Thinking of writing a Western?
As genre’s go, this one’s tropes are relatively easy to nail:
- Set it in the American west during the roughly thirty years between 1865 and 1895.
- Mix in any/all of the following: cowboys, indians, bank/train robbers and outlaws, guns, squinty-eye stares, horses, and/or mules. (Have at least one WANTED poster hanging somewhere.)
- Make sure the good guys—in white cowboy hats—win.
In short, the classic Western was a shorthand for the things we Americans believed ourselves to be—adventurous, brave, and entitled as hell. Oh, and um—male. Wait…what? Only people with testosterone get to be western heroes? No wonder the poor saps were always wandering off into the sunset—GPS hadn’t been invented yet so y-chromosome owners weren’t allowed to stop and ask for directions.
But there’s a new school of western hero, and she doesn’t need to run all decisions past her dangly bits. With all due apologies to John Wayne, here’s my proposal for a new sheriff in these here Wild West parts:
The Seventh Cavalry Theme Park & Wax Museum
A New Western by Louisa l’Amour
The one-horse, two-saloons-&-a-tanning-salon town of The Seventh Cavalry Theme Park & Wax Museum holds a secret.
Miss Cassie, former Fastest Tattoo Gunner in the Midwest, has rebuilt her shattered life (following an unfortunate incident involving the Governor’s wife and a dirty tattoo needle) as a puppy-petting, regularly bathing woman, and has hung her cowchip-stompin tooled red leather boots on her wall as a reminder of the evils of her former life. She is now working as The Seventh Cavalry Theme Park & Wax Museum’s sheriff, and two-stepping with her Aw-shucks-ma’am boyfriend, Petri The Plucky Pharmacist.
The night of the shootout at high noon changes everything for Miss Cassie and Petri. One moment, they are discussing getting matching tatts from Miz Annabelle at her Saloon & Tanning Parlour, the next, watching with horror as dog-kicking card-cheating mouth-breather cowboys lasso Petri and drag him down Main Street, just because Petri reminded the cowboys to wash their hands after visiting the outhouse.
Miss Cassie knows the cowboys are from the MainStreet@HighNoonSaloon but she can’t prove it—at least not without her cowchip-stompin tooled red leather boots. However, when she finds the custom-fitted leather saddle from Petri’s horse, Oldish Paint, in her cellar, she begins to realize things are not quite as they seem in her beloved one-less-horse, two-saloons-&-a-tanning-salon town. Petri’s disappearance leaves Cassie with some startling questions about her past, and she heads for the dark underbelly of The Seventh Cavalry Theme Park and Wax Museum to find some answers.
At first the people of The Seventh Cavalry Theme Park and Wax Museum are feisty and quick-on-the-draw. Miss Cassie is intrigued by the curiously Mom-&-apple-pie-loving saloon keeper at the MainStreet@HighNoonSaloon, Chuck Magical Native American. However, after Chuck introduces her to hard sarsaparilla, Cassie slowly finds herself drawn into a web of train robberies, bank jobs and perhaps, on that slippery slope to puppy-kicking.
The sarsaparilla-scarfing woman knows that her puppy-petting, regular bathing life is over. She dons the cowchip-stompin tooled red leather boots and is reborn as the hero who will save her two-saloons-&-a-tanning-salon town from dog-kicking card-cheating mouth-breather cowboys.
However, Miss Cassie finds herself troubled by her hard-drinking ideals and becomes overwhelmed with moral questions. Will her conscience allow her to do whatever is needed to stop the dog-kicking card-cheating mouth-breather cowboys?
Can Miss Cassie resist the charms of Chuck Magical Native American and uncover the secret of the custom-fitted leather saddle from Petri’s horse, Oldish Paint, before it’s too late, or will her demise become yet another legend of The Seventh Cavalry Theme Park and Wax Museum?
