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Wordslingers: An Epitaph for the Western Paperback – June 15, 2013


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 470 pages
  • Publisher: Altus Press (June 15, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1618270850
  • ISBN-13: 978-1618270856
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,750,987 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Joseph Wrzos on July 6, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I've always loved a good Western. Whether in the
now outmoded pulp magazines I read as a kid, or
the Old-Time radio shows (like GUNSMOKE or
THE LONE RANGER) we all listened to so
avidly back then, and, of course, wolfing down
loads of buttery popcorn, while watching Gary
Cooper's HIGH NOON on the silver screen, or
TV repeats of same, along with exciting new
shows like CHEYENNE and RAWHIDE. And
I've always wondered, especially of late, why
and whence this once highly popular genre
(in all the media) somehow quietly managed
to end us this side of Boot Hill.

Now, thanks to Will Murray's ambitious
and deftly documented WORDSLINGERS (what
a terrific title that is!), subtitled "An Epitaph
for the Western," at last we have some answers!
Thanks to lots of extensive reading, diligent
research, and canny culling of first sources -- not
only in the pulp Western magazines themselves,
but in collateral memoirs, letters, and articles
written by the original pulpsters, their editors
and agents themselves -- we have pertinent
and reliable data to work with.

Murray shows how, after the emergence of the
Western story in early novels like James Fenimore
Cooper's THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS (featuring
Natty Bumppo) and in more literary treatments
by luminaries like Bret Harte, Mark Twain, and
Stephen Crane, genre quality dipped noticeably
with the wildly popular, but meretricious, cheaply
printed Dime Novels (such as BUFFALO BILL,
DIAMOND DICK, THE JAMES BOYS, and the like),
which proliferated at the turn of the century.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Evan Lewis on August 14, 2013
Format: Paperback
Will Murray's new book from Altus Press is not technically a history of the Western pulp magazine. Though WORDSLINGERS contains enough info for someone to assemble a traditional history, it's much more than that. Actually, it might be a whole new breed of book. I'm not sure there's ever been anything like it before.

Mr. Murray spent years searching the pages of WRITERS DIGEST and similar magazines for letters and articles that tell the story--as it was happening--in the words of the writers and editors who made the pulp westerns happen, then put it all into historical context.

The result is a narrative taking us from the birth of the Western pulp in 1906 to the field's last gasp in 1960. In between are snippets from hundreds of articles, chronicling the growth and development of the genre and the numerous rises and falls of the market.

In his Introduction, the author describes it thusly: "What follows is a species of oral history, employing found quotes, developed so that the author recedes into the role of omniscient organizer, sometimes disappearing altogether, in order to allow the participants of the past to spin the sage of their literary labors."

That sounds a bit too modest to me. Mr. Murray has obviously devoted an incredible amount of time and effort to this book, and much of his own personality is evident on its pages.

What emerges in the course of the book's 453 pages is the rarely-mentioned truth that the Western pulps were largely responsible for creating the mythic West we still hold dear. The early Western pulps, taking a cue from the dime novels, focused almost exclusively on gunfighters, sheriffs, outlaws and shootouts.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By James Reasoner on July 6, 2013
Format: Paperback
Will Murray's WORDSLINGERS is not only the first in-depth history of the Western pulps, it's one of the best and most important books on the pulps ever written, perfectly capturing the era, the magazines, and the writers, editors, and agents who helped fill their pages. Pulp fans will be fascinated by the rich background provided by hundreds of quotes from the people involved in producing the Western pulps, while writers will benefit from the discussions of characterization and storytelling that prove to be both universal and timeless. WORDSLINGERS is a must-read for anyone interested in the pulps or in Western fiction, and it's one of the best books I've read in a long, long time.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Patti Boeckman on October 17, 2013
Format: Paperback
I totally agree with all the reviews above and want to add a personal insight.

As the wife of a western and suspense pulp writer, I can attest that Will Murray has captured the authentic heart of the western pulps, their ups and downs, the viewpoints of their writers and editors, the scramble and failure to keep the genre alive after the advent of TV, the failure of some writers to adapt their writing to other markets, such as books, the success of other writers whose flexibility took their career into other genres, etc. However, even my husband knew nothing of the detailed, inside accounts in this book about the editorial headaches that the publications faced over the course of their existence.

My husband is the only western pulpster from those days who is still writing (maybe the last one still living) and has told me so many stories about those days, starting in 1945 when he sold his first story.

Those stories he has told me match perfectly with the last section of the book, which covers the time frame when my husband made his living from writing pulps.

This is a fascinating, impeccably- researched book. Will Murray's narrative technique is extremely engaging, and his attention to detail is amazing. I've never read a book like this one. It's in a class all by itself.

Whether you've ever or never read a pulp story, you will find this a fascinating read. It should be in every public and school library in the country. It gives you an insider's look at a part of Americana as lived by those who wrote about the old west and about the audience who devoured western pulp stories. The historical and literary importance of this book cannot be stressed enough.

We owe a debt of gratitude to Will Murray for undertaking such a laborious project in order to provide us with this enlightening masterpiece.
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