Western Writers: H.A. DeRosso

This is the second installment in the Western Writers Series at MontanaWriter. Other writers in the series can be found by searching Western Writers Series.

There is currently no Wikipedia article for H.A. DeRosso. Because he is my favorite of all western writers, this has led me to consider undertaking the task myself. What I know though about DeRosso’s biography is limited to what I have read in Bill Pronzini’s excellent introductions to volumes of DeRosso novels and short stories that he has edited. (Bill Pronzini does have a Wikipedia article, by the way.)  I can only  assume that the information Pronzini provides is accurate.

H. A. DeRosso (1917-60) lived and wrote in Hurley, Wisconsin, which is just over the state line from the Upper Pennisula of Michigan. The UP of Michigan is as close to the west as the Midwest can ever be. Pronzini tells us that from the beginning of his writing career DeRosso struggled to be published, apparently sending out 79 manuscripts before the Street & Smith’s Western Story Magazine picked up his first story in 1941.

DeRosso’s struggles with getting published were part learning his craft and marketplace. But it was also the inevitable outcome for someone trying to bring the moral ambiguity of noir into the sunny genre of the western. The work of fellow western writers like Noel M. Loomis and Les Savage, Jr. and four years of war and the Holocaust made Post-World War II America more open to more realistic fiction.  From 1945 until his death by suicide in 1960, DeRosso was a professional writer.

DeRosso is the high priest of the western noir story. No one does it better. As I have said elsewhere at MontanaWriter ( in my review of DeRosso’s masterpiece, .44) his style is classic noir: ” austere, hard-boiled, grim, lonely and yet,… poetic at times.” To further quote myself (always a risky thing):

There are, admittedly, more realistic western writers and much more historically accurate ones. And yet with the possible exception of Cormac McCarthy there are no western writers that are as satisfying as DeRosso in the end.

DeRosso is satisfying because his work is so mythic. Westerns, after all, are suppose to be mythic. To quote Maxwell Scott in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, “This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

DeRosso’s novels and short story collections can easily be found at Amazon.com or at Abe.com. As mentioned above, most of his short story collections have been edited by Bill Pronzini. I have been able to compare the pulp version originals of a few stories with Pronzini’s later edits. As far as I can see he tightened those stories up well. I can only assume that is the case with all the stories he touched.

Also, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, British publisher Anthony Rowe Ltd., reprinted in England a number of DeRosso’s novels under the Gunsmoke imprint in fine library-bound editions. I have have a number of these.

The current copyright holder for DeRosso who was a life-long bachelor is Marquette General Hospital. It seems to me that it would be in the hospital’s best interest to make sure there was a Wikipedia article on DeRosso and  to do more to get his work recognized here in the United States. It would certainly be in the best interest of all who really love westerns. Maybe I will do it after all.

