Some of my first experiences reading Western fiction come from the words of Louis L’Amour by way of Tom Selleck and Sam Elliott in the TV adaptation The Sacketts, taken from the books The Daybreakers and Sackett. I’ve always felt that Selleck and Elliott were the quintessential modern day cowboy actors. They’ve done a lot of other work, but they seem to settle into the saddle effortlessly. Much like Clint Eastwood who preceded them.
The Sacketts wasn’t the first adaptation I had seen, it was just the first I realized was tied to a specific author. And for my 10-12 year old self, the stories of L’Amour were just the right length for me to read. Later I would find Portis’ classic True Grit and McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove and others. Books made larger than life on the big screen, but so more imbued with story in the novels.
If not for the movies, I may have never found the books, but the books nonetheless became a part of my reading tapestry. So this lead to a lifelong notion that the Western was cool, that everyone got it. But if you weigh the shelves of any bookstore against mainstream fiction and Western, it’s been dwindling. You look at non-traditional publishing in open markets like Amazon Kindle, you can find what seems like a robust marketplace (until you realize a good deal of those releases are really “Historic” Romance).
So why publish Western fiction? It’s simple. Not just because I love the genre, but because it harkens to a simpler time. A time before technology took root and the hero had to live by his wit and his steel.
It’s why I created The Big Adios a little over 18 months ago. I believed in the stories and that there needed to be a place for them to be told. And with the admirable help of Ryan Sayles, Aldo Calcagno, and Chris Leek, The Big Adios shuffled through it’s first 12 months as a weekly online fiction zine before closing to prepare for its transformation into a quarterly Western digest to be produced for print and digital.
The Big Adios Western Digest debuted the 22nd for the Kindle and this week in print. Featuring stories by David James Keating, Tom Pitts, Jim Wilsky and many others. It was co-edited by former TBA editors Ryan Sayle and Chris Leek, the latter who I believe is one of the premier contemporary Western writers.
So much so, this week I published Chris’s novella GOSPEL OF THE BULLET, a heart wrenching post Civil War tale of a fallen preacher and a lost girl brought together out of loyalty and revenge. This novella is part of the One Eye Press Singles series, and the story is tied to a short that appears in The Big Adios Western Digest (Winter 2014) edition, as well as a story in the current debut issue of Dark Corners Magazine.
With sales and luck, hopefully GOSPEL will end up as part of a Series instead of a Singles. It’s a great story with a batch of good blurbs.
“Chris Leek’s GOSPEL OF THE BULLET is as tough-minded a Western tale as you’re likely to run across. Dark, violent, yet heartbreakingly poignant, this story of the tragic legacy of war, as well as the unlikely friendship between a gunslinging preacher and an orphaned teenage girl with a troubled past and an uncertain future, will stick with the reader for a long time.”
— James Reasoner, author of Dancing with Dead Men and Last Chance Canyon
“Chris Leek’s GOSPEL OF THE BULLET IS a wonderfully satisfying Western novel. Mesmerizes… First-rate.”
— Edward A Grainger, author of Adventures of Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles
“GOSPEL OF THE BULLET hooks you from the first volley of rifle fire to its last beautiful irony. Chris Leek’s novella reminds you of the acid-stained Westerns of the 70’s, by way of Charles Portis.”
— Gareth Spark, author of Half Past Nothing
“Chris Leek’s GOSPEL OF THE BULLET is a tight, gritty tale about redemption, blood, and friendship between the friendless. Gospel is another winner from One Eye Press, who have had nothing but winners to date.”
— Craig McNeely, editor of Dark Corners Magazine
I’ve got another Western in the queue for 2015 from a talented young writer who takes the reader and a pair reluctant bounty hunters on tale riddled with bullets and humor. It all depends on the success of these Western projects now. If you are a fan of the Western as much as I am, I encourage you to pick up The Big Adios Western Digest (Fall 2014) and GOSPEL OF THE BULLET by Chris Leek today.
I love the Western. I hope you do too.