Sunday, May 30, 2010

From Richard S. Wheeler

This is a post from Richard Wheeler's blog The Curmudgeon's Diary. You can find it here.

A New Western Anthology

Roundup!, an anthology produced by Western Writers of America and published by La Frontera Publishing, has appeared and is selling well. Unlike previous western anthologies published by the organization, this one largely features contemporary stories. One of mine, "The Great Filibuster of 1975," is included.

A superb introduction by Paul Andrew Hutton, distinguished professor of American history at the University of New Mexico, examines the history of western fiction. The regional literature of the West has taken many forms, but the best known is the genre western, which is now in decline. In fact traditional westerns have virtually vanished and their sales are no longer tracked by marketing organizations.

The new anthology is populated by gifted novelists, poets, and historians of the West. Even as the traditional western story has all but vanished, a new regional literature has replaced it. That is all to the good. The sooner the genre western vanishes, the better. The world has had its fill of crack-brained males wandering through unsettled country butchering one another. The new literature of the West is much richer, more honest, more entertaining, and more perceptive. That is why this anthology is the most rewarding of any I've read that deal with the American West.


RJR said...

Well, Dick, I can't agree with you when you sday the sooner the genre western disappears the better. But the fact that you said it has helped me decide that a recent decision made by not only me but other authors of "genre" westerns is the right one. We'll make an announcement soon.


James Reasoner said...

I couldn't disagree more with the idea that the genre Western is dead, or with Dick's description of them as "crack-brained males wandering through unsettled country butchering one another". All I have to go by as far as numbers are concerned are my own royalty statements, which have slowly but steadily improved over the past few years. And good Westerns have never been as simple and crude as Dick's comments make them out to be.

Sturgeon's Law applies to the literary, contemporary "Westerns", too.

Terry Burns said...

That figures - we are rewriting more and more of our history not to make it an accurate reflection of what happened but to sanitize it and take out anything we wish hadn't happened. Now it seems we're saying the old west is immaterial too. Instead why aren't we trying to interest a new generation in reading about it? I have a new YA book that I'm trying to do just that with. If WWA is going to cease trying to support traditional westerns I have no need to be a member.

Todd Mason said...

I think you have dig back pretty deep, or down vanishing low, these days for the kind of traditional-setting western Wheeler is quoted decrying here.

I have to wonder if Randisi's announcement will be of a magazine, a book publishing concern, or what.

But there's plenty of room for contemporary and historical western fiction...

Peter Brandvold said...

I think this just goes to show that some writers are better at being attention-seeking curmudgeons than actual writers. Especially when their own writing or their own audience goes to hell. If Dick Wheeler wants to piss in his own bed, he has that right. But insulting others still working in that bed is a downright crack-brained thing to do. It's unforgivably lowdown and nasty. Believe me, Dick, the genre will do just fine without you.

Peter Brandvold/Frank Leslie

David Jack Bell said...

I sure as hell don't want to see the traditional western disappear. And I hate to see it oversimplified in such a way. Talented writers will always have new things to say about the old west.

Kit Prate said...

I beg to differ, Mr. Wheeler. The traditional western is still a favorite of a great many people who are very disappointed that more books are not out there on the shelves.

It is also not what you describe: I prefer to think of the western genre as "Red River" (the movie and the short story), and most of what I've read follows that pattern.

Maybe it's time for WESTERN Writers of America to change their name; because it surely seems they have changed direction. It's as if the organization has forgotten why it was founded. Sad and shameful.

Charles Gramlich said...

I don't know who else is in that new collection but he sure makes it sound boring. I lived through 1975. It wasn't that great a year. I don't need to revisit it. But now 1875! That I'd be interested in reading about. Even if it had some "crack-brained" males in it.

Anonymous said...

Why should a form that's lasted more than 100 yrs need defending against one grumpy old man? I remember Westlake saying the same thing about private eye stories some 25 yrs. ago. As for Wheeler, the general perception is that he's contemptuous and bitter because his writing career has hit a roadblock, so now he has to lash out. Sort of like Avallone toward the final days. It's pathetic to see a professional melt down like this in public with rants that really just break down to, "I can't sell my novels anymore so the world sucks." I'm damn glad that guys like Reasoner, Randisi, Gorman, etc. are keeping alive the traditional western. Thanks, guys. Wheeler, get a life.

--Stephen Mertz

Unknown said...

Trivializing the genre western, putting it down, is nothing new. Nor are despairing comments from Mr Wheeler. I'd urge anyone following this particular spat to read UK author David Whitehead's take on the present and the future of the western, "Putting Imagination in the Saddle." You'll find it in the latest edition of Black Horse Extra at . David, myself and others share some of Mr Wheeler's concerns, but we don't believe the genre western has disappeared or that it should! There are other ways to move forward.

KR said...

If the Western is dead - why is Cowboy Action Shooting the most popular shooting sport (50,000 SASS members, typical clubs drawing 50-100 shooters per match all over the US), and why is the "Red Dead" western-oriented video game the hot title of the year?

The 1950-1965 period ain't coming back. Westerns won't ever be the dominant genre again - but the Big Band era is over and there's still a market for that kind of music. Hell, rock and roll is no longer King either but there are plenty of rock bands still making good records.

The principles of writing a good story or making a good film or a good video game apply regardless of genre. Make it good enough and those that aren't normal consumers of that genre will take notice. Sales of the Red Dead video game prove that.