Let me introduce myself.
I was raised in Kane, Wyoming. I graduated from Brigham Young University and received a law degree from John Marshall Law School in Chicago. I began practicing in Ventura, California in 1976 and pursued a career in law for the next thirty-four years, after which my wife, Joy and I retired to Wyoming and began writing western novels. I am an associate member of Western Writers of America.
Why I write: Riding Rep
My old man identified himself once by saying, “I am a cowkid from the juniper breaks in Northern Wyoming.” Another time when pushed, he said he was a “river rat,” most likely identifying with the fact that he lived at the confluence of the Shoshone and Big Horn rivers. The fact is, he was whatever his mother and uncles were. To some degree I am whatever he was. They were, indeed, “river rats.” I suppose that, if I were to admit it, I am one also.
When I was growing up I lived near Kane, Wyoming on the homestead of Martha Pearl Howe and Frank Good. It was a mile from the post office, the section house for the Burlington Northern, and a small one room community center which housed an extension of the Big Horn County library on its east wall. I read every book on that wall and a number that weren’t. It was there I was introduced to such names as Louis L’Amour, Max Brand, Jack Shafer, Zane Grey, and Luke Short. I also read everything that Carolyn Keene wrote, but Nancy Drew wasn’t Link Hannon and I couldn’t stand The Hardy Boys. I did like Caroline Lockhart, but few people have ever heard of Me Smith, The Full Of The Moon, or The Fighting Shepherdess. Whatever I am, I am one of the few who have read her novels. I remember being caught in a cloudburst in the shadow of East Pryor Mountain and my Dad and I taking refuge in what used to be her blacksmith shop. To my knowledge I never met her, but I have seen where it was that she bedded down at nights, ate her breakfast in the mornings, and went for a Sunday stroll.
There is a significance in riding rep. Riding rep is an old cow country concept. In the fall of the year, each neighboring ranch would send a man to round-up. They’d be representing the brand for which they rode. Once the cattle were gathered, they were separated by brand: the end result being the Rep would bring home the cattle wearing his, or his employer’s, brand. This was important in a time of few fences or no fences. Cattle wearing different brands commingled easily and often. Thus, riding rep was important. Setting myself up to write pulp westerns is analogous to this old task, because there are few of us “writing” for this brand.
With the possible exception of Elmore Leonard, there are no western writers that are of the ilk of those I have named. (My opinion only. Note that there are undoubtedly better writers. John Steinbeck and Ernest Hemingway, to name two.) If there are western writers of this sort they are doing a hell of a job of hiding themselves. (Also, my opinion.) Most of these fellows are dead. Elmore Leonard retired from writing westerns, finding it much more lucrative to write about Miami mobsters and the trials of vacationing Detroit cops in Florida. The net result is there are no more Hondos, no more Sacketts, and no more Shanes. They are gone. They are done. And unfortunately, “That’s all she wrote.” I find that to be sad. So I decided to write Western Novels, the kind that I remember reading in the bunkhouse on a Saturday afternoon with the wind howling around the eaves. I loved them then and still do. Hopefully you will, too.
G. R. Howe