Friday, August 5, 2011
Sunday, July 31, 2011
Friday, July 29, 2011
In Japanese, the survivors are called hibakusha -- literally, "those who received the bomb." Featured is the story of Yoshito Matsushige, the newspaper photographer who shot the only images of Hiroshima the day the bomb fell. A special section includes some of those historic photos, as well as black-and-white portraits of the survivors made by McCoy in 1986.
In a new introduction, the author recalls the effect of that trip on his own life, and in the afterword--written in the wake of Japan's March 2011 earthquake and nuclear meltdown--he reminds us that apocalypse is always only a minute away. "Zero Minutes to Midnight" is long enough to present a compelling and historic portrait of the hibakusha, but short enough to read in a single sitting.
Saturday, July 2, 2011
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Monday, April 18, 2011
We ate lunch at Cooper's Barbecue in Llano -- and it was the very best barbecue I've ever had, and just as good as I remember it when W.C. and Fred Bean took me there some 15 years ago.
I'll be returning to central Texas on Sept. 24 and 25, 2011, to sign books at the Llano River Outdoor Expo. There will be a gold panning and metal detecting competitions and much more. And if you're interested in more about gold prospecting, geology, the history of the Llano area in general, and the local gold prospecting club, check out llanogold.
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Monday, March 28, 2011
This year’s awards were announced Monday by the Western Writers of America. Other winners include True Grit, a film by Joel and Ethan Coen, for best drama, and The Killing of Crazy Horse by Thomas Powers, for best historical nonfiction. The awards will be presented at WWA’s annual convention June 21-25 at Bismarck, N.D.
The Spur Awards, given annually for distinguished writing about the American West, are among the oldest and most prestigious in American literature. In 1953, when the awards were established by WWA, western fiction was a staple of American publishing. At the time awards were given to the best western novel, best historical novel, best juvenile, and best short story. Since then the awards have been broadened to include other types of writing about the West. Today, Spurs are offered for the best western novel (short novel), best novel of the west (long novel), best original paperback novel, best short story, best short nonfiction. Also, best contemporary nonfiction, best biography, best history, best juvenile fiction and nonfiction, best TV or motion picture drama, best TV or motion picture documentary, and best first novel (called The Medicine Pipe Bearer's Award). Winners of the Spur Awards in previous years include Larry McMurtry for Lonesome Dove, Michael Blake for Dances With Wolves, Glendon Swarthout for The Shootist, and Tony Hillerman for Skinwalker.
Sunday, March 20, 2011
In her ruling, Sumi said that Wisconsin residents own their government.
"That’s our right. And a violation of that right is tantamount to a violation of what is already provided in the Constitution, open doors, open access, and that nothing in this government happens in secret."
Sumi went on to quote the late William A. Bablitch, a Wisconsin Supreme Court justice: "An open meetings law is not necessary to ensure openness in easy andnoncontroversial matters where no one really cares whether the meeting is open or not. Like the First Amendment, which exists to protect unfavored speech, the Open Meetings Law exists to ensure open government in controversial matters. The Open Meetings Law functions to ensure that these difficult matters are decided without bias or regard for issues such as race, gender, or economic status, and with highest regard for the interests of the community. This requires, with very few exceptions, that governmental meetings be held in full view of the community.”
A district attorney had brought the Open Meetings complaint, alleging that Republicans did not observe the 24-hour public notice requirement before convening a conference committee. Democratic legislators had fled the state in an attempt to halt passage of the bill. Sumi ruled that the public did not have ample time to attend the meeting.
Thursday, March 3, 2011
Walter Zacharius, founder and former CEO of Kensington Books, passed away this morning at the age of 89.
Kensington was founded in 1974 by Mr. Zacharius, who previously had been one of the founders of Lancer Books. Walter started Kensington with a little capital and a big dream. In the 36 years that followed—a little fish in a big pond (and one filled with sharks)--Walter defied all the odds and built Kensington into a major publisher with a number of current and past NY Times and USA TODAY bestselling authors, among them Fern Michaels, Lisa Jackson, William W. Johnstone, and many others. He also discovered a good number of authors who would go on to have careers at many of the major publishing houses, including Simon & Schuster and Random House. Kensington currently has close to 100 full time employees and publishes and distributes more than 400 titles a year in mass market, trade paperback, and hardcover.
