What makes a book a western? Okay, that’s a fair question. I recently read a post whose author seemed surprised the book was considered part of the western genre. I have not read the book, but did look at the overview and it appears to start with a man fresh out of prison driving his pickup home – sounds like a western to me.
I believe if it is set in the old west it is a western, and I will not allow anyone to change my mind on that one. Modern westerns can be harder to pigeon hole. If it is set in a state or area where old time westerns were set, it may be a western. A modern western is set mostly outside, preferably in wide open spaces, and any action in a town is short and usually in a small city or town. Plots can be very modern and tackle modern day problems. Living in Wyoming this could mean dealing with, the oil and gas industry, coal, power plants, wolves, big government intrusion, big game hunting, guns, clean air, open spaces, livestock, and numerous other topics. I have the first draft finished of a young adult modern day western. What does it deal with? Oil and gas and the Wind River Reservation. I think it’s pretty good and topical, but it still needs a lot of work, I am hoping for, but not predicting a late March release.
In the old days, a western was just that a western. A mystery was a mystery, and literary fiction was, well same as today, mostly unreadable. Today we have multiple sub-genres. I classify both of my westerns as western/mystery. Western/Romance is the most popular western sub-genre today. Westerns could also be classified as, Western/Sci-fi, Wester/Thriller, Western/Horror, and lately Western/Erotica and Steampunk Westers are growing in popularity.
Westerns still seem to be bought and read today, they just may not be in the western section of your local bookstore. Meanwhile – read on.
Oh, by the way, right now I am reading, Stephen Burckhardt’s Christmas short, Into the West-The Orphan Train and Fishing and Other Misadventures by Bradley Stoner. I am also re-reading two books on Fort Laramie and the Indian wars.