Saturday, March 15, 2008

HELLFIRE CANYON by Max McCoy wins Spur

I heard some exciting news today: Max McCoy's fine novel Hellfire Canyon has won the Spur Award for best paperback original. And it is well deserved. Hellfire Canyon was the best western novel I read in 2007 and it's story continues to stay with me. It is a campfire story--more legend than fact--with characters who come alive in the narrative. There is enough ambiguity and morality in the sparse tale to give it a power most genres works lack.

Congratulations Mr. McCoy. It's an award well deserved and a bright spot for a genre that is fading into obscurity.

To read my original review of Hellfire Canyon click Here.


Chap O'Keefe said...

Yes, congratulations to Mr McCoy. The next objective is to make a general reading public aware of these awards and to ensure that they acquire the same sort of standing as, say, filmdom's Oscars. The process may involve some changes in the structure of the awards themselves. But that would strictly be over to those who are WWA members.

The western "is fading into obscurity" . . . well, I don't know. The doomsayers have been saying this for years, yet again and again it pops up. See the current entry in James Reasoner's Rough Edges blog about a TV initiative.

Last year, a couple of new blogs appeared devoted to the western genre. One, at least, had promising initial support, but lately appears to have been allowed to fall by the trailside. These things happen, of course, for a variety of unavoidable reasons. Sadly, they tend to encourage those who would use them point to them as yet further evidence that the genre is now irrelevant -- "obscure" if that's the preferred word.

Surely it would would be better to follow the example of James Reasoner who works on, promoting the genre, among a thousand and one other things and regardless of what life has thrown at him.

Anonymous said...

Chap, I don't know anything about you so I realize I may be putting my foot in my mouth. However, maybe you're the person to start your own site to promote the western. Rather that wishing other blogs and sites would be run differently or blaming them, start your own! What a fun solution for all! They do take quite a bit of time and a ton of effort, but at least you'd be getting the results you appear to want. Good luck to you!

Ben Boulden said...

Good to see you around Gravetapping Chap, and I love a good dust-up. It's true the genre is far from gone, and I can see how easily my comments about Max McCoy's fine novel HELLFIRE CANYON could be taken as pessimistic, but they weren't meant to be.

The genre is filled with terrific writers who--in my mind--represent a sort of golden age in western writing. We have writers like Steve Hockensmith who is making us re-examine the western novel through the lens of British mystery, and Richard Wheeler who has created, in many ways, a new type of western story--sweet characters who seem so real they very well could have been my ancestors as they moved into the wild lands of Intermountain West. And then there are the array of traditional western writers who are telling stories that are at least the equal--and in my modern attitude--better than the stories that were written when the genre was at its pinnicle of popularity in the 1950s and 60s.

The Western is alive and well. There is an impressive number of novels, both originals and reprints issued each month, and with the power of the Internet they can be had by anyone who wants them. The success of the genre rests squarely on the shoulders of the writers, publishers, and readers. If there is quality work, it will continue to sell. And looking around at the stable of modern writers we have, I think the Western story will continue to thrive. At least I hope it will.

Chap O'Keefe said...

Ben: Ah, that's better! Good to see you mentioning some of the reasons why the western should not be "fading into obscurity".

But what has happened to Saddlebums, and why is this discussion not being held there?

Anonymous: At considerable expense of time, energy and money, I have been running a western promotional site for a couple of years now. Before that, I edited another quarterly ezine, but ran foul of a couple of western writers who felt that they, rather than any other writer, the editor or the legally responsible URL owner, should have the final say on any opinion expressed in its content.

The site I run now, , does achieve results inasmuch as the books authors choose to promote there -- e.g. Guns Along the Gila by Walt Masterson -- quickly go out of stock at the publisher's warehouse!

But I guess I am hard to satisfy . . . I like to see other blogs and sites staying the course as well. Not, please note, "run differently" -- I never said that -- but run with persistence and stamina.

You are absolutely right to mention the amount of time and effort such ventures take. And thank you for wishing me good luck. That always comes in handy, too!

Ben Boulden said...

Chap. A great question about Saddlebums. Unfortunately I don't have a great answer. I started a new job at the first of the year, and with all the stress, time pressures, and blah of life Saddlebums has been neglected, and neglected badly.

I hope that we can get it running again, and hopefully add a little help into the mix. It is a surprising amount of work and realistically Saddlebums is a little more than two working stiffs can handle. Although I enjoyed doing it, and I especially enjoyed the author interviews. I always felt inadequate going up against many of my writer-heroes--Ed Gorman, Bob Randisi, James Reasoner, just to name a few.'s quiet, but Saddlebums is a long way from dead.


T. Rob said...

Max is an amazing writer who thoroughly researches everything he writes.

His devotion to the trade is impressive and his wide array of knowledge allows him to cross genre borders with the same quality he started his endeavors into the Western genre.

Honestly, I'd rather read a Max McCoy book than one by Louis L'Amour.

Ben Boulden said...

Rob T: I absolutely agree with your thoughts about Max McCoy. His work is near the top of my list as far as quality, readability, and anything else one can judge literature by.

His thrillers, thinking of THE MOON POOL and HINTERLAND specifically, are top-notch. They are interesting, populated with terrific characters and plotted perfectly.

I can honestly say I have never read a Max McCoy novel I didn't enjoy. And I need to read more of them.