H.A. DeRosso Partial Bibliography

  • .44
  • End of the Gun
  • The Gun Trail
  • The Dark Brand
  • Tracks in the Sand (edited by Bill Pronzini)
  • Riders of the Shadowlands: Western Stories (edited by Bill Pronzini)
  • Under the Burning Sun (Short Stories)
  • Those Bloody Bells of Hell (Short Stories)
H. A. DeRosso’s pulp magazine bibliography, from the Fictionmags Index: 
* Back Track, (ss) Ranch Romances Mar #2 1956
* Bad Blood, (ss) Western Short Stories Sep 1955
* Bad Girl on His Backtrail, (nv) Best Western Jun 1955
* Badman’s Heritage, (ss) Max Brand’s Western Magazine Sep 1953
* Bet on the Wild Heart, (ss) Star Western Sep 1949
* The Black Guns, (ss) Argosy May 1958
* Black Kill in the Desolados, (na) 3-Book Western May 1957
* Blind Gunman’s Bluff, (ss) .44 Western Magazine Jan 1942
* Blood and Texas on His Backtrail, (ss) Complete Western Book Magazine Feb 1943
* Bloody Valley!, (na) .44 Western Magazine Jan 1949
* Camp of No Return, (ss) Dime Western Magazine Jul 1950
* Cattle Queen’s Hired Killer, (ss) Star Western Aug 1951
* The Cold Running Iron, (nv) 10 Story Western Magazine Nov 1948
* The Curse of Cordoba, (na) Complete Western Book Magazine Oct 1950
* Curse of the Seven Corpses, (ss) Western Aces Jul 1945
* Damned by the Dark Trails, (ss) Western Short Stories May 1942
* Dead Man’s Luck, (ss) Fifteen Western Tales Sep 1953
Western Tales Magazine (UK) #19 1954
* Dead Man’s Trail, (ss) New Western Magazine Aug 1954
* Death Stacks the Deck, (ss) Street & Smith’s Western Story Jan 3 1942
* Desert Deadline, (ss) New Western Magazine Aug 1949
* The Devil of Dodge, (ss) .44 Western Magazine Mar 1943
* Fear in the Saddle, (ss) Zane Grey’s Western Magazine Sep 1952
* Flight from the Desert, (ss) Mammoth Western Sep 1949
Mammoth Western Quarterly Win 1949
* For Love or Money, (ss) Texas Rangers Sep 1952; it was the last time she’d make a fool of him.
* A .44 Is My Best Friend, (ss) Western Short Stories Nov 1949
* The Girl Who Practised Aklat, (nv) Marvel Science Stories Feb 1951
Marvel Science Stories (UK) Jun 1951
* Greased Holster Heritage, (ss) Western Short Stories Feb 1942
Western Novel and Short Stories Jan 1950
* Gun Cry, (ss) Ranch Romances May #1 1950
* Gun Dust, (ss) Leading Western Feb 1948
* Gun Hand, (ss) Texas Rangers Feb 1956
* The Gun Rider, (ss) Ranch Romances Nov #1 1955
* Gun-Ace in the Hole, (ss) Western Trails v36 #1 1942
* Gun-Call!, (nv) .44 Western Magazine Nov 1952
* The Gunfighter, (ss) Argosy Aug 1957
* The Gunman and the Girl, (ss) Fifteen Western Tales Mar 1953
* Guns of Greed, (na) Three Western Novels Magazine Jul 1949
* Gunsmoke in Your Eyes, (ss) .44 Western Magazine Apr 1947
* Hangtree Kid, (nv) Max Brand’s Western Magazine Nov 1953
Max Brand’s Western Magazine (UK) #16 1953
* Haunted Spurs, (nv) Texas Rangers Apr 1953
* Hide-Away, (ss) Triple Detective Sum 1954
* Homicide Saddle, (ss) Western Trails Jan 1944
* Horse Crazy, (ss) Ace-High Western Stories Mar 1942
* Horse Thief [Pete Neighbors], (ss) Fighting Western Oct 1948
* I Ride Alone, (ss) Texas Rangers Jan 1952
* I Trust My Trigger, (na) Complete Western Book Magazine Dec 1950
* Iron Horse Rustler, (ss) Western Aces Oct 1943
* Jack o’Diamonds, (ss) .44 Western Magazine Jan 1948
* Kill One Kill Two, (ss) Manhunt Aug 1960
* Killer, (nv) Gunsmoke Aug 1953
Giant Gunsmoke v1 #1 1953
* Killers Also Die [Dan Drummond], (ss) The Masked Rider Western Magazine Jan 1944
Popular Western (Canada) Oct 1944
Hopalong Cassidy’s Western Magazine Fll 1950
* The Killing Samaritan, (ss) Star Western May 1948
* Last Manhunt, (nv) Dime Western Magazine Sep 1947
* The Last Sleep, (ss) Western Fiction Magazine Jul/Aug 1970
