Robert Hanlon– that’s a name many Western readers are familiar with. Why? Because he’s one of the biggest names in the Western book business. His first novel “Texas Bounty Hunter” was number one for weeks– since then he’s tied up the charts with a number of big hits… and… he has a new one. “Pecos Bounty Hunter” is the name of the book. It’s currently climbing the charts… This interview is with the man who makes the magic happen. What a man! What an interview! Let’s meet him.
Robert Hanlon—what a pleasure!
What the hell? I thought I was meeting with Johnny Carson.
Carson couldn’t make it, so you’re stuck with me.
Well, how you doing?
Not bad—how is San Antonio?
Don’t know! I haven’t been there since 1965.
Where are you currently located?
Omaha. Need I say more?
Ha! So where do you fit into this crazy world?
I’m from New York City—worked in a few different industries—record industry, car industry. Now I’m working in the book industry. Always working.
How did you go from the record industry to the book industry?
I wasn’t anything special in the record industry. Just a session producer many, many years ago. I’ve always wanted to write books, Westerns in particular, and this was my opportunity. The problem I faced was that the book industry is so disorganized compared to the record industry. There’s little or no reward for authors. It wasn’t until I signed with Dusty Saddle Publishing that I realized the book industry could be fun— and profitable.
Do you consider profit important?
Ha! Trick question. I consider return on my time important.
Do you feel you’ve received that?
Yes. A thousand times over.
Why Dusty Saddle Publishing?
I looked at a ton of outfits—none of them could give me what I wanted. You either pay for everything up front, or you sign with some literary brain and find yourself selling two copies a month. Then you can sign with a big company after a huge struggle with an agent or you find yourself a publishing company that is run like a record company—profit, profit, profit. Dusty Saddle was different and none of the above.
Is Robert Hanlon your real name?
How rude! Ha! No. I’m a kid from New York. I got named Robert Hanlon by the advertising heads over at Dusty Saddle Publishing. My real name is not American Western at all. However– I will say that I have fired a gun, ridden a horse, hunted, fished and lived like a cowboy for sometime.
“Texas Bounty Hunter” was one of the biggest selling Western novels of the Christmas period. How do you account for success like that?
I don’t. Readers across the country purchased that book—from New Orleans, Detroit, Dallas, Pittsburgh, New York City, Atlanta, Texas and Los Angeles. It was one of the big Westerns of the year, and I think that’s wonderful. But how do I account for a success like that? I just write Westerns and take all the boring bits out of my books. All that drivel that people skip over—I cut it out. I try to write entertaining stories that readers want to read. “Texas Bounty Hunter” was one of the most successful—but let’s not forget that “Pecos Bounty Hunter,” “Hangman’s Noose” and “The Texan Gold Renegades” were also huge hits. My publishing company, “Dusty Saddle Publishing,” call me—they want a new book—I knock one out. I live in a hard-working world, and I work to sell a lot of books. What more can I say?
You take all the boring bits out? What does that mean?
Well, my last editor and I discussed this. Why waste pages and pages on description? I lead with dialogue, I lead with action. Description, in my opinion, should be kept to a minimum—books are like dreams. We do with them what we wish.
I see—so how are your books produced?
I write them—then I meet with the cover designer and get a feel for the cover I want. Then the marketing department over at Dusty Saddle Publishing takes over and finds a way to make the books sell. I’m already working on the next book by the time the previous book hits the shelf. I like to keep up a steady release schedule. I am contracted to turn in a certain number of manuscripts per year, so I have to keep rolling.
How do you feel about Dusty Saddle Publishing?
I think they’ve got the right idea. They really control the content they sign, and they keep a strict release schedule—they promote well and keep on track when it comes to building an author. When I was working in the record industry as a session producer, I worked in much the same way. Dusty Saddle Publishing works like a record company, not like a publishing company. Content is created, edited, released, promoted and then the next release is readied, released, promoted and on it goes. I signed with them five months ago, and they’ve grown quickly—so quickly I signed a twenty-five-year contract with them. Why? Because it’s the place to be.
What do you think about editing?
I don’t. The girl over at Dusty Saddle Publishing thinks about it. I just smile, nod my head and wonder what the hell a semi-colon is. I write books—editors edit. What more do I have to say?
If you could write a book on any subject what would it be?
I’d love to write something about the Rosenbergs, H-Bombs, Brando, The King and I, The Catcher in the Rye, Liberace, Santayana and James Dean. What would I be writing about?
Bingo. Give the kid a bone.
Isn’t that a bit of a stretch from the Westerns you’ve been writing?
Hey! You asked me what I would want to write about if I could write about anything. I told you. I never said it would happen—just that I’d like to pen something about the era of my youth.
What is your latest release called?
“Bounty For The Preacher”—it’s a really good book, and it’s rolling up the hit parade already. It might be the best book I’ve ever written. The story came to me in a dream. I woke up in the middle of the night and started it. Hey—before I knew it I had a Western story that even the hard-nosed editorial types liked. I reckon it’ll be the one I’ll be remembered for.
Thank you for your time, Bobby. It’s been a blast.
Thank you, Clyde. Did I get the job?