Good to be Back!

I’ve been away from Self-Publishing Review for several months, but now that I’ve fulfilled some of the obligations that kept me away, it’s good to be back. The biggest task was judging one of the Spur categories. Two other judges and I read about 30 Western novels, most of which were self-published.

Between a few of the self-published and the traditionally published novels, there was not much difference in quality. That argues against the prejudice that might linger against self-published novels as a category, despite Joseph Wideman’s well-publicized decision that Henry Baum discusses on the front page. The other two judges and I were unanimous in our final recommendations, which will become public by the end of March.

It was fun to participate in the judging because all three of us are passionate about Western literature. We care very much about the future of the Western and how it reflects Westerners’ experience. I thoroughly enjoyed discussing the relative merits of each book. We were all seeking works of literary excellence worthy of receiving the greatest honor Western Writers of America can bestow.

The audience for the traditional Westerns is definitely dwindling, though, the late Robert B. Parker’s Appaloosa notwithstanding. Yet an audience exists for stories laid West of the Mississippi at any time during our history or today. We were pleased to identify fresh approaches to the experience of being a Westerner.

Craig Lancaster’s 600 Hours of a Life, originally self-published as 600 Hours of Edward, is a case in point. Set in Billings, MT, in the present day, it was named an Honor Book by the 2010 Montana Book Awards.

It was a great honor to be asked to help judge a category for the Spur Award by the Western Writers of America. I was always conscious of participating in a tradition that goes back to 1953.

Thank you for the opportunity, WWA.