If you are in Colorado on 8 April 2015 please attend a lecture I will give at the Ault, Colorado Library. Ault is about 70 miles north of Denver and 11 miles north of Greeley, Colorado. The talk will be a reading of my book, Comes A Pale Horse with details of the background and history of the setting. The book is a historical novel of the plains wars set in the west of 1864-65.

One book reviewer said this:

Burgess weaves a powerfull tale about the 1864 Sand Creek Massacre which occurred as the consequence of the 1861 formation of Colorado Territory out of Kansas Territory. Using fictional characters placed in the actual military units of such regiments as the 11th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry, commanded by Colonel William O. Collins (the namesake to Fort Collins, Colorado), the 1st Colorado Cavalry, commanded by Colonel John Chivington, the 11th Kansas Volunteer Cavalry, the 7th Iowa Cavalry, the 2nd Missouri Light Artillery, commanded by Colonel Nelson Cole, and the 12th Missouri Cavalry, Burgess tells the story of the Plains Wars of the 1860's. Throughout the work he discusses the importance of the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851 and its influence on the military and political development of the American West. While 200,000 square miles of territory on the plains of the Rocky Mountain West now belonged to the Indians, the United States government promptly began a treaty process to clear the Indians' claim of title to these lands with the Treaty of Fort Wise of 1861 held on the Arkansas River in Indian Territory of the Cheyennes and Arapahoes. After Colonel John Civington's cavalry killed several hundred old men, women and children at Sand Creek on 29 November, 1864, Roman Nose led an attack on Camp Rankin and Julesburg in northeast Colorado Territory. The War Department then incensed retaliated by forming the Powder River Expedition as a punitive action to move on the Indians in the Powder River country of present day Wyoming.

Burgess tells his story in a way reminding me of Tolstoy's WAR AND PEACE. It's the story of Old Man Afraid of His Horses, Roman Nose, Red Cloud, Crazy Horse, the government, the War Department and many military units. Epic in nature and well written, it's a good read.

The event begins at 7:00 pm lasting until 8:30 pm. There is no admission charge and the public is welcome.

There Have Been Many Fine Writers in America's History.

Here are some of them.

     "Call me Shane," captivated the American reader in 1949. Fourteen years later Jack Schaefer's Monte Walsh firmly established the western theme as America's voice.


I asked a distinguished group of writers, authors, editors, historians, newspaper and magazine columnists; professors of English, creative writing, and history; physicians, lecturers, screenwriters, book reviewers and critics to submit their favorite characters from fiction through the ages. The response to my request was gratifying and overwhelming. I received the names of several hundred characters from the world's literature representing more than 200 different characters. Comments included, "A daunting task," "How does one lay Macbeth along side Hamlet?" or "Huck Finn beside Holden Caulfield?" "I don't know which of these is my favorite. I love them all." Respond they did, ranking their choices and here is how it played out:

1.  ODYSSEUS, in The Odyssey by Homer (ca. 800 B. C.) The man who was never at a loss. He used his wits as well as his weapons. The lyric lines of Homer lured this panel and they chose Odysseus number one. It took eight years before Troy was down. He had built a strong raft or flatboat, decked, with the help of Kalypso, lovely nymph. Struggle he must and he spent another eleven years following  . . . "Pleiades, the laggard Ploughman, and the Great Bear, that some have called the Wain, pivoting in the sky before Orion; . . . These stars the beautiful Kalypso bade him hold on his left hand as he crossed the main." Freed from "the bondage of his exile," Odysseus still had years to go to his beloved Penelope. Every element of human strength and weakness is wrapped up in Odysseus. The most intelligent of the Greeks, his crafty sense gets him into big trouble, and his years of wandering on top of a decade of war still make the reader ache, longing for home.

2.  AUGUSTUS McCRAE, in Lonesome Dove, by Larry McMurtry, 1985. This is a tough one. Trying to separate McCrae from Woodrow Call is like trying to separate Tom Sawyer from Huck Finn. Also, the literary McCrae is now indivisible from Robert Duval's portrayal in the film.

3.  MACBETH, in The Tragedy of Macbeth, by William Shakespeare, 1606. "Let not light see my black and deep desires." Duncan had named his son, Malcolm his successor to the throne. Macbeth, the quintessential existentialist, without courage, signifying nothing was a murderer aware of his murder. Macbeth destroyed himself where once he lived "a blessed time," when goodness had a chance. Now evil reigned and meaninglessness and hopelessness ruled while he sank deeper into darkness. "Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, Creeps in this petty pace from day to day, To the last syllable of recorded time . . ."

4.  ISHMAEL, in Moby Dick, by Herman Melville, 1851. "Call me Ishmael." The most evocative opening sentence ever written. A man with consuming wanderlust becomes witness to Ahab's madness. The book's air of impending doom still makes the pulse throb.

5.  HUCKLEBERRY FINN, in Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain, 1885. Ernest Hemingway said, "All modern American literature comes from one book called Huckleberry Finn." The river gets much of the credit, that brown river of truth carrying Huck to a moral veracity with Jim as they journeyed down the Mississippi. A bonding like Hawkeye and Chingachgook, Huck finds respectability and a new understanding on a river of danger. Any attempt to discredit this character is intellectually dishonest and contemptible. The Great American Novel was written a century and a half ago, and the character of Huck Finn is as hilarious, deep and moving today as he was when he was introduced to our great-great grandparents.

6.  DON QUIXOTE, in Don Quixote of La Mancha, by Miguel de Cervantes, 1605. Too often portrayed merely as a fool who tilted at windmills, or as a subject suited more for Broadway than literature, Don Quixote is a giant character. Perhaps written while Cervantes was in jail, Quixote's  story is rivaled only by The Odyssey as an examination of man's eternal wandering in the Quest.

7.  SCARLETT O'HARA, in Gone With the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell, 1936. In the book, popularized by the movie with Clark Gable as Rhett Butler, Scarlett has remained one of literature's powerful characters.

8.  NATTY BUMPPO - HAWK-EYE, in The Last of the Mohicans, by James Fenimore Cooper, 1826. Leatherstocking/Deerslayer/Pathfinder. Based on America's early frontiersmen, Hawk-eye/Natty Bumppo is perhaps the greatest American hero. Surely, he provided the basis for the solitary heroes of Westerns to come.

9.  RASKOLNIKOV, in Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoevsky, 1866. Sometimes the superior man isn't quite as superior as he thinks. "What makes what I have done seem to them so monstrous?" he asked himself. "The fact that it was a . . . crime? What does the word mean? My conscience is easy. Of course, an illegal action has been committed; of course, the letter of the law has been broken and blood has been spilt; well, take my head to satisfy the letter of the law . . . and let that be all! Of course, if that were the case, many benefactors of mankind who did not inherit power but seized it for themselves, should have been punished at their very first steps. But the first steps of those men were successfully carried out, and therefore they were right, while mine failed, which means I had no right to permit myself that step."

10.  KURTZ, in Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad, 1898-1899. How creepy is this character? To read this short novel is to witness the birth of myth. The concept of Kurtz's savage empire has been stolen and diminished countless times by Hollywood, but the idea of man turning himself into God remains compelling. From the beginning one knows one is in for a ride. "The Nellie, a cruising yawl, swung to her anchor without a flutter of the sails, and was at rest. The flood had made, the wind was nearly calm, and being bound down the river, the only thing for it was to come to and wait for the turn of the tide."

11.  ATTICUS FINCH, in To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, 1960. Once again, a film winds up defining a novel, and Gregory Peck did, indeed, become Atticus Finch. A man of character and bravery, Finch walks a literate and literary path through a backwater landscape. Scout Finch and Boo Radley are also consummate creations.

12.  HAMLET, in Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, 1605. Hamlet: (Let me see.) [Takes the skull.]--"Alas, poor Yoric. I knew him, Horatio." Mankind's whimsy caught in seven words. Of the dozens of Shakespearean characters, Hamlet is the one who best exemplifies those of us who howl for justice.

