To The Duke

To The Duke

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Old Western Movies

George Gabby Hayes

I've been watching old western movies on my computer while I work. I have a little picture in picture in the upper right hand corner, and I play the sound. What I've noticed lately is that I'm picking up the dialogue. Well, I didn't actually notice it myself.  It has been rudely pointed out to me over the past couple of weeks. When I'm shopping, when I'm at the bank, at the gym, a restaurant, everywhere. People have started asking me to repeat myself when I asked for the goll durned check, or when I say, by jiminy ya think it'll rain. Or like yesterday at the car wash when I told the kid to give it a good goin' over and I better not catch him puttin' a lazy hand out when he went to scrubbin' the dadburned foot pads I just put in. By jiminy. The topper was last night when I told my husband he'd goll durn better get his duds down them steps if'n he wanted 'em scrubbed by mornin'.  That's when he and my son sat me down to have a serious talk about my behavior.

But all this western dialogue has made me think about the old westerns, and the people who wrote them. Sure it might have been a little over the top, but compared to the language in today's movies, it's a blessing to listen to Gabby Hayes growl and durn his way through a sentence. I think I've mentioned this before, but a couple of years ago I printed the screenplay of The Searchers and sat with it on the table in front of me while I watched the movie. Not only is the dialogue wonderful, the movie followed the script down to the last word. I think there were two places in the whole film that veered away from what was written on the page, and both of those were mainly in the action, not in the actual dialogue.

There are still people who enjoy good language, and interesting banter between characters whether it be in a book or a movie. And I catch myself watching black and white films more and more. Not only do I think they're better movies, as a writer I find the dialogue much more interesting. And with that, I think I'll search for a good Glen Ford movie. I met his son Peter at a Western Writers of America convention in Albuquerque last June, where I was one of the publishers there to sit on a panel and take pitches. He gave an interesting presentation about growing up in Hollywood with a superstar like Glen Ford for a father. Visit Peter's website, and be sure and pick up a copy of his book.

There is one thing for sure, I wreckin' Glen Ford was one goll durned good lookin' cowpuncher, that's for dang gone sure.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Devil's Hoofprints

Brett Cogburn has hit the world of western writers like a steam engine coming down a mountain path. Brett has two other books out besides High Hill's, The Devil's Hoofprints. In September Rooster, by Kennsington, was released and it's doing well. In October, Brett's fiction novel, Panhandle, was released by Pinnacle and we just heard they've sold out of the first printing and are doing another print run. Yeah, Brett!.  Make sure to pick up a copy of one or all three of Brett's books. You won't be sorry you did. Although we're a little biased, we truly believe that Brett is going to be a huge name in western writing and we're excited that High Hill has been privileged to witness the beginning of his career. Be sure and pick up a copy of both Cactus Country Anthologies too. And Cactus Country Volume III will be out later this week. We should have the cover on here tomorrow. So see you then. Lou


Monday, December 3, 2012

John Wayne

I was piddling around on the web the other day and found out that if you google western movies you'll find a ton of them you can watch right on your computer. Many are on Youtube. Check them out. I watched an old 1933 movie featuring Sandy the Singing Cowboy. You know who that was? John Wayne. I have old vhs tapes of these early John Wayne movies, but hadn't watched one in probably 25 years. He wasn't a real good singer, but even in those old reels you can see the true cowboy lurking there. Thank God for John Wayne!
Riders of Destiny

And again I apologize for not posting more often. I pledge to do better. See you tomorrow.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Watch for Blue Roan Colt

New From
Dusty Richards
Blue Roan Colt
due out on November 16th.
 Check out the new book from Dusty Richards, author of more than 110 western novels. Dusty is the recipient of two Spur Awards, the Wrangler Award from the Cowboy Museum and Hall of Fame, and the Will Rogers Medallion. You can check Dusty out at
And ask your local bookstore to carry Blue Roan Colt. Check our website for more information.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Dusty Richards talks about how he got started in the book business!

