Kathleen D. Bailey Looks at Story Structure and the Classic Westerns

The Fillies welcome guest Kathleen D. Bailey. Please make her welcome.

Judge Henry Garth owns “Shiloh,” the largest ranch in and around Medicine Bow, Wyoming. When feuding ranchers and Indians from “up north” want to meet to settle their differences, Garth offers Shiloh as a neutral venue. He has two house guests: Ben, a city-slicker newspaperman come to visit Garth’s daughter Betsy, and the Indian Affairs agent who’s supposed to settle the whole mess. Garth wants a peaceful solution to the Indian/rancher problem, but his plans go awry when a group of thugs takes over Shiloh. He finds himself a hostage in his own home along with Betsy, the journalist, the Indian agent and Randy, his singing cowboy. His other hands are all at the roundup.

The hostages try various ways to foil the thugs. After the criminals take everyone’s guns, Randy mouths to Ben that there’s one in the desk Ben’s leaning on. Ben sneaks it out and aims it at the ringleader, but loses his nerve. When the captives discover a small bottle of laudanum they try to drug one of their captors’ coffee, but they are again foiled. The Indian Affairs guy turns out to be part of the problem when he reveals himself as allied with the criminals. There are other attempts at freedom, and each time the viewer thinks, “Well, they’ve got it now.” Except they don’t, because this is a 90-minute Western and there’s plenty of time for things to go wrong. Even The Virginian, Garth’s relentlessly resourceful foreman, can’t get them out of this one. He’s been shot.

Where will it all end? How will it all end, with every escape blocked?

Western movies and television have always known how to keep a viewer engaged. The classic stories hook viewers by baiting, switching and baiting again. Just when the viewer thinks the cowboy/wagon scout/marshal has figured a way out of their dilemma, someone or something will trip them up. Just when the viewer thinks there’s no hope, a solution appears, and they’ll wonder why they didn’t see it before. It’s like mystery writing only with horses.

The genre could be formulaic, especially in the early years. My husband and I are aggressive Western watchers and we’ve learned to recognize the archetypes such as the physician who won’t practice medicine any more, usually due to alcohol or losing someone precious to them. Or losing someone precious, then turning to alcohol. But it’s what they do with these archetypes that makes these tales stand the test of time.

I spent most of one summer watching “How The West Was Won,” the epic TV miniseries starring an aging James Arness as Zeb Macahan, one of the legendary Mountain Men. Arness was perfection in the role of his life, and supporting cast members included shoot-em-up royalty such as Slim Pickens and Dennis Weaver. But as I rolled through it a second time, I became hooked on the story itself. It wasn’t just Zeb meeting up with old cronies, or rescuing his kinfolk from one scrape after another. Oldest nephew Luke, played by a young Bruce Boxleitner, stumbled into serious trouble when he went back East to check on his father. He got conscripted into the Union army, ran away from same, stole a horse and shot a sheriff. The sheriff lived but lost the use of one arm, and that one rash act—and the sheriff’s lust for revenge—followed Luke through the entire series. Luke spent most of the show on the run, eluding the sheriff’s spies, hired guns and the sheriff himself. The threat to Luke’s life kept resurfacing, like Whack-A-Mole, every time he thought he had a chance at happiness. It’s perfect story structure, a thread that runs through the entire series and keeps the watcher hooked.

The best Westerns carry out the classic themes of guilt, shame, retribution and justice. They connect on a deeper level, as with John Wayne in “The Searchers.” It’s why I chose to write Westerns. Take two strong characters, give them something to fight about, give them an attraction—and set it against the Oregon Trail or a cattle drive or the Land Rush. Watch the magic happen.

What of Judge Garth? He solved his dilemma without a single bullet. Calling on his memories of a court case, he set two of his assailants against each other. A long-simmering grudge came to the front, and they destroyed one another. With all other escape routes blocked, Garth solved the problem with his mind.

The perfect ending to a not-so-perfect day.

Find Kathleen online

The Western genre is adventure, romance and at its best something more. Western stories pack a satisfying experience for the reader. And if you’re a writer of Westerns, you can chalk up all that movie watching as research. You’re welcome.