13.  HECTOR, in The Iliad, by Homer, ca. 800 B. C. Hector was literature's initial great sympathetic character, and one panelist said, "Each time I read the Iliad, I mentally urge him to stab that cheatin S.O.B. Achilles in the heel." The passage where the horsehair crest on Hector's great war helmet frightens his youg son Astyanax provides history's first literary lump in the throat. And of ACHILLES, the same panelist said, "Shane, the Virginian, Lassiter, the Man With No Name; they all trace their linage to this guy."

14.  NICK ADAMS, in Big Two Hearted River and other In Our Time stories, by Ernest Hemingway. Nick fished using grasshoppers blackened by a recent forest fire. He caught one grasshopper, black from the fire's dust. "Go on hopper," Nick said, speaking out loud for the first time, "Fly away somewhere." He fished downstream through the deepening water until he reached a spot ahead where the river narrowed, and "went into a swamp." Nick did not want to go in there now. He'd save that for another time.

15.  THE VIRGINIAN, in The Virginian, by Owen Wister, 1902. The first modern western hero. Up in Medicine Bow, Wyoming they have restored the room in the hotel where Wister spent some of his time while writing his classic novel.

16.  EMMA BOVARY, in Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert, 1857. Shows what romantic longing can get you.

17.  ALICE, in Alice in Wonderland, and Through the Looking Glass, by Lewis Carroll. Alice had asked how one goes about writing and she heard, ". . . begin at the beginning and when you get to the end, stop." And from the Walrus, ". . . the time has come, the Walrus said, to talk of many things, of shoes and ships and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings . . ." Not just wonderfully delightful, one of the most intriguing characters ever written.

18.  DICK SUMMERS, in The Way West and The Big Sky, by A. B. Guthrie, Jr., 1947. Summers looked to all points of the compass. He hated to say goodbye. Boone Caudill didn't want to see Summers go. "Goodbye, Dick Summers . . . Wisht you'd change your mind," Boone said, "It'll be fat doin's up north, Dick."

19.  HEWEY CALLOWAY, in The Good Ol Boys, by Elmer Kelton. An astonishing creation based on many of Kelton's cowboy pals and forebears, Hewey is not only compelling, he's hilarious. The book should be required reading for any student endeavoring to understand the West in general, and Texas in particular. Once again, it's hard not to think of Tommy Lee Jones's portrayal of Hewey.

20.  LENNY SMALL, in Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck, 1937. "Lenny and me got to make a stake. . . We could live off the fatta the lan'."  They carried their bindles, wanderers longing for a home. Lenny saw his Aunt Clara and he listened to her say, "You never give a thought to George," she went on in Lennie's voice. "He been doin' nice things for you alla time. When he got a piece of pie you always got half or more'n half. An' if they was any ketchup, why he'd give it all to you . . ."  "I get to tend the rabbits."

21.  SAM SPADE, in The Maltese Falcon, by Dashiell Hammett, 1929. When a man's partner is killed, he's supposed to do something about it.

22.  JAY GATSBY, in The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1925. Gatsby believed in the green light. He loved Daisy and he let her drive. Their journey was one of the tragedies of loneliness and destruction. Each character in the book is deep, complex and conflicted, and Gatsby's fascination with Daisy has sparked a prominent theme in modern American literature and film.

23.  ROMEO (Montague) and JULIET (Capulet), in Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare, What can be said? The best tragedy ever written. By miles.

24.  SANTIAGO, in The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway, 1952. A simple man fighting unimaginably strong forces. Hemingway used his textbook brevity and pointed prose to create and flesh out Santiago, and took each reader completly inside the fisherman's head. No small task.

25.  WILLIE LOMAN, in Death of a Salesman, by Arthur Miller, 1949. Linda, Willie's wife, lacked the temperament to share her longings, equally shared by Willie. "The only thing you've got in this world is what you sell," Willie said. Desperately Willie struggled to understand his futility. Unlike most he knew his weaknesses, but he tried, the tragic hero to the end.

26.  TOM SAWYER, in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain, 1876. This was the shining side of a Missouri boyhood along the Mississippi River. Twain's dark side would come later in Huckleberry Finn. Tom started out bad, but not really bad and he ended a hero. Anyone who could sell his friends the idea that they should pay him to white-wash Aunt Polly's fence had to be respected. Huck knew that and in his book Huck said, "You don't know about me without you have read a book by the name of Adventures of Tom Sawyer."

27.  LADY CHATTERLEY, in Lady Chatterley's Lover, by D. H. Lawrence, 1928, privately printed, was Lawrence's last novel and he died in 1930.  Constance Chatterley has remained one of literature's provocative women. Lonely, sensual, erotic, Connie Chatterley is with us and won't likely leave.

28.  HOLDEN CAULFIELD, in Catcher in the Rye, by J. D. Salinger, 1951. "You don't like anything that's happening." Holden Caulfield's sister, Phoebe, continued saying Holden didn't like a million things. "You don't . . . Name one thing." Holden couldn't name one thing and besides she was only a child, but she was listening. "If somebody at least listens, it's not too bad." He knew Phoebe was listening and he told her what he'd like to be. He said it's from a song and he said "If a body catch a body comin' through the rye?" Phoebe, his little sister, reminded him that the line was  "If a body meet a body coming through the rye" and that Robert Burns had written it. No matter. Holden pictured little kids playing a game in a big field of rye near a cliff, children running and not looking back. What if they tumble? They'll need a catcher.

29.  LONG JOHN SILVER, in Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stephenson. What a character. The adventurous, traitorous world of piracy and high seas adventure can still be recalled through this book. Something kids should be forced to read.

30.  ANTONIA, in My Antonia, by Willa Cather, 1918. Antonia becomes one with the land of western Nebraska after many years as a struggling Czech immigrant in the Red Cloud area enduring the death of her father; mean and bone-chilling blizzards, heat and drought, miserable relations with a Nebraska town, to become one of the most whole persons in western literature.

31.  SHANE, in Shane, by Jack Schaefer, 1949.  "Call me Shane," captivated the American reader in 1949. Fourteen years later Jack Schaefer's Monte Walsh firmly established the western theme as America's voice.

32.  BEOWULF, in Beowulf, author unknown. What a great story; an Old English fairy tale about Viking heroes and villains. Beowulf and Grendel define the basic characters of virtually every novel written in the past thousand years. Virtue vs. depravity. Beowulf is a truly heroic character.

33.  ISABEL ARCHER, in The Portrait of a Lady, by Henry James, 1881. James said, in his preface to The Portrait. . . that, "Millions of presumptuous girls, intelligent or not intelligent, daily affront their destiny, and what is it open to their destiny to be, at the most, that we should make an ado about it" The novel is of its very nature an "ado," an ado about something, and the larger the form it takes the greater of course the ado. Therefore, consciously, that was what one was in for-for positively organising an ado about Isabel Archer."

34.  HEDDA GABLER, in Hedda Gabler, by Henrik Ibsen. Ibsen wrote many fine plays showing strong well developed characters in works such as A Doll's House, and The Wild Duck. In Hedda, Ibsen portrayed a passionate woman almost demonical with jealousy. It was Anton Chekhov who said that if one shows a pistol in the opening chapters of a book then one must use it before the end. Ibsen painted a picture of Hedda's father's pistols during the first act of the play. Hedda would fire them more than once.

35.  BOB VALDEZ, in Valdez is Coming, by Elmore Leonard, 1970. Leonard is one fine writer and his character, Valdez is one of his best. "Roberto Valdez returned," she said. He smiled back at her, "Bob is easier." "Bob wears a starched collar," Inez said, "Roberto makes war." "Just a little war if he wants it." . . . You expect to fight him?" "If he wants a little. We'll see." "We. There's just one of you. . ."

