Western Fiction Market is Going Strong

Posted on December 5, 2003

The Western genre is still popular among readers and movie goers. Elmer Kelton and William W. Johnstone -- plus many other western novelists -- are at the top of their game. On top of that, Kevin Costner's Western film Open Range became a critical success this year, and other movies, including the Ron Howard-directed The Missing and the epic The Alamo, are in the chute.

"Suffice to say that the Western is America's epic," said Rita Cleary, vice president of Western Writers of America and author of novels such as River Walk and Charbonneau's Gold. "I think its popularity will probably expand and wane over time, but Westerns will always be timely for those of us who cherish our freedoms."

The nonprofit Western Writers of America was incorporated in 1953 to promote and honor Western literature. Fifty years later, Western fiction remains solid. The organization has over 500 members who write everything from mainstream fiction to local history.

Kelton, a seven-time Spur winner, continues his Texas Ranger saga with Texas Vendetta, due out in January from Forge. Forge is also releasing three previous Kelton novels -- The Buckskin Line, Badger Boy and The Way of the Coyote -- in one volume, Lone Star Rising: The Texas Rangers Trilogy, in November.

The Western's also strong at Kensington Publishing Corp., which is bringing out two new novels by Johnstone, whom USA Today has called "American's greatest living western writer." Johnstone's Ambush of the Mountain Man comes out in December, followed by Preacher's Justice in January.

Cleary's publisher, Five Star, has several upcoming Westerns, including Matchless (December) by Jane Candia Coleman, winner of two Spur Awards; and West of the Moon by Stephen Overholser (February), another Spur winner whose father, Wayne, also wrote award-winning Westerns.

Other upcomiong western novels include Saber's Edge by Ralph Cotton (Signet, November); Red Wind Crossing by John D. Nesbitt (Leisure, November); Restitution by Gary McCarthy (Berkley, December); The Exile by Richard S. Wheeler (Forge, December); Lancaster's Orphans by Robert J. Randisi (Leisure, January); Law of the Land: The Trial of Billy the Kid by Johnny D. Boggs (Signet, January); Port Hazard by Loren D. Estleman (Forge, January); Texas Dust by Jory Sherman (Berkley, January); and The Thirteenth Bullet by Cotton Smith (Pocket Books, February).