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

May 2011

June 2011

July 2011

August 2011

September 2011














What am I currently reading?

The Old Trails West by Ralph Moody.

I read a great interview with Phil Dunlap on the Western Fiction Review website (dated 21 July 2011). Phil comes from that fine tradition of journalist-turned-author, who has now become a successful author of Westerns over the years with the likes of Call of the Gun, Fatal Revenge, Ambush Creek, and his latest, Cotton’s War. In the interview, Phil, raises the importance of getting the detail right. In particular, he cites the need for research to make sure that the accessories in the story fit the time and place. As an example, he gives the incorrect use of a Colt .45 Peacemaker in 1869 – some four years before it was designed and produced for the US government service revolver trials of 1873. ‘Any reader worth his salt will jump on a statement like that,’ says Phil, and it is a view that I also share – the need for careful research. It is a key storytelling point but one that haunts me, as I live in fear of getting that ‘fact’ wrong that then destroys the ‘fiction’ or make-believe of the story.

One of my early and unsuccessful submissions to the publisher Robert Hale Limited was a story that strayed outside of the traditional timeframe of the Old West, which is considered by most to be from 1830 to 1890. John Hale, who at that time was the submissions editor for the Black Horse Westerns arm of Robert Hale, liked the story but it crossed over into the 1900s, so he suggested that I just pull the story back some twenty years to fit it into the traditional timeframe.

Now, on the surface that didn’t seem to be a great difficulty, because all I had to do was just start the story twenty years earlier and adjust the dates that then followed. Well, that was the theory anyway. What quickly followed was a line-by-line reconstruction of time, place and accouterments that nearly drove me crazy. The transition in technology from 1890 to the First World War was immense and I had made an effort to include it in the story.

Some of the new inventions were small and some were large, but all were significant; be it the internal combustion engine or the portable motion-picture camera; or the escalator and the vacuum cleaner; or the zipper and the rubber heel – and that all happened between 1890 and1900. After that the inventors really got to work with the safety razor, the air conditioner, the lie detector, the neon light, the first synthetic plastic called Bakelite, the gyrocompass, the famous Model T automobile and instant coffee – and by then it was only 1910. Not that I had mentioned all these mod-cons but the world we know today was pretty much formed in those early years, then refined for much of the 20th century.

But back to my story of going crazy while trying to rewrite a Western by subtracting 20 years. One of the technologies that had a profound impact on the Old West was the design and distribution of small arms. The introduction of metallic cartridges after the Civil War was a revolution as it went hand in hand with the development of breech-loading weapons. Ammunition could now be purchased, carried and loaded with speed and ease, even when it was raining! It was the metallic cartridge that really demonstrated the significance of Samuel Colt’s patent for a pistol with a revolving cylinder, a design that is still produced today. But before that century had turn, the automatic firearm had been invented and, in my story, I had put this technology into the hands of my aging cowboy. To take it from him now and thrust him back into the Old West was to lose an important part of my overall plot. Time they were a changing and the code of the west was being lost in the heat that was being generated in the big mid-west cities of Kansas City and Chicago. By the 1920s the ‘outlaws’ were now dressed in pinstriped suits, driving Dodges and using Thompson sub-machine guns. Crime was now organized and becoming big business. This was the new generation with a new story in the great history of America and there was no going back, and that included me and my aging cowboy – so I filed the story in the bottom drawer and wrote Raking Hell.  

So are there any lessons here? None that Phil Dunlap hasn’t already raised, but I do find that period between 1890 and 1930 very, very interesting. How did the cowboys adapt to modern times of new technology? Could there be a story or two in there, somewhere, that still has that Western feel? The Wild Bunch would seem to say so. But what do you think? I’d love you to tell me.



October 2011

Copyright © 2011 Lee Clinton. All rights reserved
Terms of Use | Privacy Statement

Webdesign by Brigitte Pedraza