What is the Corral about?

Well, simply, it is a place to round-up ideas, thoughts, comments and anything else you may like to hear about. My original intention was to have a forum but the time to manage such a gathering is really beyond me at this stage. But via email I can gather up your input and get it into the Corral.

So, would you like to make comment?

What is your favorite western story, either as a book or a movie?

Want to tell us why?

What are you currently reading, watching or listening to (regardless if it is a Western or not)?

What do you want to see in future Western stories (grit or romance, maybe both, gunplay or justice, grim reality or happy endings)?

Anything you would like to see in one of my stories?



March 2011

April 2011




















What am I currently reading?

Misfit Lil Cheats the Hangrope by Chap O’Keefe. I am drawn to the stories of those women who were able to match it with the men of the Old West.

What would I like to read?

The Lone Rider of Santa Fe by Buck Dexter. Very rare I believe!

I don’t know about you, but I love those lists of the best. So, when I saw Clive Sinclair’s Top Ten Westerns Novels (www.guardian.co.uk/books/2008/aug/06/1) I just had to look. After all, Clive is the author of True Tales of the Wild West and has a Macmillan Silver Pen Award for Fiction.

Now, before we start, let me say that condensing a field as big and wide as the western down to just ten novels was always going to be a big ask. The difficulty is not just what to pick, but what to leave out. And, I know, we all have our favourites and if they aren’t selected, then we feel, well, peeved. But all lists are based on personal likes and dislikes, therefore, they are as subjective as hell; and sometimes, just sometimes, they even become controversial.

Number 1 on Clive’s list is The Virginian by Owen Wister. No problems here. This book, first published in 1902, is in many ways the genesis of the modern western novel as an artful form of entertainment. It has all the essential ingredients of adventure, conflict, romance and righteousness. At number 4 is True Grit by Charles Portis, the book that I would have made number one, but hey, it’s just personal choice, right? Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian comes in at number 6, and with its blood lust and gore it is a galaxy of light years away from The Virginian. I love gritty westerns but when the grit is washed away with the blood, even I wince. Still, I can’t deny it is a classic, but I think I’ll stick with Moby Dick when it comes to delusional leaders with their grand plans and lack of employee care and safety. Larry McMurtry makes it into the list at number 10, but not for Lonesome Dove. Clive’s selection is Crazy Horse. His reasoning? That at least one book on the list should be about the Sioux or the Apache. A fair call, I say.

But it is selection number 2 that may raise some eyes, for it is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. I pause while you flick your eyes back to check what you have just read. Yes, that’s correct, the classic novel of the jazz age has somehow slipped the traditional western bonds of time and place to land on Long Island, east of New York, in the 1920s.

Now, I must say, up-front, that I love this book, but I have never seen it as a western. I know the term ‘urban western’ is sometimes used for those stories that have all the hallmarks of the genre while set in modern times. However, I always saw The Great Gatsby as a forerunner to the gritty crime thriller, much like The Virginian is to the western. To me, Francis Scott Fitzgerald showed the way for those who followed in the pursuit of great crime fiction, from Raymond Chandler to Michael Connelly; and Fitzgerald did it with some of the best writing you are ever likely to read. Gatsby is one of those books that deserve to be on every bucket list, if not already read.

At the heart of this story is grand obsession and a desire to return to the past by a re-invented Jimmy Gats, a war hero now turned successful bootlegger with money to burn, as he seeks to win back his lost love, Daisy. Trouble is, Daisy is as flaky as they come, not to mention that she is also married. But love is blind and Jay Gatsby is on the road to ruin with his foot pressed hard down on the gas pedal. In the end, however, Gatsby turns out all right, so says Nick Carraway the narrator of the story, which just goes to show that you can’t keep a good man down, even when his judgement and loyalty is way out of control.

Now, Clive bases his selection of Gatsby, as a western, on a number of references, which include the childhood book of Jimmy Gats that his father brings along to the funeral (yep, Gatsby dies in a one-sided shootout when mistaken as the guilty party by an aggrieved husband). The book is Hopalong Cassidy, which contains a handwritten schedule and list of general resolutions by Jimmy to assist in the making of the self-made man. His entry is dated September 12, 1906. That Clarence E. Mulford’s novel of Hopalong was not released until 1910 could be seen as splitting hairs, as it is a cowboy connection to the west, I guess. Fitzgerald also makes mention of Jimmy Gats’ mentor, a man named Dan Cody, which Clive sees as a link to Buffalo Bill Cody, the western scout who re-enacted exploits to thrill the Crowned Heads of Europe.

So, are you convinced? No? Nor me, but in the story Carraway does reflect and lament on the fact that he, Gatsby, Daisy, her husband Tom, and their beautiful mutual friend Jordan, who is also a golf cheat, were all Westerners. This he concludes gave them one thing in common – a subtle inadaptability to Eastern life. And on that point I will concede to Clive Sinclair’s reasoning to include The Great Gatsby on his list; for it was the west that raised a breed of resourceful men and women who often had trouble fitting into the urban life of those coastal folk east of Mississippi. But while I maybe convinced, those lovers of Louis L’Amour, Zane Grey, Jack Schaefer, Max Brand and many more western writers, may be less so – and I can certainly appreciate their point of view.

Hi ho,


May 2011

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