Blog of Pulitzer Prize Nominated Author, Jory Sherman. Get the latest information on his books, appearances and his candid reflections on writing.

Monday, May 02, 2005


We get few visitors up here on the ward.

Those who do come here, always point to me, and ask: "What's he in here for?"

The reply is always the same: "Oh, he's a western writer. Been here a long time."

"Picked the wrong genre, did he?"

"Yes. He could have been a 'contenda', according to Tennessee Williams."

The visitors shake their heads and go away, knowing that I am a victim of that febrile OC madness that afflicts so many, westernwriteritis.

I often wonder why I persist in writing westerns. Is it merely Obsessive-Compulsive behavior? Some years ago, I asked my editor at Forge, Bob Gleason, Editor-in-Chief, if he didn't want me to write in another genre since the westerns had dipped so sharply in sales. He said no, that they were working on better distribution. I asked him the same questions over several years, and always got the same answer. So, I'm still writing western novels. And, it appears, these novels are finding few readers.

I am convinced that my long-ago suggestions that the publishers educate the wholesalers, distributors, booksellers, and the public, about the riches they were missing by neglecting the westerns. I even suggested that they stop calling these novels "Westerns," and, instead, call them "Americans," because they are truly American novels and deserve better standing among readers.

But, of course, no one did that, and publishers continue the habit of adorning these novels with covers that shriek "Western." And, book buyers continue to pass them by, leaving them to languish on the racks and be pushed off into the shredder as new titles come out.

I feel that the Western novel has little chance of reaching the general public, attracting female readers, or attaining mainstream, or even mid-list status unless the publishers take positive steps to educate all those concerned with distributing, selling and reading novels. The writers of the today's Westerns are fighting massive waves in hip-deep waters armed only with wooden swords. And, the waves are getting higher, attaining Tsunami status.

It's enough to drive some of us to the bug house, babbling to ourselves.

It's madness.

And, that's why I've been consigned to my own rubber room.

But, someday, mark my words, I'm going to escape and never darken the doors of those few Western readers left.

I'm mad as hell and not going to take it much longer.

Do you hear that sound?

It's me, gnashing my teeth. I've already fought the tidal waves of public opinion.

And, I have lost that battle.



Blogger Don said...

Dear Mr. Sherman,

Ironically, I was looking for your email address so I could ask you some advice on how to get started writing westerns. I am 42 and have been an amateur writer for years, frustratingly unable to get big projects going, and so sticking to short stuff, and a lot of poetry. But I've *always* wanted to write novels, and I remembered a friend of mine, a former newspaperman, who interviewed you years ago and told me about you. He said you were writing, also putting together series written by various people, etc. His account of you has been in my thoughts all these years. I was recently diagnosed ADD, that trendy "illness," but I must say that the medication I'm taking makes it a hell of a lot easier to concentrate, especially on writing; so I decided to sit up all night tonight, as I've got the day off tomorrow, and try to work out some ideas. I grew up on westerns, and then later on fantasy, s-f, etc., and only later on literature as such. Big Bukowski fan for a long time.

Anyway, I hope your remarks on the decline of the western reflect only a marketing cycle, and not some permanent thing. Because I have been thinking a lot about the West, and all the stories my grandparents and great-grandparents used to tell me. Now, living here in Eureka Springs, I am working as a cook and trying to figure out how to turn my writing into a living, or a partial living. Not to give up, in other words, though I've wanted this for a long time w/o progressing a whole lot. Anyway, your excellent website is pretty motivational, and I hope the weather down there is treating you right. Tough times along the Gulf Coast.

Don Lee
E.S., Ark.

8:17 PM  
Blogger J.S. said...

Don Lee, please e-mail me via the contact form on my website at:

I'll be in E.S. next month and want to
help point you in the right direction.

You didn't leave your e-mail address, but I appreciated your comment.

Look forward to hearing from you.

12:04 PM  

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