In celebration of their 50th anniversary, the Western Writers of America went all out in producing this large collection of original western fiction. There are 28 stories here, each one having a sharp perspective and point of view. The goal is to produce a fictional history of the western United States, the tales proceeding in chronological order, beginning with Don Coldsmith’s story of the first horse seen by a Native American and ending with Rod Miller’s story of a crazed gunman hiding out in a pitch-black mine in 1913.
In between are small glimpses of the likes of King Fisher, John Wesley Hardin, Doc Holliday, Custer, Lewis & Clark, and Crazy Horse. The man who survived the Alamo tells his story; William Wright, who mentored Samuel Clemens, describes one of his days in the newspaper business; and on and on.
Very few of these stories would have been published in the old pulp magazine of the 20s, 30s and 40s. Individually, they’re like small literary gems, often with only a setting, a situation and very little resolution. Overall, however, and standing back a way, they form a huge mosaic picturing close to 300 years of history, yet made personal by showing the men and women of legend through the eyes of others, their lives converging in perhaps only a small instant of time.
Authors whose work caught my attention the most were Bill Gulick, Dale Walker, James Reasoner, Elaine Long, Loren D. Estleman and Bill Crider. Gulick, by the way, may be the oldest writer of the bunch, his career beginning back in the 1940s, and still able to produce the most humorous yarn of them all.