Friday, June 5, 2009


Some of you know that I had so many blogs that it was difficult to keep up with them all.

Needless to say, I've decided to consolidate all of these into a single blog and have moved all of the most important entries from the others to this one.

For those of you who stop in, I'd be much obliged if you hit that little "Follow"
button at the top.

~ Kerby

Western Paperbacks: Written in Blood: The Further Exploits of Hayden Tilden

Written in Blood: The Further Exploits of Hayden Tilden
by J. Lee Butts

Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Berkley (February 3, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0425226301
ISBN-13: 978-0425226308

On a late night trip to Walmart to pick up another pair of rubber boots for doing some prospecting, I decided to check out the ample selection of westerns that our local Walmart carries. As is my habit, I generally grab at least two Westerns. Usually one by an author that I like such as Louis L'Amour, Zane Grey, Luke Short or William Johnstone, and then another by an author that I typically haven't read. If I can't do that, I pick them by publisher. In this case, I picked up a Leisure reprint of John Trace's "Trigger Vengeance" and "Written in Blood" by J. Lee Butts.

had heard a lot about J. Lee Butts, but must admit that until recently, I hadn't read anything by him.

"Written in Blood" begins with an aging Hayden Tilden. He is a sassy old cuss, a retired lawman living in an old folks home during the 1940's. Nearly 90 years old, but still full of piss and vinegar, he despises his situation, his age. He sees ghosts of his long gone friends, yearns for the old days and begins to recall the past. Tilden begins to tell us a story from his younger days.

Let me say right here, that J. Lee Butts can write. The first chapter or so of "Written in Blood" is remindful of some of my favorite works of Elmer Kelton or Johnny Boggs. Tilden is a very likeable character and you can't help but to sympathize with his plight of old age. I really thought I was going to enjoy the story that Tilden's character was about to relate.

However ...

Butts soon introduces us to Hayden Tilden's old sidekick. The fella begins to relate to Tilden the exploits of a notorious outlaw gang that they need to track down immediately.

Well, never mind the outlaws, because I found Tilden's pal's description of the exploits so annoying that I was kind of hoping that Tilden would plug him with his Peacemaker. The sidekick launches himself into page after page of overdone, old Hollywoodesque, Western vernacular to the point that I would have kind of liked to have plugged him myself.

It may be that the character's overuse of stereotypical vernacular was intended to be a bit humorous (much like was done in the exploitation film "The Terror of Tiny Town" during the 30's), but I personally found it very distracting and unrealistic. Real people in the Old West simply did not speak this way and though a Western should be entertaining, like Louis L'Amour, I believe that Westerns are a type of historical fiction. As writers, we should all be striving not just to entertain, but also to enlighten people about the authentic Old West.

Needless to say, I simply had to put "Written in Blood" down. It's not often that I don't finish a Western, but this was one of those rare instances.

However, as I said earlier, J. Lee Butts can definitely write and up until the sidekick came on the page, I really liked "Written in Blood".

Needless to say, I will be trying him again in the hope that Tilden's sidekick isn't on the scene.

Western Paperbacks: Walk Proud, Stand Tall by Johnny D. Boggs

Leisure Books; Reprint edition (October 30, 2007)
ISBN-10: 0843959010
ISBN-13: 978-0843959017
I hate to admit it, but even though I have been reading Westerns for YEARS, I have only been familiar with the work of Johnny D. Boggs for a short time. The first work of his that I had the pleasure of reading was his short "The Cody War" which appreared in the Lost Trails anthology (Pinnacle, 2007). To date, "The Cody War" is the finest short western story that I've ever read, so needless to say, my expectations for the next thing I read by Boggs was very high. The man does disappoint either.
"Walk Proud, Stand Tall" follows the story of Lin Garrett, a retired 70 year old Arizona lawman who in 1913, is a man from another time who spends his days in an old folks home brooding on his past and remembering the man that he once was and kicking himself over his past mistakes. Garrett is joined by his old deputy Randolph Corbett who tries his best to keep things lively by entertaining the hospital staff with stories from their youth.
Meanwhile, Ollie Sinclair, another old timer and a former nemesis of Garrett's is released from prison and in defiance of his own age, forms a new gang and robs a nearby train to have one last hurrah.
Amidst the bumbling of younger men, Garrett and Corbett soon saddle up and have one last ride in an effort to track Sinclair down.
"Walk Proud, Stand Tall" is reminescent of some of Elmer Kelton's better novels. Boggs' characters will always have a place in your memory and as a writer, he stands shoulder to shoulder with any one else out there.

