The Spaghetti Western – A Genre of its Own

fistful1.jpg366dollars1.jpgThe western movie genre is filled with mystique and legend. These movies tell and re-tell stories and myths of how early America began. Heroes and villains, searing landscapes, galloping horses and quick draws are just a few of the familiar sights and sounds that make up the western, and definitely among the things that draw us as western fans.

Spaghetti western is a nickname for a broad sub-genre of Western film that emerged in the mid-1960s, so named because most were produced by Italian studios. Originally they had in common the Italian language, low budgets, and a recognizable highly fluid, violent, and minimalist cinematography that eschewed (some said “demythologized”) many of the conventions of earlier Westerns — partly intentionally, partly as a result of the work being done in a different cultural background and with limited funds.   

The term was originally used disparagingly, but by the 1980s many of these films came to be held in high regard, particularly because it was hard to ignore the influence they had in redefining the entire idea of a western up to that point.  Because of the desert setting, and the readily available southern Spanish extras, a usual theme in Spaghetti Westerns is the Mexican Revolution, Mexican bandits and the border zone between Mexico and the US. Many of the films were shot in the Spanish Tabernas Desert of Almería, which greatly resembles the landscape of the American Southwest  

A bit of trivia: Spaghetti westerns are also known as “macaroni westerns” in Japan.   

eastwoodffod.jpgThe best-known and perhaps archetypical spaghetti westerns were the so-called Man With No Name trilogy (or Dollars Trilogy) directed by Sergio Leone.  Up until then we’d been mesmerized by Clint Eastwood as Rowdy Yates on Rawhide, and now here he was in living color and panorama on the big screen.  These movies replayed at the drive-in through the seventies, where my husband and I watched them with our kids sleeping in the back of the station wagon.  The musical scores composed by Ennio Morricone became synonymous with the genre and still ring in our heads. 

The man with no name rode into cinematic history in A Fistful of Dollars (1964), For a Few Dollars More (1965), and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966). The latter had a shocking high budget for that time and this genre — in excess of one million dollars!   

filmlist_onceinwest1.jpgLeone’s follow-up film after the trilogy was Once Upon A Time In The West, which is often called one of the greatest films in cinema history.  It’s a classic good verses evil tale about railroads, land grabs, and the entrepreneurial spirit.  As the train moves west, the country is changed, paralleling the dwindling presence of the western movie with the forward expansion of Eastern civilization.  The story’s theme is the changing times.  Casting blue-eyed Hollywood good guy Henry Fonda as one of the nastiest curs in the West was pure genius, while Charles Bronson became an unlikely leading man.   


AMC shows this movie frequently, about once a month. Usually they show a pan and scan version in the daytime, but the late night showing will be in letterbox format. Watch the letterbox format or you will miss the beautiful panoramic scope.  (I found it scheduled on TCM on Sat, Sep 22, 2:15 PM.  The original is three hours long, so watch listings for the full version.)

Can you recall the first time you saw Clint Eastwood?  Has anyone NOT seen The Good the Bad and the Ugly?  Do you have a favorite spaghetti western I didn’t mention?  Could you pass the parmesan–er popcorn, please?

“This your first time, honey?”

color.jpg“I could not make a demonstration of affection over men nor any pretense at response to their caresses.  For the life of me, I could not understand why they should expect it.  They had only bought my body.  I could not see why they should want more.”–Madeleine, An Autobiography

While visiting my brother several years ago and browsing through a

Seattle gift shop, I found a fascinating book on early western prostitution.  Inspired by those haunting stories, I wrote my fourth (and last) book for Leisure Books.  Entitled “BROKEN BLOSSOMS”, the heroine is fiercely protected by her father, an influentiasoileddoves.jpgl but corrupt judge in the 1890s.  When she discovers she is the daughter of a beautiful prostitute, we learn with her the degradation her mother endured to survive.

In 1849, when the West was at its most rugged, it’s estimated there were only 2 women for every 100 men.  Many of these females were illiterate and inexperienced but hoping to get married.  Others came for wealth and adventure.  Most had their dreams dashed and were forced to survive by the only thing they had to sell–their bodies. As their numbers grew, so did prostitution.  It wasn’t long before a class system fell into place, starting from the most elite: 

Courtesan or mistress–These women were sophisticated, beautiful and intelligent.  Their services were given solely to gentlemen of great wealth and power who paid them well for the privilege.  Because of the gentleman’s prominence, society inbed.jpggenerally accepted the courtesan/mistress, giving her a degree of respectability.

Parlor House Ladies–Ranging in age from 18-30 years old, they lived in well-furnished homes, dressed in elegant gowns and expensive lingerie, wore makeup and perfume, and charged everything to their madam’s accounts–which kept them in continual debt to her. 

