Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Western is FAR from Dead!


Hard to believe, but in less than two weeks Western Book Readers, a group on Facebook, has exploded in membership. Over 300 people have joined the group - MOST of them Western book writers.

When they're not pushing their books, most of the members have interesting insights into the Western as a genre and share a lot of fertile ideas. Questions are asked and many people contribute their thoughts in answering. The group is extremely active! And that's an understatement.

To a person, people in this group believe that the Western is far from dead and is, in fact, making a grand comeback. Each movie made, some argue, attests to this. What attests to the comeback of the Western to me, is how many writers are churning out books in this genre. How many are sold? Hard to tell. But the selling in this case is only half the issue; the fact that SO MANY are writing in this genre is the issue.

For a long time there's been a plethora of suspense writers. Everyone wants to write suspense or mystery. As a result, the market is so saturated with suspense/mystery, it's ridiculous. There are only a handful of suspense writers who get the shelf space in Barnes and Noble, and some of those books are AWFUL. But because the writer may have written a good first book, the publishing house puts out anything the writer churns out later.

I used to say, "Writers are a dime a dozen, and suspense writers are a nickle a dozen." I think I can now add "Western writers are a nickle a dozen" to that. One of the things that drew me, as a publisher, into the Western genre was that it was wide open. There were NO NEW voices, just the same re-issued old guys for the most part. Granted, people like Elmer Kelton and Robert Parker came along, although both are dead now, so I suppose they qualify as the "old guys." However, as flocks of new writers show up on the Facebook page I originated, I'm beginning to see that the Western is inundated with authors. Few are famous, but all are driven to pursue this genre, good or bad.

The question is, DO THEY READ WESTERNS? After all, this is the Western Book READER page, not WRITER page. If so, WHO DO THEY READ? The dead guys? Or will these writers, unlike most other writers, actually support their competitors and buy their books?

It's long been my observation, that writers are NOT usually supportive of other writers when it comes to laying out the $$ for a competitor's book. I attend many events, and I've NEVER seen a writer buy another writer's book. I have done so, but I've never seen another writer do so. Maybe a few do. I've just never seen it.

And what have I found when I've tried to be supportive and buy another person's work? Generally, a crappy book. Poorly written, unedited, poorly layed out and formatted. I've seen only a handful of self-published/subsidy published books that were laudable. Marjorie Curry's "Bunny Rabbit Milkshakes and Cowboy Eggs" (a memoir) was delightful. Peter Burt's poetry books are great...ummmm...a few coffee table books have been outstanding. Most, unfortunately, are not worth the paper they were printed on. Sadly, this seems to be the rule more often than not.

On the Western Book Reader group page, a few writers have some kind of a traditional publisher - most do not. I only hope these non-traditionally published writers will prove to be the exception to the rule. Westerns need the best writers out there for this genre to truly survive and thrive - skilled storytellers not afraid of research...people with good writing skills and even better editors. It takes more than a fancy book trailer to contribute to the great Western story-telling art and traditions left us by the likes of Louis L'Amour, Zane Grey, Elmer Kelton, and others. It takes good readers, too.


If you'd like a mule t-shirt, check out our website: www.moonlightmesaassociates.com/id4.html.


Moonlight Mesa will be attending the Arts and Craft event in Pinetop, AZ, over the Labor Day weekend, hoping the monsoon showers hold off for a few days.

Currently no events are schdeduled for October, but one might be added to the calendar anyway. Two events are scheduled for November, and one event is on the books for December. Hope to see you at one of these!

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