Books about Oregon: Fire At Eden's Gate: Tom McCall & The Oregon Story

Fire At Eden's Gate: Tom McCall & The Oregon Story
by Brent Walth

If you were born in Oregon, or if you have ever lived in Oregon, even if you don't know anything about the man himself or what he accomplished, you have probably heard of Tom McCall.

Born Thomas Lawson McCall in March of 1922, as the grandson of two powerful American figures (Copper king Thomas Lawson and politician Samuel W McCall), for nearly thirty five years, McCall's influence over Oregon reigned supreme over nearly every public figure in the state. Starting as a newspaper journalist in the 1930's, McCall was a pioneer among early radio news announcers and later graduated to early television. McCall entered the Oregon political arena in the late 40's as an assistant to Governor Douglas McKay. By 1954, McCall had won the Republican nomination for Oregon's Third Congressional District only to lose the election to Edith Green. However, having remained out of politics for some time, in 1966, McCall was elected to his first term as Oregon Governor under the Republican ticket and was later re-elected in 1970.

In an era of notoriously corrupt politics, with the exception of his private life where he struggled with debt, the drug addiction of his youngest son and his own affliction with cancer, McCall shines through as an enormously forthright and human individual despite holding a major public office. While other polititians of his day despised and often avoided the press, McCall routinely sought the press out in an effort to inform people of the inner workings of Oregon's government. Considered too much of a populist for Republican tastes and too conservative for the tastes of Democrats, McCall firmly established himself with a reputation of being a maverick. While the people loved him, others in politics distrusted him.

As governor, McCall was finally in the position to do something about the issues that had always been dear to his heart. Namely, this included McCall's profound respect for the Oregon lands. During his tenure, he restored Oregon's beaches to public ownership, introduced the nation's first bottle bill, blocked the U.S. military from dumping chemical weapons in Oregon, guarded stands of wilderness from clear cutting, cleaned up the Willamette River and halted the advancement of urban sprawl into precious farm land. Long before the appearance of Ross Perot, Tom McCall spoke of the need for what he called a "Third Force" in American politics. He was also largely responsible for bringing down the Nixon administration over Watergate, by publicly demanding that Nixon resign.

Tom McCall made himself many enemies.

On January 12th, 1971, as McCall was entering his second term as governor, he was propelled to nationwide fame. That evening he appeared on CBS and was asked to sum up his views on conservation. (Which he was already famous for). What came out of McCall's mouth, is still the subject of a lot of debate, when McCall promptly remarked:

"We want you to visit our State of Excitement often. Come again and again. But for heaven's sake, don't move here."

Having long been enraged over urbanization, Oregonians instantly embraced McCall's "Visit, but don't stay" remark. Anti-tourism materials promptly appeared statewide. One pamphlet of the period stated:

"Tom McCall, governor of the Great State of Oregon, cordially invites you to visit ... Idaho, Washington, Wyoming, Utah, Arizona, California, Hawaii or Afghanistan"

Another stated:

"People in Oregon love to see out of staters. Send us some photos of yourself when you get a chance."

Meanwhile, in my neck of the woods, bumper stickers began to appear that read:

"We Shoot Every Other Car With California License Plates"

Commercials appeared on TV pushing Oregon made products, while trashing products made elsewhere.

Though a tremendous sense of statewide pride surged through Oregonians due to McCall's statement, as well as a major boom in Oregon made products, McCall's words actually backfired on him and actually incited a rush to Oregon that had not been seen since the days of the Overlanders.

In the end, Oregon's economy actually collapsed. Tom McCall was an easy scapegoat, in that people claimed that "Visit but don't stay", as well McCall's legislation had discouraged business interests in coming to Oregon. Meanwhile, the enviornmental movement had somehow outgrown McCall, regarding him as out of touch on current issues.

In 1978, and anxious to do more work for his ailing state, Tom McCall once again desired to be governor, but in refusing to run as an Independent, he was beaten in the Republican primary.