* The Long and Crooked Trail, (nv) 5 Western Novels Magazine Apr 1952
* Long Rope – Short Prayer! [Red Harrison], (nv) 10 Story Western Magazine Apr 1953
* The Longest Ride, (ss) Short Stories Nov 1956
* Look for a Blue Horse, (ss) Zane Grey’s Western Magazine Dec 1952
* Man-Breaker!, (nv) Max Brand’s Western Magazine Aug 1954
* Mankiller!, (ss) 10 Story Western Magazine Feb 1953
* Massacre Mountain, (na) Western Action Mar 1956
* My Lady Weeps, (ss) Pursuit Detective Story Magazine Jan 1955
Pursuit—The Phantom Mystery Magazine #8 1955
* My Saddle and My Gun, (ss) Fifteen Western Tales Sep 1943
* Never Sell Your Saddle!, (ss) Fifteen Western Tales Jan 1953
* Next Issue (Illustrated) (with [Editor]), (ia) 10 Story Western Magazine Feb 1953
* No Man’s Gun, (ss) Max Brand’s Western Magazine May 1954
* One Kiss… One Grave, (nv) Mammoth Western Mar 1950
* Only the Gun-Swift, (ss) Texas Rangers Aug 1948
Texas Rangers (UK) May 1949
* Racetrack Retribution, (ss) Street & Smith’s Western Story Aug 15 1942
* Raw-Red Reunion, (ss) Western Short Stories Apr 1949
* Red Brand of the 88 Iron, (n.) Western Novel and Short Stories Jun 1951
* The Red Snow, (nv) Pursuit Detective Story Magazine Mar 1954
Verdict (UK) Aug 1954
* The Return of the Arapaho Kid, (ss) Argosy Sep 1958
* Ride a Dead Horse, (ss) Western Short Stories Oct, Dec 1948
* Ride the Dark Trail, (ss) Western Short Stories Dec 1951
* Rider from Hell, (ss) 10 Story Western Magazine Aug 1945
* The Rider from Wind River, (nv) New Western Magazine Mar 1953
* Rimfire, (ss) Popular Western Sep 1952
* She Had Red Lips, He Had a Six-Gun, (na) Best Western Jun 1956
* Shoot the Man Down, (ss) Lariat Story Magazine Nov 1947
* Silent Are the Guns, (ss) Fifteen Western Tales Dec 1942
* Six-Gun Saddlemates, (ss) Street & Smith’s Western Story Jul 19 1941
* Song of Death, (ss) Thrilling Ranch Stories Sum 1953
* Song of the .45, (ss) Six-Gun Western Sep 1948
* Stacked Deck, (ss) The Rio Kid Western Jan 1952
* Stage to Destiny, (ss) Street & Smith’s Western Story Jan 16 1943
* Stakeout, (ss) Mystery Tales Aug 1959
* Sundown Passes Through, (ss) Dime Western Magazine Sep 1941
* This Bullet Has Your Name on It!, (ss) Western Short Stories Aug 1942
* Those Bloody Bells of Hell!, (nv) Dime Western Magazine Feb 1948
* The Tinhorn Fills His Hand, (ss) New Western Magazine May 1944
* Tinhorn Heritage [Lonnie Madden], (ss) Fighting Western Jan 1946
* The Town Two Guns Couldn’t Tame, (ss) Complete Western Book Magazine Dec 1941
* Track of Fear, (ss) Web Detective Stories May 1961
* Trail into Fury, (ss) Western Short Stories Jan 1950
Western Short Stories (UK) Jan 1950
* Trigger Touchy, (ss) Street & Smith’s Western Story Oct 31 1942
* Trigger Treachery, (ss) Street & Smith’s Western Story Nov 21 1942
* The Troubled Gun, (ss) 2-Gun Western Feb 1954
* Two Bullets to Hell, (nv) New Western Magazine Mar 1954
* Under the Burning Sky, (sl) Colliers May 30, Jun 6 1953
* The Unmarked Grave, (ss) Ranch Romances Feb 1961
* Waiting in the Moonlight, (ss) Texas Rangers Oct 1955; Never before had Tom Brady killed like this—for money.
* Way of a Gunman, (na) Western Novel and Short Stories Apr 1935
* The Ways of Vengeance, (ss) Texas Rangers Jun 1956
* The Wayward Gun, (ss) Ranch Romances Nov #1 1952
* When Hell Hit Haystack Flats, (ss) Big-Book Western Magazine Apr 1948
* The Wide and Hungry Loop, (na) Complete Western Book Magazine Feb 1952
* The Wild Town That Couldn’t Be Tamed, (ss) Complete Western Book Magazine Aug 1942
* Witch, (ss) Ranch Romances Feb 1962
* Wrong Side, (ss) Complete Western Book Magazine Jun 1956


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