To keep her business flourishing, the madam would parade her girls throughout the community in leisurely strolls or open carriage rides.  Often the girls carried cuddly poodles, a breed no decent woman would ever own.  poodle.jpg

This higher class of prostitute spent her days in the garden, doing needlework or reading.  She ate well–nourishing meals of steak, roast and lots of milk to keep up her stamina.  In the evening, her work began, and once a gentleman entered her bedroom, she was bound to service him as he wished, no matter how humiliating or painful it became.  Her fee would be about $25 (more if the man spent the night).  The madam received half. 

Brothel ‘Boarders’–Lower in the chain was the prostitute who worked in brothels located in the town’s red-light district.  She was both younger and older than her higher-class sister–about 16-35 years of age.  She earned less, too, roughly $10/customer. pros.jpgThe brothels were not as elegant as parlor houses, yet they were warm and welcoming.  The girls enjoyed care and protection from their madams–most of the time.

Crib Prostitute–In larger cities, she worked in ‘hog ranches’ or cribs, a string of miserable frame buildings comprised of two rooms each, a parlor in front and a bedroom in the back.  Or she lived in camps or mining towns.  Either way, she was beholden to a pimp.  On payday, it was standing room only, and a fast prostitute could service as many as 80 men a night, at 50 cents each. 

Streetwalker–the lowest class of all.  She was a desperate woman, ravaged by age, disease, alcohol and drugs.  She hovered on the brink of suicide and spent her days in shadowy doorways, waiting, hoping, for any man to take her.  

For propriety’s sake, newspapers were forced to fashion creative terms for ‘prostitute.’  Here’s a few: 

Calico Queen
Ceiling Expert
“Fair but Frail”
Girl of the line
Nymph du pave
Painted Cat
Horizontal Worker

No matter what she was called, or at what level she plied her trade, the prostitute played an integral part in settling the West.  By the very nature of her gender, she provided warmth, comfort and pleasure to the men who craved it. 

It was a life few of us can imagine.  A job most of us will never have.  Thank goodness, eh? In future blogs, I’ll share some of their gripping stories with you. 

But for now, I’d love to know:  What was the worst job you ever had?  The strangest?  The most lucrative or lowest-paid? Let us know!  Share your story, and I’ll put you in a drawing to win a B & N gift certificate! 

Speaking of–don’t forget to enter our BIG FALL BONANZA contest.  Just go to our Primrose News Office Page!

My worst job?  I must’ve been about 13 years old.  Back then, babysitting netted 50 cents/hour, so when I was offered $1 to babysit on Saturdays, I jumped at the opportunity.  Little did I know, the lady of the house wanted me to clean it, too!  

 I swear, she stored up the mess all week long, just for me.  Talk about a pit! So for 8 hours, I cleaned every room in the place, washed her dishes, did her laundry, ironing, made beds, etc, etc, etc.  for $1/hour.  Sheesh!  Talk about slave wages!   

How about you?


Good morning, everyone! I’m your blogger for the day and I’m going to talk about cover models.

cheriffortin.jpgI think everyone agrees that the right book cover can make or break a book. Publishers try everything they can to ensure good sales because if a book flops, they lose money. Eye-catching titles and enticing blurbs are certainly two ways to attract attention. But cover models are one of the biggest drawing cards. Having a handsome hunk on the cover lures a reader right to it. Who wouldn’t want to take home a book with cover model John DeSalvo, Cherif Fortin, Nathan Kamp, Mike Dale, Tracy James, or Peter DeCicco on it? They’re sexy, red-blooded, very appealing men. One good thing is that there’s no extra charge for the eye-candy! They won’t give you cavities either. Are you drooling yet? By the way the photo is of Cherif Fortin.

Nearly all of us daydream. I think a reader shopping for a new book ldesalvo.jpgikes to imagine herself in the model’s arms, to be the love of his life, and to transport her from a boring life into one full of adventure and excitement. I think a woman would pretty much have to be dead not to like looking at well-formed abs and handsome features. Those faces draw us to the book like a June bug to a streetlight. Our fingers do a little dance right there in the store. We run our hands over the smooth image. We may close our eyes and picture ourselves on the cover with the model. Then we turn the book over and read the back blurb. If we’re satisfied with the full package we’ll trod to the check out with it and sat up half the night living in that fantasy world. I don’t know about you, but personally I prefer the covers with just the male model. I’m a teensy bit jealous if he has another half-dressed woman in a clinch pose. I think to myself, “How dare he, the two-timer!” I want him all to myself. I’m funny that way. The photo in this paragraph is John DeSalvo.

So, the publisher devotes a lot of thought, and psychology, into giving the book the right look. And what do they do when it’s a brand new, untried author they’re trying to promote? It costs big bucks to hire live models. In that case, the art department will probably go to their files of previous cover art and pull out one they’ve used on other books. I’d wager a great many are recycled covers. That puts more money in the publisher’s pocket. If they don’t use a recycled cover they might use a painting instead.

