A year ago, I  asked the question: “Will the Western survive?”

I was concerned, and rightfully so, with the anti-Western sentiment of many if not most of the New York publishing houses; the reduced number of 19th-century West monographs from university imprints; and the shuttering of Five Star’s Western and Frontier Fiction imprint. 

From my desk in Prescott, Arizona, the Western landscape seemed drought-stricken and maybe the fiction and nonfiction “climate changers” were going to triumph against what they perceived as out-of-date, out-of-fashion fictioneers, storytellers and historians. 

But, just when it seems the anti-Western movement would succeed, strong winds in favor of Western writers have blown Old West writing and publishing back on course.

To what do I attribute these winds that are billowing the sails of Western writers and publishers?

First and foremost are the readers and the consumers of Western popular culture. Without them, the genre is dead in the water. 

Second, the  publishers of classic, modern and contemporary Westerns in every medium again believe in the consumer’s interest in the Western because they are making a profit. If they weren’t, they would only publish romance, mystery, horror, sci-fi and YA.

So, how do we sustain Western publishing? 

The solution is twofold: be a consumer of Western culture and share that passion for the West with the next generation. Whatever platform your family and friends enjoy the most, share it, trumpet it, praise it and give it as a gift. A broad, popular consumer interest in the West will not survive unless it is shared and celebrated with our younger friends and family members.

With that said, here are some of my favorites in Western fiction and nonfiction from the past year:


Thomas E. Minckler’s Montana: A Paper Trail (Montana Historical Society Press, $85) is a work of art. From the end-papers to the final page, Minckler’s masterpiece is an entertaining and visual travelogue of Montana history.

John Boessenecker’s Gentleman Bandit: The True Story of Black Bart, the Old West’s Most Infamous Stagecoach Robber (Hanover Square Press, $32.99) attempts to answer one of the oldest questions in California frontier history: who really was Black Bart? You will need to read the historian’s well-researched biography to find out.

H.W. Brands’s The Last Campaign: Sherman, Geronimo and the War for America (Doubleday, $32.50) should be considered by scholars, students and researchers as one of the finest syntheses of the Age of Jackson to the Progressive Era published in the past decade.

Elliott West’s Continental Reckoning: The American West in the Age of Expansion (University of Nebraska Press, $39.95) is one of the most important and literary books on the subject published in the past 50 years. 

Chris Wimmer’s The Summer of 1876: Outlaws, Lawmen and Legends in the Season That Defined the American West (St. Martin’s Press, $30) is his first book and a great introduction to the grand events that defined the West—and America—
in its Centennial year. 

Tom Clavin’s Follow Me to Hell: McNelly’s Texas Rangers and the Rise of Frontier Justice (St. Martin’s Press, $29.99) gives readers a dramatic overview of the development of the Rangers from a militia to one of the best-known frontier fighting forces in 19th-
century America. 

Nathan Ward’s Son of the Old West: The Odyssey of Charlie Siringo: Cowboy Detective, Writer of the Wild Frontier (Atlantic Monthly Press, $28) is a fast-paced, rollicking biography of one of the West’s most enigmatic characters.



Paulette Jiles’s Chenneville: A Novel of Murder, Loss and Vengeance (William Morrow, $30) is an epic tale of sorrow and revenge that takes the reader on a journey across post-Civil War America from war-torn Missouri to frontier Texas.

Johnny D. Boggs’s Longhorns East (Kensington, $14.95) is the author’s latest trail drive Western—but this one is from Texas to New York City! You’ll never believe a Western can’t be set east of the Mississippi after reading Longhorns East.

Lee Martin’s One Texas Ranger (Vaca Mountain Press, $16.99) is the prolific writer/screenwriter’s latest Western. Texas Ranger fans will want to hitch up for a fun-filled ride across the Lone Star State in Martin’s latest horse opera.

Alix Christie’s The Shining Mountains (High Road Books, $27.95) is  the author’s second novel but one of the most original Westerns of the year. It’s based on her family history in the British and American Northwest, and readers will be eagerly awaiting her next novel. 

Jeff Mariotte’s Byrd’s Luck & Other Western Stories (Silverado Press, $14.99) is the latest set of traditional and weird Western tales from this prolific Arizona writer. 

Howard Weinstein’s Galloway’s Gamble 2: Lucifer & The Great Baltimore Brawl (Silverado Press, $15.99), an epic, cross-country tale, is the author’s long-awaited sequel to his award-winning Galloway’s Gamble. 

Peter Brandvold’s Drawn and Quartered: Bloody Joe Mannion Series (Wolfpack Publishing, $12.99) is a classic Western akin to the great adventures written by Max Brand, Luke Short and Louis L’Amour.


California Author Shares Her Love of Good Writing

Ann Parker pens the Silver Rush historical mystery series (Poisoned Pen Press/Sourcebooks) set in the 1880s Victorian West. Her books have won the Western Writers of America Spur Award, Women Writing the West WILLA Award and Colorado Book Award. The series was also named a Booksellers Favorite by the Mountains and Plains Independent Booksellers Association.

Five works that shaped her love for and writing about the historical West, starting with a childhood favorite, are: 

Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder (HarperCollins): Wilder’s semi-autobiographical novel details the life of a pioneering family in early 1870s Wisconsin. 

O Pioneers!  by Willa Cather (Simon and Schuster): This historical novel of Swedish immigrants in Nebraska farm country is awash with unforgettable descriptions of the setting and the times.

A Victorian Gentlewoman in the Far West: Reminiscences of Mary Hallock Foote edited by Rodman W. Paul (Huntington Library): Writer and illustrator Mary Hallock Foote’s evocative accounts of life in Western mining towns of the late 1800s is an eye-opener and a treasure (especially if you have read Wallace Stegner’s Angle of Repose).  

Leadville: Colorado’s Magic City by Edward Blair (Fred Pruet Books): A well-researched, rollicking read laying out the history of this unique Rocky-Mountain-high mining town and its famous (and infamous) denizens. Stories abound!

Lights and Shades in San Francisco by Benjamin E. Lloyd (public domain): Published in 1876, this illustrated travelogue provides 19th-century insights into the city’s history, venues and characters. 

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