Saturday, 30 January 2010

We're on target

One day and ten posts to go to reach the target of 100.

100 posts, all in some way related to the Black Horse Westerns.

Check them out folks, but not before you read Chap O'Keefe's history of the black horse logo.

What is a Black Horse Western? When did the series begin? This short
history begins with the line's birth . . . and an unmourned death.

Eighteen years ago an anonymous American western cowboy was thrown from
the back of a prancing black horse in London. And he has not been seen

It seems the unknown cowboy met his death with the birth of the Black
Horse Western series of novels published by the independent,
family-owned British firm, Robert Hale Ltd, whose chairman and managing
director is Mr John Hale.

Until that date, the company's western novels had been published with a
series logo on title pages of a stetson-wearing, loop-swinging cowboy
riding a bucking black horse. When the line was re-branded as Black
Horse Westerns, the cowboy went, the horse rose up on its hind legs in
earnest and a wicked glint entered its eye.

Mr Martin Kendall, the Hale marketing director, says, "The Black Horse
imprint was first used in 1986, although we had been issuing novels in
this genre since the 1940s, if not before. The firm was started in 1936."

Westerns, then, had always had a strong presence on the Hale fiction
list. During the 1960s and 1970s, Hale's cowboy-and-horse had graced
the title pages of hardback books by Louis L'Amour, Max Brand, Lauran
Paine (under countless aliases) and many, many British authors of
western fiction, at least one or two of whom are still active in the
field today.

The company, which currently publishes more than 100 westerns a year --
exceeding any US publisher's total -- was forced at one stage to launch
a sister imprint. "The John Gresham imprint used in the '60s and early
'70s was invented in order that our output could be increased without
the feeling in the trade that there were just too many westerns coming
from Hale," Mr Kendall says.

So if you're a fan of western fiction, live in Britain or a Commonwealth
country, and borrow hardback books from libraries, you're sure to be
familiar with the small, 160-page novels that today are Black Horse
Westerns. Other readers, including Americans, will have come across the
same stories reissued in large-print, trade-paperback editions put out
in the Linford Western Library and Dales Westerns series, both
distributed internationally by the Ulverscroft group.

At the time the Hale horse threw off its cowboy, the books also lost
their separate pictorial wrappers or jackets which were carried over a
red, or sometimes black, binding. The books became "paper-boards" with
their colorful covers incorporated in a single attractive unit. With no
more paper coverings -- apt to become torn, crumpled and eventually
discarded -- the books looked better than ever. And their appearance is
still attracting favorable comment world-wide.

The stories are traditional in tone -- tales of action and gunsmoke in
the Old West -- and the series has on occasion reprinted classic works
by Ernest Haycox, William Colt MacDonald, Lewis B. Patten, T. V. Olsen
and D. B. Newton. They offer the older person the chance to taste again
the pleasures of the "pulp fiction" era, and introduce the younger to
reading pleasures no longer to be enjoyed elsewhere.

The writers live around the globe, some researching the historical
backgrounds to their stories using the latest in computer technology as
well as personal libraries that sometimes run into hundreds of volumes.
Black Horse Westerns are written by people in Britain, America, South
Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

Although most BHW readers borrow from libraries, the books can also be
ordered online at Amazon UK, WH Smith, and other retailers. For
bargains, choose your title and author and set a good search engine in
motion! Public libraries will also locate them for you via interloan
agreements with libraries in other areas, or by buying them in. It's
handy to have publication date and ISBN ready when you make your request.

And if anyone can find out more about the "lost" cowboy, let us know at
Black Horse Express!

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