Trigger Book History
“Leo, James Warren (publisher of Famous Monsters of Filmland and Screen Thrills Illustrated magazines) in Pennsylvania said that the Trigger newsletter issue is the greatest thing he’d ever seen on this subject. He also said that it should be a book, and that we should reprint it in a year or so.” —George Coan publisher of The Old Cowboy Picture Show
And so it began, a note of encouragement from publisher James Warren. He was a man who knew a great deal about pop culture and the movies genres baby boomers grew up with and loved into adulthood. As it turned out, we published two issues devoted to Trigger: volume 4, number 12 in 2000 and volume 7, number 2 in 2003.
I submitted a query letter and excerpts from my manuscript to McFarland Books in 2005. I picked McFarland because I already had a few of their biography and history books. With their pop culture sensibilities, they seemed like a good fit. Three quick weeks later I had a contract to write around 30,000 words! Pretty daunting for a first time author, the project grew exponentially to 100,000 words.
I was already well connected with Saddle Pals from The Old Cowboy Picture Show newsletter, fans who’d been collecting and studying B-westerns for decades. I also had access to great source material.
Robert W. Phillips was the first Saddle Pal I met, I did so through his McFarland book Roy Rogers. Most biographies on the King of the Cowboys were pretty generic, cut from the same template laced with safe public relations. Phillips dug deeper and broke the mold. He wasn’t interested in a hatchet job but in straight reportage. He was a great researcher. (When we met he was compiling a huge book on western comics. A project he was never able to complete.)
Robert W. Phillips introduced me to George Coan who ran The Old Cowboy Picture Show club out of Laurinburg, North Carolina. I volunteered to help with the newsletter George had been publishing; we ended up producing some 60 issues together.
It was through Coan that I was able to contact Trigger’s trainer, Corky Randall and had the pleasure of interviewing him by telephone on a number of occasions from his home in Newhall, California, where he was semi-retired at 77.
In 2017 McFarland Books was on board for a second edition of the Trigger book. By then I had accumulated 10 years of new material. The real key was super-fan Roy Dillow and his huge Roy Rogers photo and ephemera archive. Dillow came up with amazing and often rare images and was generous beyond words. His knowledge of Roy Rogers and Trigger is best described as encyclopedic.