Steven Bly“Perhaps more than any other genre, westerns require adherence to some fairly strict guidelines. Writing in this genre requires knowledge of its expectations,” says R. L. Coffield in her article, “Sexuality and Cursing in the Western.”

This applies especially to classic westerns.




          Most classic western fans presume a certain code. No explicit scenes. Swearing minimal or nonexistent. But there can be lots of romance amidst the shootin’ and dyin’. Character development is a must. (Or setting development, such as in a classic Zane Grey.) Good Creede of Old Montana by Steven Blytriumphs over evil. That’s why classic westerns attract lots of female readers.

          In my newest western Creede of Old Montana (to be released October 2009), protagonist Avery John Creede rides into Ft. Benton, Montana, looking for old army pals. Instead, he stumbles into a running gun fight with a notorious outlaw and two women determined to distract him, each for their own reasons. Creede seems at first to either be very naïve with the ladies, or one smooth cowboy. Whichever, the results prove to be the same.

There’s lots of the usual head banging in the book, and it’s not all done by the males.

time-mag-cover-cowboy-heroes1“With the quickness and velocity of a mother killing a snake with a hoe, Sunny slammed the barrel of the revolver into the back of the outlaw’s head. He crumpled to the sand.”

In one chapter I put Avery John Creede on the trail with this same Sunny (a.k.a. Mary Jane Cutler), and male/female sparks happen…some humorous, some “Aha!” But I do keep a close eye on them. Trust me.

A note about this scene, that also has to do with genre expectations: On the trail ride, even though Sunny’s a tough gal in lots of ways, she rides sidesaddle. That’s not just because she’s wearing a dress. It was thought to be scandalous beyond civilized reason for females to straddle a horse in the 1800s. And much later into the 1900s. She has no intention of breaking that sanction. And I, as the author, try very hard to stick with historical cultural facts. That’s one reason the movie, Shane, rankles me. In an otherwise excellent western, why in the world did the wardrobe people clothe Jean Arthur in pants? U.S. women, even ranch gals, didn’t start wearing slacks of any sort until WWII with the advent of Rosie the Riveter and the influence of the working gal.

That’s what it’s all about for the reader…knowing what to expect when they pick up another title by an author they’ve come to know and enjoy. I try to stay with the expectations…if I don’t, I hear about it…whether I’ve crossed a line in this reader’s mind in language choice, a suggestive taboo, or getting the details right. 
Leave a comment to get your name in the drawing for a copy of Stephen’s book Creede of Old Montana. 

On the trail,



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  1. Stephen,

    Your book,Creede of Old Montana sounds very delightful. You are so right when you say that if your readers expect something and they feel it is not there they will let you know

    Walk in peace and harmony,


  2. Enjoyed reading the article.

    I love reading western setting books. I don’t enjoy reading curse words. Like the clean books. Romance I love. But not real explicit.

    ABreading4fun [at] gmail [dot] com

  3. Nice article. Nice article. I find the no slacks part interesting. Did they or did they not wear split skirts? I can’t imagine riding sidesaddle and working a ranch.

  4. lol I went into the working world in 1969 and slacks still weren’t approved of. I remember finally getting to wear a pants suit and the top had to go down to my fingertips. So I agree with you when an author doesn’t do their research for the times. One of the best things about reading certain time periods for me is finding out what it was like – otherwise I’d stick to contemporaries lol. Thanks for the insights.

  5. I enjoyed this interesting article. Westerns are classic and the stories are always a pleasure. They are memorable and meaningful. Best wishes.

  6. Hi Stephen, great post! I have heard about your books before and I would love to read one! I love to read a good western, they are one of my favorite reads. My father used to always have a western setting around but I never thought I would enjoy one until later in life.

  7. Hi Stephen, welcome to P&P! We’re so happy to have you blog with us. It’s always a deight to find authors we’ve never heard of before. I’m glad to hear that you keep your stories historically correct. There’s nothing that stops a reader in their tracks than something that isn’t true.

    Good luck on your book sales for Creed of Old Montana. I love that title. Sounds like a book I need to put on my list. Hope you enjoy your stay with us.

  8. What a wonderful post, Stephen. It used to gall me too in the cool old TV series, The Big Valley, Barbara Stanwyck and her daughter wearing not just trousers, but tight ones!

    Best wishes with this lovely-sounding book. Welcome to the Junction today.

  9. Enjoyed reading the comments about Westerns.
    I like to read these kinds of stories because of the settings and of the cowboy ways. They seemed to have a certain ethics in their life.

  10. Hello Stephen, It’s a delight to have you at Petticoats & Pistols! I loved your description of Sunny and the outlaw, and the comparison to a mother killing a snake with a hoe. Women in the West had to be tough, regardless of their clothing!

  11. My first reads were L’Amours and Greys, so I “grew
    up” reading Westerns. I prefer my modern versions to be true to the “day.” And I will let an author
    know when they step over the line.

    I remember the days when we finally could send our
    daughter to school in pants. A pant suit, not jeans! Top and pants had to be made of the same material, top had to be a certain length. It was a good thing that I could sew, it was much less expensive to dress our girl if I did the sewing!

    Pat Cochran

  12. I love Western books/movies. I love that you try hard to stick with historical cultural facts.

    Sidesaddle riding must have taken endurance.

  13. Love the blog and the comments. I hate it when facts don’t quote jell with what I know of history. Have read several of your books and really enjoyed them. Looking forward to reading another one.

  14. Interesting! I didn’t know that woman didn’t wear pants on ranches until the 1940’s. I couldn’t wear pants to HS until 1972. Times have changed a lot! I would have thought that swearing was more acceptible out West. I guess I always thought that there were less rules to follow or just more easily skipped. More tolerance for woman to take on male roles as there were so few woman around.
    Thanks I enjoyed your story. I’d love to read Sunny’s story!

  15. I love reading westerns. I guess we all have a fascination with the old west and cowboys, even modern cowboys. Would love to read your book.

  16. Thanks to you all for your comments! Appreciated much. I just got back tonight from a research trip for a possible new novel idea that involves some of my western characters from earlier series in a story set at a golf course in 1906. Congratulations to Patricia Cochran as the winner of the autographed book drawing!
    On the trail,

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