Now-a-days I go to comic book stores and there are no westerns. Times change, and while it would be fun to re-read some of things I read as a child, I can't find them anywhere. If I could I think they would still be out of my price range.
Because I have been complaining about this every time my daughter brings home a recent comic, or graphic novel, she bought me a book published in 1906 called Whispering Smith, by Frank Spearman. The illustrations are by NC Wyeth. I remember Whispering Smith, much as I remember many of the early TV westerns, but had to look him up. There was a movie and a TV series. I would not have seen the movie, but I am sure I saw one or two of the TV shows. Nether owed much to the book except for the name of the character.
Frank Spearman was a banker who wrote in his spare time. He published 19 works. Whispering Smith, at least the one in the book, is a railroad detective.
I am enjoying the book but as a writer several thing pop out at me:
The book is mostly telling not showing, as though the narrator was sitting on the rocks outside town writing down everything he sees. Descriptions abound, dialogue is sparse.
There is very little that sets it in time. It is about building and maintaining a railroad in the Rockies. The only indication that this is not set in 1875 is that they have telephones. My own Emily had a telephone put into her boarding house in 1894.
The book is well written and clearly meant to be read by educated people, or to help educate those who read it. Words like 'compelled', and 'stormy interview' abound, and give a depth to the story that would be lost if he had used 'forced' and 'argument'.
I get the feeling that these books were written in a single go. He sat down and wrote it from beginning to end and then sent it to the publisher. This can't possibly be true. I can't think of a single write who does that, though I hear that there are some.
The original cost of the book was $1.50, standard for books in the late 1800 and early 1900s. At some point it was sold used for $10 and marked in pencil "first edition." My daughter paid $5 for it.
When I finish it this book will find a place on my valuable books shelf. Not for its monetary value, but because I love it.