The Best of the West editedby Joe R. Lansdale Razored Saddles edited by Joe R. Lansdale and Pat LoBrutto Wild Riders and Trouble Valley by Lee Hoffman Sturgeon's West by Theodore Sturgeon and, in part, Don Ward Time of the Wolves by Marcia Muller Sixgun in Cheek and The Western Hall of Fame by or edited by Bill Pronzini (and edited by Dale L. Walker) among others and the token eastern: Who Fears the Devil? by Manly Wade Wellman
2014: This week has been more than a little hectic and exhausting, and I didn't get to finish my books for the week (including the copy of a Robert Bloch novel that used to belong to Kevin Tipple's frequent guest reviewer Barry Ergang...purchased from a Bryn Mawr, PA, secondhand store). So, please look to Evan Lewis's blog today for more original contributions...and I hope some find this below of interest...TM
Friday, April 27, 2012
FFB: THE BEST OF THE WEST edited by Joe R. Lansdale (Doubleday, 1986)
Joe Lansdale's first anthology apparently only saw one edition, unless there was a book club version identical in all but pricetag to this Double-D "trade" edition, and that's a shame, much in the same way as Doubleday's misspelling of Neal Barrett, Jr.'s surname on the dust jacket; as with Neglected Visions, the Barry Malzberg et al. reprint anthology I reviewed here some months back, this is a book that was tossed off casually (at best; "contemptuously" is the word Barry used for D-day's treatment of their "genre" lines at the time), despite being one of the best books I've read so far, if not the best, with reviewing for this "Forgotten Books" roundelay in mind. See the uninspired package slapped on the cover to the left, here. Lansdale bemoans in his intro the response he got for a request from fellow WWA writers for innovative, new fiction (he got stacks of tear sheets and photocopies of pulp and Zane Grey Western Magazine publications, for one, and a whole lot of conventional material for B), and makes a passing reference to how this volume isn't quite a Dangerous Visions for western fiction as it stands, a reference I imagine would be lost on many typical Double-D readers, who might not know about Harlan Ellison's 1967 anthology devoted to previously unpublished taboo-breaking sf and fantasy; more a heads up to his editors at Doubleday, perhaps, or something he hoped they could point to in hoping to energize the sales force (DV having been a surprise hit for Doubleday all those years before, and comparisons to DVhave become something of a mantra for the marketing of anthologies of new fiction since). But what's important about this book, aside from its undeserved obscurity, is both how good and how fresh it remains. (And the tendency for the stories to be rather short and pointed, while fully-fleshed out, reminds me even more of the Hitchcock Presents: reprint anthologies than it does of DV; a John Keefauver story here does nothing to alter that perception.) Brian Garfield, the recently late Ardath Mayhar, Jeff Banks, Lenore Carroll (with a very funny, literally peachy, sexually-charged culinary encounter), Thomas Sullivan, Neal Barrett, Jr., Lee Schultz (with a short, touching poem), William F. Nolan (with a teleplay for a pilot film for an unsold series), and Loren D. Estleman provide westerns from the traditional historical period, even if Barrett's pushes the late edge of that era, being set after the turn of the century (and bringing together Pat Garrett and some less likely historical figures; Lansdale suggests that only Barrett could write such a story, at least write it well...E. L. Doctorow has certainly tried, hard, and been given a lot more credit as well as money for doing less well; Doctorow definitely wouldn't've included the unobtrusive Bugs Bunny reference). Chad Oliver and John Keefauver offer contemporary stories with strong elements of fantasy in them, Keefauver's unsurprisingly a tall tale in a mode a shade more restrictive and neatly tucked-in than R. A. Laffterty or Howard Waldrop might produce; Oliver's, also unsurprisingly, draws on his anthropology background. LoLo Westrich, Elmer Kelton and Gary Paulsen give us contemporary westerns, Kelton's particularly a reminder that the economic recessions of the current day aren't any newer than this anthology, certainly, more than a quarter-century old now. There isn't a story here that isn't worth reading, that isn't at least engaging and thoughtful in one manner or another, which puts the book ahead of DV and most other original anthologies in most ways; that it features William Nolan's teleplay, unproduced even though commissioned by ABC at the height of its jiggle/nostalgia success in the latter '70s, as its most conventional narrative, in unconventional format for a literary anthology (as Lansdale notes on both counts), is both interesting for that fact and that ABC, having just had its greatest success ever with Roots, probably shied away from this script's challenging portrayal of its Texas residents' complacency about slavery. (It probably didn't help also that there are no sympathetic Mexican characters in the play...ABC's excuse that their commission was for a "new Zorro" but this was Too much like Zorro.) I wasn't surprised this was a good book, but I was surprised that it was even better than an old favorite of mine, Razored Saddles, which has in comparison seen several editions and become a bit of a touchstone. For more of today's books, please see Patti Abbott's blog.
