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Monday, 20 January 2014

‘I don’t read westerns’

How many times have I heard that? Too many to count. And of course along with that statement is many a publisher’s comment, ‘Westerns don’t sell well these days.’ Thankfully, besides old faithful Robert Hale, a crop of new publishers are embracing tales of the Old West.
Today, I’ve viewed my Public Lending Rights statement and it suggests that there are still plenty of readers out there for the western genre.

My oldest western, Death at Bethesda Falls, published in 2007, clocked up 1,400 borrowings last year. Since its publication it has been borrowed 8,709 times, apparently. True, it’s possible that the same reader has taken it out of the library more than once; though he or she has a choice of four other titles from my penname Ross Morton…

Anyway, those figures tend to tell me that the western genre is still popular. So, thank you Robert Hale and all your readers and borrowers!
None of the following titles follow any formula western storyline. They're about the human condition, set in the Old West.

Death at Bethesda Falls
Jim Thorp had killed plenty of men. They deserved to die. Thorp was a hard man, made so by a bloody Civil War. But he didn’t relish this visit to Bethesda Falls. His old sweetheart Anna worked there as a school-teacher and he was hunting her brother, Clyde, for armed robbery and other more terrible crimes. He didn’t want to hurt Anna but it looked like he would anyway.

Clyde, the foreman of the M-bar-W ranch, is due to wed Ellen, the rancher’s daughter. He’s also poisoning the old man to hasten the inheritance. Thorp’s presence in town starts the downward slide to violence, when not only is Ellen’s life in danger, but also that of Anna and Thorp himself. It is destined to end in violence and death.

Last Chance Saloon
The Bethesda Falls stage is robbed and Ruth Monroe, the stage depot owner, is being coerced into selling up by local tycoon, Zachary Smith. Meanwhile, Daniel McAlister returns from gold prospecting to wed Virginia, the saloon’s wheel of fortune operator. Daniel hits a winning streak but is bushwhacked, his winnings stolen.

Virginia sees this romance with Daniel as her last chance of happiness and no matter what, she’s determined to stand by her man, ducking flying bullets if need be. Daniel and Virginia side with Ruth against Smith and his hired gunslingers. Only a deadly showdown will end it, one way or another.

The $300 Man
What’s a life worth? $300, maybe. Half-Mexican Corbin Molina lost a hand during the Civil War but he has adapted. Now he’s on a mission to Walkerville. On the way, he prevents a train robbery and finds an old friend. Corbin always carries $300, which is significant, since that’s what he was a paid as substitute soldier for the Union.

When Corbin starts asking questions about Walkerville’s law and administration, he discovers that the Walker family, who seem to have bought and paid for loyalty and position, dominates the townspeople. Inevitably, Corbin’s questions attract plenty of trouble. And his past emerges to confront him during a tense showdown that threatens not only him but also his newfound love.

Blind Justice at Wedlock
Clint Brennan interrupts two men kidnapping his wife Belle and he’s shot and left for dead. When he recovers his senses, his wife has gone and he discovers he is blind. Most men would give up there and then, but not Clint. Astride his donkey, he sets out with his faithful dog Mutt on the trail of his wife’s abductors.

Belle believes her husband is dead. She’s rescued, but not by Clint. Her saviour is protective and takes her to his grand home in Wedlock where she meets the charming housekeeper, Mrs Kilbride. Maybe here, they say, she can forget her husband and start a new life…

On the trail, Clint is waylaid by robbers but soon learns to combat enemies at night, when darkness is his ally. Distracted and delayed, he’s still determined to locate his missing wife. A tale of betrayal and lies, it will all end at Wedlock, amidst flames and bullets.

Old Guns
July, 1892. Sam Ransom, 62, learns of the death of Abner, his old partner. Abner left a warning note – the Meak twins were out to get Ransom and the rest ‘because of what happened at Bur Oak Springs’. Ransom sets out to alert his old friends, Jubal, Rory and Derby.

Bur Oak Springs happened over two decades ago. The place was a ghost town even then. Ransom’s family is put in jeopardy and they can only be saved by Ransom and his friends returning to the ghost town, to confront the Meak brothers and their gang. There’s a sense of déjà vu about this; yet, there are fresh revelations too. It’s a showdown: young guns against old guns. [Cover by Tony Masero]

The Magnificent Mendozas (due in July 2014)
Southern Colorado, 1879. The gringo town of Conejos Blancos has just hosted the Mexican circus; no sooner do they move on to their next venue when Hart and over thirty desperadoes take over the town – and the adjacent silver mine! The sheriff is slaughtered and many of the citizens are held hostage.
In desperation, two boys escape from the locked-down town. They recruit seven Mexican circus performers, the Magnificent Mendozas: the troupe comprises Mateo, the leader, and his wife Josefa, both expert knife-throwers; José, younger brother of Mateo, a trick rider who lusts after Josefa; Antonio Rivera, sharpshooter; Juan Suaréz, gymnast and trapeze artist with his companion Arcadia Mendoza, who is also expert with bow and arrow; and Ramon Mendoza, escapologist. In order to penetrate the cordon of sentries and free the hostages, the troupe employs their many skills.
Not everything runs smoothly, however. Soon, it’s a battle of wits between the Mendozas, Hart and his men and the townspeople. There’s betrayal, bravery and plenty of quick-fire action… and death on both sides. [This might make a better film than a remake of The Magnificent Seven…? I can dream.]

Write a Western in 30 Days by Nik Morton
Bullets for a Ballot by Nik Morton (e-book from BTAP)


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