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Tuesday, 23 June 2009


Now this is exciting - a series of low priced pocket sized paperbacks and they're westerns. I've seen what will be the first title and things are looking up for the genre. Fans of Misfit Lil will be pleased to know that the first title stars this desirable western heroine.

These books should put the western back in the mainstream and make them affordable alongside the mass market fiction of other genres. Keith Chapman AKA Chap O'keefe is one of the guiding hands on the project and so I had over the reins of the Archive.

Post from Keith Chapman AKA Chap o'keefe

In the planning stages are a new series of pocket-book, paperback westerns that will be available at the lowest cost possible and give us -- and more importantly YOU -- a chance to show publishing's "big boys" that a market does exist for unpadded, action-packed paperbacks -- rather like the Hard Case series has demonstrated opportunities in the crime genre in the US.

The initiative is supported by western doyen David Whitehead, who has been active as a fan, writer, bibliographer, commentator and historian since the 1970s. He writes, "I am very excited by this project."

The first book, which Dave (not me!) describes as "refreshing and bold" is in preparation now, and I want to take a leaf out of Gary's book in beginning our publicity drive right away with some info about the pilot offering.

Dave says, "It takes western fiction in an exciting new direction and this, I believe, is a major selling-point."

When he read the book, within a few hours of receiving the copy, he emailed me, "It's 4:20 on a chilly, wet Saturday afternoon -- you'd never mistake it for what we used to call flaming June -- and I've just finished reading Misfit Lil Cheats the Hangrope. It is a FINE and eminently ACCEPTABLE western, beautifully written as always, with a nice line in dry humour, good characterization, a whole string of neat and imaginative sequences and a mystery that certainly baffled this reader right to the end."

Please watch for more news via The Tainted Archive as it comes to hand. . . .


Kerby Jackson said...

That's excellent news! I'm glad to hear that someone else is taking some initiative.

Paul Brazill said...

Top idea.

Matthew P. Mayo said...

Sounds good to me. Who's the publisher?


Cullen Gallagher said...

Yeah! Way to start Tuesday off on a good note with awesome news.

Will this be all new books, or some reprints as well (like Hard Case)? And I hope we can look forward to some awesome cover art, as well.

Charles Gramlich said...

Sounds like excellent news indeed. That's the kind of westerns I want to read.

Laurie Powers said...

Terrific. Please keep us posted.


Mathew - at the moment I don't think this new venture has a name but I know Chap O'keefe is involved so stay tuned for more news.

Matthew P. Mayo said...

Hi Gary,
Thanks for keeping us all informed. Can't wait to hear more!


Steve M said...

Exciting news indeed. Looking forward to hearing more about it...and getting my hands on the books.

Chap O'Keefe said...

Yes, it is exciting and it's very easy to get carried away by early enthusiasm! So a few sobering facts might be in order. We are starting with just one book; a series is what we hope it will become depending on support. The pricing will be the "lowest possible" rather than "low". It looks as if a book will have to sell initially for slightly more than an average paperback, possibly around $11, though an e-book option may cost as little as $4.

Broadly speaking, the project in its early stages will be self-publishing, though the author will not be paying upfront money as he does in the case of the much-stigmatized "vanity" or "subsidy" publishers. As many here know, I don't believe writers should pay to be published -- it needs to be the other way round!

The entire operation is envisaged as a supplement to the Black Horse Western line, which is currently the UK's only active outlet for western fiction and one that is increasingly conservative in its approach.

Hale insists its hands are tied by its customers as to what can -- or rather cannot -- be accepted in a western. To all intents and purposes, this boils down to nothing that would have been unacceptable in a 1950s western:

"Our customers are not the public as such but public librarians and needless to say that is why [US library publisher] Avalon insists on their books being squeaky clean. They have an even more demanding public library system than we do. One can just imagine what some of their Bible-bashers from the South would say. . . ."

Personally, I consider this statement, and others like it, derogatory to librarians, and I hope a few of them will let their feelings about it be known. We are asked to envisage an outmoded stereotype for which no evidence, let alone proof, is presented. Are we to believe the public librarian is "Mrs Grundy" with thick stockings and thick glasses, her ample bottom planted on a cushion while she wades through westerns looking for "dirty" bits to make her tut? Please tell us this isn't true!

Steve M has told me he regularly finds US series westerns in his local library in the English Midlands. Dave Whitehead writes:

"The argument just doesn't hold water. I visit libraries in Suffolk and neighbouring Norfolk on a regular basis, and the number of adult westerns on the shelves is quite amazing - GUNSMITH, LONGARM, SLOCUM ... as you know, these books not only feature sex in all its shapes and forms, but also make that quite clear on the front and back covers. If librarians didn't feel their readers could take all that 'top shelf' stuff, they certainly wouldn't buy THOSE! . . .But where's the sense in arguing about it?"

So we're not arguing. Just going ahead, as Kerby says, and trying to show some initiative. Sex, by the way, is not a selling point in any O'Keefe western; it's just there when it arises as a natural story development or character motivation.

Cullen rightly raises the cover art question. Well, we have to take some short-cuts but I think the first cover should look quite stunning and a little different. The cover must reflect a piece of western fiction written for today's enlightened reader. You will have noticed how DVD covers for the likes of Deadwood and Appaloosa differ from those for reissues of classic western movies. They have more of a "period" look. So it should be here, I feel. One of Britain's busiest book-jacket artists emailed me last night generously offering his support and co-operation both now and, hopefully, in the future.

And the future, of course, will be as much in the readers' hands as mine.