Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Has the Western Novel Been Gut Shot ?



I read a lot of western fiction and also write a fair amount. (See the post from my new novel-my last post). Western fiction, like all fiction has several reoccurring themes that define most stories. Below is my short list of themes that make good westerns

·        Surviving on an unsettled frontier - man vs. the environment, nature and other settlers

·        Gold, silver and/or the mysterious lost mine – or who owns it, claim jumpers

·        Gunfighter comes to town – who is he after?

·        Settlers trying to create law in a new and lawless area

·        Conflict between native Indians with - settlers, the Calvary, outlaws, gunrunners

·        The chase - catching the bad guys

·        Land grabbers and squatters.

·        Eastern dude swindling the poor townsfolk

·        Bad guys vs. the lawmen - bank, train and stagecoach robbers and  stock rustlers

·        Many western novels focused on regular people being forced to rise up and fight the treacherous outlaws

·        Internal conflict - man vs. himself, concurring real or imagined problems (my favorite)

Book sales tell us that western fiction has been in gradual decline since the early 1980s, after being popular for more than a century. For many years it was one of the most popular genres, but that is no longer the case. Seems to me that a few more good western novels are coming out again and some fine western movies are still making it at the box office.

Not sure the Western Novel will ever die but do believe it was gut shot there for a while. Thanks to the healing work of the old country doctor and the beautiful but naiveté homestead girl (just thought of another theme there-sorry) looks like it will make it.
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