For those not in the know, Paul Bishop [among many other fascinating things--another day] the author of fifteen novels and has written numerous scripts for episodic television and feature films. A regular speaker at writing conferences, Paul has mentored a monthly writing group for the past five years. His latest book, Lie Catchers, is the first in a new series featuring top LAPD interrogators Ray Pagan and Calamity Jane Randall. The sequel, Admit Nothing, is due in 2018. 52 Weeks • 52 Western Novels will shortly be followed by 52 Weeks • 52 Western Movies and 52 Weeks • 52 Western TV Shows.
Mr. Bishop, first things first, I want to thank you for taking the time to have this conversation. Now, on to your most recent work, which is mighty damn interesting, 52 Weeks 52 Western Novels: Six-Gun Favorites and New Discoveries. Western fans such as myself are always slobbering for good reads and here you have packaged some mighty interesting gems. Might I ask, how many novels do you think you had to read to winnow down to the gold?
Because there is a very subjective nature to 52 Weeks • 52 Western Novels, the winnowing down process was not about attempting to identify or list ‘the 52 Best Westerns.’ Each of the 52 included novels had to resonate in some personal fashion with the individual writing the entry, which led to some interesting choices.
For my co-author/editor Scott Harris and myself it meant limiting ourselves to sixteen novels out of a whole genre we love—obviously the hard part. We chose our favorite books by our favorite authors without regard to any academic or reference worthiness. These were books we were passionate about sharing with others. The reason we chose to include eighteen guest contributors is Scott and I were excited to learn about what books they were enthusiastic about sharing.
This process lead to something we proudly consider purposely special and eclectic. Readers new to the genre will get a unique overview of the genre where the contributors are indelibly linked to their entries—something readers will find nowhere else. Conversely, hard-core Western fans will find new facts about their favorite books from fans just like them. Hopefully, both greenhorn fans and weathered page wranglers will be intrigued to branch out and try authors new to them or those they may have overlooked.
I always like things spoiler-free and I don’t want to give away what you’ve worked hard to do by listing titles included in the book, but I will say, there are a few you would expect as they are rightfully called classics, but there are more than enough thoughtful or little-known surprises to warrant an immediate purchase in my eyes. Now, I don’t wanna to give anything away, but can you name at least three titles that you think readers might be surprised to find on the list?
The Cowboy and the Cossack by Claire Huffaker is possibly the best Western we could recommend without hesitation. I’ve never know a Western fan well-read in the genre who doesn’t consider it one of the best, if not best, Western they have ever read. It’s a terrific story worthy of much wider attention.
Another praiseworthy gem would be H. A. DeRosso’s .44, a Western noir as dark and desperate as any you will find. Also, Henry Goes Arizona by W. C. Tuttle is a great illustration of the humorous Western—a hard trick to pull off in any genre while still providing a solid story.
Allow me to say the design of the book is gorgeous, not only is the information pure gold it is a pleasure to browse. Also, the reviews of the novels themselves are exceptional. Often one reads lists of novels simply to have the list, but here, you write as if you are presenting a case for why you must read this book. With all that said, this is clearly a labor of love. Were there other Western lists or list-makers that inspired you?
Scott was actually the inspiration. He believes doing something positive toward your personal goals every week for a year will have astounding results. Followed this philosophy, Scott set off on a quest to read a novel a week for a year and write down his thoughts about each of them. When he showed me the end product, I immediately thought of doing a series of 52 Weeks • 52 (Whatever) books. Since we are both huge fans of the Western genre, we decided to create a 52 project featuring Western novels.
All right, I heartily recommend all Western fiction fans to pick up this useful book. What makes the cut is always interesting, but now, let’s get into some that didn’t make it. Can you off-the-top of your head think of a few handfuls of novels that just missed making the top 52? And perhaps let us know why they just missed the mark.
There were novels that didn’t miss the mark as much as they couldn’t scramble on to the crowded bus (so to speak). Once we had compiled 52 essays, we quickly realize it would be easy to compile another 52 novels equally worthy of inclusion. Immediately beginning work on 52 Weeks • 52 More Western Novels was a no brainer.
Did you have a few authors that you wanted to include more titles from but you thought “Hell, I can’t list everything by this guy”?
There were so many: Louis L’Amour, Lewis B. Patten, Frank O’Rourke, Ben Hass (aka John Benteen), and Luke Short, to name a few.
Here’s one I’m mighty curious about, is there a book or books that are commonly regard as classics that you didn’t include as they just leave you cold? Leave you scratching your head asking “What’s the deal? I just don’t get the regard.”
Because of its acknowledged presence in the beginning of the genre, we actually included one I ‘don’t get’—Riders of the Purple Sage. Zane Grey is a revered as a Western author, but I’ve never been able to slog through Purple Sage, which has kept me from trying anything else he wrote. However, contributor Greg Goode was of a different opinion and wrote a great essay on the book and Grey’s role in romanticizing the west. Since our collection was about personal connections to the books, it was included.
Switching gears, you just landed a contract to resurrect John Benteen’s/Ben Haas’s Fargo series. First, congratulations to you, and to me as well as I love the character and am looking forward to seeing his return. Beyond Fargo, are there other Benteen creations that you love?
If the new Fargo books find an audience, I’d love to get a crack at his Sundance character. I’m also partial to his Rancho Bravo series, which he wrote under the name Thorne Douglas.
The success of 52 Western Novels has spawned an upcoming series of books from you, including 52 Western Movies, 52 Western TV Shows, and 52 Spaghetti Westerns. This is great news to Western fans everywhere. Might I ask for a teensy preview of each? That is do you have one or two examples of Western movies, TV shows, and Spaghetti Westerns you are fairly certain will make your cut, but readers might be surprised to hear mentioned?
From my own entries in 52 Western Movies there are some expected choices, such as The Magnificent Seven and The Professionals. Unexpected choices might include two films starring Audie Murphy, 40 Guns To Apache Pass and Posse From Hell. As to 52 Western TV Shows, I’ll be covering such expected entries as Wanted: Dead Or Alive and Have Gun Will Travel, but will also bring in little know series such as Bearcats, The Outcasts, The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. (a steampunk western to rival The Wild Wild West), and Legend (a little known series featuring Richard Dean Anderson of MacGyver and Stargate fame).
Beyond what’s been mentioned, anything else in the pipeline from the mind of Paul Bishop?
There always seems to be something percolating at Chez Bishop. Admit Nothing (the sequel to Lie Catchers) is in progress, as is my first Fargo novel (tentatively titled Viva, Fargo!). The essays for the upcoming 52 books are piling up, and I’m continuing to edit manuscripts from my backlist, which are currently being reprinted.
I want to thank you again for your time and consideration.