Sunday, March 29, 2015

Of books, the writing life, and Westerns


It's been just over 40 days since the publication of my latest novel, 'Stand Against The Storm'.  It's exceeded all my expectations, thanks to your support in buying it and spreading the word about it - even though it was the most difficult novel to write that I've yet experienced.  It seems that all the hard work has paid off, which is very gratifying.  That success means that Miss D. will soon be able to afford to leave her day job and help me with marketing and administration, whilst simultaneously setting up her own consultancy business as a marketing analyst and adviser to other independent authors.  She has a real gift in the area of data analysis, definition of target markets, keyword selection, etc.  I think she'll do very well at it.  She already has several indie authors who've said they plan to hire her, so I'm excited for her prospects.  I think in a year or so she'll be well established.

I'm almost finished the second novel in the Laredo Trilogy, sequel to 'War To The Knife'.  This one will be called 'Forge A New Blade', and the third book of the trilogy (hopefully coming out in November) will be 'Knife To The Hilt'.  I've completed 85,000 of my target 100,000 words, and it should be completed within the next ten days.  After that it'll go out to a few beta readers for their impressions and comments, then I'll edit it before publication in May.  The fifth book in the Maxwell Saga, as yet untitled, will separate Laredo 2 and Laredo 3.  It's scheduled for August.

I'm also beginning a new project, which may or may not see the light of day - but it's a lot of fun.  You see, I've always liked good Westerns.  I'm not talking about the modern thinly-disguised pornography and beat-'em-up violent sort of books that one finds far too often;  I mean quality work like Louis L'Amour, Harry Combs, the earlier writers like Zane Grey and so on.  Therefore, I'm trying to write one.

I suppose I have a natural affinity for Westerns because South Africa had its own version of 'Western' history - except that there, it was more 'Eastern'.  The USA expanded to the west;  South Africa expanded to the east.  The 'Great Trek' of the 1830's approximated what was happening in the USA at the time, movement westward into the Great Plains that would eventually reach the Pacific.  The USA had its Civil War, where South Africa had its Boer Wars.  The Indian Wars here were matched by the Xhosa Wars and conflicts between Boers and Sotho, Swazi, Zulu and other tribes.  The frontier experience in both nations was pretty similar.  Therefore, as a youngster, I read accounts of pioneers in Africa and those in the American West and instantly recognized the similarities.

I'm trying to write a worthy Western in the classic sense.  I'll have to adhere to some of the myths of the genre, of course.  No-one would read (or believe) a Western in which very few people died, even though in reality considerably fewer violent deaths occurred in the 'Wild West' than happened during the same period in Eastern cities.  No-one would believe a Western where conflict between cowboys and Indians was rare - but in reality it really was rare, most clashes involving the military rather than civilians.  History's a funny thing.  The reality so seldom coincides with the myth.  To quote from the famous Western movie 'The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance';  "This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend."

However, I'm also going to strive for historical accuracy in terms of dates and technical details.  Nobody in 1865 is going to wield a Single Action Army revolver or a Winchester .44-40 rifle, both of which were first manufactured in 1873 and not widely distributed for a couple of years after that date.  When I talk about my protagonist's journey westwards in 1865-66, the railroad will not have reached across the continent - it won't even be a third of the way across Kansas yet.  Denver will still be an overgrown, raucous mining camp, not some sort of Eastern metropolis magically transplanted into the Rockies.  My comments about Native American tribal culture will be historically accurate, not the stereotypical nonsense so often written.  I'm going to write this book as well as I possibly can, even if I don't publish it, because I think that sort of accuracy is long overdue in the genre.

It may never see the light of day, but I'll have a lot of fun with it as light relief in between working on my science fiction books.  If I do decide to publish it, I'll probably write three or four novels in the series first, then bring them out at short intervals, perhaps using a pseudonym.  Would you be interested in reading a Western of that sort?  If so, please let me know.  If there's sufficient interest . . . we'll see.

Thanks again for all your support.  You've been great!

Peter

16 comments:

DoninSacto said...

If you publish it I will buy it. Love your work.

Anonymous said...

Peter, I for one would love for you t owrite a book covering the South African pioneer period; fictionalized. historical fiction, whatever you want to call it. I realize, however, that it would immediately be condemned as "racist", no matter how factually accurate.
That seems to be the way of things, at present, sad & pathetic as it is. Political correctness is just preemptive book-banning (or -burning).
--Tennessee Budd

Chris said...

Write what you want. I suspect that many of us will try it regardless of genre.

A good book is a good book.

Gaffer said...

I look forward to the opportunity to read you proposed book

John said...

I thought L'Amour got the guns right, I kind of remember him using the LeMat revolver in one of his stories.

You write, I'll read. Looking forward to reading whatever you write. As long as neither the cowboys, nor the Indians, sparkle.

John in Philly

Old NFO said...

Write it, we'll buy it... :-)

Erik said...

I agree about the South African pioneer period. Either something like Michener, very close to documented history, or an "Eastern" that is fiction but set in a historical accurate setting.

Or something set a few decades ago based on your own experiences but fictionalized. I'm sure I'm not the only one that thinks the stories you've written about it is worth expanding on.

Bryn said...

One dissenting voice here re. American Western. I have never enjoyed Cowboys & Indians type Western films or books - but that's just me.

Historically accurate fiction set in South Africa..... YES PLEASE! :)

I've enjoyed Wilbur Smith as an author, but have been a little disappointed with the way he wandered into fantasy at times - and the less said about his timelines and synchronising different books and book series, the better....

Maxwell 4 proved to me that you can write an entertaining and believable story which "flows" easily for the reader.
Combine that ability with a historical South African setting, and I will be among the first to pre-order as soon as Amazon lists it.

Roger Ritter said...

I've always liked George MacDonald Fraser's Flashman books as much for their historical settings as for the stories. If you can do that with a Western, I'd give the first one a try even though I'm not much of a fan of the genre.

Whether I give subsequent ones a try, of course, depends on how well I like the first! So far, though, with the SF series, you're doing pretty well. I've bought them all.

Mogrith said...

I agree with most of the above comments. Will buy a Western if you write it. But also would prefer a South African story.

While I know and love real westerns a chance to get a new for me setting is interesting. Like stories of cattlemen in Australia.

Jim said...

I'll add my voice to the positives. I'm a long time fan of western history, as well as fiction, and am a reenactor of the period as well. I would very much enjoy seeing what you could do with the genre. Something from the same period set in South Africa would be interesting as well.

Bob said...

Try out No Good Like It Is for a fun, historically accurate Western, especially where guns are concerned. Another sub-genre of the Western that you might try is the "Cracker Western," tales of cow herding in post-Civil War Florida; Crackers In the Scrub by Miles Plowden is probably the best of these.

TheAxe said...

You proved you could write a good western with the opening of War to the Knife, so I'm confident if you do one it will be good.

Cedar said...

You know how I feel about Westerns. And preliminary research - thank you for the links - has begun on the African project. I am looking forward to seeing what you write next!

hightecrebel said...

A historically accurate western or SA eastern would be an instant purchase for me.

bbirdwell said...

I concur with OldNFO's comment. Write it. We'll buy it. I want you to be comfortable in retirement so you will continue to write stories to entertain us in our old age. :-)