Once again it’s time to decide how well we stuck to the guidelines of the genre we were reading… Westerns have a strong sense of time and place with clear resolution to a conflict. The hero of the story might be flawed but readers want them to win anyway. Now let’s read what everyone had to say about the book they read:
Chris: Red River, the movie. It’s 1865, and the Civil War has ended leaving the south bankrupt so Tom Dunston (John Wayne) decides to move his herd of 10,000 cattle from Texas to Missouri to prosper. That’s a 1,000 mile run which will take 100 days to complete and a lot happens during that journey: Indian attacks, fighting within the ranks, horrible weather, lack of food etc. but they eventually make it due mostly to Dunston’s determination and stubbornness. A great western classic and a must-see in black and white.
Carol: Calico Spy by Margaret Brownley is set in Kansas in 1880, where two waitresses from the Harvey House Restaurant have been murdered. The Pinkerton Agency is called upon to solve the crimes but local Sheriff Branch is less than thrilled with the help—until he meets and falls for Pinkerton Agent Katie Madison who goes undercover as a waitress to get the killer. This blend of western, mystery and inspirational romance adds up to a lighthearted read that has a happy ending.
Emma: In Smoky the Cowhorse by Will James, Smoky is captured and trained by Clint to become a cow horse. Eventually the horse and cowboy come to trust and respect each other. Soon Smoky and several other horses are stolen from the Rocking R Ranch. When Smoky refuses to allow anyone to ride him, he is beaten. Soon Smoky becomes “The Cougar”, a mean man-hating bucking bronco rodeo attraction. When the horse is worn out, he is sold again to another abusive man and renamed Cloudy. When the horse’s owner is arrested for cruelty, Clint and Smoky are finally reunited. Even though the book is a Newberry Award winner I feel the story is written more for adults than for children.
Gina: In Jon Sharpe’s High Plains Massacre, from the Trailsman series, known scout Skye Fargo is asked to help solve the disappearance of settlers on Indian territory. Accompanied by fellow scout Bear River Tom and new army recruits, Trailsman goes on this mission. There’s more to this assignment than expected in this quick action thriller. I’ve enjoyed reading this book, and look forward to reading more of Skye Fargo’s adventures in the West.
Lauren: Vengeance Road from YA author Erin Bowman tells the story of young Kate Thompson who sets off to hunt down the famous Rose Riders who “done murdered her Pa.” The book checks off just about every single element of the classic Western: gunfights, saloon poker, horses, a desert landscape, outlaws, an Apache guide, and of course a quest for gold.
Dori: In Lonesome Animals by Bruce Holbert, former lawman Arthur Sprawl is called out of retirement to hunt down a serial killer who’s viciously mutilating American Indians and leaving their bodies for display. It’s bleak Depression era in Eastern Oregon, and Sprawl, on his horse, is joined by his son Elijah, who considers himself a prophet, as they travel through the countryside investigating these murders. Sprawl is no angel; he’s got a reputation as an effective lawman, but his success was attained through brutal bloodshed and frontier justice. Though thoroughly dark, gritty, and deeply violent, Holbert’s prose beautifully describes the natural world through which Sprawl and his son travel.
Steve: Robert B. Parker’s Resolution is the second book in the Virgil Cole/ Everett Hitch series, and finds the two gunslinger friends together again, this time in the town of Resolution. They are hired on as enforcers for the greedy Mr. Wolfson. Wolfson is buying up the town stores and businesses, and is at odds with the other rich townsman, Eamon O’Malley, who has hired on two quick draw men as well. Will the four end up deciding things in a shoot-out? Or are other events in store?
Beth: Louis L’Amour’s Sacket is a classic western tale. This story follows independent William Tell Sacket as he takes the journey to visit his mother and finds gold along the way, which of course is accompanied with plenty of trouble. This is a quickly paced, action packed western.
Megan: To Stay Alive: Mary Ann Graves and the Tragic Journey of the Donner Party by Skila Brown is a beautifully written novel in verse about the infamous journey west that claimed the lives of nearly half the travelers. In 1846 ninety people-men, women, and children-left Illinois in search of a better life in California. A series of missteps and an early winter left the caravan trapped in the Sierra Nevada mountains. As food supplies dwindled and hope for rescue faded the survivors turned to cannibalism. Told from the point of view of a nineteen-year-old survivor, the poems that make up this novel are lovely as well as harrowing. This is a truly unique story told in a unique format.
Sara: I read True Grit by Charles Portis, a novel initially published as a 1968 serial in the Saturday Evening Post . This novel tells the story of Mattie Ross’ adventure to avenge the death of her father when she was just 14 years old. In a direct and often funny way, Maddie tells how she hired one-eyed Rooster Cogburn– the meanest U.S. marshall, a man of “true grit”, to hunt down and apprehend the man who murdered her father. However, much to Rooster’s dismay Mattie intends to travel with him on this journey into Indian territory to make sure the job is done right and that Rooster earns the $50 reward she is offering. Rooster is a cantankerous and eccentric man who has been on both sides of the law and has no use for children. But as the adventure unfolds, he and Mattie develop a bond of true friendship and mutual respect.
Stacey: I went for a classic Western -OR- kickin’ it old school with my cowboy boots on! I read Trouble Shooter by Louis L’Amour with Hopalong Cassidy as the main character -whoa nelly Topper (aka Hops horse) that’s a classic! I enjoyed that in essence this is a good mystery story but with horses, dogs, and cattle mixed in for drama. The characters were entertaining and there was plenty of action. Now I know why these books are still so popular!
Next time we’ll be reading suspense/thrillers. Suspense novels compress action into a short period of time, emphasize the psychological and physical danger and appeal to the reader’s sense of unease. Thrillers are complex stories that use a specific world such as the courtroom, medical laboratory, or government agency, and often have exotic settings that emphasize the defeat of the villain.