This Writer’s Life — Pt. 2

In the beginning, God created the Western, or, at least, that’s how it seemed to me as a child in the 1960s. Throughout that decade, America’s love affair with the Western as a movie and TV staple was still going strong. Westerns would be replaced by cop shows in the mid-1970s, but, in the late 1960s, Westerns still dominated with the top TV shows still being stalwarts like Bonanza, the Big Valley, and Gunsmoke. Popular shows from the 50s, such as Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, Maverick, and Death Valley Days, still ran in syndication in the afternoons after school. Plus, my parents, and then my grandparents, regularly took me to Knott’s Berry Farm’s Ghost Town, then to the actual ghost town of Calico, California, which had been revived in the 1950s as a tourist-trap re-created ghost town by Walter Knott himself. Then there was the Western as genre fiction, a tradition that had started with the dime novels of the Old West era and continued with the novels of Owen Wister and Zane Grey, and came to fruition with the pulp writers of the 1930s and 1940s which included Max Brand and Louis L’Amour.

When I was 18 years old, I started reading Louis L’Amour, which lead to a steady reading diet of Max Brand, Zane Grey, Luke Short, Ray Hogan, Ernest Haycox, Matt Braun, Dee Brown, Wayne D. Overholser and more. All of this reading of Western fiction gave me a new ambition. I wanted to be a Western writer. I started a Western novel at 18, but didn’t get past the first few chapters. By then, the movie/TV Western had died, and there was no market for short stories. But there were markets for Mysteries and Science Fiction, so my focus, as a writer at least, shifted to those genres. But the Western was, and is, my first love.

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