Is it a western genre convention?

Is it a western genre convention?
My late brother was a huge fan of western novels.  I never read any until recently and I am noticing something in the three or four I’ve picked up.  The dialog tagging is pedantic.  Almost every line of dialog, even in a back and forth conversation with nobody but two characters and there horses around in the whole territory gets obsessively tagged – He said…Fred said…He said…Fred said…He said…Fred said.  It starts to hit the back of your skull like a hammer.  Is there some genre convention to doing this?  I know these writers aren’t considered giants in the world of literature, but I’ve read my fair share of popular fiction and don’t ever remember noticing this particular bit of poor writing showing up so consistently in other places.  Could just be coincidence I suppose.

I assume they weren’t all by the same author?

Try Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry. I don’t think he falls into that but its been a while since I read it. Its the first western that I ever read and one of my favorite books.

I read somewhere that readers gloss over the bits like “he said” or “she said” (the “dialog tagging” as you put it), so it’s not that noticeable. Sometimes the writer uses a different verb like “shouted”, “asked” or “ejaculated” but that can be more distracting than simply “said”. And occasionally when the writer includes a back and forth dialog without any sort of this, I get lost and have go back and figure out who is saying what.


(I have nothing to contribute to the OP’s question other than to suggest checking if they have the same editor.)

How would you know who edited a book? It’s not like books have movie-style credits.

If the characters are going to court later, it can make the “he said/she said” nature of the case even clearer.

They’re just imitating Raymond Carver.

No different authors. Admittedly cowboys are supposed to be plain spoken, so thought it might be expected.

Hm…I thought they had them credited. I’ll have to check my books when I get home. Strange if they don’t.

You can check if they have the same publisher at least.

The dialogue tag standard among romance writers seems to be “use anything but said.” Romance writing groups have lists of other words you can use, she seethed. Among mystery writers it’s apparently considered a capital offense to head to the thesaurus. “Said” is the standard, but only if you absolutey cannot tell who is speaking without it. I believe characters in Western novels are allowed to drawl.

ETA: If an editor is listed in the acknowledgments, it’s usually the acquiring editor. Some authors thank their copyeditors but most don’t. Acquiring editors don’t actually edit. After reading some recent novels, it seems to me that nobody edits, in the sense of fixing the book. Although in fairness some of these were ARC*s.

I was thinking the same thing, so I checked some of mine. Most of them didn’t have the editor, so far as I could see. But some did. Notably, the comic-book novels all had an “Edited by” on the copyright page. All Marvel, in my case, and from late '90s. Probably more importantly, all had the same guy listed. I guess it’s just info I always and incorrectly assumed was present.

Cormac McCarthy is arguably the most famous “modern” western author, and goes the opposite direction - pretty much zero markers.

I would suggest that many western genre books were written before the mid twentieth century when it became more common for novelists to be former journalists. Dan Jenkins and Tom Wolfe are examples of what I am used to reading, but Zane Grey and Louis L’Amour are from a different era – even if the era’s overlapped. (I realize Twain was a journalist who had some success as a novelist and he dates back to the Civil War, but I think the point still holds.)

Is it possible that even though they have different authors, they were published at a similar time when those tags were more common? (I must have read A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court a dozen times, but for the life of me I cannot recall if it is littered with tags. I do recall that Conan Doyle had Dr. Watson exclaiming, saying, and ejaculating at every utterance.)

Oh its noticeable.

Maybe that has something to do with it.

Elmore Leonard wrote a bunch of westerns that are enjoyable to read.

You can ejaculate that again.

If you are reading westerns from authors who wrote them in the late 1800s or early 1900s (Zane Grey, for example, wrote most of his famous stuff from about 1910 to the late 1930s), then the writing style of the times was much different. Similarly, watching a movie from the 1930s can be a painful experience for someone raised on the movies of the 1990s.

Everyone likes to seize on the ejaculate–Ewww, that’s not exactly what I meant to say!

Everyone likes to mention Doyle’s use of “ejaculate” to mean “say something forcefully,” but it wasn’t really a commonplace usage. I just glanced over the first few chapters of Hound of the Baskervilles, noting the speech tags. They are almost entirely “he said,” “Holmes said,” or “I said.” Every once in awhile you get an “asked” rather than “said,” but nothing more fancy than that. Doyle, like most other good writers, mostly just used “said” for his speech tags. Indeed, the only thing that made it stand out as somewhat “old-fashioned” is that Doyle would often use “said he” rather than the more expected “he said.”

What I think made these normally invisible phrases stand out for the OP is the way that “every line of dialogue…gets obsessively tagged.” I can certainly see where that might get old, and call attention to itself.

Going back to Hound of the Baskervilles, Doyle tags his dialogue only occasionally. There are long passages of conversation between Holmes and Watson in which neither speaker is explicitly identified. Doyle relies on context and what’s being said to make it obvious which character is saying what. This sort of thing is much more common, even in older works, and makes the conversation flow much more easily.

If the OP is not using hyperbole, and every speaker is tagged after every line of dialogue, I can see how that would get annoying in a hurry. I haven’t read much in the way of westerns, but I wouldn’t call that a particular style so much as I would clumsy writing.