Sunday, April 09, 2006

Australian Westerns

I got a comment on an earlier post that I thought was worth discussing here:

Larry and Stretch, Marshall Grover, Marshall McCoy...what a profusion of names and confusing for me. I am trying to find out how many Aussie westerns made it over to the US...can anyone help me with when these books started to appear and what their covers are like. I'm curious to see if they were completely revamped or given a new cover. Anyway please contact me at with anything you might think would interest someone who's trying to get an idea of how US audiences 'read' Aussie stuff, did you even know it was Aussie? What did the blurbs say?

I first became aware that there were Australian Westerns in 1968, when I bought the first of the Larry and Streak series, GUN GLORY FOR TEXANS (pictured above). This was a thin (less than 100 pages) paperback published by Bantam, a publisher with whom I was very familiar because they also published the Doc Savage and Louis L'Amour novels, books I read religiously back then. Right away I noticed that the Larry and Streak book was copyrighted by Horwitz, an Australian publisher whose name I recognized because I was also reading the Carter Brown books, hardboiled mysteries originally published in Australia by Horwitz and reprinted in the U.S. by Signet. I had no idea who Marshall McCoy was, but I liked the book a lot and started buying all the others I could find by him, which included another series known as Nevada Jim. In '68 and '69 there were sixteen books published by Bantam in each series, and then Marshall McCoy seemed to disappear.

Skip ahead a bunch of years, and along the way I discovered that Marshall McCoy was really an Australian author named Leonard Meares, and that under the name Marshall Grover he published literally hundreds of Westerns. I even corresponded with Len for several years before his untimely death in the early Nineties.

To answer the questions posed in the comment above: yes, the books were rewritten somewhat, and the covers were completely different. Larry Valentine and Stretch Emerson became Larry Vance and Streak Everett in the American editions. Don't ask me why; the original names sound just as good to me. Big Jim (see cover above) was turned into Nevada Jim, and the humorous Mexican sidekick he had in some of the Australian editions was written completely out of the Bantam versions. I believe that at first the American editions were rewritten to make them shorter, too, although the page count in both series increased in the later Bantams.

In addition, in 1969, the American publisher Leisure Books released a reprint of the Larry and Stretch novel FEUD AT MENDOZA, this time with the character names and the Marshall Grover by-line intact.. This may have been a pirated edition. It was the only Larry and Stretch novel Leisure published. They did publish a couple of double volumes reprinting some Benedict & Brazos novels by E. Jefferson Clay (actually Paul Wheelahan), and a few other double volumes reprinting various Australian Westerns under different pseudonyms (none of which I remember at the moment). Other than the copyright notices that mention Horwitz, I don't think there was any indication on any of these books that they originated in Australia.

Anyone with more information or comments about these books, I'd be glad to hear from you, as I'm sure T. Johnson-Woods will be.


Anonymous said...

I didn't know, that Meares has written Larry & Stretch (or like I know it, Bill & Ben) using name of McCoy. But in scandinavia, he wrote over 500 "Bill & Ben" books and over 50 Bill & Ben Specials. In Finland almost everyone's cover is red and white. I have only one book which color is completely white.

I have another Marshall Grover's serie, too. It's called "Kansas". Maybe it's yours "Big Jim" (Nevada Jim)? Leading character's name is Kansas Tom and he is former cavalry's sergeant. He has horse ranch in Nevada.

I'm glad that I found new information about Leonard Meares and Larry & Stretch. Thank you!

James Reasoner said...

Yes, it certainly sounds like the Kansas Tom books are translations of the Big Jim books. After an opening story arc in that series where Jim is pursuing the man who killed his brother, the character settles down on a horse ranch near Cornerstone, Nevada, and spends the rest of the series there, as far as I know. I haven't read many of the later ones.

Anonymous said...

I live in Australia, and have devoured Larry & Stretch's since my early teens. I had no idea that they were in Scandinavia, although I knew of the Larry and Streak versions. Are they in many countries?
And are they being reproduced? I know that there's a recent large-print thing going on, a Linford Library project, but I know of no others. Though I scour every second hand book exchange I pass, I simply don't see that I will ever find every last one.

spock said...

Yup, living in Denmark I can tell you that the books were pretty big in the 70ies and 80ies.

I think I have around 300 of them, read them all when I was a child/small teenager.

Now I'm 41 and I'm starting all over reading them again... and what a delight :)

Cheers from Copenhagen

Margmck said...

Can anyone tell me what Larry's horse was named? Streak's horse was called Patches, but I don't know Larry's horse's name

Anonymous said...

in some of the later books Larry's horse is called Rusty I have some seven hundred of his Larry and Stretch and Big Jim books and Larry's horse is only occasionally named

Bearcatjb said...

I have all the Larry & Stretch (Larry & streak) published in Australia, bar one "Who Killed Rico".
Does anyone know if any L&S westerns are available as ebooks?

Rob said...

I have a an Original copy of Who Killed Rico for sale if you are still looking for it Bearcatjb.

I am selling my complete collection if anyone is interested, have 250 plus Larry & Stretch books, many first editions most in good read condition.

Contact me for more info at if anyone is looking for particular titles.

Anonymous said...

When I started work as an apprentice, Larry and Stretch and other westerns were popular reads during work breaks and so on.

The books weren't big and the paperback was flimsy rather than stiffer cardboard, making them easy to roll up and to put in the back pocket.

There were a lot of authors who wrote these westerns, but I suspect that they were a few people writing under multiple pseudonyms.

Pretty much all of them were written to a specific plot formula, with names and places changed.

It'd be good to get some as ebooks, though.

Do they still publish these westerns?