Monday, April 13, 2015

Saddle Up! Let's Ride!

Cooking up an antiquated western is easy!
Peter Leavell

First, grab a mixing bowl—we call it The West. Throw in a trusty horse and a cowboy with a white ten-gallon hat. Next, add spice—a gorgeous female in distress who wants a cowboy to take her to a ranch, where she'll have babies and keep the house clean for him. To add a bitter flavor, pour in a thin-lipped villain in black. Mix well. Dollop scenes in sequential order and bake in the Arizona desert until burnt. Serve with a side of angry Indian, a crusty gold miner looking for the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, and beans.

Gone (we hope) are the days of formula westerns. So why do numbers say westerns are making a comeback? Because new westerns have qualities the enduring American West novels embraced.

High stakes keep readers turning the page. Losing a few head of cattle (when the stakes are steaks) won't keep the reader’s interested. If lives of many are troubled by the fight between the hero and villain, the more interesting. Granted, Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry is a cattle drive. But an entire way of life is at stake.

Photo use by permission. Laura Harkins
Give the girl a gun, please. Helpless damsels in distress are no longer in fashion, unless it's simply a person rendered defenseless  Historically, women in the west were cast-iron. Charles Portis wrote True Grit’s Mattie Ross as the toughest person in the novel, with more sand than even the meanest marshal she could find. She’s just awesome.

Embrace Ethnicity. Many of the famous western writers loved the Native American’s way of life and portrayed their point of view. Some included the Chinese, African American, Mexican, and countless others. Movies, however, needed faceless villains. The plot lines wreaked havoc on minorities. I’m thinking of the stagecoach chase scenes with feathered and painted Caucasian stuntmen galloping on horseback, only to be slaughtered by bouncing riders with small Winchesters. In today's westerns, everyone’s point of view matters.

No person is perfect. Even heroes and heroines suffer from limitations. Giving them a fault or a medical condition makes them more believable. Jubal, in Louis L’Amour’s Jubal Sackett, seems to suffer from ADHD and possibly a mild hyperkinetic disorder. But yet, he finds a place where he can be himself and discover love.

These tips and more are played out in my western West for the Black Hills, out now!
Peter Leavell is an award winning historical fiction author. He and his family research together, creating magnificent adventures. Catch up with him on his website at, or friend him on Facebook: Peter R. Leavell. 
Out Now!
Philip Anderson keeps his past close to the vest. Haunted by the murder of his parents as they traveled West in their covered wagon, his many unanswered questions about that night still torment him. 
His only desire is to live quietly on his homestead and raise horses. He meets Anna, a beautiful young woman with secrets of her own. Falling in love was not part of his plan. Can Philip tell her how he feels before it’s too late?
With Anna a pawn in the corrupt schemes brewing in the nearby Dakota town, Philip is forced to become a reluctant gunslinger. Will Philip’s uncannily trained horses and unsurpassed sharpshooting skills help him free Anna and find out what really happened to his family in the wilderness?


  1. Hi Peter, great post. I write westerns myself and you hid all the horseshoe nails on the head. I think the western is the ultimate American genre. Philip and Anna definitely have me intrigued!

    1. Ultimate American genre....that's an awesome take on the western. I know that Napoleon thought the American Indian was the greatest cavalry the world has ever known. Thanks for stopping by! I'll check out your westerns!

  2. Good morning, Peter. I think Westerns will always resonate with readers. Congrats on your new book.

    1. There's just something about a good western that never grows old. Thanks, Terri!

  3. Patricia Shepherd HallApril 14, 2015 at 6:24 AM

    One of my favorite characters from the Western is Mattie Ross. She's tough and yet vulnerable, and she does that which we wish we all had the courage to do. The Western is about life at the most basic - survival and freedom and hope to build your own life as you see fit. I think that's why they endure. Best wishes!

    1. Love the way you describe the Western life! Thanks, Patricia!


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