Dusty with an Indian friend in
Nevada several years ago.

           Somewhere in the before life I wanted to be a writer.  Lots of folks do the wanna be thing, but few follow through and even less of them end up published. I laugh about it now, but in the typewriter days we didn’t have spell checker or any real correction method.  I wrote a column for three rural weekly magazines and each was about two pages double-spaced.  Writing a column teaches you to be ready and write on a deadline. One week, a particular job hung over my head.  The story line was about the spit tobacco in the box gang of farmers who hung around a general store’s stove and told yarns, commented on events, and settled the world’s problems.
          People would comment and laugh about their tall tales often called current news.  I recall one about calves to big for their cows to have, a problem that often resulted in the death of the cow.
      This one old farmer in front of the stove said. “Yeah my neighbor has one of those bulls gets small calves, but he has to keep the calves in the barn for weeks to grow up enough so the hawks don’t get them.”
           So even after several years of writing a successful local column, I couldn’t get a spot in a big magazine that paid nor get my column syndicated. So skip the newspaper business.  Meanwhile if I couldn’t find a western book to read, I wrote them in long hand on a loose leaf note book like Zane Grey did.  Only I didn’t have his wife Dolly to later type and to edit them.  But my girls found them as teens and read them—then cornered me up.  Dad why don’t you sell your westerns—they’re good?
            “Girls, they have Louie and lots more good writers. I figure selling western books would be like writing songs in Nashville.  Do you know how to get a songwriter off your porch?”
            “Pay him for the pizza.”
         But I’d written imaginary book reports in high school—English teachers never read western.  Texas Ranger Sam Brown comes to Low Gap, he captures the rustlers, marries Mary Ann and cleans up the whole place.  Lots of fist fighting and shooting—great book to read.  I charged a dollar for each book report when teenage wages were still fifty cents an hour. I sold some every week for spending money.  Boys were dumb about not reading books.
            I then got into chicken doctoring for Tyson, I was over about thirty large farms. One day I met a farmer’s wife who could type. Her neighbor had a registered Angus operation and an expensive big electric typewriter for typing registrations papers. She borrowed it in turn agreeing to type in his small needs.  I had found my Dolly.  Linda was such a busy woman even without my books to do, and I felt guilty, but I wrote and she typed and soon I sold some books.  I still give her my books each year in payment and each time she says, “I told you you’d be famous.”
            Famous or not she and my wife Pat pushed me along on this road to publication. Next the computer age came on the scene and I bought two huge Commodores.  I had written most of my books in legible long hand, but I knew to get the books written that I had in my head, I’d have to learn to create on that monster machine.  It wasn’t an easy switch but I did it. You had to type a header on a page along with the page number, then reprint the page.  Oh it was draggy compared to today.
            But to show how much my wife Pat supported me, quite a few years ago we went on a Saturday and shopped around for a computer.  I wasn’t going to spend the money for real computer until I sold a major book, but we were looking. 
            We ended up at Mac and a guy had me sit down to type.  He said they had a half dozen sales people there every day and I could call even on weekends if I had a problem.  The price was high for a typewriter and I started to walk away when Pat caught my arm. “Aren’t you going to buy it?”
            “I want to think on it.”
            She shook her head. “If it had been a dang tractor, you’d already had it loaded on the trailer.  Buy it.”  I did of course.
            Thanks, I’ll tell you more about my start in this business in the future. Check out my website  I answer email  too
            Also check out the growing number of great books we have at Cactus Country Publishing while you’re here. 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Thursday, September 20, 2012

