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THE EVERLASTING LURE OF THE TRADITIONAL WESTERN

January 17, 2012

We have a special treat this week – a visit from my friend and fellow Avalon author, Loretta C. Rogers. Loretta writes traditional westerns and was kind enough to say yes when I asked her if she would explain the lure of that genre, which she thoroughly understands and obviously loves. I’ll step aside now and let Loretta have her say.

LORETTA C. ROGERS: When Sandy asked me to write about why the appeal of the Old West has lasted for several hundred years, without knowing it, she tapped into my inner-cowgirl core. The Old West is my favorite time period.  It was a time in history when the good guys and their faithful steeds were the true heroes. While werewolves, shape shifters, gnomes, robots, and slapstick comedy currently dominates the big screen, and contemporary romance is popular with readers, it is my firm believe that the lure of the Old West will continue to thrive.

I write historical Westerns. People seem mystified that a woman would write this particular genre. In fact, a Marine Colonel Fighter Pilot, after he had read The Twisted Trail, emailed to say it was…. “very unusual for a female author to have an understanding of, and can relate, the masculine approach to action and feelings.”

People often ask me why I write Westerns. I grew up in an era where Zane Grey and Louie L’Amour’s western novels dominated book shelves and western movies ruled the big screen. Then with television came such cowboy series as The Gene Autry Show, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, The Lone Ranger, Rawhide, Gun Smoke, Wagon Train, and a host of others that invited viewers to join the actors on mythical journeys that provided an escape from everyday life. These were not mere ‘shoot ‘em ups.” Each show presented a moral lesson for both children and adult viewers. The good guys wore white hats and justice always prevailed.

Perhaps no image in American history and literature is more deeply embedded in the American mind than that of the old west cowboy. So why has this love affair with traditional westerns retained its lasting appeal with the reading public and movie viewers? It is this same appeal that keeps me writing western novels. Have you heard the term, ‘Code of the West’? If so, do you know what it means?

The late, great cowboy movie star, John Wayne said, “A man’s got to have a code, a creed to live by, no matter his job.”The hardy pioneers who lived in the west were bound by these unwritten rules that centered on hospitality, fair play, loyalty, and respect for the land.

Although there was little glamour in the Old West, and the wonderful adventures it offers in books and movies, it was a place of unspeakable hardships and dangers.  Yet, people lived and died by the ‘Code.’

In each of my westerns, and that includes my western romance, I like alpha heroes, but no matter how bad-to-the bone the hero is, I always leave room for him to grow into the champion women want to fall in love with, and in whose boots men who want to walk. In fact, in my time-travel western romance,  Isabelle and the Outlaw, I had a male reader say if he could choose to be anyone, he’d want to be just like Rafe Sinclair. Raphael Sinclair was a Pinkerton agent who went undercover as an outlaw. Although there were times when he feared he was crossing over to the other side, Rafe remained honor bound to bring these bad guys to justice.

Superstition Trailwhich released December 2011, is my newest western published by Avalon Books. The hero, Ace Donovan, is a man who believes when an injustice is done it’s his job to make it right. That’s exactly what he does. When unscrupulous railroad contractors hang his father and brother, and plant three slugs in his chest, leaving him for dead, he spends fifteen years tracking these men. Some call it murder, others call it revenge. Donovan calls it justice. He, too, lives by the Code of the West.

A quote from Legends of America [updated 2010]. “Never shoot an unarmed or unwarned enemy. This was also known as “the rattlesnake code”: always warn before you strike. However, if a man was being stalked, this could be ignored. “

Whether it’s fighting Indians, tracking down outlaws, or trail herding cattle over a thousand miles to the nearest railhead, for readers and movie-goers alike, Westerns provide an escapism to a time when life was free, and closely tied to the outdoors and nature. These things are characteristic of the real and the mythical cowboy cultures.

Although the western has taken a backseat to other genres such as paranormal, sci-fi, and contemporary, it is my opinion that the lure of the Old West and the cowboy will endure throughout the centuries as long as we have authors who continue to write about these colorful characters, publishers like Avalon who are willing to publish them, movie producers, and actors who are willing to bring westerns to television and cinema, and the ever faithful fans who continue to purchase western novels.