But it was the western that was, and continues to be, a big part of Kensington’s success. From Zane Grey to Ernest Haycox to Johnny D. Boggs and Max McCoy, Kensington did ‘em all. And when conventional wisdom said that the western was all but dead as a category, Walter reacted as he always did—he charged head-first into the category and filled the void left by the other publishers. With great success. Till the end, Walter was a huge supporter of the western and of the WWA. When Richard Wheeler won the Spur Award for Vengeance Valley in 2005—Kensington’s first such honor in more than three decades of publishing Walter was so proud that he displayed the publisher’s plaque on his office wall right next to a picture of his grandchildren.
The plaque is still there.
Walter Zacharius was the last of a breed—a maverick independent in an industry now run by corporate wonks.
Sunday, February 27, 2011
Saturday, February 26, 2011
By Robert K. DeArment (University of Oklahoma Press, 2010) Hardcover, 396 pp.
Robert K. DeArment has given us a third volume in his meticulously researched series on “forgotten” gunfighters of the old west, although some of his subjects – Charley Harrison and Ed Short, to name two – will be familiar to western history buffs. Others, such as Jewish gunman Jim Levy and the maniacal Hill Loftis, will offer new and wicked delights.
A foreword by historian Roger McGrath explains that DeArment himself has some experience with handling a gun, as a soldier during World War II. “He understands that there is nothing more dramatic than a man fighting for his life and nothing more courageous than a man hearing the snap and crack of bullets about his head yet cooly and deliberately returning fire.” This may help explain why DeArment isn’t given to the hyperbole and hero worship that has infected other nonfiction writers on the same subject. What we get from DeArment is the unadulterated truth, culled from an exhaustive sifting of the historical account, and presented in a logical and straightforward manner. With each of the dozen subjects, we get a brief family history (often, the second paragraph recounts their birth) followed by a detailed account of their gunfights and their immediate or eventual deaths. Of the dozen subjects, most met violent ends. Six died in gunfights, two were dead by suicide, and one was lynched by a mob. Only two died of natural causes, and the fate of another is uncertain.
In setting the scene for an early Nevada pistoleer named Farmer Peel, DeArment gives us a bit of Mark Twain in describing how gunmen were regarded in the silver camps: “The desperado stalked the streets with a swagger graded according to the number of homicides, and a nod of recognition from him was sufficient to make a humble admirer happy for the rest of the day… When he moved along the sidewalk in his excessively long frock-coat, shiny stump-toed boots, and with dainty little slouch hat tipped over left eye, the small fry of roughs made room for his majesty,” Twain recalled in Roughing It. “The best known names in the Territory of Nevada were those belonging to these long-tailed heroes of the revolver.”
Farmer Peel (who was given the nickname by his peers because he looked nothing like a farmer) died on in Montana in 1867, during a gunfight with gambling rival John Bull. Peel was walking arm-in-arm with his mistress when, according to one account, they were confronted by Bull with pistol drawn and murderous intent. But Peel could not jerk his gun hand loose from the frightened woman’s grasp quick enough to defend himself, and Bull ended the dispute with three bullets – the last fired into Peel’s head at point-blank range.
In recounting the life of gambler Charley Harrison, DeArment does a good job of portraying the rip-roaring days of early Denver and Harrison’s death, as a Confederate officer, after a running fight with a band of Osage on the Verdigris River in southeast Kansas. As for lawman Ed Short, the author gives us a sober account of his killing in a toe-to-toe shootout in a Rock Island mail car with a member of the Dalton Gang. But DeArment truly shines when he recounts the life of Jim Levy, the only known Jewish gunman in the west.
Levy, a professional gambler, gained fame for his drunken and deadly shooting matches in gambling halls from Deadwood to Tombstone. After an argument with a fellow sharp in Tucson, Levy – who was flat-broke and perhaps mentally unstable – agreed to end the quarrel with a duel across the border into Mexico, and a hat was passed to raise thirty dollars to pay for a wagon to convey the combatants and their entourages. But the law got wind of the fight and spoiled the fun. But that wasn’t the end of it; the other fighter and two of his friend ambushed Levy when he emerged from a Tucson hotel. Levy fell dead on the sidewalk, and a newspaper reporter on the scene claimed he was unarmed. Levy was forty, rather old for his line of work.
But the story of Hill Loftis is perhaps the most disturbing of DeArment’s dozen.