So…what’s your favorite Western movie, mini-series or TV program? I’ll be giving away a paper copy of my first book, “Westward Hope”; an e-copy of the sequel, “Settler’s Hope”: and a New England gift pack to three separate winners. Leave a comment to enter the drawing.

Kathleen Bailey is a journalist and novelist with 40 years’ experience in the nonfiction, newspaper and inspirational fields. Born in 1951, she was a child in the 50s, a teen in the 60s, a young adult in the 70s and a young mom in the 80s. It’s been a turbulent, colorful time to grow up, and she’s enjoyed every minute of it and written about most of it.

 Bailey’s work includes both historical and contemporary fiction, with an underlying thread of men and women finding their way home, to Christ and each other. Her first Pelican book, ‘‘Westward Hope,” was published in September 2019. This was followed by a novella, “The Logger’s Christmas Bride,” in December 2019. Her second full-length novel, “Settler’s Hope,” was released July 17, 2020. She has a Christmas novella, “The Widow’s Christmas Miracle,” scheduled for this December as part of Pelican’s “Christmas Extravaganza,” and is completing “Redemption’s Hope,” the third and final book in the Western Dreams series.

She lives in New Hampshire with her husband David. They have two grown daughters.

 

For more information, contact her at ampie86@comcast.net; @piechick1 on Twitter; Kathleen D. Bailey on Facebook and LinkedIn; or at http://www.kathleendbailey.weebly.com.

 

Boot Scootin’ Favorite Book

“Yesterday’s gone on down the river and you can’t get it back.” -Lonesome Dove

One of my favorite books is Lonesome Dove, which was made into a TV mini-series.  Written by Larry McMurtry, Lonesome Dove is about two retired Texas Rangers, “Gus” McCrae and “Woodrow” Call who drive a herd of cattle from Texas to Montana.  

 The Pulitzer Prize-winning story is loosely based on the true story of Charles Goodnight’s and Oliver Loving’s cattle drive from Texas to Montana. Goodnight and Loving were close friends. Before Loving died, he asked that his body be returned to Texas.  He did not want to be buried in a “foreign land.”  Charles Goodnight and Loving’s son, Joseph, carried the metal casket 600 miles back to Texas.

In Lonesome Dove, Gus dies and Call (played by Tommy Lee Jones) hauls his friend back to Texas as promised.  If this doesn’t make you cry, I don’t know what will.  

“I guess this’ll teach me to be careful about what I promise in the future.”

McMurtry originally wrote the story as a short screenplay named the Streets of Laredo.  It was supposed to star John Wayne as Call.  But Wayne dropped out and the project was abandoned. 15 years later McMurtry saw an old bus with the phrase “Lonesome Dove Baptist Church” on it.  He rushed home to revise the book into a novel and changed the name.  (Ah, inspiration.)

The book went on to win a Pulitzer Prize. The mini-series also won many awards, including a Golden Globe.  It was cheated out of the Emmy for best mini-series by War and Remembrance.  Considered the “Gone With the Wind” and “Godfather” of Western movies, Lonesome Dove has sold more DVDs than any other western.

“It’s been quite a party ain’t it?”

It’s hard to imagine anyone but Robert Duvall as Gus, but he was actually offered the role of Woodrow Call, and turned it down.  His wife had read the book and told him, “Whatever you do, don’t let them talk you into playing Woodrow F. Call.  Gus is the part you should play.”

James Garner was also considered for the role, but he had to turn it down because of health problems. 

McMurtry said that he wrote Lonesome Dove to show the real hardships of living a cattleman’s life vs. the romantic life many think they lived. Some think he failed in this regard. Instead, many readers and critics see Lonesome Dove as a celebration of frontier life. 

What is your favorite western book, movie or TV show?

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Watch a Western, Save the World

While do our part to stop the spread of COVID-19 by sheltering in place, a new challenge arises . . . how to stay sane while cooped up with annoying (cough, cough), I mean beloved family members.

Never fear, we have a host of cowboys who are ready to hogtie your boredom and send it packin’.

There’s a western to fit every mood.

In the mood for a crime drama? Try Longmire (streaming on Netflix).

Maybe you’re into reality shows. Check out The Cowboy Way (streaming on Amazon Prime).

