Are Westerns classed as historical?

Discussion in 'Historical Fiction' started by biodroid, Jul 4, 2011.

  1. biodroid

    biodroid Expensive Gadget User

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    I have always wanted to read a Western novel, I like the movies and my favourites being 3:10 to Yuma and True Grit (2010). Can we class westerns as historical? Any recommendations?
     
  2. paranoid marvin

    paranoid marvin Run VT Erroll!

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    Westerns have their own genre. They are set in the past, but that doesn't necessarily make them historical.
     
  3. dask

    dask dark and stormy knight

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    But like anything else they can be, such as I, TOM HORN by Will Henry and RED SABBATH by Lewis B. Patten. But as a general rule you're probably correct.
     
  4. alchemist

    alchemist Be pure. Be vigilant. Beware.

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    Goldarnit! Double post on my phone.
    To the below I'll add that they're very popular with gentlemen of a certain age. Any library I've been to is full of them, so I'd suggest that for a risk-free trial.
     
  5. alchemist

    alchemist Be pure. Be vigilant. Beware.

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    The only one I've read is Conagher by Louis L'Amour (for research purposes, as I have a lot of desert in my WIP). It's said he's the master, but found it extremely cliched ( a drifter, a man's man who's uncomfortable around women, especially those who are a mite pretty). Maybe that's more a function of how old the book is; it's probaly consistent with the Western movies of the time.
     
  6. Connavar

    Connavar Well-Known Member

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    Technically of course Westerns are historical fictions. People today writing about 1800s is historical fiction. Its just american western stories are big enough to be their own genre.

    I have read many westerns and often like they are like historical adventures. The serious western are more like the serious historical fiction about other time periods.

    Western doesnt have to be action,adventure story like the films, there are different kinds.
     
  7. paranoid marvin

    paranoid marvin Run VT Erroll!

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    What constitutes a 'Western' though? American Civil War novels written in the same period are classed as historical fiction.
     
  8. pyan

    pyan Great Old One Staff Member

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    If it is set in the past, it's historical fiction, if it's in the present it's contemporary fiction, and if it's in the future it's either science fiction or speculative fiction.

    Having said that, there are examples of the Western genre that are set in the future - Arthur C. Clarke's Deep Range, and the TV show Firefly spring to mind, not to mention Westworld, the film...
     
  9. Connavar

    Connavar Well-Known Member

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    Yeah thats why i dont understand people that say westerns are not historical fictions. Its in the past no matter its famous subgenre on its.

    SF westerns is one of those many bastard/hybrid genres. Like my fav type SF hybrid is SF/ hardboiled Crime ala Richard Morgan and co.

    These days you see more hybrids on the shelfs when you go to SFF shelves. fantasy,sf,horror,historical,crime mixes.
     
  10. Teresa Edgerton

    Teresa Edgerton Goblin Princess Staff Member

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    Probably because they don't take place in the American West. That would be my guess. No trappings of the American West = not a Western.

    I'd call them a sub-genre of the Historical Novel. One that once had a considerable hey-day and still has a following, but a sub-genre nevertheless.

    And not only gentleman of a certain age enjoy them. My mother was always a fan of Zane Grey. When she lived with us near the end of her life, right up to the time when she was so sick that she no longer enjoyed reading, I used to go to the library and come back with an armful of her old favorites for her to reread. I don't know about any of the other writers of Westerns, but Zane Grey frequently (or perhaps always -- I haven't read enough to know) included a love story in the plot.
     
  11. biodroid

    biodroid Expensive Gadget User

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    Not that I have ever read one, but I don't think they could be cliched, we mustn't forget Louis LAmour has been doing since way before some of our parents were born so I assume it's because stories were still being developed along the years into more complex ones. I also assume there is only so much you can do with a western story as you can do with a detective story maybe? I stand corrected.
     
  12. Dave

    Dave Wherever I Am, I'm There Staff Member

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    Hmm... You started me thinking, has anyone ever written a Detective Western hybrid?

    Or, does anything with a Bounty Hunter in it automatically fit that bill? There is certainly a mystery to be solved in A Few Dollars More.

    What about a Fantasy Western hybrid? The Wild, Wild West would fit that (TV series, not the awful film.)

    And I expect that Brokeback Mountainis a Romantic Western?
     
  13. Connavar

    Connavar Well-Known Member

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    There are weird westerns inspired by Leone/Eastwood films. I hope there is Detective Westerns out there.

    Fantasy western i have read. Shannow series by Gemmell. A very Clint Eastwood hero like in post apocalyptic SF setting and heroic fantasy story,magic elements.

    So there is even Science Fantasy Western series thanks to Gemmell.
     
  14. dask

    dask dark and stormy knight

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    What was the mystery (other than who was going to draw first)?

    I suppose the main difference between western and historical is the mood the publisher is in when he's preparing to send the manuscript to the printer.
     
  15. pyan

    pyan Great Old One Staff Member

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    I've always considered that Stephen King's mighty The Dark Tower to be basically a Western - perhaps not in the details, but certainly in the overall feel of the series. Gods, the first part's even got a Western title - The Gunslinger...
     
  16. Teresa Edgerton

    Teresa Edgerton Goblin Princess Staff Member

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    Over the years, there have been quite a few. Just recently, I've read three. One by M. K. Hobson that starts in California but ends up on the East Coast, one by Cherie Priest (another one by her that starts out with a nurse in the Civil War, but gradually moves West as she travels to Seattle to meet her dying father, and incidentally meet up with the main character from the other book, so the sequel will undoubtedly end up being set in the West). Another by Patricia C. Wrede, to which I know there is about to be, or already, a sequel. It seems to be a rising sub-genre.
     
  17. Dave

    Dave Wherever I Am, I'm There Staff Member

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    The identity of the woman in the pocket watch and that Mortimer has a personal interest in capturing El Indio rather than just a monetary interest.
     
  18. paranoid marvin

    paranoid marvin Run VT Erroll!

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    King's Tower is many things, and in more than one part definately Western.

    Just my opinion , but I could never categrise a Western as 'Historical' in the same way that I would not class 'Catch 22' , The Keep' 'Wise Children' as such. They may all have been set in the past , but that doesn't make them historical.
     
  19. D_Davis

    D_Davis Well-Known Member

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    I highly, highly recommend Gone to Texas, the book on which the film The Outlaw Josey Wales was based. It is fantastic.

    And if you're in the mood for a weird western, might I recommend (again) The Merkabah Rider saga. It is a western-fantasy mixed with Jewish and Hebrew folklore and the Cthulhu mythos. It's basically the coolest thing ever made. :)
     
  20. The Ace

    The Ace Scottish Roman.

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    Don't blame me, I voted, "Yes."
    Historical fiction writers try to get their facts straight, often using a fictional character to allow the reader to experience actual events.

    Westerns rely on an idealised picture as a framework to adventure stories and their historical content is minimal.

    Cowboys - Hardworking cattlemen or brutal thugs.

    Gunfight at the OK Corral - One bunch of thugs (one of whom just happened to be a US Marshall) blew away another bunch of thugs working for a man who wouldn't've been out of place in the Chicago mob.

    Indians - People (not faceless fiends in human form nor repositories of ancient wisdom, just people trying to survive).

    US Cavalry - Uniformed sadists led by drunkards. While ordered by Washington to control the Indian issue, theft, rape and murder were seen as normal behaviour at all levels.

    In short, Westerns have a similar historical content to the Hollywood blockbusters showing the US winning WW2.
     
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