The cover of my first book,knightface.jpg Knight on the Texas Plains, was from a cowboy.jpgpainting that hung on the wall outside my editor’s office. I believe the second, The Cowboy Who Came Calling, was a recycled cover. I loved both because the men both looked strong and closely resembled my heroes.

When Dorchester bought Redemption I got live modelsredemptionfaces.jpg for the first time and that was flattering. It told me that the house was willing to risk a little more money on me. That gave me a wonderful feeling. I felt like I had finally arrived.

Now, the upcoming anthology Give Me a Texan by Kensington really went the extra mile when they hired nathan-kamp-face.jpgthe sexy Nathan Kamp to pose as a cowboy. Nathan’s been on a lot of covers. karenkay-cover.jpgBesides ours, I know he posed for two of Karen Kay’s as an American Indian—-Red Hawk’s Woman and The Spirit of the Wolf. He was also on Bobbie Smith’s The Lawless Texan so he really gets around, a very versatile man. And oh baby, is he nice to look at!

John DeSalvo sizzled on Geralyn Dawson’sjohn-d-geralyns.jpg Simmer All Night. Frank Sepe heated up the cover of Lorraine Heath’s A Rogue in Texas. And Tracy James galloped onto Pam Crooks’ Wanted. I think getting the right man on the cover (ha, or under them!) helps sell copies. I also believe it gives the reader a little extra bonus–-a win, win situation.

Do you have a favorite cover model?

And does the cover model influence your buying habits?

Reminder: Don’t forget to register for our contest on the Primrose Newspaper Office Page! We have a bonanza of prizes for a lucky winner.

Traveling Then and Now . . .

Confession time: I am the probably among the world’s worse travelers when it comes to packing.

When I go on a trip, even a weekend trip, I have a tendency to over pack. This is particularly true when I’m driving. I will take at least two suitcases, an ice chest, a minimum of five books and quite possibly the kitchen sink.

I think it goes back to my childhood. I was a Campfire Girl. Like Girl Scouts, we were taught to always be prepared. You never know, for instance, whether there will be a freak ice storm in August, or a heat wave in January. You never know whether you’ll be tempted to go to a formal restaurant or a Kentucky Fried Chicken window. And I must have at least two bathing suits and at least one coverup for frequent trips to a pool.

I know. Excuses. Excuses. But I can’t help myself. I’m a packaholic.

Everyone has their most admired person. My most admired person is Libby Hall, president of RWA when I first went on the board. We had ten day meetings in July – three to four days of board meetings and six days of conference. Most of us dragged huge oversized suitcases, book bags, carry-ons and purses large enough for a Great Dane. Libby carried one carry-on for all ten days. Ten days! Ten days of parties and formal events and presiding over luncheons and dinners, etc. Wonder of all wonders.

I was shamed but, unfortunately, not shamed enough to change my profligate packing.

So I was bemused — while researching a new western series – to find a recommended wardrobe for one man embarking on a three-month journey across the western plains. It comes from “The Prairie Traveler,” the Best-Selling Handbook for American Pioneers (published 1859).

Here it is:

2 blue or red flannel overshirts, open in front, with buttons.
2 woolen undershirts.
2 pairs thick cotton drawers.
4 pairs woollen socks
2 pairs cotton socks.
4 colored silk handkerchiefs.
2 pair stout shoes, for footmen.
1 pair boots, for horsemen.
1 pair shoes, for horsemen.
3 towels.
1 gutta percha poncho.
1 broad-brimmed hat of soft felt.
1 comb and brush.
2 tooth-brushes.
1 pound Castile soap.
3 pounds bar soap for washing clothes (for three months?)
1 belt-knife and small whet-stone.
Stout linen thread, large needles, a bit of beeswax, a few buttons, paper of pins and a thimble, all contained in a small buckskin or stout cloth bag.

Being written by a man, it doesn’t deign to offer advice on women’s wear, but I would guess it would be two dresses, two pair of cotton drawers, etc.

I fear I would make a terrible pioneer, but the above information provides some inspiration. Perhaps on the next weekend trip, I can leave the kitchen sink at home.

Guest: Jenna Kernan

9780373294671.jpgRecipe for Disaster

Some of you have been asking me about my first Christmas Anthology, A Western Winter Wonderland, that appears on shelves October 1st. The tag on the book cover is ‘Love and family—the recipe for a perfect Christmas. This is a nice tie-in because each of the contributing authors (Cheryl St. John, Jenna Kernan and Pam Crooks) have included a favorite family recipe along with a fabulous tale.

I read from Pam’s ‘Dear Reader’ letter that she was asked to write a story based on a favorite family recipe. I’m sure I probably was as well, though I have no memory of that communication. So imagine my surprise when I had finished my story, completed the copy edits and line edits and handed in my dedication, only to receive a last minute email from the editorial assistant saying something to the effect of…”Oh, by the way I need your recipe by tomorrow.”