There’s nothing better than a good medical drama, right? Gotta love Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman (available for purchase on Amazon).

Or maybe you like to mix in a little kooky steampunk action with your cowboys. You can’t get kookier than Wild, Wild West (available on Netflix DVD).

And if you like kooky, you’ll no doubt enjoy this western adventure/comedy from back in 1990s – The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. (available on Amazon Prime).

Or maybe you like to mix things up with a bit of science fiction. Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford. Yep. Cowboys & Aliens (available on Netflix DVD or to rent on Amazon).

Then to help you get some much-needed exercise, everybody can get up and dance through a barn raising with the classic western musical, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (available through Netflix DVD or to rent on Amazon).

What western movie/TV show are you going to watch to help save the world?

Starting a New Series

It’s always exciting, and a little daunting, to start a new series. Even though I still have two more projects coming in 2019 to complete my current series, I’ve already started work on a new group of stories that will debut in 2020.

The inspiration for this new series came from a mash-up of two televisions series I watched as a teen – one from the 1980s and one from the early 1990s.

Anyone remember these?

Well, I decided to create a four-man team of ex-cavalry officers bonded through the shared trauma of the massacre at Wounded Knee in 1890. They hire themselves out to citizens in need of defense against unjust opposition. Haunted by the atrocities they participated in during wartime, they travel across Texas to right wrongs, using their military skills on behalf of those who have no one else to turn to and stumble across love along the way.

They are known as Hanger’s Horsemen.

*****

Meet the team:

Captain Matthew Hanger – Age 37, leader, hardened by army life, dedicated to keeping the frontier safe for women and children after his own family was murdered by a band of Comanche warriors in Parker County in 1860 when he was only five years old.

Trumpeter Mark Wallace – Age 27, charmer who deals with the horrors of war through superficial relationships, humor, and music. Comes from a privileged background. Enlisted in search of adventure.

Corporal Luke “Preach” Davenport – Age 31, nicknamed “Preach” because he always has a verse to quote. Not because of any real depth of spirituality, but because when he’d been a boy his punishment entailed memorizing and reciting scripture, and he got into trouble a lot. His father shipped him off to the military in hopes of instilling discipline and a respect for authority. His reckless spirit has made him lethal with a sabre and in hand-to-hand combat.

Sergeant Jonah Brooks – Age 30, buffalo soldier with the 10th Cavalry, expert marksman. Jonah is the quiet one, more intelligent that people give him credit for. He prefers to watch from the shadows and decide how to act after he’s weighed all the facts. But when he acts, he can be deadly.

*****

There will be three books in the series. The first pairs the captain with lady doctor, Josephine Burkett. My Posse helped my pick out inspiration images for Matt and Josephine. And we can’t forget Matt’s horse. Meet Phineas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hanger’s Horsemen won’t put in an official appearance until summer 2020, but they are coming to life on the page for me now as I write, and I wanted to share a hint of them with you.

  • Are there other 80’s TV shows you think should be turned into western romances?
  • Any A-Team or Magnificent Seven fans out there? Who were your favorite characters?

 

Cowboy Commercials

I love cowboys, and I love laughter, and when I can put the two together, I’m in a very happy place. So today, I thought it would be fun to share some of my favorite western-themed TV ads.

This is the most recent ad that I’ve fallen in love with. It cracks me up with the vocalized stage directions. My favorite is: “Hide the eyes, then show ’em real slow.” Makes me wonder if some of those tough movie star cowboys I loved were thinking the same thing.

Here’s another classic from Geico with the classic cowboy riding off into the sunset, only to collide with the words some careless author left hanging in the scene.

Then Direct TV did a clever series on the Settlers. These were so fun, and really made me appreciate my modern conveniences.

And true romance!

But not all western ads are funny. Some are just plain sweet. I always love the Budweiser Clydesdales, but when they come to the rescue of a lost puppy, it just melts my heart.

What are some of your favorite western-themed ads?

I’m sure there are some classics I’m forgetting.

Karen & Jeannie’s Winners!

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We had so much fun walking down memory lane with all of you this week. I think we all agreed that we need more quality TV westerns these days.

