train (LJ)
5. Fort Treachery (TH)
6. Sonora Slaughter (TH)
7. Blood Line (LJ)
8. Blood on the Tracks (TH)
9. The Naked and the Savage (LJ)
10. All Blood is Red (TH)
11. The Cruel Trail (LJ)
12. Fool's Gold (LJ)
13. The Best Man (TH)
14. Born to Die (LJ)
15. Blood Rising (JH)
16. Texas Killing (LJ)
17. Blood Brother (JH)
18. Slow Dying (LJ)
19. Fast Living (LJ)
20. Death Dragon (JH)
21. Blood Wedding (LJ)
22. Border Killing (LJ)
23. Death Valley (LJ)

24. Death Ride (JH)
25. Times Past (LJ)
26. The Hanging (JH)
27. Debt of Blood (LJ)

as by Neil Hunter.
Author; Mike Linaker, published by Star, reprinted as large print editions in the Linford Western Library.

1. Trackdown
2. Bloody Bounty
3. High Hell
4. The Killing Trail
5. Hangtown
6. The Day of the Savage

as by James A. Muir.
Author; Angus Wells, published by Sphere.

1. The Lonely Hunt
2. The Silent Kill
3. Cry for Vengeance
4. Death Stage
5. The Gallows Tree
6. The Judas Goat
7. Time of the wolf
8. Blood Debt
9. Blood-Stock
10. Outlaw Road
11. The Dying and the Damned
12. Killer's Moon
13. Bounty Hunter
14. Spanish Gold
15. Slaughter Time
16. Bad Habits
17. The Day of the Gun
18. The Colour of Death
19. Blood Valley
20. Gundown
21. Blood Hunt
22. Apache Blood

as by Charles R. Pike.
Authors; Terry Harknett (TH), Angus Wells (AW), & Ken Bulmer (KB), published by Mayflower/Granada.

1. The Killing Trail (TH)
2. Double Cross (TH)
3. The Hungry Gun (TH)
4. Killer Silver (AW)
5. Vengeance Hunt (AW)
6. The Burning Man (AW)
7. The Golden Dead (AW)
8. Death Wears Grey (AW)
9. Days of Blood (AW)
10. The Killing Ground (AW)
11. Brand of Vengeance (KB)
12. Bounty Road (AW)
13. Ashes and Blood (AW)
14. The Death Pit (AW)
15. Angel of Death (AW)

16. Mourning is Red (AW)
17. Bloody Christmas (AW)
18. Time of the Damned (AW)
19. The Waiting Game (AW)
20. Spoils of War (AW)
21. The Violent Land (AW)
22. Gallows Bait (AW)

as by Matthew Kirk.
Author; Angus Wells, published by Granada.

1. Day of Fury
2. Vengeance Road
3. The Wild Hunt
4. Yellow Stripe
5. Blood for Blood
6. Death in Red

as by James W. Marvin.
Author; Laurence James; published by Corgi.

1. The Red Hills
2. Worse Than Death
3. Tears of Blood
4. Black Trail
5. Body Guard
6. The Sisters
7. One-Eyed Death
8. A Good Day

as by J D Sandon.
Authors; Angus Wells (AW) & John Harvey (JH), published by Mayflower/Granada.

1. Guns Across the River (AW)
2. Cannons in the Rain (JH)

3. Fire in the Wind (AW)
4. Border Affair (JH)
5. Easy Money (AW)
6. Mazatlan (JH)
7. One Too Many Mornings (AW)
8. Wheels of Thunder (JH)
9. Durango (JH)
10. Survivors (AW)

as by Charles C. Garrett.
Authors Laurence James (LJ) & Angus Wells (AW), published by Sphere.

1. The Massacre Trail (LJ)
2. The Golden Gun (AW)
3. White Apache (LJ)
4. Fifty Calibre Kill (AW)
5. Arizona Bloodline (LJ)
6. Rebel Vengeance (AW)
7. Death Canyon (LJ)
8. Peacemaker (AW)
9. The Russian Lode (AW)
10. Blood Target (LJ)

as by J.B. Dancer
Authors; John Harvey (JH) & Angus Wells (AW), published by Coronet.

