Dave P. Fisher                        
Author & Western Humorist

Double Diamond Books                      
  
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History

 

While some fiction genres have no particular basis in history, and accuracy to detail is not an issue, the Historical Western genre is not among those.  A Western novel may be a story with fictional characters, but it is based in an historical time period and attention to details is an important issue.  There is nothing more annoying to the Western reader than to try and read a story where the writer has no clue about the time period. The true Western fan is very much up on the history and details of the 19th Century westward movement and is quick to toss such a book. Unfortunately, there are a lot of those out there.


Fort Laramie, Wyoming


There was so much history created between the Mississippi and Pacific Ocean, from 1800 to 1900, it has to be told.  Every culture has always had its storytellers, not only to entertain with created stories, but to educate the listeners to what went before them.



A well written Historical Western, whether a novel or short story, not only takes the reader on an adventure, it also teaches them some history along the way.  This is a factor that made Louis L’Amour such a success in his writing career.  He did extensive research and traveled to the areas in his stories before he ever wrote a single word, and it shows in the authenticity and realism of each of his novels.

I am a storyteller of the 1800's American West, and in order to be a good storyteller I have to understand the world my stories are created from. To me it is vital, to not only thoroughly research the time period, but to actually travel the country where all this history was made.


Original Train Depot along the tracks of the original town

Dodge City, Kansas


 

My half-a-lifetime of being a working cowboy, horse packer, bronc buster, hunter, and guide, has given me the experience to relate to you, the reader, how a horse actually moves and behaves, or how a bronc feels when he bucks.  I can tell you how the wind sounds in the aspens, or how the high desert smells and feels.  What a .44 feels like when it’s fired, or the weight of it on my hip.  In my novel MACLEOD there is a scene where the cowhands are in the cookshack telling stories of incidents that happened to them in the business. The stories are believable because I drew from my own personal experiences, each one of those things happened to me at one time or another.


 I have walked the boardwalks of Virginia City, Nevada, and the railroad tracks of Dodge City, Kansas where the original infamous town actually stood. I have sat in the lobby of the St. James Hotel in Cimarron, New Mexico and examined the bullet holes put in the bar ceiling by Clay Allison. I have rounded up horses at Fort Laramie where Cavalry patrols once rode, and stood on the very ground the Great Conclave of 1851 took place. I have listened to the wind in the grass at the Little Big Horn, looked over the hills from the site of Fort Phil Kearny, and been to the Pipestone Quarry in Minnesota. I have ridden horses over hundreds of unfenced miles in Alaska and the Rocky Mountains, camped in the mountains, ate game meat over a fire, and slept in the snow and rain. Just like the people in my stories do. So, is this important? Absolutely, if one intends to be a believable storyteller.


Schwenk's infamous saloon and gambling hall

Cimarron, New Mexico


 

In addition to this, I am constantly researching the time period, studying old maps of the areas, and sorting through the tales and mistruths, to find the history that actually took place. The geography, towns, architecture, equipment, tools, and language are accurate. For instance, when a particular gun is mentioned, it is a real firearm used in the time period of the story.


Last Stand Hill - Little Bighorn battlefield

                                                                              Montana


Some may ask, why is this important?  Why not just make up a story, no one knows the difference or cares anyway. Not true - I care. Because YOU care. Because history is filled with half truths and flat out lies. Early Hollywood was instrumental in making the Old West look unrealistic, which added fuel to those who laid claim to the theory of the “western myth.”  In recent years the film industry has produced some Westerns that are very good. Open Range, the remake of True Grit, and the Magnificent 7 TV series from the 90's are good examples of the realism put into today's Western films.

The history of the West is very real, and the reader deserves to get an accurate picture.  A good storyteller cuts through the false ideas and relates a realistic story, and leaves the listener or reader with some nuggets of truth and a sense of satisfaction that they have been entertained, maybe educated, but not insulted. 
The Old West was real, it was not a myth.

Thanks for coming by the Double Diamond and letting me tell you about it.

                                                                                                                                               Dave

                                                                                                                 



         
           Dave horseback           
Chinese Wall, Bob Marshall, Montana

 

  

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