PROLOGUE BOOKS WESTERN AUTHORS
by James Reasoner
Not content just to bring back some of the best hardboiled crime fiction of the past 75 years, the good folks at Prologue Books have also assembled a fine line-up of vintage Western authors.
MAX BRAND, whose real name was Frederick Faust, is one of the best-selling and most influential Western writers of all time. Beginning shortly after World War I, Faust dominated the Western field in the pulps for more than two decades, producing hundreds of novels and stories under his best-known pseudonym, Max Brand, as well as more than a dozen other names. There’s a pulp legend that on occasion Faust filled up entire issues of WESTERN STORY with a short novel, a couple of serial installments, and an assortment of short stories, all under different names. In all likelihood that claim isn’t true, but there’s no doubt that Faust supplied more than half the fiction in many individual issues. One of three authors who were dubbed “the King of the Pulps” (the other two being H. Bedford-Jones and Erle Stanley Gardner), Faust wrote many mysteries, thrillers, and historical novels in addition to his Westerns. He is also one of the most reprinted authors in history, both in hardback and paperback, and now in e-book form. Prologue Books offers new editions of some of his finest novels.
After selling his first novels in the mid-Thirties, NELSON NYE was also a major force in the Western field for many decades, writing for the pulps, for hardback publishers, and for a number of different paperback publishers. Most of his work is set in his native Southwest, an area he knew well from first-hand experience. Nye is unusual in that after a lengthy stretch of retirement from writing, he returned in the Eighties and Nineties with more than a dozen new novels in which he demonstrated that he hadn’t lost his touch in connecting with Western readers.
Like Nelson Nye, RAY HOGAN is also a native of the Southwest, having been born in New Mexico. His father was a frontier lawman, so writing about sheriffs, marshals, outlaws, and bounty hunters came naturally to him, although his scores of novels encompass virtually every sort of Western story ever created. As a veteran paperbacker, Hogan was most prolific in the Fifties, Sixties, and Seventies, although he continued to produce well-received Western novels into the Nineties. Hallmarks of his work are a fast pace, tough, laconic prose, and an undeniable authenticity in the people and landscapes about which he writes.
GORDON D. SHIRREFFS is another writer who rose to prominence in the Western genre during the 1950s, although he first began selling to the pulps in the late Forties. Much of his work also takes place in the American Southwest. He was one of the best novelists to chronicle the long, violent struggle between the U.S. Cavalry and the Indians. Another area in which he specialized is stories of lost mines and treasure hunting, as well as manhunting. (His best-known series character, Lee Kershaw, is a bounty hunter.) But no matter what the subject matter or where his novels are set, Shirreffs is noted for producing some of the best Western action scenes ever written.
JACKSON COLE and BRADFORD SCOTT share an interesting relationship: they’re the same person, at least in the case of the novels published by Prologue Books. Alexander Leslie Scott was one of the most prolific authors in the Western pulps, his work appearing in hundreds of issues of various titles from the 1920s to the 1950s. He’s best known for two series featuring heroic, iconic Texas Rangers, Jim Hatfield and Walt Slade, both of which he created. The Jim Hatfield stories originally appeared in the pulp TEXAS RANGERS under the house-name Jackson Cole. A number of different authors contributed Hatfield novels during the magazine’s run, but Scott was the first. Meanwhile, over in the pages of THRILLING WESTERN, under the name Bradford Scott, he was also chronicling the adventures of Texas Ranger Walt Slade. But as if that wasn’t enough to establish Leslie Scott’s reputation as a leading Western author, as paperbacks came to dominance in the Fifties he moved his talents to that arena, penning original Jim Hatfield novels for newly-established Pyramid Books, two of which have now been made available again by Prologue Books. Following a successful run of Hatfield paperbacks, Scott also revived Walt Slade in an even longer, more successful series of full-length novels that were bestsellers for the next fifteen years. Prologue Books has reprinted several of these Walt Slade novels. In all of his novels, Scott was known for his vivid descriptions of the Western landscape, his larger-than-life heroes, and his fast-moving action scenes.
LOUIS TRIMBLE was an academic specializing in linguistics. During the Fifties and Sixties he put that specialty to good use by turning out a number of well-written mystery, science fiction, and Western novels. It’s long been known that Westerns and hardboiled crime fiction share a number of similarities, and Trimble is one of numerous authors to achieve success in both fields. Writing primarily for the paperback publisher Ace in the legendary Ace Double series, Trimble produced some of the finest hardboiled Westerns of the era, short, tough novels of men pushed to the brink, and Prologue Books has made several of them available again.
William Ard, who wrote under the pen-name JONAS WARD, is also an example of an author who was an important figure in both mystery and Western fiction. As Ard, he wrote popular novels featuring private eyes Timothy Dane, Danny Fontaine, and Lou Largo. As Jonas Ward he produced his most successful work, half a dozen novels featuring a drifting Texan named Tom Buchanan. The first novel in the series, THE NAME’S BUCHANAN, was the basis for the Randolph Scott movie “Buchanan Rides Alone”. The Buchanan novels were major entries in the paperback Western field in the Fifties and early Sixties, dominating sales and influencing a number of other Western authors. Ard’s early, untimely death brought the series to an end (although it was continued later by other authors writing under the established Jonas Ward name), but his Buchanan novels form one of the highlights of the Western genre during the latter half of the Twentieth Century, and Prologue Books, thankfully, has brought them all back.
Despite the difference in their work, the one quality all these authors share is that they were great storytellers. A good Western novel is one of the most purely entertaining things you can find. Prologue Books has rounded up a bunch of them.