Since 1981 I have been writing Westerns. Backed into it, actually. I started out as a mystery writer, but when an editor asked me if I could write westerns, I said yes. I always said yes back then. However, at the time I had hardly even read any Westerns, just watched them on T.V. and in the movies. So I went out to a used bookstore and bought about 40 books by different authors, in a variety of series, so I wouldn’t come up with anything that had already been done. As a result I created THE GUNSMITH. The first book was published in January of 1982, and they have been appearing once a month since then, under my pseudonym J.R. Roberts. I recently finished writing Gunsmith #378, and I am contracted through #384.
Westerns were red hot in the 80’s. I ended up creating series like Tracker, Angel Eyes, Mountain Jack Pike, Ryder, as well as writing books in other series like Cimarron, Shelter, The Trailsman and Canyon O’Grady. In 1982, my 3rd year as a full time writer, I wrote 27 books in 12 months. In 30 years I have written and published 585 books, a good 400 of them Westerns.
But as the 90’s came the Western genre started to die off, and the number of series being published dwindled. Soon, only The Gunsmith, Longarm, Slocum and The Trailsman were left. And although sales of these series were not what they had once been, there was a loyal readership.
Ah, but wait, of late there’s been a resurgence of the genre. How do I know that? Because for about 15 years I was writing them for Dorchester Books. 10 in all. Also two series for HarperCollins. But then Harper cancelled their Western line, and recently Dorchester went out of business.
Fear not, though. Recently, Gunsmith sales have increased. (I can’t speak for Longarm, Slocum and Trailsman. Those books are written by a stable of excellent writers, while I continue to write all the Gunsmith books.) My sales have increased, as have my royalties. And thanks to ebooks—which, as a reader, I HATE—my early books are back in print. Speaking Volumes LLC has brought back the early Gunsmiths (and plans to reprint the first 200 of them), as well as all of my Angel Eyes, Tracker and Mountain Jack Pike books. They’ll be available as ebooks and as POD trade paperbacks. In addition, some of them have been done in audio. While they all have beautiful new covers, the Gunsmith continues to appear under the J.R. Roberts name while the other books now bear my real name.
Yes, Westerns are back, and none too soon for readers of blogs like this one. Loyal readers have kept us alive, and now new readers are discovering Westerns—reprints and originals. My new book, BULLETS & LIES, is the first in as new series to feature Denver private detective Talbot Roper. The stories are set in the 1880’s. Book #2, THE RELUCTANT PINKERTON, will appear next year. Roper is a character who has appeared in many of the Gunsmith books, so the series is a spin-off. However, it is a traditional series, while the Gunsmith continues to be an Adult Western series.
And the newest development? Amazon has purchased the Dorchester inventory, which means they will be bringing back all of my Amazon Westerns—as well as many others–including last year’s CROW BAIT, my last book for them.
Every decade somebody tries to bury the Western Genre, and every decade we—the readers and writers of Westerns—successfully fight them off. (In fact, I was late delivering this blog because I had to finish two books this weekend—both westerns.)
I’m proud of all of us!
And one lucky commenter today will receive a copy of Bullets and Lies!!