Did you find a book that was set in the Wild West of North America? Perhaps you found something that featured wide open skies, a flawed hero, and a clear resolution? Then *you* were reading a Western along with the rest of us! Wasn’t it rip-roarin’ fun? -We thought so too! There was a pretty good variety included in our discussion with the best part being how much everyone enjoyed the experience. Are you ready to hear what people had to say about the book they read? Well then saddle up partner, ‘cause here we go:
Megan: Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee is the story of two girls trying to outrun their troubles on the Oregon Trail. Samantha is a 16-year-old Chinese-American, who in the wake of a tragedy, is trying to reach California. She is befriended by Annamae, a slave girl planning her own big escape. Disguised as boys, the pair join a group of cowboys heading west in search of fortune. Lee’s stunning debut is a welcome addition to the historical fiction genre. This survival story is full of adventure and wild west action, but at it’s core is a moving story of trust and friendship. Plus, there are cowboys and horses and a little romance!
Chris: All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy is a coming-of-age classic. Set in 1949, sixteen-year-old John Grady Cole leaves his family ranch in west Texas with his buddy Lacey Rawlins and crosses the border into Mexico to experience a new way of living. He learns to survive, he strengthens a friendship, he falls in love. Eventually he makes his way back home to spend time with his family, but leaves a few days later to continue his adventure. I particularly liked the landscape McCarthy paints—the desert and the plains—and the feeling of solitude. It gives a person space to think. This first novel in McCarthy’s Border Trilogy compels me to read the rest.
Beth: In Louis L’Amour’s Trouble Shooter Pete Melford has died and left his ranch to his niece, Cindy Blair. When Cindy sends a scout out to determine the condition of the ranch, they are troubled at the downright disappearance of the ranch. Soon after Cindy’s scout determines something fishy is going on, Hopalong Cassidy rides into town, as he got a feeling that his help was needed. Hopalong Cassidy takes on the dangerous task of trying to figure out the mystery of the death of Melford and his missing ranch. This tale of Hopalong Cassidy was fast paced and action packed. Louis L’Amour inscribes the reader right into the heart of the outlaw laden wild west.
Dori : The Revenant: a Novel of Revenge by Michael Punke, is the story of Hugh Glass, an honorable, smart and experienced frontiersman who accompanies the Rocky Mountain Fur Company on a trapping and trading mission out of St. Louis in 1823. Mauled by a grizzly bear and feared close to death, the Captain of the Company appoints two men to stay with him until he dies so he can be buried. When Indians threaten their camp, however, they abandon Glass, taking his weapons and supplies. Glass crawls back to St. Louis, recuperates, and vows revenge. A tale of the West, of survival and of moral uncertainty, this novel is riveting. Soon to be a movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio!
Steve: Appaloosa, by Robert B. Parker, is the story of Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch, lawmen in the Old West who move from town to town taking on trouble. They are called into Appaloosa to deal with rancher Randall Bragg and his crew of criminals that are running the town. Bragg is sentenced to hang for the murder of the previous Marshal, but while being transported escapes with the help of two hired gunmen. Cole and Hitch are on his trail and in for all sorts of action. The characters and solid story will appeal to western and non-western fans alike.
Maureen: In The Waiting Gun: A Western Story, written in 1957 by Wayne D. Overholser, we follow the suspenseful story of Bill Varney, a young man who feels spurned by his father, his girlfriend and his entire situation in life. Full of resentment, Bill is working out a way to escape his work as a lowly farmhand on the family ranch, Pitchfork, while his favored sister lives in the main house taking care of their father. When a gunfighter comes to town and challenges his aging and arthritic father to a duel and a farmhand uprising threatens Pitchfork’s future, Billy rises to the occasion, despite a hidden, sinister plot to get him out of the way. The story, though a tad predictable, had enough interesting characters and plot to keep me interested and was relatively believable. Overholser, who died in 1996 at the age of 90, won two Spur Awards (Western Writers of America) over the span of his career. In fact, he was the winner of the first Spur Award ever given, in 1953, for his novel Lawman, written under the pseudonym Lee Leighton.
Emma: Originally published as a serial in the “Saturday Evening Post”, True Grit by Charles Portis is told by elderly Mattie Ross. In the 1870’s, 14-year-old Mattie hires Federal Marshall Rooster Cogburn to help hunt down Tom Chaney, her father’s killer. Texas Ranger LeBouef joins in the hunt since he has been searching for Chaney for several months. Quirky characters bring the Old West to life.
Lauren: Doc by Mary Doria Russell traces the early life of John “Doc” Holliday and his years spent out west in Texas and Kansas. Doc left his native Georgia hoping the west’s arid climate would aid him in battling tuberculosis. Most of the book’s action takes place in the late 1870s in the bustling cattle town of Dodge City, Kansas and follows Doc, Wyatt Earp, and their friends and fellow townspeople years before the infamous shootout at the OK Corral in Tombstone, Arizona. The story has all the elements of a classic Western tale: horses, cattle drivers, guns, gambling, and plenty of bourbon. For all of history and popular culture’s fascination with Wyatt Earp, it’s very enjoyable to read a book that mainly centers on Doc Holliday and paints him as a true gentleman—educated, cosmopolitan, loyal, and kind—but still perfectly at home in the “rough and tumble” Wild West.
Ann: In Appaloosa by Robert B. Parker, Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch are hired by the town of Appaloosa to restore law and order. The town has been plagued by the no-good rancher Randall Bragg and his henchmen who have committed murder, rape and robbery and have recently killed the town’s sheriff and deputy. Virgil Cole has had success in other towns as marshal. He believes in posting the bylaws; if someone doesn’t obey he arrests them; if he doesn’t go along, Cole shoots him. Marshal Cole and his deputy Hitch set out to reform Appaloosa in this engaging western filled with snappy dialogue and lots of action.
Stacey: The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly may be written for a younger crowd but this book will appeal to anyone interested learning more about the daily life of families out West at the turn of the century. This is the second book to feature Callie, her rascally brothers and her beloved Granddaddy, all of whom have important roles to play in her adventures. Together we learn about big to small creatures inhabiting the central Texas lands, the wars that led to Statehood and those that almost divided the Nation, and a great secondary storyline about the hurricane that devastated Galveston in 1900. But the best part of the story? Rooting Callie on in her quest to be seen for her abilities, not her gender. Start with The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate for full enjoyment effect!
Next time we’re giving ourselves a little break from all those squiggly lines of print and we’re going to look at stories that are told primarily through pictures! That’s right folks, we’re going browsing in the Graphic Novels area -and I hope you’ll join us there!