My New Favorite Book: Days Without End by Sebastian Barry

The story opens with a corpse. A soldier’s body being prepared for burial in the then frontier state of Missouri circa 1855. So I should not have been surprised by how violent the rest of the book was. But I had never really considered just how much violence was involved in the beginning years of the United States.  Not systematically. And I had just finished … Continue reading My New Favorite Book: Days Without End by Sebastian Barry

My New Favorite Book: The Power of the Dog by Thomas Savage

I have no idea how this book found its way into my house. I’m guessing that  I bought it by mistake, thinking it was The Power of the Dog by Don Winslow which I’ve had on my wish list for a while now. However I came to read it, I am very glad I did. It’s wonderful. The story concerns a small set of characters living on … Continue reading My New Favorite Book: The Power of the Dog by Thomas Savage

Warlock by Oakley Hall

Oakley Hall populates his novel Warlock with an entire town full of characters, the way Charles Dickens does, or more apropos the way Pete Dexter did in his western Deadwood.  While there is a central plot with its handful of major characters, Mr. Hall takes the time to bring each minor player to life, enough to fill his small Arizona town of Warlock with a … Continue reading Warlock by Oakley Hall

Train Dreams by Denis Johnson

Sometimes it’s very hard to pin down why you love a book. Denis Johnson’s very short novella, I found it on a list of brilliant books you can read in a day, tells the story of an abbreviated life.  Robert Grainier is a day laborer in the American West circa 1910.  He never amounts to much.  There isn’t much to tell about his life.  He … Continue reading Train Dreams by Denis Johnson

News of the World by Paulette Jiles

In Texas, during the years following the Civil War, a 75-year-0ld printer who has lost his business, a casualty of war and its aftermath, travels the western part of the state giving readings from newspapers.  He rides into town, posts notices of his performance, and collects a dime from everyone who attends in an old paint can. All he does is stand in front of … Continue reading News of the World by Paulette Jiles

Little Big Man by Thomas Berger

“Little Big Man changed the way I see the world.”  If you were around in the 1970’s, after the Dustin Hoffman film version of Thomas Berger’s novel Little Big Man hit the screen, you probably heard someone say this.  Maybe you said it yourself.   I was too young for R-rated movies in 1970, back then no one would have dreamed of taking a seven-year-old … Continue reading Little Big Man by Thomas Berger

Mamaw by Susan Dodd

Pretend it’s not a western.  Pretend it’s historical fiction. Imagine this story takes place in Ireland or South Africa instead of western Missouri.  A young woman marries a religious man who takes her away from home to start a new life.  The two raise several children on a hard-scrabble farm.  When he dies,  she re-marries, this time to a doctor.  More children are born.   Unable … Continue reading Mamaw by Susan Dodd

The Highwayman by Craig Johnson

I admit it. I have a thing for Netflix’s Walt Longmire. The strong, silent type–wounded by a tragic past–handsome in a casually masculine way suiting his late middle age.  He’s a sexier John Wayne without the political baggage. I cancelled Netflix after season three thinking that was all the episodes we were going to get only to find out last week that season four has … Continue reading The Highwayman by Craig Johnson

The Cowboy and the Cossack by Clair Huffaker

I wish I liked this book more. It’s a Nancy Pearl recommendation.  Ms. Pearl, who works for the Seattle Public Library, is a champion of books, all books.  She is an unapologetic genre fan, someone who reads everything and seems to love everything she reads.  When she appears on NPR to talk about a book or writes about something she’s read you can’t help but … Continue reading The Cowboy and the Cossack by Clair Huffaker

Welcome to Hard Times by E.L. Doctorow

A western without a hero. In High Noon Gary Cooper stands alone against a gang of outlaws, the town sheriff acting the classic role of hero.  This is what audiences expect of westerns, especially westerns starring the likes of Gary Cooper. But what if the small western town, alone on the prairie, has no hero to defend it?  What if the bad man rides into a town … Continue reading Welcome to Hard Times by E.L. Doctorow

Butcher’s Crossing by John Williams

Reading challenges can take you places you never thought you’d go.  I saw the  NYRB Reading Week as an excuse to visit  second hand book stores in search of spines with the NYRB logo.  Of the four I found, one was a western called Butcher’s Crossing by John Williams.  It’s turned out to be a strong contender for my 2010 list of favorite reads. Butcher’s Crossing … Continue reading Butcher’s Crossing by John Williams

Shane by Jack Schaefer

Does Shane die at the end?  This question was the subject of passionate debate in the faculty room last week.  The school year is almost over.  What can I say? At the end of the movie, Shane rides off into the sunrise his head hanging down.  Though he defeated the bad guys and saved the town, he was shot once during the final, climactic gun … Continue reading Shane by Jack Schaefer