During June 1959, when I was one month shy of turning 15, I noticed a Western magazine on a newsstand called True West. Several other Western magazines were also available, but something about this one made it stand out. This particular issue was “Vol. 6, Whole No. 33,” featuring Antonio López de Santa Anna waving a sword in front of the Alamo. The cover price was 25 cents, and I became a subscriber.
By June 1975, when I was one month shy of turning 31, I was a homeowner with a wife and two young children. I had graduated from the Art Institute of Boston in 1966 and was employed as an art director by a Fortune 500 corporation. I still owned all of the copies of True West that had been published since June 1959—along with numerous other Western magazines. The collection was piled in neat stacks in my attic. I never had the heart to throw them out.
My wife, Sandi, did have the heart to throw them out and asked me if I had any “further use” for the magazines. I did. Those magazines never made it to the trash. Seeing them again inspired me to try my luck as a Western writer. The fact that I had no previous experience as either a writer or researcher did not deter me.
During the summer of 1975, I visited the Widener Library at Harvard—the repository for more than 100,000 letters to and from President Theodore Roosevelt. I knew that Roosevelt and Bat Masterson were friends, and I wanted to see if I could locate correspondence between the two. Much to my delight, I located 19 surviving letters between Masterson and Roosevelt. This discovery was the basis for my first article, titled “The President and the Gunfighter.” Exactly 100 True West issues had been published between the 25-cent issue that first attracted my attention in 1959 and the 75-cent February 1976 issue that contained my first published article.
Forty years have now passed since the publication of that article. True West is now up to Vol. 63. I have gone on to write nearly 100 articles for magazines and various historical journals, along with seven books. That first True West article still retains a special place in my heart, as does True West itself, which remains today what it was 40 years ago—the best Western magazine of all time. For whatever success I have enjoyed, I will always remember that it all began with True West.
Jack DeMattos is the editor and illustrator of Famous Gun Fighters of the Western Frontier by W.B. Masterson, the author of 1984’s Masterson and Roosevelt, 1988’s Garrett and Roosevelt, 1989’s The Earp Decision and 1992’s Mysterious Gunfighter: The Story of Dave Mather. He also cowrote 2010’s A Rough Ride to Redemption: The Ben Daniels Story, with Robert K. DeArment, and 2015’s The Notorious Luke Short: Sporting Man of the Wild West, with Chuck Parsons.