What has happened to the world of western fiction? Has the age of the western died with its aging audience or will there be a younger generation of writers to rise and fill the gap?
As the most famous western Authors have passed away readership has also diminished, so much so that they represent the smallest niche of genre fiction. Back-catalogs of books by Louis L’Amour, Zane Grey and Max Brand make up the bulk of books in most bookstore shelves, if they even have a section devoted to it. Many westerns have fallen out of print and a number of them have become public domain. Some are available through POD (Print On Demand) for rather costly amounts.
So why has the western died? In my opinion the UFO craze of the 50’s and the space race of the late 60’s captured the imagination of youth and never let go. Space became the wild west, vast and unexplored filled with hope and discovery. What has kept the genre from dying out all together have been writers like Larry McMurtry and Cormac McCarthy who have given the western a more updated approach. Also mystery writers like Tony Hillerman, J.A. Jance, Elmore Leonard and even Robert B Parker have introduced their readers to the west.
Hollywood has also attempted to embrace the western with their interpretations of books by Jim Harrison, Larry McMurtry and most successfully Cormac McCarthy and Annie Proulx. Television has also embraced the western with ‘Deadwood’, a modern retelling based on a book by historian Watson Parker.
So where is the western headed? I see it heading to the world of self-publishing, a wild west of its own full of swindlers and lacking editors who can help craft fine work. We are already seeing this glut in other niches’ of fiction. This only helps delude the quality and give people the wrong idea of what modern westerns can bring to the table. So what do you think? Will we see a resurgence of westerns on the New York Times Best Seller List in the future? I’d like to think so.
For another view on where the genre is going check out this link:
Laurie Powers Wild West Blog