Genre Notes for The New Western:
- If Chuck Magical Native American applies feathers or war paint about his person and/or shoots arrows (unless he’s moonlighting as an exotic dancer), if the bank or train is robbed by masked men in black hats, or if there is a gunfight in the street at noon, it is Wild West Theme Park. Bonus points if Miz Annabel is a former Soiled Dove and we all (wink, wink) know what her saloon & tanning salon “girls” get up to in their upstairs rooms.
- If Miss Cassie is the captain of an interstellar spaceship with a lovable crew of misfit smugglers and Miz Annabel’s Saloon & Tanning Salon is host to one of the more wretched hives of scum and villainy in the galaxy, it is a Space Western, probably one with a top director and special effects budget bigger than the GDP of several third world countries and/or the income tax NOT paid by the President of the US.
- If Miss Cassie almost never speaks, wears a poncho, and/or befriends a small child for whom she reluctantly comes out of retirement to save the two-saloons-&-a-tanning-salon town—even though it means embracing the violence she is running from—to kill just about everyone in sight (bonus points if the small child is also killed) before riding into the sunset, she is the Western Antihero.
- If Miss Cassie collects a motley crew of former sharp-shooting Knights of the Old West who pull together one last time to save the town in a direct ripoff of an Akira Kurosawa plot, it’s a Samurai Western. Bonus points if Miss Cassie uses a sword.
- If the book is set in current times and Miss Cassie rides a motorcycle but still wears a duster to clean up the corruption of The Seventh Cavalry Theme Park, it’s a New Old Western.
- If Miss Cassie is just about to face the leader of the unhygienic cowboys when suddenly a road crew shows up and extends the interstate right up Main Street, and the cowboys open an Orange Julius stand while Miss Cassie retires to start an internet cafe, it’s Twilight of the Old West and doesn’t that just drip irony.
- If The Seventh Cavalry Theme Park is an actual ghost town and the cowboys are zombies, while Petri’s ghost comes back to guide Miss Cassie at critical moments even though they can never be together in that way, it’s Weird West. Chuck Magical Native American will not be pleased, but I expect to make big bucks when it becomes a sure-fire bestseller that’s turned into a blockbuster TV series.
For a look at a Westerns that pay homage to their roots while gleefully subverting them at every turn, you can’t do better than Gordon Rottman’s Ride series.
Blurb:Scammed by a street woman-con artist, seventeen-year old Arsenia Eugen, daughter of the legendary Bud and Marta Eugen, vows revenge. But in a whirlwind of events, Arsenia finds herself rescuing her nemesis twice, and then partnering with her to take over a notorious cantina and cathouse. Ranch-raised and as capable as any vaquero, as well as educated at St. Joseph Academy in Eagle Pass, Texas, she finds herself in a world of fallen angels, gamblers, drunks, conmen, smugglers, gunrunners, banditos, treacherous militiamen, spies, and traitors.
When she is dragged into the Mexican Revolution, Arsenia falls for both a dashing turncoat Mexican officer and a shadowy gringo gunrunner. But if she has to fight, she fights to win, and disdains the mere shotgun as wielded by her mother–machine guns are more her style. Not always sure which side is worth the fight and sacrifice, Arsenia finds herself instead determined to survive the war and protect not only the women following her, but her sanity and her heart.
- Book Title: Marta’s Daughter (Book 4 in Hardest Ride series)
- Author: Gordon L. Rottman
- Genre: Western/Romance
- Release Date: February 5, 2019
My review: 5 out of 5 stars for Marta’s Daughter (Book 4 in Hardest Ride series)
In your standard Western, women come in two kickass models: good (frontier wives/ preachers’ daughters) and bad (dance-hall girls/Soiled Doves such as Big Nose Kate, Doc Holliday’s common law wife). Occasionally, the Soiled Doves—if they had a Heart-of-Gold—become good saloon owners (like Miss Kitty in Gunsmoke) or even wives. Unless…
Unless Gordon Rottman is telling their story. Rottman has the most not-to-be-missed Author Notes out there, and those at the beginning of Marta’s Daughter are no exception. He introduces us to Las Soladeras—nicknamed Las Adelitas—the Mexican women who followed, cared for, and often fought beside troops on both sides of the revolution.
