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Wild, Wild Westerns! April 30, 2011

Posted by stacey in Genre Book Discussion, Westerns.
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Would it surprise anyone (or everyone?) if I told you that the group enjoyed our collective, fictional trip back in time to the Old West? I guess it surprised me! And within the group, we covered all the big elements: hero vs. villain, strong sense of the western location, a clear problem to be fixed, and flawed characters who rise to the occasion. Some of us went more traditional, and some of us went for a more modern-style western, and some went for equal parts western and other, but not one of these books will leave you looking for a hero…they’re on most every page!

Carol: Written in Blood by J. Lee Butts. U.S. Marshal Hayden Tilden is shocked to learn that his good friend and Deputy John Henry Slate has committed a triple murder. As Tilden and his brotherhood of Marshals set out to track John Henry down, Tilden recounts one of their most deadly adventures together, the capture of deadly Blackheart gang. Once (or if) readers get past the over the top use of stereotypical vernacular in this western, it is a enjoyable quick read. But with violent descriptions, this may not be for everyone.

Emma: Stranger in Thunder Basin by John D. Nesbitt is a tale of revenge. When Ed was a little boy he witnessed the aftermath of the murder of his “Pa-Pa” as the killer took off on his horse. Ed would never forget the man’s face. Many years later he sees the killer and leaves his job as a blacksmith to become a ranch hand on the Thunder Basin ranch in order to get close to him. Did the murderer act alone or was he following orders? By following leads Ed meets the mother he never knew and kills three men.

Evelyn: Cowboy for Keeps by Debra Clopton. Rancher/attorney Wyatt Turner, severely injured in an airplane crash, has always accepted responsibility for things in his life. First, it was raising his younger brothers after the deaths of their parents, and now it is for his ranch, law practice, and much of the small Texas town of Mule Hollow. His brothers hire a physical therapist to help him back on his feet. But can Wyatt actually let go and learn to accept his blessings from a 24-year-old young woman with only one leg? This is a heart-warming story of love and acceptance.

Donna: Blue-eyed Devil by Robert B. Parker. Published after the author’s death in 2010, this is the fourth (and sadly, the last) western featuring gunslingers Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch. These characters were first introduced in Appaloosa where they cleaned up the town from the bad guys before moving on to other adventures in Resolution and Brimstone. Now, they have returned to the small town of Appaloosa only to find that its new police chief is corrupt and extorting protection money from the town’s residents. Written in the typical Parker style of short, terse chapters with sparse, witty dialogue, this western is a quick, entertaining read. Virgil and Everett are truly memorable characters.

Megan: Justice Riders by Chuck Norris is the story of Ezra Justice and his motley crew of elite warriors known as the Justice Riders. As the American Civil War comes to an end Justice and his men head to the wild west to deliver the body of one of their fallen to his widow. Their journey west is dangerous and they meet many seedy characters along the way. The characters are flat and stereotypical and some historical details are questionable. Violence and action keep the story moving more than the a strong plotline. Fans of westerns will find more satisfying tales of adventure elsewhere.

Dori: In True Grit by Charles Portis, bible quoting Mattie Ross narrates the story of when, at age 14, she leaves her home in Arkansas to hunt down her father’s killer Tom Chaney. She seeks out the toughest U.S. Marshal she can find, one-eyed Rooster Cogburn, and they head into Indian Territory alongside a Texas Ranger named LeBouef. Mattie’s no-nonsense style and piety add humor and cadence to this bloody tale of the Old West.

Rosemary: Conagher by Louis L’Amour is an enjoyable Western featuring Conagher, an honorable loner, and Evie Teale, a courageous widow with two children. The chaste love story of Conagher and Evie is woven throughout his cattle ranching and Evie’s lonely struggle to survive as a homesteader. L’Amour writes in the classic Western style. What really appealed to this reader was the basic goodness of the two main characters and how L’Amour treated the character of Evie with so much admiration and respect.

Janet: Will of Steel by Diana Palmer describes the stubborn demeanor of the two main characters, Theodore and Jillian. They have jointly inherited land in their hometown in Montana from their two uncles but only if they marry. It will take a threat from Jillian’s past for Theodore and Jillian to see each other in a totally different light.

Ann: Wake of Forgiveness by Bruce Machart begins in 1895 in south Texas, when the wife of Vaclav Skala dies in childbirth leaving him a widower with 4 young sons. From that time on, Skala becomes bitter and hard. The only affection he seems to have remaining is for his horses. The story jumps ahead to 1910 when the youngest son, Karel, is now a man, married, and with a third child on the way. A falling out with his three brothers keeps Karel from talking with any of them. Moving forward and backward in time we learn the family story of these stubborn Skala men, bound to the land, their horses, and each other.

Stacey: Never Love a Lawman by Jo Goodman is a western with strong romantic elements. Rachel Bailey was looking to escape a bad situation back home and Reidsville, CO was the obvious choice after inheriting the mining town’s railroad spur. Sheriff Wyatt Cooper isn’t just the local law, he’s a well-educated lawyer and he’s been entrusted with Rachel’s safety, both for her sake and the sake of the town. Of course Rachel isn’t looking to be kept safe, she wants to fight her own battles. Will these two find a way to work together and save the town?

Our next selection of books will be full of murder and mayhem! We’ll be discussing.. mystery stories! Mysteries feature a crime, clues, and a solution. Sometimes the challenge of finding who, what, and why, is accepted by an accidental sleuth and sometimes it’s a professional who’s looking into the matter. How clever!

— Stacey



1. dmcgowan99 - May 2, 2011

I don’t see one of my westerns on the list. They can also be called historical fiction since the history that happens to be included is accurate.

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