Over the past few days I've been trading emails and talking on the phone with Joel Haas, the son of one of my all-time favorite writers, Ben Haas, who wrote dozens of Westerns under the names John Benteen (the Neal Fargo and Sundance series) and Thorne Douglas (the Rancho Bravo series), as well as historical and mainstream novels under his own name. Joel is a fascinating guy with artistic talents of his own. He's a well-known sculptor.
But in the course of our conversations he mentioned that he's a writer as well, and revealed something that as far as I know has never been suspected among fans of Western series fiction: Joel actually wrote the Fargo novels THE BORDER JUMPERS and DEATH VALLEY GOLD and was poised to take over the series from his dad while Ben Haas concentrated on mainstream novels. Unfortunately, legal wrangling with Harry Shorten, the publisher of Belmont-Tower, resulted in the premature end of the Fargo series and the turning over of the Sundance series to other authors. And it wasn't long after that that Ben Haas passed away while on a trip to New York to attend a dinner given by the Literary Guild for authors it had published. Ninety novels in seventeen years is a fine legacy, but it's a shame that there couldn't have been more.
I have a copy of THE BORDER JUMPERS and plan to read it and post about it soon. I think I have a copy of Joel's other Fargo novel DEATH VALLEY GOLD, but it's somewhere in the stacks and I haven't found it yet. He's also written a World War II novel that I look forward to reading. Meanwhile, Joel has an interesting blog that you can check out here. Ben Haas has long been one of my literary idols, one of the best action writers of all time, and it's been great to connect with his son and find out more about both of them.