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Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Don't bite the hand that feeds

The Archive would like to congratulate author, Bill Sheehy on the forthcoming publication of his début crime novel. Mr Sheehy westerns for the BHW under the name Carlton Youngblood. Well on his website he gives his formula for writing successful novels, claiming that westerns are easy, and that they are not real writing. Hey I respect your opinion but rubbishing the genre doesn't benefit anyone.


"After developing my recipe, if you will, I chose to try it out on a simple western novel. How difficult can that be? A cowboy, his horse, a bad man and a girl who is about to lose her ranch, what else is there? Life was so much simpler back then. Searching the library for publishers of that genre, I found John Hale Publishing, Ltd. Within a reasonably short time I have seen half a dozen or so of my novels published with more scheduled for publication later this year and even into next year ... and all the advance checks cashed. Westerns are not the kind of stories I like to read, so I am changing directions."

Well Mr. Sheehy I for one think westerns are as valid as any other genre and let's not forget there are other people who think all genre fiction, including crime, is nonsense. The Archive wishes you the best of luck with your crime fiction but please don't forsake the humble oater. Westerns are not simple...nor are its readers. Oh and note - it's Robert Hale LTD not John Hale.



Charles Gramlich said...

Ridiculous. I remember when Michael Moorcock said something a bit like this about fantasy and I've never quite forgiven him. And Roland Green said the same thing once. If the writing is "simple," then they're not doing it right. I lose complete respect for folks who talk this way.

Chap O'Keefe said...

Bravo, Gary! I couldn't have put it better myself.

It's fine that BHWs should be an accommodating market for people starting out. But the better western writers of today, or those putting themselves forward as representatives of the genre, should not be advertising the backgrounds of their stories as "the simple life".

Black people, Indians, women, the poor did not have a "simple life" in the Old West. And politically and economically, people who chose the South in the Civil War were penalized for years after.

We don't need to push these points in stories intended primarily to entertain, but to pretend the issues didn't exist will result in the genre being dismissed as lightweight, a joke. A western writer should occasionally read something like "Victorian Lady on the Texas Frontier" or even "Great Gunfighters of the West" -- not to labor in their stories what the intelligent already know, but to see things from an informed perspective and avoid the kind of underlying disdain for westerns that comes across in Mr Sheehy's website.

To advocate that a "recipe" or "formula" suffices for a western is an insult to some great writers: DeRosso, Olsen, Savage, Ballard, Brock were all writing marvellous material when our johnny-come-lately -- now living it up as a rich retiree on the Queensland coast "bored with beaches and good Aussie beer" -- was probably still in short pants. The writers I name and many others wrote novels with strong characters in complex and realistic situations that clearly reflected American life on the frontier much better that anything seen in a B movie or a TV episode penned with kids in mind.

Oh, and I've sent this "bored" writer two emails, not raising any of the points to which Gary draws attention, but to make friendly contact. He has acknowledged neither. Similarly, our friend Steve M, at whose blog he left a comment, says his details "didn't allow me to get in touch with him".

Laurie said...

It's also important to note that readers of Westerns are discriminating people who are, many times, very well read in American History and can spot a fake from a mile away. As such, Western writers need to be on their toes and really do their research. A phony will only last so long. He may be published, yes, but soon readers will dismiss his writing as inferior.

Mark E. said...

A simple life? Sounds pretty uneducated to me. Texas was not simple. Indian attacks, isolation, Civil War, Reconstruction, martial law until 1870 ... sounds like someone watches an old B movie and knows all the answers - kinda like watchin' MSNBC and understanding America today. Perhaps best he moved on to something "simpler."

Ray said...

I've read ONE Carlton Youngblood.
Take note - just the one. Make of that what you will.

Graeme K Talboys said...

Not sure Mike has ever said anything like that about fantasy writing. I know he suggests that anyone who wants to write good fantasy should read widely beyond the genre; and I know he has taken issue with specific authors of sf and fantasy for their ante-diluvian politics; but in terms of style he is open to anything that tells the story well.

Chap O'Keefe said...

At the very least, I wish Mr Sheehy would remove from his "Hello and Welcome" page the sentence "I've even got a `fiction writing for dummies' page!"

Mark said...

Sounds like someone watches an old B movie and knows all the answers - kinda like watch in' MSNBC and understanding America today. Perhaps best he moved on to something simpler.

Good day.

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