I Wanna Be a Cowgirl

  • Girl Riding A Horse Clipart
    Okay. So maybe I wasn’t born in a western state. I wasn’t born on horseback. And I wasn’t born with a branding iron or lasso in my hand. But why can’t a country gal who grew up on the lapping shores of the Illinois River in a little town called Havana, call herself a cowgirl?
          Recently I attended a book signing for Brett Cogburn in Ft. Smith, Arkansas. Wanting to enjoy the occasion and do my part, I purchased a pair of cowboy boots. Ankle height, flat heel, very pretty with contrasting stitching. Now mind you, I already own three pair of cowboy boots. Two that kill my aged feet, and one red pair that has a long history, including being admired by the widow of John Wayne, but I wanted to celebrate with a pair of new boots.  
         The night before the signing is where the trouble began. That’s when one of my “real” cowboy friends, who shall remain nameless, told me my new boots weren't  cowboy boots at all, but city slicker boots.
          I laughed, but later what Dusty, I mean the cowboy who shall remain nameless said, really bugged me. I grew up country.  But because of the state listed on my birth certificate, I can be called a “flatlander” a “hoosier” a “river rat” and a “country gal” but I can’t be called a cowgirl? How does that work?
         I spent my youth in the Havana Theater on Saturdays watching cowboy movies from ten in the morning until 5 at night. Getting me out of the house for that long probably saved my grandmother from an early death. She’d already raised fifteen kids of her own, but I was thrown on her doorstep and she had to start all over with a wild young girl who wanted nothing more than to be John Wayne. I rode the fence out back, traipsed around in a pair of my uncle’s old rodeo boots, and spit and scratched like a prospector. I called my grandma ma’m. And on occasion threw out a curse word to make myself appear more fearsome. I wore Roy Rogers six shooters around my waist and begged everyone in town to watch my quick draw. Durn it, I was a cowgirl.
        Then life interfered and I went to school, got married, had three boys, and took the path that appeared in front of me for decades. Now I find myself surrounded with all things cowboy and naturally I’m falling back into the dreams and desires of my youth. I want to be a cowgirl.
          I might have wrangled corn growing up instead of cattle. I might have eaten fried catfish and frog legs instead of beans cooked over an open fire. I hunted raccoon with my grandpa instead of bears and buffalo. But we moved to the country and bought horses when my kids were old enough to ride, and I walked around doing chores with a piece of straw between my lips. I took up scratching and spitting again, and let go of many disparaging words.  But for the life of me I can’t figure out why just being born in a certain place can make all the difference in receiving the coveted title of cowboy or cowgirl.
          While putting together the Cactus Country anthologies, our goal was to publish things besides traditional westerns. We published a wonderful poem that basically said being a cowboy is simply a state of mind. I guess I’ll do what I always do...buck convention and be a cowgirl whether those around me agree with it or not. And don’t tell anyone, but I happen to know that the cowboy who shall remain nameless was actually born in Chicago. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Brett Cogburn's book signing in Ft. Smith this past Saturday was a terrific success. Below are a few pictures from the event. You know how to get on the best seller list? One book sale at a time. That's from my old friend, Dusty Richards. 

Brett, Delois McGrew & Dusty Richards

Brett's Mom and Dad, David and Sherry Cogburn

Delois McGrew (and her authentic Native American belt buckle),
 Brett & Brett's daughter River Grace

Dusty Richards, Pam Jones (alias Pamela Foster),
Ruth Weeks & Brett Cogburn

Eddie Owens, Pam Jones, Lou Turner,
Brett Cogburn & Ruth Weeks

Two of the neatest young people I've met in a long, long time.
River Grace & Talon Cogburn

Monday, September 10, 2012

Brett Cogburn to be in Ft. Smith, Arkansas

Meet Brett Cogburn in Ft. Smith, Arkansas
 Visit Brett's Facebook page and say hello!
Brett Cogburn's Facebook Page

Brett is doing a book signing for Rooster: The Life and Times of the Real Rooster Cogburn
at the Fort Smith Museum of History on September 15, 2012 at 10:00 a.m.
Visit Brett's website for more information and a map.
Brett Cogburn's Website

You can also find Devil's Hoofprints, a short story collection published by Cactus Country on Amazon
Devil's Hoofprints on Amazon

Sunday, September 9, 2012

How Western Writing Has Changed!

