The August 2023 issue of Roundup Magazine, official publication of Western Writers of America, focuses on the theme “Writing the Traditional Western Novel” in a series of articles. One story, by Western Writers Hall of Fame author Loren D. Estleman, offers a departure to talk about Western novels that stray from the herd in search of something more.
Estleman writes in “Westerns: Beyond Tradition”: “The difference between the ‘traditional’ Western and literature that resonates through the decades is the sense that these stories are not confined to the page. The characters seem to have a life outside the story. Men and women live and die, often violently; but they don’t exist merely to thrill. While they live, other lives are affected, and when they die, others are left to mourn, or at least ask why. That simple premise is what separates the enduring classic from empty tradition.”
Offered as examples are The Virginian by Owen Wister (of which, Estleman says, “Nearly all the tropes we associate with the Western were invented by one writer in one book”), Shane by Jack Schafer, True Grit by Charles Portis, the novella “A Man Called Horse” by Dorothy M. Johnson, Ride the Wind by Lucia St. Clair Robson, and All My Sins Remembered by Rod Miller.
What? If that last bit surprises you, imagine my surprise when I saw it. About the book, Estleman writes, among other things, “Miller tells his story with a minimum of emotion and just the right amount of pathos, masterfully expressed between the lines of his spare prose. A 2022 release, All My Sins Remembered is a late addition to the long string of Western classics and promises that it’s nowhere near its end.”
By happenstance, when the article appeared I had just started proofreading the galleys for the pending paperback and eBook editions of All My Sins Remembered, due out within the next couple of months. The hardcover edition is still out there and will be, I hope, for a long, long time.