Jeannie and I used our random winner generator and pulled two names out of the Petticoats & Pistols Stetson (once we wrangled it away from Felicia’s mule, Jasper). The results are in!

Congratulations

Cindy Woolard

and

Emilee Hill

Yeehaw!!! Cindy will be receiving the first season of Rawhide featuring a young, hunky Clint Eastwood and Emilee will receive the first season of The Magnificent Seven featuring seven hunky western heroes.

Enjoy your binge watching, ladies!

10 Favorite TV Westerns

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Many of us fell in love with westerns from watching them on television. I know I did. So when Jeannie and I teamed up for this Birthday Bash post, it was easy to collect our favorite TV westerns. We tried to find series that covered a wide range of decades, and since it was difficult to rank them by preference (they’re ALL fabulous!), we decided to list them by premiere date. I hope this takes you down memory lane and maybe even inspires some binge watching.

And speaking of binge watching . . . read to the bottom to see the giveaway Jeannie and I are sponsoring. Super fun!

10 Favorite TV Westerns

1. Maverick (1957-1962)

2. Wagon Train (1957-1965)

3. Rawhide (1959-1965)

4. Bonanza (1959-1973)

5. The Big Valley (1965-1969)

6. The Young Riders (1989-1992)

7. Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman (1993-1998)

8. The Magnificent Seven (1998-2000)

9. Longmire (2012-2017)

10. The Pinkertons (2014-?)

 

Giveaway!!!

In honor of these wonderful westerns, Jeannie and I are giving away the first seasons of Rawhide and The Magnificent Seven on DVD as Birthday Bash party favors. WooHoo!!! Hunky cowboys coming your way.

Leave a comment about your favorite TV Western for a chance to win. We will draw two lucky winners, one for each DVD set.

May the commenting commence!

 

P.S. Don’t forget to enter the giant birthday bash giveaway (separate from this daily giveaway). You can find all the details along with the entry form HERE.

The Pinkertons

I love TV westerns. From the good old days with Bonanza to more recent times with Longmire, I truly enjoy getting lost in a good western tale of cowboy heroes with grit and honor. Several months ago I discovered a new offering on Netflix that immediately piqued my interest. I love a good crime drama as much as I love my westerns, and here was a show that combined them both – The Pinkertons.

This beauty of a show was actually made in Canada even though it follows the cases of Pinkerton Detectives in Kansas City, Missouri following the end of the Civil War. My favorite thing about this show is that it is officially licensed with the Pinkerton Detective Agency, and its episodes as based on actual cases taken from the Pinkerton Detective Agency archives from the 1860s.

While Allan Pinkerton, founder of the agency does occasionally make an appearance on the show, the two main characters are Will Pinkerton (Allan’s son and Pinkerton agent) and Kate Warne (a Pinkerton and the first female detective in US history).

Kate Warne was a widow by the age of 23 and joined the Pinkerton Agency in 1856.

Pinkerton, in his book, The Spy of the Rebellion: Being a True History of the Spy System of the United States Army During the Late Rebellion… described her as:

[a] commanding person, with clear cut, expressive features…a slender, brown-haired woman, graceful in her movements and self-possessed. Her features, although not what could be called handsome [beautiful], were decidedly of an intellectual cast… her face was honest, which would cause one in distress instinctly [sic] to select her as a confidante.

Warne walked into the Pinkerton Detective Agency in response to an advertisement in a local newspaper. When she walked into Pinkerton’s Chicago office, according to Pinkerton company records, he further described her acquaintance:

“[he] was surprised to learn Kate was not looking for clerical work, but was actually answering an advertisement for detectives he had placed in a Chicago newspaper. At the time, such a concept was almost unheard of. Pinkerton said ” It is not the custom to employ women detectives!” Kate argued her point of view eloquently – pointing out that women could be “most useful in worming out secrets in many places which would be impossible for a male detective.” A Woman would be able to befriend the wives and girlfriends of suspected criminals and gain their confidence. Men become braggarts when they are around women who encourage them to boast. Kate also noted, Women have an eye for detail and are excellent observers.”