In 1982, Governor Vic Atiyeh sought to remove the last vestige of "Visit, but don't stay" in the form of a sign that sits at the Oregon border with California on I-5. The sign read "Welcome to Oregon. Enjoy your visit". Atiyeh wanted to blow the sign up with dynamite to get the press there and publicly announce that Oregon was open for business, regardless of the potential damage.

Despite the fact that he was dying of cancer, McCall crashed Atiyeh's press conference and had the last word, saying:

"There's been a lot of bad mouthing about 'visit but don't stay'. It served its purpose. We were saying 'visit but don't stay' because Oregon, queen bee though she is, is not yet ready for the swarm. I am simply saying that Oregon is demure and lovely, and it ought to play a little hard to get. And I think you'll all be just as sick as I am if you find it is nothing but a hungry hussy, throwing herself at every stinking smokestack that's offered."

Brent Walth, a reporter at the Eugene Register Guard, does an excellent job in writing "Fire At Eden's Gate". Through his work, you can get a real sense of the sort of man that McCall was. Unlike other writings about McCall (which portray him either as a saint, or a demon) Walth gives us a genuine look at the man himself, as well as how he came to be, where he succeeded and where he failed.

If you're interested in Oregon, in politics, historical figures or if you're just pissed off at the state of the country and would like a breath of fresh air, pick up a copy of "Fire At Eden's Gate".

Get "Fire At Eden's Gate" at Amazon.

Western Films: The Star Packer (He Wore A Star)

Recently, in celebration of The Duke's 102nd birthday, The Encore Westerns film channel ran a 28 hour John Wayne marathon. And what could get any better than that?

Included in the marathon were a number of Lone Star Westerns from the 1930's, including "The Star Packer" from 1934, which for my friends in the UK was released under the title "He Wore A Star". I happen to be a big fan of these old Lone Star Westerns, even though they were shot on the cheap.

"The Star Packer" features John Wayne as U.S. Marshall John Travers, who together with his Indian side kick Yak (played by Yakima Canutt) are looking for wanted men in an unnamed area of The West, but they soon get more than they bargain for when they encounter a gang of outlaws run by a mysterious man known only as "The Shadow".

"The Star Packer" was written and directed by Robert N. Bradbury (1886-1949), a very prolific writer and director of many early Westerns. "The Star Packer" was one of the eight Westerns Bradbury directed in 1934. Originally born in Walla Walla, Washington Territory, Bradbury's NorthWest heritage shines through, in that on numerous ocassions, Yakima Canutt's character can clearly be heard speaking some very broken Chinook Jargon when his atypical Injun sidekick character continually exclaims "Hiya Skookum!(Much good!)Big fun!" every time John Wayne's character does something particularly impressive.

See a trailer for The Star Packer.

You can also download the whole film at:

Or grab yourself a DVD at Amazon.

Western Films: September Dawn

September Dawn
(Voice Pictures, 2007)

Directed by: Christopher Cain

Written by: Christopher Cain & Carole Wang Schutter

Cast: Terrence Stamp, John Voight, Trent Ford, Tamara Hope, John Gries, Taylor Handley, Dean Cain

I had the opportunity to check this film out the other night on pay-per-view. Though not a traditional Western in the typical sense, the film is set during the Westward Expansion and the film is built around the Mountain Meadows Massacre of the Fancher-Baker Wagon train by Mormon militia in Utah Territory in September of 1857. September Dawn is directed and co-written by Christopher Cain, who is probably best known as the director of Young Guns.

For those who don't know, during the 1850's, the Church of Latter Day Saints (better known as "Mormons") became well established in Utah Territory to the extent of establishing political control of a vast tract of land in and around the current borders of Utah. At the time, the LDS Church was actively seeking to establish a state of their own called Deseret and although their leader, Brigham Young, seeked recognition from the United States, tensions ran very high and eventually escalated into what became known as the Utah War which began in May 1857 and ended in July of 1858. Although the Utah War was primarily an armed stand-off between the Territory of Utah and the United States, it was far from bloodless and actually involved at least one third of the U.S. military and pitted them against the world's most experienced militia. At the time, many Mormons living in Utah Territory held a very real fear that the government of the United States seeked to destroy them for their beliefs. In the process of the Utah War, a wagon train known collectively as the Fancher-Baker party passed through Utah Territory and conspiracy theories began to circulate that the wagon train intended to inflict harm upon the local population. On September 11th, 1857, Mormon militia members, assisted by Paiute Indians swept down upon the party and massacred between 100 to 140 people, leaving only a few young children as survivors. Who actually ordered the massacre and what brought it on is still debated and until the release of "September Dawn" the Mountain Meadows Massacre was rarely spoken of and even less known.