an upgrade of the Contento/Stephensen-Payne index: The Best of the West ed. Joe R. Lansdale (Doubleday, 12/1986, hc; A Double-D Western "from the Western Writers of America"; first publication for all contents; xiv + 178pp; jacket illustration by Vito DeVito; jacket typography by Dennis McClellan) ix · Introduction · Joe R. Lansdale · in 1· At Yuma Crossing · Brian Garfield · ss * 14· Take a Left at Bertram · Chad Oliver · ss * 23· The Second Kit Carson · Gary Paulsen · ss * 27· Night of the Cougar · Ardath Mayhar · ss * 36· Jasper Lemon’s Ba Cab Ya Larry · Lee Schultz · pm * 38· Stoned on Yellow · LoLo Westrich · ss * 47· Making Money in Western Banking · Jeff Banks · ss * 52· Cutliffe Starkvogel and the Bears Who Liked TV · John Keefauver · ss * 59· A Bad Cow Market · Elmer Kelton · ss * 72· Peaches · Lenore Carroll · ss * 77· Judas and Jesus · Thomas Sullivan · ss * 85· Sallie C. · Neal Barrett, Jr. · ss * 107· The Nighthawk Rides · William F. Nolan · teleplay * 169· The Bandit · Loren D. Estleman · ss *
from the Contento Indices: Razored Saddles(with Patrick LoBrutto) (Avon 0-380-71168-0, Oct ’90 [Sep ’90], $3.95, 285pp, pb, cover by Lee MacLeod) Reprint (Dark Harvest 1989) original anthology of 17 Western horror and fantasy stories. Razored Saddles ed. Joe R. Lansdale & Patrick LoBrutto (Dark Harvest 0-913165-49-2, Sep ’89 [Aug ’89], $19.95, 268pp, hc) Original anthology of 17 western horror and fantasy stories, illustrated by Rick Araluce. A slipcased deluxe limited edition of 600 copies signed by the editors and contributors ($59.00) is also available. 11 · Introduction: The Cowpunk Anthology · Joe R. Lansdale & Patrick LoBrutto · in 15 · Black Boots · Robert R. McCammon · ss * 29 · Thirteen Days of Glory · Scott A. Cupp · ss * 37 · Gold · Lewis Shiner · nv * 71 · The Tenth Toe · F. Paul Wilson · ss * 89 · Sedalia · David J. Schow · nv * 111 · Trapline · Ardath Mayhar · ss * 119 · Trail of the Chromium Bandits · Al Sarrantonio · ss * 129 · Dinker’s Pond · Richard Laymon · ss * 143 · Stampede · Melissa Mia Hall · ss * 161 · Razored Saddles · Robert Petitt · ss * 175 · Empty Places · Gary L. Raisor · ss * 183 · Tony Red Dog · Neal Barrett, Jr. · nv * 211 · The Passing of the Western · Howard Waldrop · ss * 225 · Eldon’s Penitente · Lenore Carroll · ss * 237 · The Job · Joe R. Lansdale · ss * 241 · I’m Always Here · Richard Christian Matheson · ss * 249 · “Yore Skin’s Jes’s Soft ’n Purty...” He Said. (Page 243) · Chet Williamson · ss * -punk. Cyberpunk, splatterpunk, steampunk, Paul Di Filippo was hoping to stir up some ribofunk, but that didn't have the Right Extender. Joe Lansdale, rather an unwilling occasional resident of the splatterpunk drawer, actually the best of the writers who at least moved in that colloquial, at least sometimes extremely graphic, and irreverent direction, published his second western anthology in a year, after the slightly more conventional The New Frontier (Doubleday), in collaboration with Doubleday editor LoBrutto...the first of what has since been at least a small handful of western/horror crossover original anthologies. The Avon paperback is actually tagged, on its spine, "cowpunk"...a term that hasn't ever fully caught on (at least in literary circles...in music, where "splatterpunk" also made some inroads, it gained greater currency). And, of course, when one assembles an eclectic mix of writers for an inherently eclectic anthology concept, you get some diversity in results...and a large portion of these stories aren't supernatural horror, though many of those without fantasticated elements are suspense or at least crime stories. One of the most memorable, "Eldon's Penitente" by Lenore Carroll, isn't even quite that so much as psychological study of the protagonist, and the morose burden he carries. Lansdale's own "The Job" involves two pieces of what John D. MacDonald liked to refer to as Mean Furniture, one of them an Elvis impersonator, out on a hit...I have to wonder if this story was an ancestor of "Bubba Ho-Tep" when the Elvis as Action Man nudge wouldn't leave JRL alone. Neal Barrett, Jr's "Tony Red Dog" is a contemporary western crime story about the title character, rather sharper than Lansdale's killers, who needs to extricated himself from hit contract as the target, and is perhaps the best single story in the collection. The worst is certainly the Chet Williamson, which, like Scott Cupp's mildly diverting piece, attempts to get Big Laffs out of homosexuality in the Old West...while the Cupp makes the Alamo into a haven for homosexual liberation arrayed against the repression of Santa Anna, the Williamson posits an illustrator who is an utterly incredibly self-deluding gay man as the target of horrible abuse by two hulking monsters. But, doncha know, them gay bo's is Different. Not That different...this story has been inexplicably praised in some quarters. Howard Waldrop and David Schow are among those who provide the kind of story one might almost expect of them, as does Lewis Shiner with an historical piece with a pointed sociological agenda. I haven't revisited Al Sarrontonio's story, but recall it as less goofy than the usual run of his work, if as eager to please. Solid contributions from the rest of the assembled, and a book which really shouldn't be out of print, as with most or perhaps even almost all the entrants in this weekly roundup...and certainly one of the least "Forgotten" of the books I've highlighted. Joe Bob would definitely tell you to buy. Please see Patti Abbott's blog for the rest of this week's titles and links.
