Western fiction is set in the American Old West frontier and typically ranges from the late eighteenth to the late nineteenth century. The genre peaked around the early 1960s, largely due to the popularity of televised Westerns. Readership began to drop off in the mid- to late 1970’s and has reached a new low in the 2000’s.
In pre-1850’s the predecessor of the western in American literature emerged early with tales of the frontier. In the 1850’s–1900’s the Western became a specialized genre starting with “penny dreadfuls” and later “dime novels”. In the 1900’s–1930’s it had a new medium of pulp magazines, which helped to relay these adventures to easterners. By the 1940’s several seminal Westerns were published and the genre peaked around the early 1960’s, largely due to the tremendous number of Westerns on television.
In the 1970’s the author,Louis L’Amour began to catch hold of most western readers and he has tended to dominate the western reader lists ever since. George G. Gilman also maintained a cult following for several years in the 1970’s and 1980’s. However, by the 1990’s and 2000’s the readership of western fiction reached a new low and most bookstores, outside a few western states, only carry a small number of Western fiction books.
Did you read western fiction when you were younger? Do you read them now? What changed if you stopped reading them?