My friend Susan and I were talking about Westerns yesterday at work. I have no idea how we got on the subject, but it struck me that the Western as a genre has nearly died out. If your local bookstore even has a Western section chances are it’s two shelves stuck under the last section of the Romance area. Gone are the heady days of Zane Grey and Louis L’Amour.
A quick glance through the #FridayFlash archives only turned up ten westerns in the past year. John Wiswell posted one, ‘A Still Moment‘, just this past week. Here are all ten in handy list form:
- A Still Moment, by John Wiswell
- That Cold, Dark Womb of Stars, by T.J. McIntyre
- A Double Month of Dust in Whiskey Gulch, by Tony Noland
- Delicate Balance, by Kevin J Mackey
- Quick Draw, by T.S. Bazelli
- The End, by Danielle La Paglia
- I’ll Eat My Gun, by John Wiswell
- Kid, by Jen Brubacher — Link no longer available.
- Western-Fantasy Vignette 2, by J. Dane Tyler
- Ranger Six, by Chris Chartrand
If you missed them earlier you can go read them now.
Susan and I decided that the Western will eventually make a comeback. Things do go in cycles after all. When they do come back we think they will be different – more sophisticated, with more complex story lines and nuanced characters. Still I’ll miss the old style western, formulaic as they may have been. They were born of a simpler time when things were seen, like cowboy hats, in black and white — often on black and white TVs.
My Top 5 TV Westerns
- The Rebel The outcast character of Johnny Yuma really appealed to me.
- Have Gun — Will Travel I can still sing you the theme song, Paladin, not that you’d want me to.
- Maverick Gotta love a reluctant hero, particularly when he’s dressed in black.
- The Big Valley Because I had the hots for Audra.
- Kung Fu My all time favorite, so different at the time, though by the third season it was getting long in the tooth.
You may have noticed the two most famous westerns, ‘Gunsmoke’ and ‘Bonanza,’ are not on my list. Undoubtedly this is a reflection of my rebellious youth — for these were my dad’s two favorite shows. Likewise some shows (The Virginian, and Rawhide immediately come to mind) are not on this list because they were my sister’s favorites, she being enamored of certain male stars. I watched all four of these, and have to admit I liked them well enough, though I would never have admitted it at the time.
What were your favorite Westerns, on TV, in books, or at the movies? Do you think the genre will make a comeback?