Well, George, note that the original edition was from small press Dark Harvest, even though co-editor LoBrutto had been at Doubleday forever and held some other key positions in the industry. I suspect Avon picked it up for relative peanuts in a What The Hell mood, and at that time thought McCammon was going to be the big selling point.
Todd - off topic, but I don't know why you can't see the post on mine, just the image. Very odd. I'll edit and re-save, if you want to check back. If still no go, hopefully the rest of the posts and the future ones will be okay.
Shirley "Lee" Hoffman first made a public name for herself as one of the wittier and more multiply-engaged (with other aspects of the world) science-fiction fans who published fanzines in the early 1950s, those whose interests strayed from exclusive attention to the fiction (and related matter) to various subjects including the self-conscious fannish community itself...her magazines Quandry and Science Fiction Five-Yearly, particularly the former, were among the first "faanzines" (as one's interests drifted further away from fantastic fiction, one added more As to the variations on faannish activity...out of such ferment, the first comics, rock/punk, and some other sorts of fanzines were born, not least Hoffman's own folk-music fanzines Caravan and then Gardyloo, in the latter 1950s). Leading up to and during her marriage to editor Larry Shaw, she served as assistant editor of Infinity Science Fiction and its stablemate, Science Fiction Adventures. But when she began writing professionally in the latter '60s, the field she found herself contributing to most plentifully (along with writing some fantasy, sf and [under a pseudonym] romance fiction) was the field of westerns. Her fourth published western novel, The Valdez Horses, won the Western Writers of America Golden Spur for best novel of 1967, and was filmed in Spain under direction of John Sturges (and released under several titles, including the novel's and Chino).Today's book is her eighth western novel, Wild Riders, which, while good, is still the weakest of the Hoffman
Lee Hoffman & fellow writer Wilson Tucker, 1950s
westerns I've read and shows some haste in composition that says to me she didn't get a chance to write the next draft she meant to...at least one phrase is repeated verbatim, in describing the relation of two brothers, about twenty pages apart, and Thogc omes to mind a bit in the early sentence: "Brade," she said slowly. Even given that Hoffman is writing of Missourians and is herself from the deep South, there are only so many ways one syllable can be slowed down, as opposed to spoken with apparent hesitation or reluctance. Brade is our protagonist, a former "bushwhacker" in Missouri and more bloodily in Kansas during the Civil War, one of Quantrill's Raiders, who finds himself chafing at the restrictions he and other Secesh veterans and sympathizers are facing in the postwar, somewhat carpetbagged state. Not long after returning to his small farm, only to find the buildings torched and a noose left hanging in further threat from a tree in the yard, Caudell Bradenton finds himself joining up with a small unit of fellow former Confederates to rob banks in hopes of funding some bribery and campaigns to dislodge the anti-Rebel politicians in the state legislature and at least one of their US Senate seats, and more to the point lift the restrictions on anyone who held any Southern sentiments in the past war. He also discovers that his neighbors' daughter, formerly a child he'd watched out for some in his young adulthood, being nearly twenty years older than she, is approaching legal majority and has her mind set on settling with him. And thus begin his problems, and what turns out to be not only a hardboiled western, somewhat moreso than most of Hoffman's, but also an actual mystery in structure, with questions of purpose and identity held till the closing pages. Also, a formal duel in a western context that might remind one of The Big Country, only with less convenient breakdown of Good Man vs. Bad Man; odd how much of the novel reminded me of, of all things, Ron Scheer's choice ofThe Adventures of Huckleberry Finn for his book this week...some subset of what's dealt with in that landmark is echoed here...though not as profoundly, disappointingly light on the resonance for a Hoffman novel. Though she does slip in no little of her knowledge of the folk music of that era, and even more authentic-reading passages on firearms (and I wonder if the character in the novel named Goforth is a "Tuckerization" of infrequent writer Laura Goforth)...her attention to equine detail also seems more than solid, as Hoffman had famously withdrawn from active fannish/faanish activity in the sf community, at least for a while, by "walking around a horse" and growing very thoroughly involved in equestrian matters (later, she would briefly be on the edge of professionalism in auto racing at about the same time, though not the same place, my parents were, in the early '60s).
