There are only a few living authors of western literature who can truly be called legends in the field — Richard Wheeler is one of them. He started a fascinating blog some time ago, then abandoned it, offering his views on writing and publishing on Ed Gorman’s blog and in comments here. But now he’s back with a blog of his own. Whether you read westerns of not, I highly recommend you put him on your blogroll for his valuable insights, candid opinions, and informed take on the biz (he was an editor before he became a novelist, so he knows both sides of the biz)
Today, in a discussion of Gary Svee’s book SANCTUARY, he blames publishers with a deeply-held, anachronistic view of westerns for the demise of the genre in print:
In the last several decades, western fiction has been forced into a procrustean
bed by New York’s mass-market publishers. And now almost all the western lines
are defunct as a result.
The idea, apparently, was to have a "line" of
books with similar classical covers and contents, and this would surely reach
the vast market of western readers pining for stories with 1940s titles that
employ words like "vengeance" and "showdown." This notion had the power of
religious conviction in New York, and still does even though most western lines
have gone to heaven, or hell as the case may be.
Wheeler’s new book FIRE IN THE HOLE is saddled with one of those traditional western covers…which bares no relation to the actual story. The hero isn’t a U.S. Marshal, he’s a detective posing as a vermin exterminator in a filthy, Montana mining camp. Not exactly your typical western hero or setting. All you have to do is read the opening chapter and you’ll be hooked.