Warne’s arguments swayed Pinkerton, who employed Warne as the first female detective. Pinkerton soon had a chance to put Warne to the test. (source)

There is only one season available of this show, but it contains 22 episodes. I’m about halfway through them right now and savoring each one.

Click cover to order.

 

As it turns out, I have Pinkerton detectives in my most recent book, Heart on the Line. And in my story, the Pinkertons themselves are the mystery. Fraudulent identities and corrupt agents make it unclear who can be trusted. Yet in the end, I think Allan Pinkerton would be pleased with how things turned out.

 

Do you like stories about Pinkertons?

What historically set shows do you enjoy watching?

(I’m always on the lookout for something new to add to my queue.)

A Life-Long Love of Westerns

Howdy, everyone! I’m happy to be joining the Petticoats & Pistols as the newest member today, partly because it’s always nice to hang out with other writers and readers but also because of the focus on westerns. You see, I’ve loved westerns for as long as I can remember. I recently had to answer a questionnaire for my publisher, and one of the questions was why I liked cowboy stories. I had to sit and think about it because it was just something that had always been true. As I was growing up in rural western Kentucky, we only had three TV channels and had to go outside to physically turn the antennae if the reception was bad. I distinctly remember that old movies played on Saturday afternoons, and a lot of those were westerns. When I think back on them now, I can identify why they attracted me and why I still love western-set TV shows, movies and books.

  • The landscape was so wide open with impossibly wide skies and a rugged type of beauty. This was completely different than the wooded, rolling hills where I grew up. At that point in my life, I’d barely been out of the state with brief trips a few miles down the road and across the river into Illinois and a Girl Scout trip to Opryland theme park in Nashville, Tenn., both of which looked pretty much like Kentucky. So those western landscapes, even if some of them were created on Hollywood lots, were like a different planet that I longed to visit.
  • Even though it was romanticized and still is to some extent, cowboys were iconic American heroes. They could live off the land, were honest (at least if they were wearing a white or light-colored hat), chivalrous, and a force for good. Even back then in the 1970s and ’80s, I knew that things were rarely that black and white in real life. Reality was more complicated and filled with shades of gray.
  • I love stories set in the past. I haven’t met a costume drama I didn’t love, and westerns — at least for me — fall into that category. It’s a bit like being a time-traveler and being transported to a different time and place, but you don’t have to worry about the lack of hygiene or modern medicine.
  • While I love my modern conveniences, I for some reason have always loved stories about survival and living off the land. When I think about people who set off in wagon trains west, not knowing if they’d make it or if they’d ever seen friends and family again, I’m awed by how much courage that took. Kind of like people who boarded ships in England and sailed for America. Even though modern-day cowboys and ranchers have the modern conveniences the rest of us do, they are still men of the land and work out under those wide-open skies.

While I write contemporary romance, many of which have cowboys as heroes, I still have a great love for western historicals. These were the first romances I read back in high school and continued to read in the years that followed — stories by Lorraine Heath, Kathleen Eagle, Elizabeth Grayson, among others. My first manuscript was even a historical set along the Oregon Trail, inspired partly because of that old video game called Oregon Trail. A friend even got me a shirt once that said, “You have died of dysentery,” which is a familiar phrase to anyone who played the game.

If a new movie comes out that is a western, I do my best to go see it in the theater so they’ll continue to make more. If there’s a western-themed TV series, I’m parked in front of the small screen. My all-time favorite show, Firefly, actually is a mixture of western and my other favorite genre, sci-fi. Yes, space western, and it was awesome!

In the months ahead, I look forward to blogging about various western-themed topics — my trips across the American West, my love for western-themed decor, rodeo, etc. And I look forward to interacting with the readers of Petticoats & Pistols.

LANCER–A WALK DOWN TELEVISION MEMORY LANE by Cheryl Pierson

Cheryl2041web I’m waxing nostalgic today, pining for the days of yesteryear when good westerns were on practically every night of the week! Today, I thought I’d remember my favorite of them all, the western television series LANCER. It’s one of those shows that didn’t last long enough, and still has many, many followers in the fan fiction world who continue to write stories using these characters in just about every scenario you can imagine. If you’ve never explored fan fiction, it’s pretty amazing, and there’s a fan fiction group for virtually every movie and TV series that ever came down the pike.