Lee Hoffman, 1988
All told, I'd begin with Hoffman's westerns with The Valdez Horses or Trouble Valleyor her last western novel, The Land Killer (1978), but you'll have a good time with this one, as well, even if even the shape of it calls out for another draft (the conclusion is simply way too rushed, once arrived at in this slim novel). But, then again, the same was true of Finn... For more of today's books, please see Patti Abbott's blog.
I don't know about you, but sometimes I read authors in a jag. I read most of Kurt Vonnegut's then-available novels in a string over a couple of months in the latter 1980s, having read only The Sirens of Titan (his best sf novel), Galapagos, and Cat's Cradle and the essay and short story collections beforehand, and it was time to dig in. That's how I know Bluebeard is the best of his contemporary mimetic novels, althoughRosewater and the near-past historical Mother Nightgive it a run. I read about half of Theodore Sturgeon's collections, before the "Sturgeon Project" complete short-fiction reprints began, in the same way, having read most of the rest of Sturgeon's work sporadically over the previous two decades...and Sturgeon and Vonnegut share more than the mutual paternity of Kilgore Trout...a deep and knowing and rarely naive humanism runs through their work. As it does through the work of Ms. Lee Hoffman, RIP in 2007 and not hardly forgotten herself in several circles, but her books, if Amazon can be trusted, are almost all out of print...there's a pricey large-print edition of WILD RIDERS out, and another title coming soon in a LP edition, and her collection of essays In and Out of Quandry might still be available directly from NESFA Press, some examples of her personal journalism from her groundbreaking 1950s fanzine and elsewhere. But I read the simple majority of her 17 western novels in a jag in 1994, having read her impressive sf short story "Soundless Evening" in Again, Dangerous Visions as a kid, and having known she'd written some other impressive fantastic fiction, but was perhaps best known literarily for her western fiction...her fourth novel to be published, and first hardcover, The Valdez Horses (Doubleday, 1967), had won the Spur Award from the Western Writers of America, and had been (apparently acceptably if unexceptionally) filmed a decade later as a project for Charles Bronson and Jill Ireland. Haven't seen the film, but read the book...in fact, take on all her novels, and note how she starts out as good as anyone could want (she had already been a veteran not only of sf fan publishing, but an assistant editor at her ex Larry Shaw's magazines, and a notable zinester in the folk-music scene), in lighter or darker modes from book to book, but by her mid-1970s novels, of which Trouble Valley is one, she had achieved a practiced grace and a lean manner of slipping in the compassionate detail that helped spoil me for lesser western fiction...the protagonist of this one is not only doing his damnedest to end the conflict with his aggressive neighbors, but to do it as amicably as possible, and Hoffman delivers more tension and less melodrama, more detail to character and realistic description of human interaction than almost anyone else working in the field...this book (and its mates) read like less eccentrically-detailed Joe Lansdale westerns, or Bill Pronzini's without the slightly formal stiffness that can creep into his historical work when he lets it. Ed Gorman and Loren Estleman are in her league, too, which gives you some idea...and at least two much better-selling, largely in-print western writers couldn't come close to what she could do. But that shouldn't surprise anyone. The Lee Hoffman Site: http://www.gary-ross-hoffman.com/Lee/ As always, thanks to Patti Abbott for sustaining the Friday Books lists. Buy Ed Gorman (and MH Greenberg)'s new volume of best of the year crime fiction to get a sense of what she can do. (Possibly "forgotten" music audited while writing this one: the George Russell Smalltet: Jazz Workshop [1956, RCA]...the album where Bill Evans learned about modal improvising from Russell, so he eventually could teach it to the Miles Davis group, and they did Kind of Blue as a result. Jazz Workshop's better.)
Despite having just agreed I have too many books, I just went on amazon.com and ordered a copy for one cent plus postage. I guess I am crazy for books, mutter, mutter.