This was in an email, so he didn’t get to see the look of utter confusion on my face or hear me utter the words, “What recipe?”

I was hoping this was a joke, because I am not known for my prowess in the kitchen. In other words, I am not the ‘go-to’ person when the PTA has a bake sale. Case in point—I handed in my recipe for Christmas Scones with my list of ingredients including, among other things, Citrine. Now many of you know I am a rockhound who spends much of my leisure time digging in the earth for gems, minerals and gold deposits. So you might say this was a typo or a Freudian slip. Anyway, I couldn’t write “those strange green, red and yellow cubes that look like a portion of a gummy bear but might actually have once have been some form of citrus.” You know, those little clear plastic tubs that appear near the mixed nuts in the grocery store near Christmas time? My mom makes fruitcakes out of them, and, although my scone recipe calls for currants, I decided to change one teeny-tiny little ingredient to make it more festive.

Big mistake.

“Citrine,” wrote the United Kingdom editor assigned to be sure that none of the authors killed anyone with their recipe, “is a hard yellow stone of the quartz family and I’m certain you did not mean to include those in your scones.” She was only certain because she has never met me or eaten anything I have cooked.

I meant, of course, CITRON, not citrine. Close, but not close enough.citrine-citron.JPG

Needless to say this recipe is not featured strongly (or at all) in the story because not only did I fail to understand the entire premise on which the anthology was based, my heroine is in bed recovering from a gunshot wound for most of the story.

I suppose you are lucky I didn’t include a precious family recipe, for I surely would have given you my mother’s formula for white fruitcake that takes days to make and requires the upper body strength of a professional arm wrestler just to stir the batter, and which, by the way, is full of citron.



The Elvis movie I designed my story Bodine’s Bounty after:

 It’s Girl Happy with Shelley  Fabares. Remember, her mobster father, Big Frank was worried sending her to Ft. Lauderdale for Spring Break and hires Elvis to secretly watch over her? I loved that concept. Elvis was involved with another woman, but had to drop everything when the “easy job”  he’d taken had been anything but. The girl kept getting into trouble and had to be “rescued” by Elvis. Until he fell for her?

That’s it.  That’s Bodine’s Bounty in a nutshell. He’s hired on by someone he owes a favor, to watch Emma, a slip of a woman and finds the challenge daunting, keeping her Unharmed and Untouched.  They have quite a romantic journey together.  🙂

If you haven’t already be sure to enter our Big Fall Bonanza Contest at the Primrose News Office.  Lots of great prizes!

Karyna DaRosa is our Guest Blogger tomorrow!  Be sure to stop by! And on Sunday our Guest Blogger is Jenna Kernan.

Those Saturday Matinees

eliz-child-frm2.jpgJust in case you haven’t figured it out, I’m older than dirt.  I’m so old that I grew up without television.  Not that it hadn’t been invented—the problem was, we lived in a small town surrounded by mountains that cut off the signal.  By the time somebody put a relay tower on a nearby peak, I was a senior in high school.

What was it like growing up without TV?  In a word, it was wonderful.  And one of the best things about being a kid was the Saturday matinees.Every Saturday afternoon at 2:00 we’d congregate at the local cinema.  I usually went with my cousin Millie, who was a year older and looked out for me. Those of us who were under twelve could get in for 14 cents.  That meant we could show up with a quarter, buy a ticket, a 10 cent bag of popcorn and a piece of penny candy and be set for the afternoon.

The show always started with a cartoon—Bugs Bunny was our favorite, along with Donald Duck and maybe Tom & Jerry.Next to come on the screen was the newsreel.  Mostly we thought it was boring, but it was the only time we got to see footage of important events that were happening in the world.  Looking back, we saw some amazing things and people—Churchill, Gandhi, Eisenhower, Stalin, Eleanor Roosevelt, the young Princess Elizabeth, and so many others of that era.

Then came the 30 minute serial—most of these were westerns, with stars like Gene Autry and Hopalong Cassidy.  There were also a few superheroes thrown in, as well as Tarzan and a character named Jungle Jim. 

hrides.jpgThese episodes all had one thing in common—the cliffhanger endings that kept us coming back week after week to see if the hero—or the girl—really survived.  Watching them, I now realize, I was already picking up some of the skills that would make me an author.It was at those Saturday matinees, basking in those wonderful, corny old movies, that my love of romance and adventure was born.  That I’m able to share that love in the stories I create today is one of the luckiest things that ever happened to me.

Do you have a favorite old movie or childhood experience to share with us?  Why are you a romance reader, or writer, today?  Please feel free to let us know.

And don’t forget to enter our big contest.  We have some great prizes to give away!