Western Mysteries

When Words Collide/Western Mysteries Author List

When Words Collide is a genre writing convention, held each August in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. For more information on next year’s convention, visit http://www.whenwordscollide.org/index.php.

One of the panel at the 2013 convention was on the fusion of westerns and mysteries. Here is a follow-up list of western-theme books for your reading pleasure.

Click here for a downloadable .pdf of this information.

Looking for other western-mystery novels?

For those of you who like to surf, the search term “western mysteries” will likely get you a large number of results related to Aleister Crowley and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, which are fine topics themselves, but not what you’re looking for. I recommend the search term “western mystery novels” to find books that are both westerns and mysteries.

Web sites

January Magazine http://januarymagazine.com/features/westernmyst.html

Bill Crider’s essay on western mysteries, information from which is summarized in parts of this bibliography.

Old West Novels http://www.historicalnovels.info/Old-West-Novels.html

Has a huge list of western-themed novels. If you’re interested specifically in western mystery novels, scroll down to or click on Western Mysteries.


All authors are listed alphabetically by first name in each category.

Author (protagonist) — short blurb

The Western Goes Northern

In the lexicon of Hollywood western, there was a sub-category called the Northern, which involved taking the standard western plot and moving it to the mountains of Saskatchewan. I kid you not. The narrator in Saskatchewan (1954), assures us this movie was filmed in Saskatchewan, “close to the place where the real events happened.” Looks like Banff to me.

Fortunately, our talented Canadian writers have a better sense of Canadian geography and history.

  • Alison Bruce (Marley) — a woman joins a Texas Ranger to bring a con man to justice. Mystery/romance. Under a Texas Star. (2011)
  • D. M. McGowan (various protagonists, various stand alones) — Partners and Homesteader: Finding Sharon.
  • Dave Hugelschaffer (forest fire investigator Porter Cassel) — forest fires and the crimes they conceal. First in the series Day into Night (2006).
  • Gary Ryan (Calgary detectives Lane and Harper) — Stories are set in modern-day Calgary. First book in the series Queen’s Park. Third in the series A Hummingbird Dance (2008) deals with the disappearance of a First Nations man.
  • Jacqueline Guest (Belle and Sara) — young adult series in which two Metis girls caught up in the Riel Rebellion. First in the series Belle of Batoche (2004).
  • Sharon Rowse (John Lansdowne Granville) — Murder and mayhem in Victorian British Columbia. First book in the series The Silk Train Murder (2007).
  • Stephen Legault (Constable Durrant Wallace) — a different side to the Mountie legend. First in the series is The End of the Line (2011).
  • Richard A. Thompson (Charlie Krueger) — During the wheat harvest of 1919, a serial killer preys on the  itinerant thrashing crews across the Great Plains. Big Wheat (2011)
  • Thomas King (Thumps Dreadful Water) — An Cherokee ex-cop becomes embroiled in murder and dishonest business dealings at a resort and casino. Written under the pen-name of Hartley GoodWeather. First book in the series is Dreadful Water Shows Up (2002).
  • Vicki Delany (Fiona MacGillivray) — a woman and her young son flee Toronto for the Klondike Gold Rush. First book in the series Gold Digger (2009).

They were Here First

There are a huge number of mystery series that feature First Nations locations and issues. The ones I’m more familiar with are written by non-First Nations writers, many of whom live in the southwest and have long-term ties to aboriginal communities.

  • Aimée and David Thurlo (multiple series and multiple protagonists) — One is Ella Clah, a highly trained FBI investigator, who returns home to investigate her father’s death in Blackening Song (2001). Their other three series feature protagonists who are a Navaho vampire, a missionary sister, and an apprentice medicine woman.
  • Dana Stabenow (Kate Shugak, an Aleut living in a fictional Alaskan national park) — First in the series A Cold Day for Murder (1992).
  • James D. Doss (Ute policeman Charlie Moon) — Utes of southern Colorado. Debut novel was The Shaman Sings (1994) in which Moon was a minor character, and then moved up to be his main character.
  • Mardi Oakley Medawar (Tay-Bodal, a Kiowa healer in 1866) — First in the series Death at Rainy Mountain (1996)
  • Margaret Coel (Catholic priest John O’Malley and native lawyer Vicky Holden) — Wyoming’s Wild River Arapaho Reservation. First book in the series is The Eagle Catcher (1995).
  • Sandi Ault (Jamica Wild) — a resource-protection agent for the Bureau of Land Management, working with the Pueblo peoples in New Mexico. First book is Wild Penance (2008).
  • Stan Jones (Nathan Active, Alaska State Trooper) — Inupiat are an indigenous people living in northwestern Alaska, where they live off fish and whales in a lifestyle similar to that of their ancient ancestors. First book in the series White Sky, Black Ice. (2003)
  • Tony Hillerman (Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee of the Navajo tribal police) — set in the Four Corners area of New Mexico and Arizona. First in the series The Blessing Way (1970).
  • William Kent Krueger (Cork O’Connor, part Ojibwe and part Irish, he doesn’t fit in anywhere) — Minnesota's Ojibwe people, also known as the Chippewa. First in the series Iron Lake (1999).

