I spent the past week at the Western Writers of America Convention in Las Vegas, hanging out with writers. During the convention we had panels about cowboys and gamblers, we had panels about the business of writing, and we recognized the writers of the best books about the West during 2012 in presentation of the Spur Awards.
The fun thing about the convention each year is the opportunity to meet new writers, or get to know them better, often because they have been recognized in the Spur Awards.
Rachelle “Rocky” Gibbons, has been attending the conventions for several years and I knew she wrote children’s books, but when she was recognized as a finalist in the Storyteller category, I actually had a chance to see the book.
Big Buckaroo & Moose the Cow dog as Quackgrass Sally wrote in a review of the book is a classic “come to the rescue” Western adventure, inspired by a real cowboy, his horse and a little Pomeranian dog. Here friendship and fierce determination save the day … cowboy style! Colorfully animated illustrations fill each page, bringing the story to life and creating a fun read for children of all ages.
This may be Rocky’s first Spur recognition but it is not her first book as she’s also written Buckaroo’s Little Sister. These are fun titles to share with the little guys in your life.
Brett Cogburn is another of those writers I have known for a while. This year he won a Spur for his first novel, Panhandle. Set in the Texas Panhandle during the early 1880s. It is the tale of two big outfit cowboys, Nate “Tennessee” Rawlins and Billy Champion, as they experience the last days of open range.
Brett, an English lit major in college, worked on ranches, but now has a job in the oil and gas industry. Fortunately for readers who like a well-told story of the American West, he has time to write. And might I say he knows how to wrangle words into line, maybe as well as he once wrangled cattle into line.
Panhandle begins on the Reynolds Ranch, in Higgins, Texas in 1936: “I’m just old whether I like it or not, but my story is that of a young man in his prime, wild and hard to handle, and yet to learn that life charges a price for every pleasure. I still don’t claim to be much wiser than I ever was, but I do know one thing for sure. Two cowboys getting hold of a racehorse is like giving matches to children. Throw a pretty woman into the mix, and somebody’s bound to get burned. Looking back down the long years, that isn’t exactly how it was. The horse was just an excuse for adventure, and the woman, well, she had everything to do with our trouble.”
There’s a line or two in that opening that reminds me of ‘Ol Max Evans. Maybe that is because Brett Cogburn knows his subject — the West and the cowboy — and he knows how to tell a fine story.
Perhaps a bit of his storytelling comes naturally for Brett Cogburn is the great-grandson of Rooster Cogburn, the man who was the inspiration for True Grit. Brett’s first book was a nonfiction biography of his ancestor, appropriately titled “Rooster.” This man stood up to Judge Isaac Parker’s U.S. Deputy Marshals. He was a loyal family man who refused to surrender, even when he had a price on his head. The biography of Rooster is filled with new Indian Territory research, never before seen photographs, and is the true story of the man behind one of the most iconic Western characters ever created in print or film.
For his next Book, Brett returns to Texas and to fiction. Watch for The Texans, coming this fall. ❖