The film itself actually centers on a love affair between Johnathan Samuelson (Trent Ford) who is the son of Mormon Bishop Jacob Samuelson (Jon Voight) and a young woman named Emily Hudson (Tamara Hope) who is a member of the wagon train.

Though some of the acting is a little less than solid and the running time didn't seem adequate to go into more detail, all in all, "September Dawn" is still a pretty good film. That said, due to the subject matter, it is one of those films that will either enlighten or infuriate and a rather heated controversy has erupted around the film since its release. Despite this, considering the little known historical matter, it is definitely recommended.

On a bit of a side note, co-writer Carole Whang Schutter, has also written a novel of the same name based on the film which is also available at Amazon.

Skookum - A short Western

Skookum by Kerby Jackson

Lloyd Brackett had been trailing Joe Skookum for five days through a beautiful, yet wild and dangerous country that skirted the rushing white waters of the Rogue River. Far below him, from where he rode on the tree lined canyon rim, he could see the river boiling several hundred beneath him. As it raced on toward the town of Ellensburg and emptied into the Pacific some seventy miles away, that water ran as fast and as wild as its name sounded and had swallowed up many a white man and many an Indian over the eons who had taken a single, but fatal mis step on the jagged rocks upon which he now rode. Even if the distant fall did not kill a man, the river most surely would and even if the Rogue failed, this wild forest would certainly finish a man off.

The only other thing that was absolutely certain, Brackett knew, was that Joe Skookum was somewhere here in this wild land and that the star pinned to his flannel shirt made it his sworn duty to hunt him down. Joe could be a dangerous sort of man. He was half Takelma Indian, one of the last of his kind and had sure as hell lived up to one meaning of his surname. Back in the day, before they had been mostly run out of this valley and sent on the long, hard march to the Grande Rhonde Valley Reservation, local Indians had often used that word "skookum" to indicate a good, strong man. But it was also a name given to some sort of evil spirit that they all worried about meeting and the latter certainly described Joe Skookum well when he was drinking, for the man had committed a list of public offenses that ran the gamut from spitting on the sidewalks all the way up to assaulting a local preacher with a picket he had torn from the church fence.

Joe had always been a salty sort of character, but now he had gone much too far, for he had shot down two men in cold blood and had even dug his way out of what Lloyd Brackett had thought was a secure jail and had high tailed it up the canyon despite wearing an Oregon Boot on one foot. The boot was a terrible sort of contraption that consisted of a stirrup that slipped under the sole of a man's foot and was attached to a heavy weighted ring that was locked around the ankle and the thing weighed enough to slow any man who wore it down to a stagger instead of a normal walk. The reputation of this thing was known far and wide and it was said that no man had ever escaped wearing an Oregon Boot. But Joe Skookum had done just that and despite the fact that he was probably still wearing the damn thing, he had led Lloyd Brackett into some of the roughest country on God's green earth and had managed to stay far ahead of him judging from what little sign he was leaving behind.

If the word got out and Joe Skookum managed to get away, Brackett would surely be the laughing stock of every lawman between here and Kansas. That idea did not bother him so much, but the thought that it might confirm the fact that he was getting old, did get under his skin. The pity of it all was that Joe was a likable sort of fella when he laid off the whiskey and otherwise tended to be hard working and upstanding. He'd spent many a night in the drunk tank, and Lloyd had to admit, that when the alcohol wore off, he kind of liked Joe Skookum and sometimes they played cards together until the wee hours.