36.  TOM JOAD, in The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck. An unflinching look at the Great Depression and the effect of class in early 20th century America, Wrath unveils a duplicitous protagonist in Tom Joad. Doing what he can to stay alive, he makes us wonder what we would do in desperate circumstances.

37.  ROOSTER COGBURN, in True Grit, by Charles Portis, 1968. That ex Quantril one eyed, whiskey soaked marshall epitomized the western deputy.

38.  PHILLIP MARLOWE, in The Big Sleep/Farewell My lovely, by Raymond Chandler. Marlowe is addictive. Chandler's descriptions of pre-WWII Los Angeles provide instant nostalgia, and Marlowe is the template for generations of private dicks.

39.  WOODROW CALL, in Lonesome Dove/Streets of Laredo, by Larry McMurtry. Okay every ying needs a yang. Call is an epic character, and his equally epic struggle with the maniacal Joey Garza in Lonesome Dove's sequel, Streets of Laredo, is spellbinding reading. Like Duval, Tommy Lee Jones stole the character.

40.  YOSSARIAN, in Catch 22, by Joseph Heller, 1961. Strangers he didn't know shot at him with cannons every time he flew up into the air. Earlier, while on the ground, Yossarian's liver pain didn't quite produce jaundice. If it had caused jaundice the doctors could treat it, but his condition of in between liver pain and no jaundice confused them. That's some catch, that Catch-22. Heller defined the 20th century through Yossarian's eyes. A masterpiece. One panelist wrote, "I considered this the best book I ever read when I was 19. I still do."


JUDY ALDER, director, Texas Christian University Press, past president, Western Writers of America

BESS L. ARNOLD, author, columnist

FREDRICK W. BOLING, author of Incident at Crazy Woman Creek, Wakan Man and Ridden Hard--Put Up Wet. He is a retired general surgeon, historian and writer of historical fiction about the West.

CORINNE J. BROWN, author of MacGregor's Lantern and writer for Persimmon Hill, True West and American Cowboy

ROBERT O. BURGESS, author of historical fiction, Amy's Gold, Comes A Pale Horse, physician, historian, lecturer

TERRY BURNS, columnist, author of To Keep A Promise, Don't I Know You? Publications, The Change Agent

MARGARET BZOVEY, Western Writers Chat host on AOL for 6 years, author of Western historical and fiction

JON CHANDLER, author, screenwriter, poet

DON COLDSMITH, novelist, columnist, physician, lecturer, past president, Western Writers of America. Author of the Spanish Bit Saga, and other historical fiction. Author of syndicated weekly newspaper column, Horsin' Around, now in its thirty-second year.




BILL GRONEMAN, author of Eyewitness to the Alamo, Death of a Legend, Battlefields of Texas

RUSS HALL, author of World Gone Wrong, The Blue-Eyed Indian, Wildcat Did Growl, Island, and other books.

RICHARD C. HOUSE, author of So The Loud Torrent, articles for numerous magazines, past president, Western Writers of America

PAGE LAMBERT, author of In Search of Kinship, Shifting Stars

JEAN HENRY-MEAD, novelist and photojournalist

LEON METZ, author of John Selman: Texas Gunman, Pat Garrett, John Wesley Hardin: Dark Angel of Texas, past president, Western Writers of America

KAY L. MCDONALD, author of Beyond the Vision

ROSS McSWAIN, retired journalist, columnist, historian, author

ROD MILLER, poet, author of You Ain't a Cowboy If . . .

JOHN MORING, author of Men With Sand: Great Explorers of the North American West, Arthur Hill: Western Actor, Miner, and Law Officer. He has written for True West, Old West, Journal of the West, Persimmon Hill and other magazines

JESSIE MULLINS, editor, American Cowboy

KERRY NEWCOMB, author of The Legend of Mickey Free, Shadow Walker

JOHN D. NESBITT, author of One Eyed Cowboy Wild, Coyote Trail, For the Norden Boys, and others. Fiction writer and long-time student of literary history.


RANDALL PLATT, author of The Likes of Me, Chosen a 2001 Best Book by the American Library Association, Chosen a 2001 Best Book by the New York Public Library, A finalist for a 2001 Willa Literary Award

DUSTY RICHARDS, author of Servant of the Law, Rancher's Law, By the Cut of Your Clothes

SHELDON RUSSELL, author of Empire, The Savage Trail, Requiem at Dawn

LORI VAN PELT, author of Dreamers and Schemers, nonfiction, short story writer, American West, White Hats, Black Hats;  University of New Mexico Press, Hot Biscuits, historian

SALLY J. WALKER, editorial director, The Fiction Works

BETTY WILSON, author, columnist, True West magazine

St. Martin's Press

ISBN 0-312-97931-2

After many years resisting government forces Geronimo surrendered to the army. He accepted his providence - imprisonment in Florida away from his beloved desert. Not so, Mickey Free. Raised by Geronimo and his wife, Gray Willow, Free talked the aging Geronimo, reduced to fewer than a dozen warriors into surrender.

Kerry Newcomb shows us a masterful blend of story telling and historical events gathered from the southwest of Apache warfare from 1876 to 1886. His use of Trickster a Spiritual Coyote is skillfully portrayed as Free's metaphysical self. Newcomb's strong characterization and accomplished writing about Chato, Free's Apache brother; Colleen McDunn, daughter of the Indian agent of San Carlos and the Reverend Doctor Jordan carried this reader through an exciting story where, "A man cannot escape his fate . . . but he can rise to meet it." A commanding tale by a powerful storyteller.

Robert O. Burgess

The mountain man tale is as old as our country and none is told better than in Richard C. House's, So The Loud Torrent. The mountain man epic began in earnest when William Ashley and Andrew Henry called for one hundred young men to ascend the Missouri River, ostensibly to trade with the Indians, but trapping beaver was their game. Now House didn't send his mountain men up the Missouri with Ashley, but his men journeyed from Saint Louis up the Mississippi to the mouth of the Missouri aboard a stern wheeler river boat with a tough captain and crew. In 1836, two years after Fort Laramie was built, there was still adventure in the mountains, but this river boat went right on by the mouth of the Platte. Adventure and the mountains called to men like Chewtobac, a black aging mountain man, and Rome Jordan, young, but still older than Abby Freeman who put this expedition together to find her husband. Jed Freeman's money, or more correctly, Abby Freeman's money was to pay for this voyage up-river. Captured or living with the Gros Ventres Indians in the Rocky Mountains, Freeman's mind filled with visions of grandiose leadership. House didn't name his pretentious character Kurtz, but Freeman's character reminded me of Kurtz in Conrad's Heart Of Darkness and not of the stoic Kurtz of T. S. Elliot's Hollow Men.

Still, in Torrent the journey is the tale and like all good stories the journey is paramount. Bursting with action two old friends turned enemies joined in the hunt. Gun Kirby and Bart Smith united at St. Charles above St. Louis while, "The rain had stopped during the night. The damp chill it left cut deeper, and tapering fingers of thick, white fog clawed up the hollows between the mounds of hills bordering the river, and lay like a broad robe of grayish white close to the river. . ."

Hemingway sent Nick Adams downstream while fishing the Big Two Hearted River and Nick didn't like it. The river banks were black from a recent forest fire and even the grasshoppers were black. House had his prairie fire and it blackened everything in sight, buffalo and men, right down to the river. Torrent is a dark story gushing with characters full of life, Hawkens full of black powder and mountain men with boundless energy seeking adventure.

Robert O. Burgess

I asked Richard C. House, "How did you come to write, So The Loud Torrent?"

House: "As for writing STLT, I had read Western history and fiction since I was a kid. My career of forty-five years was as writer/editor/publications designer for in-house corporate publications from Ohio to Michigan to California. I'd tried my hand with short fiction, joined a couple of writers' groups, even enrolled in an adult ed writers' group taught and marvelously motivated by one George Sherman, son of Ransom Sherman, who students of old radio will remember as a mellow and memorable observer of the human scene and the human condition of his day. At some point, I decided to embark on a novel. To keep a long story short, I had been in touch with A. B. Guthrie, Jr., author of The Big Sky, the most memorable of mountain man novels. It was to "Bud" Guthrie, that STLT is dedicated."