"As Wild felled one of the redskins by a blow from the butt of his revolver, and sprang for the one with the tomahawk, the chief's daughter suddenly appeared. Raising her hands, she exclaimed, 'Go back, Young Wild West. I will save her!'" (1908)
This copy of a weekly magazine published at the beginning of the twentieth century shows how westerns were written about more than 100 years ago. Boy how things have changed. Dusty Richards once told me that the pioneers in western writing did all the hard work. They had to describe a land not seen by many Americans. A wild and rugged view of landscape and people that were often hard to explain to anyone who hadn't been west of the Mississippi. Imagine writing about a vast desert and expecting a city slicker back east to see it. It took a lot of skill to explain to readers where the hero's horse tread. Below is a short explanation I found that explains a little about western literature and its history.


The predecessor of the western in American literature emerged early with tales of the frontier. The most famous of the early nineteenth century frontier novels of the frontier were James Fenimore Cooper's, the five novels making up the Leatherstocking Tales. Cooper's novels were largely set in what was at the time the American frontier, the Appalachian Mountains and areas west of there. As did his 1824 novel The Prairie most later westerns would typically take place west of the Mississippi River.


The Western as a specialized genre got its start in the "penny dreadfuls" and later the "dime novels". Published in June 1860, "Malaeska; the Indian Wife of the White Hunter" is considered the first dime novel. These cheaply made books were hugely successful and capitalized on the many stories that were being told about the mountain men, outlaws, settlers and lawmen who were taming the western frontier. Many of these novels were fictionalized stories based on actual people: Buffalo Bill, Wild Bill Hickok, Jesse James, Wyatt Earp (who was still alive at the time) and Billy the Kid.
By 1900, the new medium of pulp magazines also helped to relate these adventures to easterners. Meanwhile, non-American authors like the German Karl May picked up the genre, went to full novel length, and made it hugely popular and successful in continental Europe from about 1880 on, though they were generally dismissed as trivial by the literary critics of the day.


Popularity grew with the publication of Owen Wister's The Virginian in 1902 and especially Zane Grey's Riders of the Purple Sage in 1912. The first Hopalong Cassidy stories by Clarence l. Mulford appeared in 1904 both as dime novels and in pulp magazines. When pulp magazines exploded in popularity in the 1920s, western fiction greatly benefited (as did the author Max Brand, who excelled at the western short story). Pulp magazines that specialised in Westerns inclued Western Story Magazine, Star Western, West, Cowboy Stories and Ranch Romances. [1] The simultaneous popularity of Western movies in the 1920s also helped the genre.


In the 1940s several seminal Westerns were published, including The Ox-Bow Incident (1940) by Walter van Tilburg Clark, The Big Sky (1947) and The Way West (1949) by A.B. Guthrie, Jr., and Shane (1949) by Jack Schaefer. Many other Western authors gained readership in the 1950s, such as Luke Short, Ray Hogan, and Louis L'Amour.
The genre peaked around the early 1960s, largely due to the tremendous number of Westerns on television. The burnout of the American public on television Westerns in the late 1960s seemed to have an effect on the literature as well, and interest in Western literature began to wane.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Meet the Real Rooster Cogburn!

You think you know the true story of Rooster Cogburn? Well not so fast. The real story is between the pages of a new book just released by Kensington Publishing. And Brett Cogburn is the author. The reason he knows so much about the infamous gunfighter is because he happens to be the real Rooster's great-grandson.

Rooster is the non-fiction biography of Brett's gunfighting great-grandfather and his battle against the Hanging Judge's U.S. Deputy Marshals.  It has long been said by the uninformed that a real Rooster Cogburn never existed beyond the confines of True Grit, but indeed he did.  Fifteen years of research revealed a story unique and exceptional in its own right.

Check out Brett's website for more information.Brett Cogburn

"Fans of frontier arcana will revel in Cogburn's readable prose andlively characters." - Publishers Weekly

The Devil's Hoofprints by Brett Cogburn
Available on Amazon and through High Hill Press on the Cactus Country  page.