And So Were They

Beginning in the early 1990s  there was a surge of Chicano/Chicana mystery writers, writing in both Spanish and English. Since these authors may not be as familiar to some readers, I've included web sites for them.

Writers of the Purple Sage (actually Western sages of all colors)

  • Ann Parker (Inez Stannert) http://www.annparker.net/ An abandoned wife attempts to survive by running a saloon in a Colorado silver mining town in the 1880s. First in the series is Silver Lies (2003).
  • C. F. Button (multiple protagonists and settings) http://www.snakeweedpress.com/index.html
  • Cow Cookies (Tom Krueger) (2004) a biologist for the Bureau of Land Management goes after someonen who’s killing livestock and environmentalists.
  • C. J. Box (Joe Pickett and Cody Hoyt) http://www.cjbox.net/ Wyoming game warden, family man, and human being who sometimes gets things wrong. Violence notice: some of the killings are gruesome. The series began with Open Season. (2002)
  • Caroline Lawrence (young adult - P.K. Pinkerton) http://www.westernmysteries.com/ A twelve-year old P.I. in Nevada solves mysteries. First in the series The Case of the Deadly Desperados (2013).
  • Craig Johnson (Walt Longmire and Henry Standing Bear) http://www.craigallenjohnson.com/ A Wyoming sheriff must contend with personal issues, crime, public relations, and the wilderness. Some paranormal elements. First in the series is A Cold Dish (2006).
  • Erika Mailman (Nora Simms) http://erikamailman.com/ A woman comes to San Francisco to make her living any way she can. Then fellow “women of ill fame" began dying. Woman of Ill Fame (2007)
  • George Wilhite http://www.amazon.com/Texas-Rodeo-Murder-George-Wilhite/dp/1571687793 This one is a little confusing. I found an author George Wilhite, but he seems to specialize in horror stories. I’ve included a link to the Texas Rodeo Murder (2003), which is definitely a western.
  • J. A. Jance (Joanna Brady and The Walker Family: two series) http://www.jajance.com/jajance.com/welcome.html First in the Joanna Brady series: Desert Heat (1993) - woman sheriff in Arizona. First in the Walker Family series: Hour of the Hunter (1990) - murder on a Papago (Tohono O’Odham) reserve
  • J. P. S. Brown (multiple protagonists and settings, all are westerns, but not all are mysteries) http://www.jps-brown.com/Index.html Wolves at Our Door (2009) — old values clashing with new along the U. S./Mexican border
  • John Duncklee (some young adult — multiple protagonists and settings, all are westerns, but not all are mysteries) http://www.johnduncklee.com/main_index.php Double Vengeance (Joe Holly) — a detective goes undercover with the U. S. Cavalry to find out whose robbing Army payrolls
  • Johnny D. Boggs (multiple protagonists and settings) http://www.johnnydboggs.com/Books.html
  • Kae Follis Cheatham (multiple protagonists and settings; some young adult) http://www.kaios.com/books.htm
  • Laura Crum (Gail McCarthy) http://www.lauracrum.com/Laura%20Crum/laura_crum_western_horse_mystery_writer.html A western horse vet solves murders. First in the series is Cutter.
  • Mark Stevens (hunting guide Allison Coll) http://www.writermarkstevens.com/index.shtml A Colorado hunting guide finds more is dying in the wilderness than big game. First in the series is Antler Dust (2007).
  • Michael McGarrity (Kevin Kearney) http://www.michaelmcgarrity.com/ A former Sante Fe, New Mexico police officer uncovers crime and corruption in rural New Mexico. First in the series is Tularosa (1996).
  • Rosalie More (various protagonists) http://www.rosaliemore.com/Index.html Western/mystery/romance
  • Shirley Tallman (Sarah Woolson) http://www.shirleytallman.com/ One of the first women attorneys in California (1880s) contends not only with prejudice, but solves crimes that befuddle the men. First in the series is Murder on Nob Hill (2004).
  • Steve Hockensmith (Old Red and Big Red) http://www.stevehockensmith.com/steves-books.html#mysterybooks A pair of cowboys who love Sherlock Holmes stories try their own detecting skills. The first in the series is Holmes on the Range (2006).
  • Steven F. Havill (two series of police procedurals set in the fictional Posadas County, New Mexico) Author does not appear to have his own web site. Here is his Poison Pen Press author’s page. http://www.poisonedpenpress.com/steven-havill/
  • Stan Lynde (Merlin Fanshaw, alias The Bodacious Kid) http://stanlynde.net/ Adventure, romance and greed in 1882 Montana territory. First in the series is The Bodacious Kid.
  • Vickie Britton and Loretta Jackson (multiple protagonists and settings) https://sites.google.com/site/vickiebrittonandlorettajackson/home