Doc Burgess: "What method did you use to write, STLT?"

House: "As to how it was written. I simply at some point hit upon an opening sentence. "The rain stopped as suddenly as it had started." The next sentence wrote itself and I was off and running."

Doc: "Do you have other books about mountain men?"

House: "Indeed, a series of two, out in hardcover and again out of print, by M. Evans & Co., New York. Warhawk, with mountain man Jacob Lyman as protagonist, was the first. The sequel, Buckskinner, also had Jake Lyman as the central figure."

Doc: "You wrote of Hawken, Dimmick and Leman rifles."

House: "Yes, all three gunsmiths virtually mass produced half-stock, big caliber percussion rifles for the fur trade era. Any mountain man or buckskinner re-enactor these days worth his salt opts for the Hawken. The others are names that crop up in the original literature. Hawken operated out of St. Louis, while Leman and Dimmick were eastern Pennsylvania makers."

Doc: "Which rifle would you take to the mountains?"

House: "The Hawken. But I don't have one. I have a decrepit old CVA sort-of Hawken styled off-the-shelf .50 halfstock mountain rifle which has rendered me great targets. I have a fullstock, tiger-striped .50 caliber percussion Hatfield eastern woodlands style, as graceful as gun as I've ever hefted, that shoots well. Then I have a Dixie Gun Works Tennessee .50 caliber poor-boy fullstock flintlock I built up from a kit. Because of its simplicity I call it "Old Fancy." With the "flinch-lock" as some call it, added pause is needed in firing, as opposed to percussion, which is instantaneous. I find with Old Fancy, I tend to hold firmer longer knowing the delay factor, and she yields fairly favorable targets. If push came to shove, I'd head for the High Lonesome with proper fixin's and Old Fancy."

     From an earlier time, 1895, realism made its impact and Stephen Crane published his major literary work, The Red Badge of Courage. I believe this is the defining work in American letters.

     Henry knew where he was going, "We're goin' t' move t'morrah--sure," he said pompously to a group in the company street. "We're goin' 'way up th' river, cut across, an' come around in behint'em."

     But Henry Fleming wasn't sure after he got there, "Think any of the boys 'll run?" persisted the youth.

     After they had walked together for some time the tattered man mustered sufficient courage to speak. "Was pretty good fight, wasn't it?" he timidly said. The youth, deep in thought, glanced up at the bloody and grim figure with its lamblike eyes, "What?"

    "Was pretty good fight, wa'n't it?"

     "Yes," said the youth shortly. He quickened his pace.

     Officers talking, "What troops can you spare?"

     The officer who rode like a cowboy reflected for an instant. "Well," he said, "I had to order in th' 12th to help th' 76th, an' I haven't really got any. But there's th' 304th. They fight like a lot 'a mule drivers. I can spare them best of any."

     Later: The youth, turning, shot a quick, inquiring glance at his friend. The latter returned to him the same manner of look. They were the only ones who possessed an inner knowledge. "Mule drivers--hell t' pay--don't believe many will get back."

Don Coldsmith, bestselling author, physician, lecturer, and director of Emporia State University's writers' seminar has sold many millions of books, his latest being: The Lost Band, Oklahoma University Press; Tallgrass, Bantam; South Wind, Bantam;  and Runestone, Bantam. Scheduled for publication are: The Long Journey Home, Forge; The Raven Mocker, Oklahoma University Press in Hardcover and The Raven Mocker, Bantam paperback.

"Years ago, one of the best editors I ever worked with suggested that I do a fictionalized version of the life of Jim Thorpe, the great American Indian athlete. I didn't want to because it would restrict the story line. Some time later, I realized that I could write a character like Jim Thorpe - An Indian kid in Government schools, an athlete . . . Maybe he knows Thorpe. I began to look at some background, and realized all the things that would have happened in this man's lifetime:  The invention of cars, airplanes, radio, college football, basketball, rodeo, movies, "wild west" shows, the worldwide influenza epidemic, World War 1, the Great Depression, on and on. He could meet any number of dignitaries and historical figures . . . But, you get the idea. Of course, as always, I'll try to be historically accurate, see several points of view, some legitimate romance, and a surprise or two. It's titled The Long Journey Home, Forge, February 2001."

Don Coldsmith

Fall 2000

Red River War by Ray Rosson (aka Gene Shelton)

A Review

by R. C. House

Red River War is bound to become your favorite fictional account--but pin-point accurate--of Colonel Ranald Mackenzie's ride to military immortality in the Texas Panhandle and the Staked Plains of the 1870s as he finally quenched the indomitable, fiery spirit of the proud Quahadi Comanches--and the Kiowas--under the ever-dominant and fierce Quanah Parker, himself a half-breed. But never-you-mind; Quanah was more Comanche-to-the-core than any with all the genes.

The Mackenzie-Quanah whipsaw battles are well-known, but never related with the intensity, the intimacy and the integrity, the compassion and the in-your-face violence and suffering that characterizes Rosson/Shelton's latest page turner. The taut action is seen through the prisms of the varied lives of two men: Army Private Ned Justine, human first, soldier second, and Badger, a young Kiowa, once a white captive now Indian-brown from exposure; like Quanah, Badger is warlike Indian from the git-go, shrewd beyond his years. So we start with these two young, open humans who become eyewitnesses to and star performers in history. The story details the parallels in the canny development of the warring instincts of Justine and Badger though they never compared notes; adversaries, yes. Anonymously they face each other frequently as each grows in his role of scout and warrior. Their private lives, meanwhile, full of human yearings, unfold with riveting fascination. Tightly written and perfectly paced, the story reflects Justine and his actions scouting and under fire meriting direct counsel with Mackenzie; Badger, meanwhile, moves into Quanah's personal leadership circle. Still, Badger must bow to Comanche tradition and superstition; therein lies the Comanches' undoing. Badger frequently and accurately perceives trouble coming on the double, but is powerless against the stubborn but venerable tribal visionaries. Fearing the worst, he tries futilely on the eve of Mackenzie's surprise but inevitable, gut-wrenching, crushing Comanche heartbreak in Palo Duro Canyon. Any American who can read these Rosson/Shelton passages without a lump in his or her throat is notdeserving of the title. This book is that dramatic. Rosson/Shelton's Red River War, is published by Berkley (ISBN 0-425-17543-X)...and for $5.99 if you find a better read, let me know.

--R. C. House (Beaujacques431@ aol.com)

     Conrad, while not an American and being Polish did not speak English until he was twenty, commanded our language like no other save perhaps Shakespeare and Winston Churchill. Had he given us nothing but Heart of Darkness he would still stand a giant.

"Fiction - if it at all aspires to be art - appeals to temperament. And in truth it must be, like painting, like music, like all art, the appeal of one temperament to all the other innumerable temperaments whose subtle and resistless power endows passing events with their true meaning, and creates the moral, the emotional atmosphere of the place and time. Such an appeal to be effective must be an impression conveyed through the senses; and, in fact, it cannot be made in any other way, because temperament, whether individual or collective, is not amenable to persuasion. All art, therefore, appeals primarily to the senses, and the artistic aim when expressing itself in written words must also make its appeal through the senses, if its high desire is to reach the secret spring of responsive emotions. It must strenuously aspire to the plasticity of sculpture, to the colour of painting, and to the magic suggestiveness of music - which is the art of arts. And it is only through complete, unswerving devotion to the perfect blending of form and substance; it is only through an unremitting never-discouraged care for the shape and ring of sentences that an approach can be made to plasticity, to colour, and that the light of magic suggestiveness may be brought to play for an evanescent instant over the commonplace surface of words: of the old, old words, worn thin, defaced by ages of careless usage.