Las soladeras, las Adelitas, evolved today into the much-romanticized image of strong persevering Mexican women defending their families and demanding equal civil rights, an appropriate legacy for the valorous self-sacrificing women.
Rottman’s heroine, Arsenia Eugen, has an even bigger heritage. Women around the world were beginning to stand up for their rights—French peasants on the revolution’s barricades, English suffragettes imprisoned and force-fed during hunger strikes, American women donning trousers and a gun to fight in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. Arsenia looks at her world and instead of questioning her role, she demands it as her birthright.
But Arsenia has yet one more pair of shoes to step into. Sure she’s grown up on a successful ranch, and received an exclusive education. But she’s the daughter of Bud and Marta Eugen, Texas royalty whose exploits made them living legends. So Arsenia’s upbringing included her father telling her to close her eyes when she was eleven and he was about to shoot three banditos attempting to rob them—and then helping to gather their horses and weapons for sale. It included the somewhat unusual fatherly advice, “Keep your eyes open and always reload first thing.” And most of all, it included having Marta for a mother.
Being the daughter of a woman who was famous for her ferocity and determination—despite being unable to speak a word since a childhood head injury—meant that nobody, and least of all Arsenia herself, was going to doubt her ability to stand up for her own goals. That ability is tested almost to breaking by the events of Marta’s Daughter. At seventeen, some might have been surprised when Arsenia goes to rescue her kidnapped, slightly-feral friend Yaqui Ana, and the two young women end up shooting their assailants and taking over their saloon and brothel. But Bud and Marta remember the young girl who adopted and raised an orphaned wolf pup, only to let it go and finally shoot it when it didn’t adapt to captivity. Even as she manages the whorehouse’s business affairs, Arsenia finds herself drawn to, befriending, and even admiring their women employees.
As Arsenia and Yaqui Ana turn their violently acquired business into a lucrative gentleman’s club, they realize their biggest threat is the revolution in Mexico. But Arsenia is unprepared for a devastating night of horror and bloodshed which leads to her vow of revenge for the deaths of the women she’s come to like and respect.
Arsenia approaches Lieutenant Bianca, a woman and revolutionary leader, about joining them. Bianca turns her down with the daunting observation, “You will need something you must love more or hate more than the Revolution to endure it.” For Arsenia, the answer is simple. She exists with one goal: to kill Colonel Barrera, the Federal commander who ordered the deaths of her friends.
Although Arsenia finds love, this isn’t a romance. Instead it’s a story about love and about honor. As Marta’s daughter, Arsenia simply doesn’t know how to do anything except fight for those she loves and respects. Arsenia loves the women she accepts responsibility for in her whorehouse. She loves Yaqui Ana, the best friend and sister she’s committed to without even realizing it. She loves her parents who raised her to be a strong, capable, and honorable person.
Beside all that, the romantic love she feels for the young officer who follows her into the revolution is a doomed and secondary consideration, something she’s willing to sacrifice to her commitment to revenge the deaths of her friends. Like the earlier books in this series, this isn’t a pretty story. Despite the fact that Arsenia is only seventeen, it’s not a coming of age story either. From the beginning, she’s already the person her parents have raised her to be. She’s Marta’s daughter, and she’s fully capable of fighting a war on her own terms.
So…this is a western with all the trimmings and none of the tropes. There are no heroes in white ten-gallon hats, not a single WANTED poster, no gunfights at high noon. The hero is a seventeen year old girl who might twirl her gun on her finger, but who always remembers to reload first thing. She fights for those who can’t fight for themselves, she takes on the bad guy, she wins the heart of the good—if slightly ineffectual and not for one second someone she intends to take orders from—guy, and above all, she never forgets who she is: Marta’s daughter.
As you can probably tell, I love every book in this series. Marta is an unforgettable character, and her daughter Arsenia is her worthy heir.
**I received this book for from the publisher or author to facilitate an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**