I am branded a writer of New West Mysteries. In an earlier incarnation, I called myself a writer of Adventures in the New American West.
But exactly what is this “New West”?
Several best-selling authors working in the New West mystery genre—including Anne Hillerman—have spoken of this place both geographic and psychologic. I toss my cowgirl hat into the ring by first defining what it is NOT. That is a traditional Old West considered to exist in the United States west of the Mississippi between the mid-1800s through roughly 1900, give or take. Think pioneers, cowboys/girls, cattle drives. Think Native Americans, and those new to North America. Think range wars, water disputes, honor, courage and individualism. Most of all, think love for animals and the land.
Then bring such people, quirks, causes, critters and untrammeled lands into an updated geographic West which still contains pockets of the Old. An area that, by the way, includes Alaska, Pacific islands and other places that land-connected people are crazy for, will fight about, and traverse with reimagined Old West rigs such as boats, trains, and horses real or motorized. Not to mention new-fangled flying machines.
Be sure to bring your heroes, your gunfighters, spiritual leaders, peacemakers and homemakers, too. Big as the land, or small as the scorpion that changes – or ends – a life.
And there you have it. The New West. A little wild. A little old-fashioned. But a land of dreams, possibilities, do-overs. Whether set in a sky-wide desert or a mountain fastness, small town or glittering city, it resonates with places and people of a Western state of mind. They do not suffer new ways or newcomers easily. But they heartily embrace, and make their own, those who prove themselves worthy.