For Avalon Books, Loretta writes under the pseudonym L. W. Rogers. Her Avalon titles are: Superstition Trail, Brady’s Revenge, and The Twisted Trail. For The Wild Rose Press, she writes western romance under her given name. Her novel Bannon’s Brides won the Beacon and Heart of Excellence Awards, and was named Book Strand’s best-selling novel for 2011. Her books are available at Barnes and Noble (on-line) and Amazon.com.

Thank you, Loretta.  You brought back a lot of memories for me of hours spent in front of the TV with my brother, the two of us sprawled on the floor, totally engrossed in the story unfolding before us, unaware that we were learning about justice and fair play.

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14 Comments leave one →
  1. January 18, 2012 9:14 AM

    Loretta, are you a member of WEstern Writers of America? I was a member for over thirty years. Love your discussion of the western. It is indeed a classic genre, and I’m not sure I’ve moved away from it permanently yet.

    • January 18, 2012 11:00 AM

      Judy, thank you for visiting Sandy’s blog and leaving a comment. Yes, I am a member of Western Writers of America; and I’m honored to be among such esteemed authors who are also members of WWA.

  2. January 18, 2012 9:37 AM

    Many thanks, Loretta, for this wonderful post! I’m happy to hear the lure of the Old West is alive and well. Growing up in Texas, I had my own pair of cowboy boots as a little girl and was secretly in love with Gene Autry, hoping he’d ride up to our door on his horse Champion. So your post certainly tapped into my “inner cowgirl.” Thanks again for sharing with us your wonderful books.

    • January 18, 2012 11:04 AM

      Marielena, I too was enamored with those early cowboy greats. As a child, I used to daydream about riding the range with them. I appreciate your comments. Never let your ‘inner cowgirl’ fade away.

  3. January 18, 2012 1:50 PM

    Loretta, I never took the time to read a Western–even a Western Romance, until I read your “Bannon’s Brides”. It was a wonderful novel–kudos to you!! Thanks for introducing me to the new (for me!) genre of Western Romances!

  4. January 18, 2012 5:13 PM

    Thanks for dropping by, Dylan. Gotta love those cowboys. I’m glad you enjoyed “Bannon’s Brides.”

  5. January 18, 2012 7:11 PM

    Great post, Loretta! I loved hearing about the standards for your heroes. Totally agree!

  6. Karen Frisch permalink
    January 18, 2012 7:35 PM

    Loretta, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post! I grew up watching Bonanza and Gunsmoke, and my dad was a country music fan in a part of the country that had one lone country station. You’ve captured very well the timeless appeal of the Western novel. Makes me want to pick up one of yours! Very nice job on the article.

    • January 18, 2012 9:57 PM

      I’m glad I evoked some memories, Karen. I remember sitting around the radio, with my family, and listening to the Grand Ole Opry. When you do read one of my Westerns, I’d love to hear from you.

  7. January 19, 2012 8:46 AM

    For me it nwas Cheyenne Bodie. (Cllint Walker). That series had me reading my father’s westerns when I was a whole lot younger. Those heroes set the standard for me. I am not fond of all the “facets” of modern heroes, but yours do stay true.

    Westerns will live on well after the last vampire has hit the sun and exploded.

    • January 19, 2012 5:51 PM

      Oooh, how could I possisbly over look Cheyenne Bodie, broad shoulders, tall, everything thing that heroes are made of. And yes, I do agree–Westerns are here to stay. Thanks for your input, Kathye.

  8. January 19, 2012 9:30 AM

    Great article, Loretta.

    On the opening episode of “Justified”, the hero, who wears a white Stetson, is in the elevator with the villain. The villain is staring at the hat and says:
    ‘Guess there’s no call anymore for cowboys.’
    And the hero replies: ‘Oh, you’d be surprised.’

    • January 19, 2012 5:53 PM

      I haven’t seen “Justified.” I did see it advertised, but that’s about it. It’d be great to see more of the cowboy genre make a huge ‘comeback.’ Thanks Sarah.

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