Sunday 1 March 2009


I've had a few emails lately asking of details of how Wild West Monday works.

Well it's simply really - the western for years has been languishing at the bottom of the pecking order in genre fiction, dismissed by many for being cliched/routine shoot em ups with little value. But that, as we say in the UK, is Bollocks!

The western can be cliched but then so can every other genre. When done well, the western can transcend the straitjacket of its boundaries and explore issues relevant to today's audience just as well, sometime better, than other genres. It is, like Jazz, an American art form but it belongs to the world and westerns have been created, still do, in lands far from the rolling plains, baking deserts and snow capped mountains.

The western, the way we think of it, is largely mythical but then the best stories always are.

The popular hard boiled American PI genre owes much to the western and most of its founders worked in the western field at one time or another. Indeed crime kings Elmore Leonard and Robert B. Parker have written excellent westerns. Parker continues to do so. Stephen King often uses western elements in his fiction, The Dark Tower is something of an apocalyptic western. Cormac McCarthy produces award winning works that are very much a modern progression of the classic western. Larry McMurty's Lonesome Dove took a Pulitzer prize. In the UK the Black Horse Western range, of which I am proudly a member, continues to publish excellent traditional style westerns that entertain readers across the world. Today writers like James Reasoner and Elmer Kelton to name but two of many continue to explore the genre in bestselling fiction.

But despite all this most bookshops don't have a western section. Why - well, because the market is decided by a few big chains and they seem to think we don't want westerns. All we want, the believe, is for every book to be of a uniform building brick size with large embossed titles on the covers. That's fine but not all stories need five hundred pages, indeed some stories work better in half that length.

And so back to the western.

This Monday we join virtual hands across the world and unite to revive the genre that deserves a place alongside the best of today's escapist fiction. So tomorrow visit a bookshop or library and ask if they stock westerns, if they don't then ask if they could. You don't even have to leave your home if you want, just telephone your local shop and enquire about western fiction.

If enough of us do it worldwide then it's going to get noticed.

So get in on the movement and check out the many other blogs that are promoting wild west Monday - typing "WILD WEST MONDAY" into a search engine should bring up loads. Check the other blogs sidebar on The Archive to see who is taking part.

Come on people - the western has a future and we're bringing it home.

Later tonight the winners in Misfit Lil book competition will be announced and then tomorrow - Wild West Monday will see the start of the online publication of Chap O'Keefe's bestselling, long out of print classic The Sheriff and the Widow.

On Tuesday I will report on my own Wild West Monday antics.

1 comment:

Patti said...

My local libaray has 388 westerns-some of these are non-fiction but that's pretty good isn't it?

Book review - The Night House by Jo Nesbo