Lloyd and this old horse that he was riding had been the law in this valley for years and they were both definitely feeling the wear and tear from it of late. Old Judge, a large chestnut with a white blaze and boots, was still sure footed and dependable, but the old horse no longer seemed to see very well, while his rider, now sixty five years old, tended to feel every bump on the trail in his bones. He had even taken to having slipped an extra blanket beneath his trail worn saddle. It cushioned his backside enough to absorb some of the shock and even made Lloyd appear a bit taller in the saddle, which was a good thing, for he was pretty sure that he'd shrunk a bit in height these last few years. However, that extra padding didn't do a damn thing for his eyes and ears, both of which were failing, and for a man who needed sharp senses and quick reflexes, it was a disturbing development.

Brackett had always been fast with a gun and he could shoot out the eye of a bird in flight when he was a younger man. While he was still fast, he knew that he wasn't quite as quick as he had once been, for that big .45 Colt he had always carried seemed to have gained a bit of weight. Lloyd liked to think that maybe they were just loading the cartridges a little heavier these days and that accounted for the difference, but he knew that wasn't true. He'd even thought about maybe trading the old gun in for one of those new fangled lighter models, but he didn't want sacrifice the fire power, nor did he think that those newer models looked quite right. As for shooting out the eyes of birds, that too had changed, but he was still a bit of a shootist and provided he could see something and it didn't move too fast, he could still hit it. Still, if it came down to it, he kind of wondered how quick he'd be compared to a younger man like Joe Skookum in a stand up fight on even ground.

Even though Lloyd's eyes and ears might have been failing, one thing that had not ebbed was his sense of smell. As he came to the top of a rise in the canyon wall and looked out over where the canyon opened up wide and the green of Doug Firs ran clear to the horizon until they met with a line of blue green peaks, Lloyd could smell a faint, but distinct smell of wood smoke on the gentle breeze. He didn't think that Joe would be fool enough to light a fire, but he had ran him hard for five days and the man still had that contraption on his ankle, so maybe he had forced him to risk a camp fire. On the other hand, maybe Joe Skookum thought that Lloyd was an old man who could no longer cut it and was waiting somewhere out there for him to catch him up so they could have it out. This area was so isolated that if Joe was true to his Takelma roots and crept up on him at night to slit his throat with that big skinning knife he carried, Lloyd reckoned that it would be years before anyone would find his bones, if they ever found his remains at all. Apart from some sturdy folks, most of which were the Metis offspring of old trappers and their brides of assorted Indian tribes, who lived near the big bend in the river at Illahe, damn few people ever came out this way. It was still a wild place disturbed only with the constant roar of the Rogue, and Lloyd figured that it would probably always be that way for it took some hard souls to manage in this land.

He squinted out over the dense forest and canyon below him looking for a sign of the smoke that he was smelling, gradually surveying the half circle of the expanse before him. It was then that another smell came to him, a bit sweet, but like burnt sugar. He took in a deep breath to try to place the smell and soon did.

It was Camas, he decided, their onion like bulbs roasting in the coals of a fire somewhere nearby. Lloyd had tried them once at Digger Haines' place and they had reminded him of the Sweet Potatoes that he had eaten as a boy. He had quite liked them, but only Indians and old woodsmen like Digger Haines ate the stuff for most said it was "Injun food" and therefore, not fit for consumption by god fearing folks. Joe Skookum was not exactly what you could call a god fearing man and Brackett was certain that the renegade Metis was nearby.

Lloyd withdrew his Winchester from the boot and stood up in his stirrups to take a better look at his surroundings. And it was then that a sort funny feeling swept through his gut and Lloyd dove off the back of Old Judge just in time to hear a bullet sing past him and the sound of single gunshot echoing up and down the canyon. He immediately took cover behind a large tree that had been knocked over during some storm in ages past. The bark had been stripped off by the weather and the log was already heavy with rot on one side, but was big enough to shield his body. Another shot rang out from somewhere in the canyon below and smashed through the tree limbs above him, the wicked sound putting the rider less Judge into a bolt.

"Joe?" Brackett called out to the shooter below, not knowing if the man would answer or it.

"Yeah?" a voice said from far below.

"This is Lloyd Brackett."

"Whaddya want?" Joe Skookum shouted back.

"You know damn well what I want!"

Read more by picking up a copy of "Skookum" in Kindle format from

Copyright 2008 by Kerby Jackson. Work archived by