Why Ride Black Horses?
edited: Tuesday, January 11, 2005
By Howard Hopkins
Rated "G" by the Author.
Posted: Sunday, January 09, 2005
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Reading Black Horse Westerns
Remember a time when reading meant an escape from day-to-day drudgery?
When heroes wore battered Stetsons and you knew the bad guy was, well, bad? Remember when you could read an adventure in a few hours and didn't suffer back strain from lugging around a 500-page novel?
Most of all, remember when fiction was just plain fun?
For many lovers of short adventure those days meant the pulps of the 1930s and '40s. When those days faded into an inglorious sunset in the early 1950s, a generation weaned on "cheap thrills", as the pulps were often called, probably moved on to their successors, the paperbacks, where one-time pulp writers like Louis L'Amour found a new home.
But time passed, the world turned. Fiction changed with the times, growing darker, longer, less action-driven. Some pulp series were successfully reprinted in paperback, but short fun fiction became the literary dodo bird.
Jump ahead nearly 40 years from the last pulp action hero (a little-known detective by the ironic name of Captain Zero) to the present day. Louis L'Amour reprints still dominate western shelf space in many bookstores, but most westerns have changed. They run much longer, focus more on character and receive precious little display room. New York publishers consider the western, especially the action-oriented western, a moribund property. Many are sprawling historicals or, conversely, adult westerns, driven by the amount of sex the hero can have in a given number of pages. They are not honest-to-goodness "shoot-'em-ups".
Few options exist for readers seeking new tales of the Wild West, books they can read in a few dedicated hours, novels that provide a satisfying romp along dust-swirled trails and across windswept plains. While you won't find this type of book in stores, you will find them online at such places as AmazonUK and WHSmith, and in libraries across the world (either in hardcover or large-print trade-paperback).
Of course, I'm talking about Robert Hale Ltd's Black Horse Western line (reprinted under Ulverscroft's Linford and Dales Westerns imprints). Which brings me in a roundabout manner to this article's title. Why ride black horses?
Well, because they are spirited critters, full of life and fast out of the gate. Readers who yearn for the old days of pulp fiction but with a modern twist and freshness need look no farther than the Hale corral for their next escape from the doldrums of everyday life. The British company produces a bevy of titles each month, ten to be exact, that offer a wide range of diverse writing and theme for every reader. They hearken back to a day when story was king and a reader felt as if he or she were right there in the saddle, riding alongside the hero.
The books come with blazing covers, superior paper and in a comfortable size few hardcovers can match. The package is highly collectible and readable.
So if you're longing for those bygone days of crisp, fun fiction, the news is they're back and improved. The black horse is in the corral. Care to saddle up?
— Howard Hopkins, whose next BHW, Ladigan, under the pen-name Lance Howard, sees print in April.