Nat Love, Dime Novel Life by Joe R. Lansdale

I first discovered Nat Love in the 1970s in his autobiography, though to take his book as absolute truth is no better than believing the Dime Novels about other characters like Buffalo Bill and Wild Bill Hickok, or for that matter, the even more fictional books about Deadwood Dick, as historical fact.

They weren’t.

Posted on June 3, 2015 in Behind the Scenes

Nat’s so called autobiography reveals a man that does in fact know his times. He knows about horses and being a cowboy, but some of his adventures are as fanciful as any Dime Novel. Still, I was intrigued, if for no other reason than it was a good story told in Nat’s own words.

I began to research black cowboys and soldiers (The Buffalo Soldiers), and was surprised to find that history and media had failed to give us the true story, which was often the case as far as blacks were concerned in the past. In Western movies they were usually cooks or maids, or some equivalent. The more I researched the more interested I became.

There were black Marshals who were famous in their time, but almost lost to history, black villains and outlaws, brave soldiers and adventurers, and plenty of cowboys. About a third of the cowboys in the Old West were non-white, and among those non-whites, plenty of black cowboys.

I decided I wanted to take the germ of Nat’s story, but use the history I had learned about, and at the same time retain the mythological aspects that the Dime Novels gave the Western heroes. I also thought that since Nat Love claimed to be Deadwood Dick, the Black Rider of The Plains, I’d use that as my focal point. It took me thirty years or more to write that novel. Many publishers just flat weren’t interested in a novel about a black cowboy. I found it offensive and defeating. But I stuck with the idea, and when it resurfaced over time, I suggested it to Mulholland, and my editor Josh Kendal jumped all over it.

I wrote it with a white-hot passion, a lot of it in Italy, strangely enough. One of my lifetime dreams has finally been accomplished, and I couldn’t be more excited about its release.

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