Not the typical saddle tramp

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By Amy Ryffel-Kragh

If people thought about it a bit, “everybody’s got a least one book in them,” said Charles “Chuck” G. West. But getting it published is a different story.

For West, the road to getting his first manuscript in print was not an easy one. In the early 1980s, the former print shop owner decided to start penning a medical science fiction book. “It’s so hard to get published,” he said.

It was not until more than a decade later and “hundreds of rejects” that The Tenant: A Novel of Medical Science Fiction was picked up by a small publishing house in Denver, Colorado.

When it was time for his next book, instead of writing another medical thriller, he opted to write a historical western fiction manuscript. “As a kid, I was really interested in the Big Sky Country,” he explained.

After struggling to get his initial book in print, he approached getting his first western published a little bit differently. West, who lives in Oak Run with his wife and pencil sketch artist, Ronda, went to a bookstore and looked through other author’s works in the western genre. Inside one of the oaters he found a likely publishing company. It was the Penguin Group.

With a manuscript ready to go, he called the company, got the name and phone number for the agent representing Penguin’s western writer. He called the agent and asked him if he was interested in reading his book. West sent him a copy of Stone Hand. “He loved it,” Ronda said, of the agent’s reaction to the book.

After reading through the Stone Hand manuscript the representative wanted to know how long it took West to write it. “Well, it took me four months to write that one,” he recalled. The agent wanted him to do another one in the same amount of time.

West jumped at the chance and signed a three-book deal with Penguin Group under its Signet label. “And, he’s been doing it ever since,” Ronda said.

Today, he has 25 published books to his credit including his recently released Lawless Prairie, his 24th historical western fiction book.

When starting a new book he might have a “vague” idea of what he wants to do and he starts to develop the character. Then “I follow the story,” he said. While cutting the literary trail he’ll bring in a new character and “follow it a little further. I almost always wind up in some place I did not think I was going to be,” he said.

West does research to insure the stories are “accurate” in time, date and place. It is also important to the writer that the story is “believable.” “They’re not your typical shoot em ups,” Ronda said. West added, “I don’t have two guys out in the middle of the street saying, ‘Draw partner.’”

The protagonists or lead character in his books are “not really heroes” like the typical cliché a reader might expect from a western. But, the characters might be called on to do heroic deeds throughout the story, he explained.

West has even been known to name some characters after actual people. For instance, he received a fan letter from a boy named Tanner Bland. He liked the child’s name so much he asked to borrow his name for a book. The boy’s name was later used as the main character in the book titled Tanner’s Law.

West’s next book is slated to be released this summer and another in the fall. Some of his past works include Range War in Whiskey Hill and Luke’s Gold. More than a decade later the prolific author is working on his third dozen published by the Penguin Group under the Signet label.

For more information, visit www.charlesgwest.com or call 694-8141.

E-mail staff writer Amy Ryffel-Kragh at akragh@riverlandnews.com.