I write western adventure stories. Westerns have a strange market. Go into one of the big-box book stores and ask for “westerns.” Likely they’ll lead you to a small shelf with one or two Louis L’Amour paperbacks, maybe a Tony Hillerman or an Elmer Kelton. But down the street at the used book store you’ll find an entire wall of western paperbacks, tattered but readable.
I should be writing used books!
Seriously, the genre is under-appreciated. Agents don’t want to talk with a western writer; they’ll tell you they can’t sell westerns. Maybe that’s because they are from New York City? I’m lucky that I found Oak Tree.
There are two basic western plots: “Stranger comes to town” and “hero takes a trip.” Louis L’Amour rode those two horses a long way. I’ve used both plot devices and I’ll do so again.
You know the outline. The mysterious stranger rides in. He’s fast with his guns and fists; never starts a fight but finishes them. The school teacher (or a barmaid) falls for him but he’s always a gentleman. He solves the town’s problem, whatever it is, and then rides away into the sunset. Been done many times; always a favorite.
I tell people that westerns are really the story of America. Pull up stakes and start over someplace else. Reinvent yourself. Turn the page. That’s what we Americans have always done. Go west. A new life awaits you.
Western adventure stories tell us how it’s done.
Dac Crossley is the author of The Border Trilogy