The sincere endeavour to accomplish that creative task, to go as far on that road as his strength will carry him, to go undeterred by faltering, weariness or reproach, is the only valid justification for the worker in prose. And if his conscience is clear, his answer to those who in the fulness of a wisdom which looks for immediate profit, demand specifically to be edified, consoled, amused; who demand to be promptly improved, or encouraged, or frightened, or shocked, or charmed, must run thus: - My task which I am trying to achieve is, by the power of the written word to make you hear, to make you feel - it is, before all, to make you see. That, and no more, and it is everything . . ."

Joseph Conrad



Some Observations

By R. C. House, Past President, WWA

A combination without parallel.

That's what New American Library got when it matched Richard S. Wheeler with forty-five years of Western Writers of America (WWA) Spur award winners and finalists in short Western fiction.

The results--as reviewed elsewhere in this space--was Tales of the American West, an exciting anthology of fifteen of the acknowledged best short stories from the West for nearly the last half of the Twentieth Century. Not all stories selected were winners of the coveted Spur, or finalists, per se. Most were; a few were short stories by these award-winning, top-notch writers.

No matter how you slice 'em, Wheeler's selections were to be the peaches in the cream of the crop. Interestingly, though our world and its Western reading preferences have changed dramatically in the past nearly half-century, several are from those early years...and stand the test of time, In all, these comprise fifteen absorbing examples of the best short fiction the West has had to offer.

But there is a larger perspective here for the observer of the writing and reading trends and the necessary departures in the fiction of the American West in the long and the short form. In this case, however, emphasis is on the short story. It hinges on principles advocated for some years now by Richard S. Wheeler, one of the most ardent--and articulate--observers of the Western fiction scene. And he has been busy spreading his gospel; in WWA convention bull sessions, other writers' seminars, panel discussions, speaking engagements, essays, critiques, and the like.

Now, his manifesto credibly may be summed up in three sentences gleaned from his very thoughtful introduction to Tales of the American West. Mark his words: "Today, very few western short stories are confrontational in the old blood-and-thunder sense. Modern western fiction has also broken free of the old frontier time frame, and can occur in any era including the present...Western stories are no longer brief action dramas, but explore the human condition in swift, sure strokes."

If anything sharpens the focus of Wheeler's quest in selecting stories for this volume, there it is. In these stories, marvelously, his theme is confirmed, vindicated. No so much as a nod is given here to political correctness, those much-debated but meaningless and insulting buzz words of casual, haphazard indifference to, and disdain for, Western literature. (A writer friend of mine, at public appearances, is frequently confronted with, "Oh, you only write Westerns?"

Clearly, Wheeler did not make his selections to prove his point; rather, his selections did the job for him. Abundantly. Stories that floated to the top measured up to his yardstick; guidons of concepts for Western writers of today, and tomorrow. And Western readers are the beneficiaries; between the covers of Tales of the American West, and in stories and books to come, if Wheeler and like thinkers are heeded. A fitting epilogue to this fine group of stories might have been Wheeler's pronouncement: "See? I told you so."

R. C. House

December, 2000

Tales of The American West

a review by

Gwendolyn Petersen

As my Irish mother might have said, "Tis a foine, foine gatherin' of tales." Or as my British father might have said, "Excellent reading, chaps." They would both be talking about Tales of the American West, The Best of Spur Award-Winning Authors, edited by Richard S. Wheeler.

To quote from Richard Wheeler's elegant introduction: "The Spur Award, that coveted plaque featuring glimmering rowels, [is] intended by the founders of Western Writers of America to spur excellence in the literature of the American West."

The book is a delightful collection of stories about the land and people of the frontier from the 1800's up to today. It tells of the West we know or wish we'd known. For those totally unfamiliar with western heritage, these stories will take you into the lives of real people, soldiers, cowboys, Indians, and courageous women.

The fifteen tales begin with Loren D. Estleman's The Cat King of Cochise County, a comic masterpiece detailing how Chickenwire McDonough came up with the ultimate solution to the mice and rat problem. Twixt the inception and implementation and success of an idea, there's often a quagmire of mishaps.

In Too Proud to Lose, the poignant heroism of Lew Torrin, who figures out how to avoid killing a hot-headed kid who wants the glory of shooting a sheriff, leaves the reader both breathless and proud.

Glendon Swarthout, in The Attack on the Mountain, depicts a rich tale of soldiers on the Apache frontier fighting boredom, loneliness, and bureaucratic disinterest by far-away officers.

Jeanne Williams' story, The School at the Bucket of Blood, recounts how The Bucket of Blood Saloon was turned into a schoolhouse and in the process civilized the town, not to mention the Bucket of Blood's proprietor. The tale is a gem that leaves the reader as satisfied as pecan pie after a turkey dinner.

In All or Nothing, based on a true incident, Gary Svee tells of Norwegian farmers trying to make it in times of the dreadful depression years of the thirties. The story can both break your heart and lift your spirits. Equally outstanding are the other ten tales: The Anniversary, by Win Blevins, Comes the Hunter by Jory Sherman, The Face by Ed Gorman, Sue Ellen Learns to Dance by Judy Alter, I Never Saw a Buffalo by Frank Roderus, The Summer of Nancy Redwing by Harry W. Paige, The Big Two-Shoot Rifle by R.C. House, Just As I Am by Joyce Gibson Roach, Charity by Sandra Whiting, Continuity by Elmer Kelton.

The colorful titles give you an inkling of the pleasure to come from reading Tales of the American West, and reading the names of the talented authors lets you know you won't be disappointed in the quality of the writing. In this age of plastic power, cheap shots, silly shenanigans, and contrived tinsel stories, Tales of the American West is a book of truth. It shines with integrity. You'll want to savor the stories and return to them again and again. Like the enveloping warmth from a cozy hearth fire, reading this book will make you feel better all over. Tales of the American West is definitely a keeper.

Gwendolyn Petersen

December, 2000

"Gritty realism on the 1870's Texas frontier . . . expertly crafted, very moving . . .this is the way it must have been . . . lingers in memory long after the last page has been turned."

Dallas Morning News

Clay Reynolds, author of The Vigil and Agatite, is one of Texas's best-known writers.

Native Texan novelist, scholar, critic and university professor Clay Reynolds is the author of eight books and more than six hundred publications ranging from critical studies to novels to book reviews. He additionally has served as fiction editor for literary magazines and as editorial consultant for several university and small presses, bookstores, writer's organizations, and individual writers.

Reynolds' third novel, Franklin's Crossing was entered into the Pulitzer Prize competition for 1992; it also received the Violet Crown Award for fiction as well as other awards and honors; he has twice been named runner-up in the Western Writers of America Spur and runner-up for both essay and fiction prizes from PEN Texas, among other literary awards. He has received grants from the Texas Commission for the Arts and is also a National Endowment for the Arts fellow in 1994.

His nonfiction work includes a study of fellow Texas author and Pulitzer Prize winner, Larry McMurtry. Reynolds' critical evaluations have appeared in several national magazines, including Chronicles, American Way, and Texas Monthly; his short fiction has been published in Writers' Forum, South Dakota Review, High Plains Literary Review, and Cimarron Review, among other publications; and his work has been anthologized in such collections as Careless Weeds, New Growth (1&2), Higher Elevations, That's What I Like (About the South) and Other Stories, and Texas Short Fiction I, II & III. He regularly contributes book reviews and feature columns to such newspapers as The Dallas Morning News and The Houston Chronicle, and is also a contributor to Publisher's Weekly. Reynolds holds academic degrees from the University of Texas at Austin (B.A.), Trinity University (M.A.), and the University of Tulsa (Ph.D.) and has more than twenty years of university and college teaching experience. He is presently associate professor of aesthetic studies and literature at the University of Texas at Dallas. Previously, he served on the part time or visiting faculties of Texas Woman's University, the University of South Dakota, West Texas A&M University Writer's Workshop, Rice University's Continuing Education writer's program and also Rice's Professional Publishing Program, and Villanova University where he was visiting writer-in-residence in 1994. Prior to these appointments, he served as a professor of English and Novelist in Residence on the faculty of the University of North Texas; for ten years before that, he was a professor of English at Lamar University. In addition, he regularly conducts formal workshops and lectures on writing and the business of writing for both community writing groups and university and collegiate programs. The Texas Commission lists him on the Texas Literary Touring Program sponsored for the Arts and the Austin Writers League. He is a member of the Texas Institute of Letters, the Author's Guild, PEN West, and Western Writers of America.

