“More than Sagebrush and Cowboys” at the San Diego Writers Festival

“The San Diego Writers Festival is a free, community based event designed to celebrate the power of writing and storytelling…”

I’ll be joining a fine group of writers for a panel discussion at the San Diego Writers Festival on April 4. Come join us for some fine weather and a day jam-packed with panels, workshops, and performances by writers and storytellers of all genres and disciplines. And be sure to catch “More than Sagebrush and Cowboys: Western Writers of America Celebrate the Diversity of the West.” Hope to see you there!


Stardust Trail

In the spring of 1938, L.A. private investigator Nate Ross searches for an alcoholic screenwriter whose absence is stalling production on Republic Pictures’ latest Western. When he finds the missing rummy dead, Nate’s plunged into the world of B-movie cowboys and a tangled case of murder and sabotage pointing back nearly forty years to a bloody, real-life, “wild West” crime.

Coming next month! Stay tuned…

Another Billy the Kid…

This is an authentic (and authenticated) photo of Billy the Kid. (Spoiler Alert: No, not THAT Billy the Kid – although they do appear to have had similar taste in hats}. To find out more about this Billy, see my feature articles “Billy the Kid of Kansas” and “Train Robbery at Mound Valley” in the upcoming (April) issue of Wild West Magazine.

As a bonus, my Roundup article in the same issue rounds up ten wannabe BTKs of the Old West. It’s more Billys than you can shake a stick (a billy club?) at!

Forming the West…

Every now and then you come across a piece of writing that hits you square between the eyes with its clarity and truth. Happened to me yesterday when I was rereading Craig Johnson’s excellent Longmire mystery, “The Dark Horse.” How I missed lighting on this particular passage the first time I read the book I don’t know, but this time around it stopped me dead in my tracks:

“I thought about how we tilled and cultivated the land, planted trees on it, fenced it, built houses on it, and did everything we could to hold off the eternity of distance – anything to give the landscape some sort of human scale. No matter what we did to try and form the West, however, the West inevitably formed us instead.”

Seems to me this 60-word paragraph encapsulates the theme of pretty much every Western novel ever written. And I imagine that last sentence describes perfectly the journey of every Western writer. I know it does mine, anyway.

My hat’s off to you, Craig. Thanks.

The Rio Virgin, Southern Utah – Thomas Moran (1913)

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

February 21, 1885…

Kindness is an admirable trait in a lawman, but it must be tempered with a healthy dose of suspicion. It was a lesson U.S. Marshal Hal Gosling learned too late. His good nature led to his death, setting events in motion that would break up of one of the worst outlaw gangs to plague south Texas in the 1880s.

You can read about Marshal Gosling’s sad demise, and the end of the Helotes Gang, in my article from the December 2013 issue of Wild West Magazine, now online at HistoryNet.

For a fuller account, see Chapter 3 of Some Gave All.

Slippery Shenanigans at the Faro Table

“In the 1993 film Tombstone, Doc Holliday asks his pal Wyatt Earp, ‘Since when is faro a business?’ Holliday follows up with the wry observation, ‘Only suckers buck the tiger; the odds are all on the house.’ Catchy dialogue, but historically it would seem to miss the mark—a thing the real John Henry Holliday rarely did. Dentistry never got Doc much beyond a nickname, but for him and many contemporaries, faro, mainstay of saloons and gambling houses across the Wild West, was indeed a business—generally lucrative and often respectable, if rarely honest…”

Wild West Magazine, recently put my August 2008 article on the shady dealings of the faro table online. See it here.