1. Evil Breed (JH)
2. Kansas Bloody Kansas (AW)
3. Judgement Day (JH)
4. Vengeance Trail (AW)
5. The Hanged Man (JH)
6. One Way to Die (AW)

Author; John B. Harvey, published by Pan.

1. Cherokee Outlet
2. Blood Trail
3. Tago
4. The Silver Lie
5. Blood on the Border
6. Ride the Wide Country
7. Arkansas Breakout
8. John Wesley Hardin
9. California Bloodlines
10. The Skinning Place

as by William S. Brady.
Authors; Angus Wells (AW) & John Harvey (JH), published by Fontana.

1. The Sudden Guns (AW)
2. Blood Money (JH)

3. Death's Bounty (AW)
4. Killing Time (JH)
5. Fool's Gold (AW)
6. Blood Kin (JH)
7. The Gates of Death (AW)
8. Desperadoes (JH)
9. The Widowmaker (AW)
10. Dead Man's Hand (JH)
11. Sierra Gold (JH)
12. Death and Jack Shade (JH)
13. Killer's Breed (AW)
14. Border War (JH)
15. Killer! (JH)

as by William S. Brady.
Authors; Angus Wells (AW) & John Harvey (JH), published by Fontana.

1. Comanche! (AW)
2. Outlaws (AW)
3. Whiplash (JH)
4. Lynch Law (AW)
5. Blood Run (AW)
6. War-Party (JH)
7. $1,000 Death (AW)
8. The Lost (AW)
9. Shoot-Out (AW)

as by L.J. Coburn.
Authors; Laurence James (LJ) & John Harvey (JH), published by Sphere.

1. The First Shot (LJ)
2. The Raiders (JH)
3. Brotherly Death (LJ)
4. Bloody Shiloh (JH)
5. Death River (LJ)

as by John J McLaglen.
Authors; Laurence James (LJ) & John Harvey (JH), published by Corgi.
1. White Death (LJ)
2. River of Blood (JH)
3. The Black Widow (LJ)

4. Shadow of the Vulture (JH)
5. Apache Squaw (LJ)
6. Death in Gold (JH)
7. Death Rites (LJ)
8. Cross-Draw (JH)
9. Massacre! (LJ)
10. Vigilante! (JH)
11. Silver Threads (LJ)
12. Sun Dance (JH)
13. Billy the Kid (JH)
14. Death School (LJ)
15. Till Death (JH)
16. Geronimo! (LJ)
17. The Hanging (LJ)
18. Dying Ways (JH)
19. Bloodline (LJ)
20. Hearts of Gold (JH)
21. Pony Express (LJ)
22. Wild Blood (JH)
23. Texas Massacre (LJ)
24. The Last Hurrah (LJ)


These days
the wesern is thriving and has never been more respectable.
In the states several high profile writers like Elmer Kelton are helping to keep the genre alive while in the UK the Black Horse Western series is still going strong and publishing new western fiction on a regular basis. And writers like Cormac McCarthy are being hailed by the literary crowd.

NOTE -This has been an overview of the genre and only listed a few highlights of what there is to discover. There are hundreds of important authors that I haven't mentioned here. Instead only featuring highlights from each age of the western.

I have been working on a comprehensive study of the genre for several years and hope to publish it within the next five years. Firstly as a printed book and then as an online resource.

So treat this as a taster for a major work.

Anyone wanting to discover the varied world of western fiction should check out:

Shane by Jack Schieffer
The Virginian by Owen Wister
Any of the Sacket books by Louis Lamour
Riders of the purple sage by Zane Grey
The Good OL Boys by Elmer Kelton
The Edge series by George G. Gilman
Dawn of Fury by Ralph Compton
Westward of the Law by Matt Braun
Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurty
Hombre by Elmore Leonard
The Goodnight Trail by Ralp Compton

The above books are essential and should give anyone interesting a rounded example of what to expect from this thrilling genre.


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