Fascinating series by Tom Dupree (an editor at Bantam Books in New York) on the work of a senior editor at a market-leading publishing imprint: I’ve never seen anything so good on this aspect of the book business—the business end of the writing trade—really well written and full of amazing info (it’s incredible how on-the-fly really big decisions are made in these organizations). Even though, for the most part, Mr Dupree is writing about being an editor in what were (and still are) regarded as genre areas—Westerns and Science Fiction—book-making is book-making and it is all (to me) fabulously fascinating; even more so because you [the reader] learn about things you would not otherwise learn—for example, nuggets from the frontier about the way Westerns evolved from John Wayne type vehicles to the Dances with Wolves or Unforgiven kinds of stories. There are five parts to this series (part 5 is featured in WordPress’ ‘Freshly Pressed’ [featured blogs] at the moment, which is how I came upon them), and they are worth digging out (links to the other parts in the series may be found at the end of each instalment).
The day Lou Aronica offered me a job editing Westerns, one of my protests was, “I’ve never read a Western novel.” He’d swatted away the others, but now he said, “That’s something you’d have to fix right away.” Cowboys I knew, just like any other Fifties/Sixties kid: we were too young to remember radio drama, but Westerns were all over movies and tv. In 1959, the genre’s peak year, there were 26 Western series on television every week, including the longtime #1 program, GUNSMOKE, and I was right there watching. But my boyhood taste in reading tipped more toward science fiction and fantasy, and now those shows are all gone, every single one. The only recent Western tv series I can think of is Joss Whedon’s FIREFLY, and that one’s set in outer space!
Western literature went through similar cycles of popularity. Ned Buntline’s silly “dime novels” notwithstanding…
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