Sunday, October 25, 2009

Guest Blog: So What's So Good About These Black Horse Westerns?

A lot of you have read of my enthusiasm for Black Horse Westerns, an imprint of the Robert Hale publishing company in London. Why do I like them so much?

This essay was on The Tainted Archive the other day, and the Archavist, Gary Dobbs, has generously allowed me to repeat it here for those who missed it. American readers and enthusiasts of the Western may find it particularly interesting.

SO WHAT'S SO GOOD ABOUT THESE BLACK HORSE WESTERNS?

ROBERT HALE LTD, the publishers behind the Black Horse imprint have been champions of the western genre for longer than most people care to remember. They were founded in 1936 and although the Black Horse imprint didn't come about until much later, they have always published western fiction.

Indeed when the genre vanished from British bookshops during the mid-Eighties, Robert Hale continued to publish classic westerns as well as publishing scores of newcomers. Some of these new voices have gone on and become masters of the genre. Indeed it was during the Eighties, a decade when the western truly seemed dead, that the Black Horse imprint was launched.

Black Horse Western are no nonsense, all action western novels - usually around 40,000 - 45,000 words but the writers don't skimp on that all important characterisation and indeed the best Black Horse titles can stand up alongside the best the genre has to offer.

Without the Black Horse imprint we would have no Lance Howard, Chap O'Keefe, Jack Giles, Ben Bridges or Ross Morton- all legendary names with western fans.

You won't find many Black Horse titles in the shops because the primary market has always been the libraries. However with the Internet and on-line book selling, the imprint is enjoying a new level of success and today the books are much more visible than they have ever been. Many of the titles ride high in online retailers books charts.

So what can new readers expect from a Black Horse title?

Well take a look at the covers on this page -none of them would be out of place as a poster for any 1950's western but don't let that lead you into the impression that the books are old fashioned. Whilst it is true that the books firmly model themselves on the Golden Age of the genre (and is there a better period to draw from??) the themes and issues woven into the plots are as up to date as, tomorrow's newspaper.

Find links to several interviews with some of the bigger Black Horse Western authors Here

There are no pretensions with a Black Horse western. You know what you are going to get and the book's deliver with each and every title - James Thain.


Older titles are always turning up on Ebay and sites such as Amazon and the Book Depository regularly offer good deals on current and forthcoming titles. Black Horse are quite unique in that the name of the publishing house is every bit as important to that of the author. Readers know that any book with the Black Horse logo is going to provide a good, fast paced and thoughtful read.Black Horse westerns are fun to read and surely reading should first and foremost be fun.

I myself am proud to be a small part of the Black Horse range - as a lifelong western fan it's amazing to see my own books and my pseudonym, Jack Martin on the shelves alongside some of my favourite western writers.

So go on treat yourself to a Black Horse western this Wild West Monday - you won't be disappointed.

Notable Web sites:
Black Horse Express: Web site featuring Black Horse Western Writers
Black Horse Extra: featuring Black Horse Western news
Black Horse community: Yahoo online group for Black Horse Western writers and enthusiasts

A short afterword from Laurie the Yank:

True West Magazine
featured the Black Horse Western in their August 2009 issue and reported that the Black Horse Western leads the industry in new imprints for westerns, even beating out Leisure Books and Five Star. They are second to Leisure Books in the number of in-print western fiction titles retained annually.

I have found the easiest way to get a hold of Black Horse Westerns is to order them through the Book Depository, which always has the ones in print in stock, as opposed to the amazon US site. The Book Depository also does not charge for shipping for anywhere in the world, regardless of the dollar amount of your order.


Other sites:
Robert Hale Publishing
Gary Dobbs' The Tainted Archive

AND this post-posting comment came in from Chap O'Keefe that I thought deserved to be included in the original post. This has to do with how to find Black Horse Westerns outside of the UK:

Another tip for folks "across the pond" or even in "down under" places like Australia and New Zealand: Most of the best BHW titles are reprinted, sometimes within a year, by the Ulverscroft large-print companies in their series Linford Western Library and Dales Westerns (Magna Books). These books are better marketed internationally. Rights are contracted for all territories, "including the United States and its Dependencies". US readers might like to take a browse at www.ulverscroftusa.com. The site is designed primarily for libraries, though the books are available from major US retailers.

Thanks, Chap. And a big thanks to Gary for writing such a wonderful piece and letting me borrow it.

8 comments:

Evan Lewis said...

A piece deserving of a second look. Thanks, Laurie.

Charles Gramlich said...

Yes, I like this review. Hits all the points for the books that I like to read for.

Laurie Powers said...

I just thought it would be a good idea to put the piece on an American blog for those on this side of the pond who haven't heard of BHWs.

Chap O'Keefe said...

Another tip for folks "across the pond" or even in "down under" places like Australia and New Zealand: Most of the best BHW titles are reprinted, sometimes within a year, by the Ulverscroft large-print companies in their series Linford Western Library and Dales Westerns (Magna Books). These books are better marketed internationally. Rights are contracted for all territories, "including the United States and its Dependencies". US readers might like to take a browse at www.ulverscroftusa.com The site is designed primarily for libraries, though the books are available from major US retailers.

Anyone wanting a free taste of a forthcoming Black Horse Western could start with the chapter I've just posted here:
http://chapokeefe.webs.com/bhefai

Laurie Powers said...

That's really good info to know, Chap. I didn't know that. I may even move your comment up to the original post at the end so readers can see it. Thanks!

Linda Sandifer said...

Thanks for this information, Laurie. I didn't know about BHW.

Laurie Powers said...

You're welcome, Linda. I have enjoyed them immensely.

Steve M said...

And don't forget you can read many reviews of BHW on my blog:
http://westernfictionreview.blogspot.com/ that could help you decide just which to try.