An avid baseball fan, Reynolds lives in Denton with his wife Judy, a Medical Technologist at Denton Community Hospital. His daughter Virginia is a student at the University of San Diego. Reynolds' son, Wesley, is a student at Colorado School of Mines.

Matt Braun has won the prestigious Golden Spur Award for The Kincaids and was inducted into the Cowboy Hall of Fame in 1999. A CBS miniseries stemmed from his novel, Black Fox while his novel, One Last Town became the TNT movie, You Know My Name. Fine writing produced these awards. A member of Western Writers of America, Braun has written more than forty novels and four non fiction pieces.

Now comes, Bloodsport, a riveting work set in the west of the late nineteenth century where Judge Roy Bean, Bat Masterson and Dan Stuart, gamblers all, thought they knew something about big time gambling, but whiskey at two bits a shot? Judge Bean knew he'd get two dollars when two dollars is easy with the crowds Gentleman Jim Corbett and Bob Fitzsimmons would bring. Bare-fisted boxing - Gate receipts of over a million dollars? Now banks are one thing, but Lea Osburn perked up her pretty little eyes when she thought about all that money. She strapped a brace of pistols on her tiny little waist and looked at the men . . . It's a fight and that's for sure.

To learn more about Matt Braun go to:


Writing the West

by Dusty Richards

The west lives in our imagination. It is uniquely an American experience that glamorizes a time period that began when the last cap and ball rifle was fired in the final skirmish between the blue and the gray. The final curtain fell when the calendar turned over to the twentieth century. Thirty five years to cheat the red man out of his lands west of the Mississippi and deprive him of his stone age existence. Three decades to breed up the needed number of bovines and woolie critters so they could destroy the rich natural grassland of the great American desert.

Then barb wire, thanks to an inventive man from Illinois by the name of Glidden, became cheaper than hiring cowboys. Train tracks soon crisscrossed the land and cattle drives became the stuff old men dreamed about. In their self righteous patriarchal form, in later life, they vehemently denied ever crawling into bed with some cow town dove, drinking whiskey until they were walleyed and shooting enough holes in the Kansas sky at night so it was bright as day. How they never played cards nor bucked the Tiger in those sin holes called cow towns, but rather took their trail earnings back home to their mamma in Texas.

A land of hard cases, where the criminal element fled to escape justice's grasp and preyed upon the weak and God fearing. Where the local school boards hired the ugliest girl they could find to teach because the cowboys kept marrying their teachers and taking them away, The really bad ugly one they were so confident of keeping, only lasted for a four month term, then took the walk down the aisle with some bowlegged galoot who thought she was sure pur-ty.

Western literature has been blessed or cursed by the Victorian mood of the earlier part of the twentieth century. Actual conditions of vice and squalor of that period has been suppressed and edited out by severe critics. For some, that story is too raw, too open, too scandalous for them to be comfortable to read. Fine, then simply don't take those kind of books from the shelf or sales rack.

It would shock most of you that the average age of prostitutes in the west was 15. That a very famous frontier law man, later a sports writer, Bat Masterson according to the U.S. census, had a concubine living with him who was 13 years old. Think about those wonderful images of ... dance hall" girls from movies and novels- . . . come on get real.

And Wyatt Earp went to Tombstone with the honorable intention of getting the sheriffs job. It paid Johnny Behan 35,000 dollars the year before. A fortune in monetary terms at that time. Judge Parker's court had a writ for Wyatt's arrest for horse stealing.

John Chisum, the famous New Mexico cattleman who originally hired Billy the Kid to kill all the small-time rustlers operating around his ranch, was wanted in Arkansas for debunking investors out of their millions in a phony slaughter house deal in Little Rock. Regular pillars of the community.

Are you shocked that someone who loves the west, writes the west so devotedly, speaks so openly about her flaws.? Maybe it is why I love her so much

So you want to write a western?

Number one, what do you know about the west? Avid readers know their stuff . . . you put in the wrong facts they'll really get on you. If you are a dude, then why not write like one. There must have been a huge influx of them who went west by wagon, by cart, rail, stage or shank's mare.

Most people in the west were armed. However few were the wonderful quick draw shooters of TV and movie fame. For example, a bunch of angry cowboys expended 2,000 rounds at an adobe hovel sheltering a Mexican deputy whom they were mad at for arresting a companion. The deputy crawled away after dark, unscathed. A Colt pistol was a belly gun and better than a knife in a duel.

If you wanted to hit something you used a rifle. In 1872, they introduced center fire ammo. Prior to that time and even afterwards, many arms were still cap and ball. The little .22 killed its share of residents. Wild Bill Hickok in his rough shod reign over Abilene used cap and ball .36 calibers.

I constantly research old newspaper files for stories to use in my books. Last summer we parked the RV at Prescott, Arizona for three weeks and read micro film of the Arizona Daily Miner at Sharlott Hall Museum for 3-4 hours a day. That's all my eyes could stand before I went blind

Old books, diaries, stories untold are great sources. Family histories make good places to find ideas. Don't over look the big historical events. I never change them, but use my people to populate them.

Here's an example

Army scout Jed Bordeaux rides out of Ft. Lincoln with an impulsive and abusive Lt Colonel, who wants to give the hostile Indians a lesson they won't forget. Of course, the officer was George Armstrong Custer. On that fateful day, where the Sioux called it the Sweet Grass, Bordeaux ends up on the ridge with Reno and Benteen. Bordeaux is fiction, the rest history.

Velda Brotherton, a.k.a. Samantha Lee wrote a western romance "Images in Scarlet" about a frontier lady photographer. She studied the then photo making process and how to do it. Her character loaded her wagon, headed west, and Velda wove in some romance around the picture taking business.

Where do I get my ideas? Reading historical books. In one about the Sioux culture I read about their Great Spirit Woman. wondered if there had been an Indian Chief-medicine man searching for answers for his small band and went to ask her what he should do. Then this aloft goddess told him he must protect the life of a white man for his tribe's sake. Now isn't that an interesting premise? He hates white men. The job proves very difficult and distasteful for the chief, and this white man can't imagine what this goofy acting Indian is up to either.

In another of my books, a white man takes up with a Sioux woman and to be a part of the tribe the white man accepts an invitation to go on a horse stealing raid against the Blackfeet. He finds that the Blackfeet are all dead, and their villages are ghost camps.Then the white man takes the medicine man to the Black Hills to speak to the great spirit woman. The hills are chocked with gold seekers and they have even defecated in the sacred places. So the old man goes home in defeat and obeys the Indian agent's orders to move his people to Wounded Knee. The end. We all know what happened there.

The premise for my first book in the series about the Territorial Marshals called, "The Lawless Land" is about a clever Mexican bandit Lamas and his gang of cutthroats. A former detective, Sam T Mayes along with an alcoholic Mexican helper, Jesus, and a Chiricahua Apache tracker called, Too Gut, run Lamas and his outlaws into the ground. I took this idea from the newspaper reports of the Mexican bandit raids on stage stops and remote communities across the southern part of the territory in that period.

Things not to do and to stay away from:

Using lots of dialect in the dialogue; Cussing a lot--gets real redundant to the reader; A stage robbery where the hero happens to ride in The "High Noon" style; Shootout in the street Gunfights in TV fashion are not high in my books; Heroes who for no reason put their noses in other people's business; You can use chivalry as an excuse to do it; Cattle drives without a purpose. Steers are not cows either; Dance hall girls as innocent virgins; Don't kiss your horse and talk to him like he understands. I think this example belongs in juvenile novels.

