Today is Wild West Monday over the blogosphere. For a complete rundown on what it all means, head on over to the Tainted Archive. In short, you should do this: go to your local bookstore and, if a western section isn't there, ask why. If a western section is there, buy one.
Living here in Houston means that at least one brick-and-mortar giant (B&N) does have a western section. I'm pretty sure Borders does, too. Yes, the section is small. Yes, it stocks the big names: L'amour, Leonard, Compten, Johnston. But it is there.
To date, I've only read two westerns: Mascarada Pass by William Colt MacDonald and Guns Along the Brazos by Day Keene (of crime fiction fame). I'm reading a second MacDonald for this week's Forgotten Books Project. And, lo and behold, I wrote my first western short story. It'll be available later this spring at the increasingly excellent webzine Beat to a Pulp. BTW, this week's story is a western by Chap O'Keefe, one of the famous names from the Black Horse Western line.
Depending on where you are in Texas, The West is either nearer or farther away. Here in Houston and elsewhere in East Texas, geography tends to dictate that we're more southern than western. Out in Ft. Worth, you are definitely in The West. Same for almost any town west of I-35.
As a Texan, western stories are just part of life. My grandfather devoured them. I was never really interested in them, to be honest. I preferred the Hardy Boys or Batman or Star Wars any day of the week. But lately, I've discovered a fondness for them. I inherited my grandfather's non-L'amour westerns and I'm going to work my way through them over the years. And I'll be trying my hand and writing a western later this year. Turns out the story I wrote for Beat to a Pulp might actually be a chapter one of a novel...or the start of a series character. Don't know. Looking forward to finding out.
All this is to say, westerns are an important part of American literature and shouldn't be dismissed or discarded. I don't think they will be but, as technology and the City encroaches outward, The West will shrink. It'll always be there: we may just have to search a little harder or go a littler farther to find it.
Or, you can read a western. So get on it, pard'ner.
*Today is Texas Independence Day. What better day for Wild West Monday?