Loftis – who also went by the aliases Tom Ross and Charles Gannon – had a rap sheet that ran from the Old West to the eve of the Great Depression. He was part of the Red Buck Waightman Gang that attempted robbery and successfully pistol-whipped the owner at Waggoner’s Store in Oklahoma Territory on Christmas Eve, 1895, and later holed up in a dugout and fought it out in the bitter cold with a posse of lawmen. But Loftis escaped, and remained a fugitive for many years, spending some time in South American but eventually returning to the states. Loftis was apparently easy to spot, having a head shaped like a buffalo’s and chilling black eyes. One Texas Ranger who chased him even believed that perhaps the outlaw’s peculiarly elongated head “caused some pressure on the brain, and might account for his vicious tendencies.” Loftis was convicted of murder in Texas, but later broke prison. He remained on the run until 1929, when during a thirty degree below night in a Montana line camp he killed a range detective by the name of Ralph Hayward who had been sent to smoke him out. After shooting Hayward to death, Loftis ordered the other cowboys out into the cold, burned all personal papers, and wrote a suicide note – then put a pistol to his head and pulled the trigger.
With this volume, with its copious notes and thorough index, DeArment has once again added to the body of Old West scholarship. He has also provided solid entertainment for the casual reader looking for something fresh amid the stale and often-told tales from the outlaw trail.
Thursday, February 3, 2011
Monday, January 31, 2011
Saturday, January 29, 2011
Sunday, January 23, 2011
More nostalgia. The first edition, Doubleday, 1991. I remember what a thrill it was to go into libraries across the country and find the book in card catalogs. Of course, in those days the card catalog was a nice wooden cabinet with actual index cards, with the bibliographic information and call number neatly (or not so neatly) typed. For a writer, it was the purest form of validation. Now, card catalogs are electronic, and you're staring into a computer screen instead of feeling the edge of the cards riffle beneath your fingertips. Progress, I know. Reminds me of a line from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid: "What happened to the old bank? It was beautiful."
A bit of nostalgia: The cover of the mass market paperback edition of The Sixth Rider, 1994. The illustration is by Ken Laager, a terrifically talented artists who was known at Bantam for his "western fine art look." It is a particularly good cover, I think. Laager is now a gallery painter, and you can see more of his work at www.kenlaager.com. Go to the Illustration section, and take a look at a work called "Quantrill's Raiders," an illustration he did for the cover of my second book.
It's late in the last century and the Wild West is becoming tamed by telegraph wire, railroads, and the modern methods of federal lawmen. But the Dalton boys, kin to the infamous Younger and James clans, haven't heard the news. Brought up on romantic tales and songs about outlaws, they aim for glory and gold, following in the bloody footsteps of the legendary gangs of the West.
Thursday, January 20, 2011
The Iconic Kansas photo exhibit opened at the new Emporia Arts Center last night, just in time for the state's sesquicentennial on Jan. 29. Sixteen artists are represented, including the work of my friends Phillip Finch and Kara Wolford. That's Kara at left, discussing photography with juror Jim Richardson. Richardson, a native Kansan, is best known for his National Geographic work -- especially his three decades of chronicling Cuba, population 231, in extreme north central Kansas. The Emporia exhibit began in 2007, when the Center for Great Plains Studies launched the Plains Photo Project. Special thanks to Jim Hoy, the director of the Center for Great Plains Studies; Susan Brinkman, the center's assistant director; and the board and staff of the Emporia Arts Council. Liz Shenk, a former student of mine, hung the exhibit, which runs through March 2.
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Friday, January 7, 2011
Thursday, January 6, 2011
Wednesday, January 5, 2011
The Saratoga Saloon (the location of the Gambler's Ghost photo, previous post) was owned in part by Dodge City Sheriff Chalk Beeson and offered billiards, keno, faro, and poker. It is Location 13 on the Boot Hill Museum self-guided brochure. Beeson, a legendary lawman, also owned a part interest in the more famous Long Branch Saloon.
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
A detail of the Wyatt Earp statue by Oklahoma artist Mary Spurgeon, who began sculpting at the age of 72. Spurgeon grew up near Dodge City and spent most of her life painting. Now in her nineties, Spurgeon lives on a ranch near Gate, Oklahoma, a hundred miles due south of Dodge. The statue, placed in 2004, is near Central and Wyatt Earp Boulevard and wields the long-barreled (and perhaps apochryhal) "Buntline Special" Colt. At eight feet, the statue is somewhat larger than the real Wyatt Earp.