About horses, Louie didn't know much about them. He wrote westerns. He sold more books than anyone else in the 1970's and 80's. His formula worked for him, but it won't work for you. Others have tried and failed; don' say horses were like cars you owned, a few good ones and several sorry ones; if you ride your horse hard for fifty miles and let him drink too much gyp water, your horse will lay down and die a pain filled death from colic. Name them if you want to, but they aren't dogs and won't come when you call them.

If you are writing a ranch story, go out to a cattle farm when they work them. Absorb the sounds and the smells, the talk and the wrecks. They had squeeze chutes in those days, while others roped and drug them to the fire. Get some burned hair smoke in your nostrils. There are working ranches out west where you can even go on real cattle drives for a fee.

Zane Grey said the ponderosa pines in Arizona smelled like turpentine. I had a copy editor working on one of my books who said they didn't. That gal ain't never been in the high country or she'd known you could have bottled it and thinned paint. Another said, where I wrote about a cowboy who brushed aside the skidder bugs to get a drink, that she couldn't find skidder bugs in two different entomology books; he said he never went past four grades and had never seen an entomology book. He called them skidder bugs and I told them to leave them. I won.

Great western books are written all the time. They are first of all about individuals and their struggles. Remember it is not the environment they fight, the weather, the droughts, etc it is the personal battles against opposing forces. Good against evil. Those forces need a name and a personality. They don't fight the Martin Gang, but Buck Martin and his cousins Alphanso and Bouregarde.

Look for the logical twist to your story. There are only a few plots in this world, but with strong characterizations and your new insights and slants on how you see the land, you should find a good variation.

Economics played a big role. The U.S. economy in those thirty five years was wilder than a roller coaster. In fact there were depressions in that time that made the 1930's look like a picnic. Booms and busts for certain. Shortages of money that made whore house tokens coins of the realm.

President Grover Cleveland's order to cancel all the cattle leases on the Indian reservations sent the market into a tail spin. It led to the great winter kill off Charlie Russell made famous with his skinny steer picture. It bankrupted most of the foreign invested ranches who were the big land barons of the northern plains.

Indian and white relations festered like a boil. Whole camps of peaceful Indians were annihilated by vigilantes; isolated ranchers and their families murdered by savage bands.

Federal policy to solve raging unemployment back east was to gobble up the Red man's reservations and have the Sooner land rushes. They opened land that should never have been plowed and hopefuls starved. Cattle and sheep interests collided and greed governed the range wars. There were feuds in the west like the Hatfield and the McCoys. The Pleasant Valley War was such an ordeal.

In the decade of the cattle drives, roughly the post civil war time to the late 1870's, what killed the most cowboys? You have five choices 1. Stampedes 2. Indians 3. Pneumonia 4. Drowning 5. Gun shot wounds. Is that your final answer? If you said drowning, you won. What was second? - Pneumonia. Does that change your prospective?

One cowboy wrote in his diary that they all had bad colds from the time they left San Antonio until three months later when they got to Kansas. That must have been miserable.

Diseases wiped out whole tribes of Indians, wagon trains, mining camps and communities. In my family, two brothers agreed that one would stay in Illinois on their farms and take care of both of their wives and families, the other would go the California gold fields and make a fortune for them to share. The one left and they did not hear from him for one year, two years, not a word. At last someone returned from the west and when asked about the brother, he said, "Oh didn't you know? He died on the trip west."

You see all the opportunities to write a western. It is a very fertile field to mine if you are serious.

Let's talk about a voice. Read . . . True Grit" by Charles Portis. It is the Huckleberry Finn of the west--a great classic story told in the voice of an older woman when she was a girl. The book's plot comes right from "Hell on the Border" a historical book on Judge Parker's Court. Just as McMurtry's "Lonesome Dove" came straight from the Texas Cattle Drover Books.

Read several serious western writers, Elmer Kelton, Mike Blakely, Douglas C Jones and Cormack McCarthy to name a few. They are all different writers and some you will like better than others. That's a personal taste.

So you have written a gut wrenching western? What then? Like all other genres, you begin your quest to sell it and also write book number 2 and then 3.

There is no end to the task of selling your books. My marshal series was written over a decade ago. It went through four agents, umpteen rejections, it slept in Hollywood for two years and when Marc Resnick read it, he wanted it. Over night success story. It is called diligence. My good friend and author Georginia Gentry tells everyone, "I am not the best writer, but I stuck it out until I sold mine."

The best way to sell a completed western is to go to a conference where a western editor is speaking. Attend the Western Writers of America's convention. You have to be sold to be a member of WWA, but anyone can attend their conventions. They are held in June each year in different western cities.

Through a shepherd's job at Oklahoma Writers Conference I have sold over two dozen novels  in the past five years. Gary Goldstein was a speaker here and then OWFI President Marcia Preston asked me to shepherd Gary around. I took him for his first ride in a pickup, to his first Walmart store and while there he asked me to write some series books for him. I did and Gary's moved on and I'm still writing them. I had turned him down before and when he asked me to do them, I wanted my own, but I can tell you that Berkley's money spends well. Old timers wrote in the pulps and got lots of experience . . . I've been honing my craft by writing series books. Don't ever be so conceited that you turn down something that opens doors. Besides, I am so impulsive about my fiction writing, I would be doing it any way, even if I didn't get paid for it.

To write and to sell your work, whether it is a western, romance, mystery or sci fi is not an easy task. It is a grueling job. You can't say flippantly, "Oh, I'll write this and sell it." Then when you get a rejection say, "I'll write something else".

The road to success in writing is paved with quitters. Walk on them. If you don't want to be a chunk of asphalt, get busy and get resolved that you aren't going to be stepped on.

Be sure to read "The Lawless Land" and my latest "Servant of the Law."

Dusty Richards, PO Box 6460, Springdale Ar 72766

E-mail:  dust@ipa.net   Check out my web site: http://www.dustyrichards.com

"From the first I believed there was a great motion  picture to be made from this book and the character of Bert Sorrells was the kind of part that rarely came along. The thought of making this movie overwhelms me, but I believe I'm up to it now. Times are right for The Outfit and the time is right for me."

Sam Elliot

Mr. Brown is a master story teller. His vast experience, background, education and training shows in his writings. A rancher, cowboy, graduate of Notre Dame, stunt man with 59 movies to his credit, Marine Corps officer where he was platoon leader of a heavy machine gun platoon and he was coach of the Third Marine Division boxing team. He is the author of many fine novels and Jim Kane was made into a movie starring Paul Newman and Lee Marvin.

To learn more about J. P. S. Brown go to:


     "They jumped Aristotle Scrimshaw on a cold November night down in Alder Gulch, just above Virginia City. It was moonless and breezy, or he would have seen or heard them, but he didn't, and the first thing he knew cold steel jammed into his back and a rough hand clamped over his holstered Navy."

"Two of them, it turned out . . ."

Winner of WWA's Spur Award in 1989, for Fool's Coach, Richard S. Wheeler's novels are legend, including Masterson, and Sun Mountain of which Wheeler said, "This is my favorite novel, the one for which I would like to be remembered . . . ." Aftershocks, Dark Passage, The Buffalo Commons, Rendezvous, Flint's Gift, Second Lives, Sierra (another Spur Award), Dodging Red Cloud, and many others followed. There is no better writer in American letters.

Robert O. Burgess

To learn more about Richard  S.Wheeler's work go to: http://www.imt.net/~gedison/wheeler.html

Sun Mountain by Richard Wheeler

A Review

by Elaine Long

Long-time readers of Richard Wheeler's fine work are already aware that this is an author who varies his style, plot, characters, and action to fit each book precisely. In Sun Mountain, Richard Wheeler lives up to his reputation for creating unusual stories with unusual and different characters--stories enriched with meticulous detail and authentic and interesting background material.

