December Westerns Wednesday Roundup

(I am still fine. I have finished writing the second episode in the northern adventure radio/podcast series and expect I’ll be spending December not writing much after the Christmas card rush. I’ll be back to writing work in January!)

I was somewhat overwhelmed this year by Advanced Reader’s Copies. (ARCs) While I am quite delighted to read and review new books, I am also very aware there are many older books deemed quite important to the genre that I have not yet read. Going into next year, I am committing to reading and reviewing a minimum of six western books published prior to the 1980s (the decade in which I was born) and six newer western books. I wanted to do that this year, but I got distracted. Next year, I promise.

In the past year, along with ARCs through BookSirens and a few other sources, I downloaded a number of books through Smashwords.com, which is an e-book distribution platform providing a significantly larger royalty to authors than Amazon. Being a direct descendant of Scrooge someone who values a good deal, I downloaded many books during one of their sales events. Particularly when they have sales, there are many e-books available for less than $2. If you haven’t checked them out yet, you should give them a chance. Although many of the books available are a bit lacking in quality, there is quality there. (And honestly, not all ebooks published on Amazon are prize winners either.) There are over five hundred ebooks in the “westerns” category, if I’m reading the site correctly.

A number of the westerns I downloaded I ended up ‘tossing’ after a few pages because they suffered too much from self-published-lack-of-editing or because they were too violent, sexy, or silly for me. However, I did want to let people know of the following stories, as I did enjoy them and found them to be among the better western offerings through Smashwords which I have read so far. (As I type this there are approximately two dozen e-books I’ve obtained through Smashwords downloaded on my e-reader, which I have yet to glance through/read.) These are all shorter reads.

The Black Mountain Dutchman by Steve Ritchie

As summarized by the author: “When Maggie Buckner is captured by a gang of outlaws an unlikely old man known as ‘The Dutchman’ is the only one who can set her free. Outnumbered eight to one, the Dutchman sits perched on a bench near Savage Peak, watching the fugitives as they ride out onto the open prairie… After striking the first deadly blows, the Dutchman trails the group across South Pass through the unpredictable Wyoming springtime weather, like the fourth horseman of the apocalypse…and surely Hell goes with him.”

There was a lot about this story I enjoyed, but also a few things that I didn’t like. My main argument with it was the stylistic choice to tell much of it in past tense, which I didn’t like. I also didn’t like the ending, and find the description of this story a bit deceptive. Maggie somewhat unfortunately serves mostly as a MacGuffin, and is not even really the prime reason for The Dutchman’s actions. But, regardless, for the most part, this is a straight-forward tale of vengeance, and while my interest faltered somewhat at the start, I delayed chores one afternoon to read through the second half of this novella, as it had drawn me in. 3 stars out of 5.

Around the Campfire, Stories from the Old West – by D R Hann

Book blurb from the author: “Some stories are true, but most are just tall tales, which makes for a much better story. So grab a cup of coffee or whatever your pleasure is, sit back, relax and be entertained by the cowboys sitting around the campfire as they tell you their best stories, false, true or to some degree based on some facts.”

There is nothing fancy about this collection of stories, not much formatting, and the occasional typo creeps in. But, some stories are a bit funny, some a bit creepy, Custer, Wyatt Earp, Wild Bill Hickok and Santa Ana appear (not all at the same time) along with a possessed herd of cattle, mysterious wagon trails, and a woman who can ride an unrideable bull. And more. I found it took a few minutes to adjust to the story-telling nature of this short collection. 3 stars out of 5.

Wanted: Undead or Alive – A Movie Screenplay by Gary Kuyper

As described by the author: ” A rootin, tootin’ but mostly shootin’ adventure of epic proportions. During a botched bank robbery, Sheriff Will Blake’s brother is killed by the notorious Morgan gang. Will vows to stop at nothing to exact revenge, and so all hell breaks loose – literally! Undead outlaws terrorize the good folks of El Paso – Texas in this black comedy featuring Lazy-Eye Lazarus, the fastest gun alive…or dead. If you like Westerns and Zombie flicks then this is definitely your roll of chewin’ tabaccy.”

This was a fun read. I have read very few screenplays but found it easy to follow. There were a few scenes that I felt were perhaps not necessary, and I’m never a fan of epilogues. For the vast majority of the time spent reading this script, however, I was thoroughly entertained, smiling a number of times. I rated this story four stars out of five.

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