Thursday, September 16, 2004

Clay Burnham, Please Come Home!

Cap’n Bob cruised down from Tacoma yesterday with a another boatload of books to sell at Powell’s. This time he had a stack of boxes about as tall as he is, and garnered dirty looks from other wannabe booksellers as he monopolized the bookbuying clerk for what seemed an age. Bob’s cast-offs will soon be available for exorbitant prices at

BUT, while this was going on, in strolled soon-to-be-famous Western writer Clay Burnham. We, of course, spotted him right off, despite the fact he was in disguise. Clay, you see, is a man of two countries, with an identity for each. In England, he’s a hardbitten, roughriding owlhoot who no doubt resembles John Wayne in Stagecoach. Meanwhile, back here in the States, he poses as Steve Kaye, a mild-mannered suburbanite with a taste for snap-brim hats.

Clay/Steve attempted to explain this strange state of affairs, but I must admit I’m still having a hard time getting my brain around it. The two Western novels pictured above were published in England under the Black Horse Books imprint, an offshoot of Robert Hale of London. Black Horse, we are told, publishes solely for the British library system, where patrons must pay to check out books. Sounds distinctly UnAmerican to me.

What right do these Brits have to co-opt our homegrown Western writers and hog them all to themselves? I mean, Jeez, I enjoy lots of British authors, like George MacDonald Fraser and John Mortimer and Jonathan Gash and so on and so on, but I’m pretty sure their books are also available to folks back in their home country. As of now, the only place outside a British library where you can get your hands on a Clay Burham book is from Amazon UK (

Here’s hoping we soon have an end to this sad state affairs, and are able to find Clay’s books at bookstores, supermarkets and 7-11s everywhere.

More about Clay at


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