"Brett Cogburn has a way with the Western, like John Wayne had a way of walking, or John Ford had a way with capturing the West on film...." 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Jesse James

Jesse James
Is Jesse James a hero or a villain? Because all history is revisionist history, we'll never know for sure. For every book that comes out claiming Jesse to be a hero, there will be another portraying him to be a cutthroat killer who thought nothing of robbing and murdering to get his way. I spend a lot of time in the Kansas City area, and giving the wrong opinion can spring battles reminiscent of the Civil War. Jesse is either loved or hated. All I know is that legends make for good writing, and Jesse James has certainly brought the imaginations of many writers to the page. 

Here's a challenge. Read up on Jesse James and write a short story about him. Who knows, maybe it'll turn into a novel. But whatever you do, the research will be half the fun.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Cactus Country Volume II

The second book in the Cactus Country Anthology series hits the bookstore shelves this week. It is also available through High Hill Press and look for it on Amazon soon. The editions that were sent out toward the end of 2011 were well received and we've been anxiously awaiting delivery of more books so that we could offer them to the public. There are 26 authors represented in this book, many of them are Spur Award winners and multi-published in the western genre.

If you're a fan of these authors, you should order your copy of Cactus Country II today...
Rod Miller
Dusty Richards
Jory Sherman
Donna Volkenannt
Delois McGrew
Brett Cogburn
John Nesbitt
Larry Sweazy
Lucia St. Clair Robson
Pat Carr
Eddie Owens
Troy Andrew Smith
Carolyn Steele
Mike Thompson
Claudia Mundell
Gail Burton
Ellen Gray Massey
Marilyn Smith
Connie Vigil Platt 
Don Johnson
James Griffin
Regina Williams
W. E. Mueller
Thomas Long
Billie Louise Jones

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Where Did All the Cowboys Go?

Tom HornPawnee BillTexas JackFrank EatonDeadwood DickBill DoolinConnie Douglas Reeves

Here's a row of faces than I'm sure most of you have not seen before. Some of them are good cowboys, some not so good. But is this what a cowboy looks like today? I don't think so. Here are the people I consider cowboys now.

Brett Cogburn
Dusty Richards

John Nesbitt

Jory Sherman

Johnny Boggs
Each of these men has lived as a cowboy, but their most important contribution to that name is that they write about cowboys. They keep the legend and myth alive with their prose. Cactus Country proudly published an anthology in the fall of 2011 and had a story in the book from each of these writers. Those stories, and thousands of stories like them, are what will keep the cowboy alive. And if you want to find out what names go with the faces of the row of cowboys I have at the first of this post, here is a link to a site that is loaded with information about the cowboys of our history.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Ernest Borgnine, a Great Cowboy.

I've been corresponding with a cowboy about western movies and western actors. We pretty much both vote for John Wayne as our favorite, but this past week we wrote back and forth about Ernest Borgnine. I've met Mr. Borgnine a couple of times, once when he was touring the country in his big motor home and stopped by a shop I ran, then again a few years ago when he presented Dusty Richards with his Wrangler Award at the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City. That was a star-studded event and I'd been told that Tom Selleck would be there, that's why I supported my good friend, Dusty, by buying that $150 a plate dinner. Sorry Dusty, it was Tom drove me to lose those 20 pounds. But alas, the big thrill of my evening, besides seeing Dusty win the Wrangler, was seeing Ernest Borgnine again. His smile made the evening.

This blog is dedicated to all things western, and what's better than an Ernest Borgnine western movie. The Wild Bunch is one of my favorites because it also starred William Holden. The movie opens with a group of aging outlaw's final score, a bank robbery. It's a rip roaring good action movie. Kind of violent for its time, but pretty tame now.
A Bullet For Sandoval (1969)/Any Gun Can Play [DVD]

All in all, Ernest Borgnine didn't make a Searchers quality western, but actually there aren't too many of those. What Borgnine did in his career is have fun and keep working. And really, every western is worth watching. They show us another time and another culture and most of us baby boomers have at one time or another dreamed of being a cowboy.