Western Writers Plus

You know these authors for other kinds of books, but they also write western mysteries. Thanks to Bill Crider for a wonderful essay and list collection that provided most of this information. For his full essay see the link on page 1.

  • Alistair MacLean, Breakheart Pass (1974), Known primarily for his thrillers, he transfers his complex plots and competent heros to the west.
  • Bill Crider, who writes mostly modern-day Texas stories, also wrote A Time for Hanging (1989), a mystery set in the 1890s.
  • Bill Pronzini, Quincannon (1985), Former secret-service agent/now PI plys his trade in 1890s San Francisco.
  • Bob Randisi. Western mystery series, the Gunsmith. Other western mysteries are The Ham Reporter (1986) and Miracle of the Jacal (2001).
  • Clifton Adams. It seems like Tall Cameron just has to keep killing people, but the way he sees it, it's never his fault. He's just a sweet, misunderstood cold-blooded killer. The Desperado (1950).
  • Davis Dresser, The Hangmen of Sleepy Valley (1940), amateur sleuths solve the murder of a man who was lynched.
  • Donald Hamilton, who wrote Matt Helm spy novels, also wrote westerns, many of which were made into films. Try Smoky Valley (1954) or The Big Country (1957)
  • Ed Gorman, Relentless (2003). A marshall battles a powerful family and his own family to find a killer.
  • Elmore Leonard. The Bounty Hunters (1953); Hombre (1961); or Valdez is Coming (1970), each different, each with something to offer.
  • Harry Whittington, Valley of Savage Men (1965), search for a brother’s killer
  • James Lee Burke, Two for Texas (1982), set during the 1836 Texas Revolution. Also try Feast’s Day of Fools for a more modern western mystery.
  • L. J. Washburn's books about Lucas Hallam, a former Texas Ranger who works as a stuntman in the early days of Hollywood, are historical mysteries that were published before such books became popular. Dog Heavies (1990) is a good place to start.
  • Loren Estleman, writes about Deputy U.S. Marshal Page Murdock in The Stranglers (1986). Other western-mysteries are The Master Executioner (2001) and Port Hazard (2004).
  • James Reasoner’s first book was a western private-eye novel, Texas Wind (1981). He also has a western mystery series featuring Big Earl Stark: Stark's Justice (1994) and The Diablo Grant (1995).
  • Joe Lansdale (writing as Ray Slater), Texas Night Riders (1983). And if you are ready for something wild and fantastical, try Zeppelins West (2001).
  • Robert B. Parker, Gunman's Rhapsody (2001), Wyatt Earp's Tombstone days, or if you like to stick with Spenser, try Potshot (2001), a modern Western with Spenser and his compadres cleaning up a western town.
  • Sharan Newman. The author writes mostly medieval novels, but did take one trip to the old west. In 1868 Portland, Oregon, Emily Stratton, a new widow, discovers that her husband had been involved in unsavory activities. The Shanghai Tunnel (2008).
  • Steven Saylor, better known for his Roman mysteries, also wrote A Twist at the End: A Novel of O. Henry (2001), based on an actual 1885 case of serial murders of servant girls in Austin, Texas.
  • Theresa Meyers. Think Bonanza meets Steampunk. Three brothers are old-west bounty-hunters, but their quarry are vampires, werewolves, and other paranormal creatures. The Hunter (2011), The Slayer (2012), The Chosen (2013)