Sun Mountain is a love story, but it is not the story of a man's love for a woman. Henry Stoddard loves a place and a time-the Comstock Lode in its glory days and even during the days of its sad demise. From the vantage point of his old age, this humble fellow lovingly recreates that place, as delicately and with as much depth of feeling as a man might tell of a lifelong love for a woman.

Wheeler's portrayal of Henry Stoddard is totally authentic. The old man fumbles around with his story, promises the reader a point and loses it, picks up the thread again to tell some fascinating development of the time of the boom days, or gets richly into description of the kinds of men who lived in that harsh Western land without the comforts that women provide. Little by little, the reader becomes fond of Henry and grateful to him for providing such a wealth of information about the people who helped to open up the frontier. Wheeler does not stop with the big names, but presents the men of the Comstock from all levels of the endeavor.

Some may say that this is not a woman's book, but any intelligent woman who is interested in the way that men look at and deal with the world will find it fascinating, though a little humbling. There are many loves in the lives of men. Richard Wheeler has presented one beautiful love story with great finesse and authenticity in Sun Mountain.

Elaine Long

Jean Henry's Escape on the Wind is a powerful story of a young woman hiding her identity from outlaws. The author writes lyrically of Wyoming, settlers, and the rough men who ran wild on the frontier. The author brings courage, conviction, grace and spiritual beauty to this fine story.

Richard S. Wheeler

Maverick Writers was #1 on the Midwest Book Review List. Among the candid interviews by S. Jean Mead (Jean Henry-Mead) are A.B. Guthrie, Jr.; Louis L'Amour, Lucia St. Clair Robson, Loren Estleman, Jeanne Williams, Elmore Leonard, Will Henry, Elmer Kelton, Janet Dailey, Frank Waters, Stan Steiner, Don Coldsmith, Irene Bennett Brown, Hollywood screenwriters and many others.

Casper Country is a centennial history of central Wyoming: Cowboys and rustlers, oil men and railroaders ride through its pages. The hangings of "Cattle Kate" and Tom Horn, the Johnson Country War, and the Hole-in-the-Wall gang's escapades are but a few of the historic happenings. Gambling was rampant in the hell-for-broke town as oil gushed from high plains wells, making Casper one of the richest cities in the nation--until the petroleum boom went bust.

To learn more about Ms. Henry's work go to:


"The Time It Never Rained is not just one of the best novels ever written by a Texan. It is one of the treasures of American literature of any age or time. Our great-grandchildren will still be reading Elmer Kelton."

John Erickson

To learn more about Kelton's vast contribution to America's literature go to:


     Henry Fardan was Everyman, soldier of fortune, fluent in Spanish, fought with Villa, weapons expert, liked whiskey, but now he was shanghaied, "not invited, on a train that stopped in the middle of nowhere, and this old man from there, with scouts. You thank me for coming?"

     "I mean it, Fardan. Thank you for coming."

     "What do you want of me, Mr. Grant?"

     Thus began one of Frank O'Rourke's and Western Americana's finest novels. O'Rourke's command of active voice, great transitions and lively dialogue gave us a novel worth reading and re-reading.


Mark Twain published it, Ulysses S. Grant wrote it; simply the best historical work ever written by an American.

I just put this in 'cause I like mules. You can tell the mule, he's the one with the big ears.

Doc Burgess

     A. Smith Lybe of Company I, 3rd U. S. Volunteers reported that, "Indians were very annoying" between the Sweetwater and South Pass stations. "The garrison consisting of two non-noncommissioned officers and twelve men at Sweetwater had several spirited fights with the Indians near that station, in one of which First-Sergeant William R. Moody took command and fought heroically, bringing off all his men except one killed and one wounded."

     That spot's on the Sweetwater, near Devil's Gate, where James Clyman, Mountain Man, thirty-nine years earlier, began a thousand mile march alone and afoot to St. Louis. I've talked to Dee Brown and I know it's one of his favorite spots on earth and it will be yours after you read his account of the Galvanized Yankees.

And to Mr. Brown,

I remain, Sir, your obdn't servn't

Robert O. Burgess

"Katie Breeze is certainly aptly named. Her talent is fresh and clean and unpolluted . . Nekkid Cowboy is delightful."

Larry Swindell, Ft. Worth Star-Telegram

Tyler Aldridge will live forever and like Hamlet, a tragic figure; like Falstaff, outlandish and forever memorable. This is one of the finest novels I've ever read.

Robert O. Burgess

     Good writing is succinct narration, active voice, good transitions and Elmore Leonard. 3:10 to Yuma, Hombre and Valdez Is Coming exhibit the best in American writing. That they are westerns speaks to the intrigue, curiosity, lore and lure of our history.

R. Burgess

     After James Fenimore Cooper's Natty Bumppo stormed across the pages of The Deerslayer, The Last of the Mohicans, The Pathfinder, The Pioneers and The Prairie, Owen Wister brought us his Virginian. If one travels to Medicine Bow, Wyoming be sure and see the room Wister stayed in while writing part of his famous novel. The country side there reminds me of Shelley's lines from Ozymandias, ". . . Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair! Nothing beside remains. Round the decay Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare The lone and level sands stretch far away."


From Amy's Gold

     A diamond hitch like Tom Fitzpatrick, Jedediah Smith, James Clyman, William Sublette and Jim Bridger tied.

     A thirty-two foot length of half-inch manila is what I use. Over a period of many years, I've packed some 1,200 miles to the headwaters of the Seeds-kee-dee, using dozens of different rivers as my guide.

     To find me, ride to the Rocky Mountains, turn north and I'll meet you on the Green, where beaver frolic, and a faint noise tinkles along the water's surface.

. . . it sounds like riders coming in . . .

Robert O. Burgess

Western History, Railroads, Stagecoach, Telegraph

Mountain Men, Beaver, Oregon Trail, Pony Express

Horses, Mules, Wagons

Spencers, Flintlocks, Sharps, Colts, Deringers

Civil War Reconstruction

End of track, Hell-on-wheels

Five illustrations of the pack horse, tack and the celebrated diamond hitch.

Dust jacket photo by Buffalo Bill Historical Center, Cody, Wyoming

"Sure seems strange to me," said the miner.
"What's that?" asked Harry.
"Why you'd bring that water out here. Ain't nothing out here."

from Amy's Gold

Comes A Pale Horse

   "You're their prisoner," Bent said quietly.
   Black Kettle's expression didn't change. "Major Wynkoop said we'd be safe here. We tried to go near Fort Larned over on Ash Creek, but we ran into General Blunt's troops and we came back to camp on Smoky Hill. We learned that we could camp here in peace."
   "Did you surrender?" Bent asked firmly.
   "No." Black Kettle said, emphatically. "We were promised protection by Major Wynkoop."
   "But not by Colonel Chivington, nor Governor Evans?" Bent asked.
   "Governor Evans said I should talk to the military."
   "Colonel Chivington is the military," Bent reminded him.
   "I told Evans and Chivington I would live in peace."
   "To surrender to Fort Lyon?" Bent repeated.
   "Not surrender . . . to live in peace . . . here . . . near Fort Lyon."
   "Or near Fort Larned, where Blunt drove you back?" Bent asked softly.
   "We are at  peace and protected by Wynkoop . . . we will not fight," Black Kettle said. "Now, we'll eat."

To reach me by email send to: kedges24965@mypacks.net


Comes A Pale Horse

By Robert O. Burgess

Illustrated by Brenda Helm

To write to this author, physician and knife maker go here: delist23586@mypacks.net

web counter
web counter

HOME | Top | About The Author | Pack Horse | National Shooters League | Amy's Gold-An Overview | Writers | Transcontinental Railroad | Bushcraft | Principal Characters | Green River | Western History | Indian Village | One Time Pad | Comes A Pale Horse | Knife Gallery
Previous Next