Lancer Family

Here’s a bit about Lancer, which was then, and still is, my favorite tv western ever—and that’s saying a lot, since I was a diehard western fan from a very early age.

But what can be more exciting to a pre-teen girl than an action–packed tv western with two handsome hunky guys and a ton of family angst? The answer is…not one thing. I was glued to the tv screen every week when Lancer took off, and it was a very, very sad day when they cancelled it.

Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about it, in a nutshell, just so you can get the gist of the series:

Lancer is an American Western series that aired on CBS from September 1968, to May 1970. The series stars Andrew Duggan, James Stacy, and Wayne Maunder as a father with two half-brother sons, an arrangement similar to the more successful Bonanza on NBC.

Duggan stars as the less than admirable Murdoch Lancer, the patriarch of the Lancer family. Stacy appears as half-Mexican gunslinger Johnny Madrid Lancer. Wayne Maunder was cast as Scott Lancer, the educated older son (though he is younger than Stacy) and a veteran of the Union Army, in contrast to Stacy’s role of former gunslinger. Paul Brinegar also appeared as Jelly Hoskins, a series regular from season two after making a one off guest appearance during the first season. Elizabeth Baur (who later replaced Barbara Anderson in ‘Ironside’ from season five to eight) also was a series regular cast member as Murdoch Lancer’s ward Teresa O’Brien.

 

Guest stars included Joe Don Baker, Scott Brady, Ellen Corby, Jack Elam, Sam Elliott, Bruce Dern, Kevin Hagen, Ron Howard, Cloris Leachman, George Macready, Warren Oates, Agnes Moorehead and Stefanie Powers.

Lancer lasted for fifty-one hour-long episodes shot in color. The program was rerun on CBS during the summer of 1971.

The episode entitled “Zee” with Stefanie Powers earned scriptwriter Andy Lewis the Western Writers of AmericaSpur Award“, the first ever designated for a television script.

Pretty impressive! With the regular cast and the very solid and vivid portrayals each of them gave of their characters, and the stellar roster of guest stars, what’s not to love? I was eleven when LANCER made its appearance, and I thought I had never seen anyone as “cute” as half brothers Johnny and Scott Lancer. But “cuteness” was not what held my interest.

lancercast

As the storyline went, Scott’s wealthy mother took him back to Boston, and he was raised as a moneyed gentleman. He served in the Civil War. Johnny’s story was different. His mother took him south of the border, to the territory she was most familiar with, and he was raised in border towns. Life was tough for him, being half white, and as we say here, “the boy run into some trouble.” So much trouble, in fact, that the Pinkerton man Murdoch Lancer sent to find him barely got there in the nick of time, as Johnny was facing a firing squad.

Murdoch offered his sons “listening money”—to come meet him, hear what he had to offer them, and then stay, or walk away. Of course, both Johnny and Scott decide to stay after this stormy encounter.

The mix of the characters, with Johnny having fended for himself most of his life, earning his living as a fast gun, and Scott being raised with everything money could buy, added to every plot and their general interaction. Scott had known hard times too, during the War, and he had to remind his younger brother of that from time to time. But their growing relationship as brothers, and the respect that they had for one another – and in time, for their father, was what made the show special. Growth of the characters and the way that growth was portrayed kept me glued to the screen week after week—though I couldn’t have told you that’s what it was at that age.

The show is not in syndication here in the States, at last check, but don’t despair! Here’s a link where you can catch season one, at least!

http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLB278C1B669BEA738

Johnny Lancer has been a “main character” in my imagination from the time I first saw the show. He’d lived a hard life, done some bad things, but was trying to make amends and have the life with a true family that he’d always wanted…and a place to belong. He was the youngest in his family, and so was I. His character portrayal resonated with audiences everywhere, so it was quite a surprise to learn that it was being canceled. Yet, today, there are still people who love the show and get together online to chat about it and the characters, and write more stories about them—many of which would make fantastic Lancer episodes if the show was still being written.

Lancer Johnny & dog

Do you have a memory of Lancer? Please share if you do! And if you don’t—don’t hesitate to click that link above and see what you missed!

What was YOUR favorite tv western from days gone by?