Have you ever thought about writing a mystery that is set in the west? A real live western? If you love the old west (or the new west!) and want to write in that setting, you have another possible avenue for publication–magazines that cater to readers of westerns. This month’s interview is with Dennis Doty the editor of Saddlebag Dispatches
Joan: Can you tell us a little bit about your magazine–who are its target readers?
Dennis: Saddlebag Dispatches was the brainchild of the late Dusty Richards, author of over 150 western novels and past president of WWA. His vision was to create a world-class magazine where western writers new and old could showcase their work. Our target audience is both the baby-boomer traditional western fans and new young readers who might be reading a western for the first time. We look for themes of open country, unforgiving nature, struggles to survive and settle the land, freedom from authority, cooperation with fellow adventurers, and other experiences that human beings encountered on the frontier. We believe these themes resound with readers of all ages and backgrounds.
Joan: When did you start the magazine? Are you print and online or online only?
Dennis: Dusty and our publisher, Casey Cowan, released the first issue of Saddlebag Dispatches in the Fall of 2014. We are both a print and on-line magazine published semi-annually in Spring and Fall. Our Spring 2018 issue was a tribute to Dusty Richards, so we also made it available in a hard cover edition.
Joan: What do you think of mixing the crime and cowboy genres? What must a crime story have, in order for you to consider it?
Dennis: Crime has always been with us, so it fits well into a western story. For a crime story to be a good fit for us, it need only display one or more of the themes I mentioned above. The time period can be anywhere from post-Civil War to modern times where the cowboy spirit still lives. It should have an identifiable western theme of some sort, not just a detective story set in Fort Worth. An excellent example of this would be Michael McLean’s “Little Things” which appeared in our Summer 2018 issue and can be read here saddlebagdispatches.com/dispatch/ or Craig Johnson’s Longmire series of books.
Joan: What is an automatic turn off for you in a submission?
Dennis: Obviously, poor writing will get a rejection. Dusty was a three-time Spur Award winner and our issues are liberally sprinkled with other Spur Award, Will Rogers, Buckle, and Peacemaker Award winners. Story is everything. If we get a compelling story is has every chance of getting published. If the story is set in the old west we expect historical accuracy and writers who fail to do their research seldom make the cut. If its a minor detail, our editors will make a correction but we do expect the writer to know their material.
Joan:What magazines do you read and like?
Dennis: Unfortunately, between writing and editing, I don’t have the reading time I once did. If I have a chance to read, it’s usually novels or historical non-fiction. Magazines which can still catch my interest on occasion are Time, Newsweek, National Geographic, Mother Jones, and True West.
Joan: Do you have any upcoming calls for stories? Contests?
Dennis:We have a rolling submission period. Submissions for our Spring 2019 issue close on February 1st, but we are immediately open to submissions for the Fall issue. Submission guidelines can be found here: saddlebagdispatches.com/wanted/ We don’t sponsor any contests at this time, but it has been discussed.
Joan:Is there anything else you would like to tell the readers of my blog?
Dennis: We’d love to hear from your readers and writers. Does their hard-boiled detective wear a Texas Ranger hat? Was the crime they’re writing about committed on a Native American reservation? Who robbed the rodeo secretary? It’s an unfortunate fact that cattle rustling still happens, we just don’t hang ‘em on the spot anymore. If they have a story that’s a good fit for us, we’ll be happy to publish it among some of the best western writers of today.And of course, while the magazine only publishes Western themed work, we’re always on the lookout for good crime novels through our parent company, Oghma Creative Media oghmacreative.com/.