Favorite Horror Films on Kanopy

Spooky season is finally here! Personally, I enjoy all things supernatural, spooky, and scary year-round but October is the month I can recommend my favorite books and films to those who reserve their scares just for the month of Halloween.

Kanopy has some really great horror films available for viewing right now, including some of my favorites from the past decade or so. Including an atmospheric German witch tale, a deeply disturbing story of grief and possession, and an Iranian vampire western (yes, you read that correctly) there is an amazing variety of top-notch scares waiting for you. So dim the lights, warm up some apple cider, and queue up on of these films.

Keep your eyes peeled here next Thursday to read about some of my most favorite horror books. If you love reading horror too (it is truly a wide ranging genre full of such talent!) join me later this month for Novel Scares book club where we will be discussing The Good House by Tananarive Due on Zoom.

What are some of your favorite scary movies to watch around Halloween? Share in the comments!

New Books Tuesday @ RRPL

Here some of the new exciting releases for you to take a look at this week!

The Hierarchies by Ros Anderson – Designed to cater to a human man’s every whim, a synthetically designed “wife” hidden on the top floor of a luxurious home secretly longs for a more qualitative existence and records in her diary her fears of being reprogrammed.

Vesper Flights by Helen MacDonald – The award-winning author of H Is for Hawk presents a collection of top-selected essays about humanity’s relationship with nature, exploring subjects ranging from captivity and immigration to ostrich farming and the migrations of songbirds from the Empire State Building.

Squeeze Me by Carl Hiaasen – When a high-society dowager murdered at the height of Palm Beach’s charity gala season is declared a political martyr by the colorful president she supported, a talented wildlife wrangler uncovers the truth amid the discovery of a controversial affair.

Someone to Romance by Mary Balogh – Forced to consider an arranged marriage in spite of her disdain for the ton, Lady Jessica is brazenly courted by the heir to a mysterious fortune who declares his intentions to marry her upon their first encounter.

Whirlwind by Janet Dailey – One of three sisters who would carry on their family’s bull-breeding legacy debuts a promising specimen at a professional bull rider’s competition while resisting the advances of an attractive cowboy who tests her resolve against the dangers of rodeo life.

Final Cut by S. J. Watson – The award-winning author of Before I Go to Sleep explores themes of memory and identity in the story of a documentary filmmaker who investigates the disappearance of a girl from a quiet fishing village.

Bitter Pill by Fern Michaels – Managing a painful career setback with the help of an online support group and a secret boyfriend who goes mysteriously missing, a neuroscientist is declared a person of interest when she is asked to identify the body of a stranger.

Sisters by Daisy Johnson – Moving in the aftermath of a school bullying incident to an abandoned family home near the shore, two fiercely loyal siblings find the nature of their bond changing in the wake of a series of revelatory encounters. 

Payback by Lorenzo Carcaterra – A sequel to Tin Badges finds former NYPD detective Tank Rizzo and his partner, Pearl, tackling two corruption cases involving a dirty cop who is sending innocents to jail and the money-laundering accounting firm behind his brother’s mysterious death.

The Exiles by Christina Baker Kline – Sent to a Tasmanian penal colony after conceiving her employer’s grandchild, a young governess befriends a talented midwife and an orphaned Aboriginal chief’s daughter while confronting the harsh realities of British colonialism and oppression in 19th-century Australia.

His Truth Is Marching on: John Lewis and the Power of Hope by Jon Meacham. Afterword by John Lewis – The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Hope of Glory presents a timely portrait of veteran congressman and civil rights hero John Lewis that details the life experiences that informed his faith and shaped his practices of non-violent protest.

Superman’s Not Coming: Our National Water Crisis and What We the People Can Do About It by Erin Brockovich – The environmental activist and consumer advocate, whose case against Pacific Gas and Electric was dramatized in an Oscar-winning film, looks at our present situation with water and reveals the imminent threats and shows us how we can each take action.

Children of Ash and Elm: A History of the Vikings by Neil Price – A distinguished archaeologist with decades of expertise offers a full history of the Vikings—from arts and culture to politics and cosmology.

2030: How Today’s Biggest Trends Will Collide and Reshape the Future of Everything by Mauro F. Guillen – An award-winning Wharton School management authority presents a revolutionary analysis of the global trends that he predicts will permanently change the world’s economy and population dynamics, from robot workforces to a reduced prioritization of Western consumers.

Cat Me If You Can by Miranda James – When an intrusive, uninvited guest turns up dead, only one mystery club member with a connection to the deceased appears to have a motive to kill. But could the answer really be that simple? Charlie and Diesel, along with the detecting Ducote sisters, know that every murder plot has an unexpected twist.

Howloween Murder by Laurien Berenson – When a tenured colleague is accused of poisoning her famous marshmallow puffs to murder an elderly neighbor, Melanie Travis finds her investigation challenged by the boisterous Halloween festivities at Howard Academy. By the award-winning author of A Christmas Howl.


New Books Tuesday @ RRPL

In this week’s special picks there are new exciting romance, mystery, fantasy, and many more genres for you to choose from! Enjoy!

The Black Swan of Paris by Karen Robards – A celebrated singer in World War II occupied France joins the Resistance to save her estranged family from being killed in a German prison. By the award-winning author of The Fifth Doctrine. A world at war. A beautiful young star. A mission no one expected.

Home Before Dark by Riley Sager – Twenty-five years after her father published a wildly popular non-fiction book based on her family’s rushed exit from a haunted Victorian estate, naysayer Maggie inherits the house and begins renovations only to make a number of disturbing discoveries. Is the place really haunted by evil forces, as her father claimed? Or are there more earthbound and dangerous secrets hidden within its walls?

Her Last Flight by Beatriz Williams – The beloved author returns with a remarkable novel of both raw suspense and lyric beauty – Investigating the fate of a forgotten aviation pioneer, a 1947 war correspondent tracks down the pilot’s former student before learning the remarkable story of their complicated and passionate relationship. By the best-selling author of The Golden Hour.

All the Broken People by Leah Konen – Moving to rustic Woodstock to escape an unhappy past, Lucy bonds with an alluring couple, Vera and John, who embroil her in a plot to fake John’s death, before Lucy finds herself framed for the man’s actual murder. She bargained for in this twisty and addictive domestic thriller for fans of The Couple Next Door.

The Dilemma by B. A. Paris – Organizing a lavish birthday party after decades of hardship, a woman hiding a secret about a daughter who cannot attend is forced to confront a devastating truth when her husband arranges a surprise. NYT and USA Today bestselling author of Behind Closed Doors, The Breakdown, and Bring Me Back.

Daring and the Duke by Sarah MacLean – New York Times bestselling author Sarah MacLean returns with the much-anticipated final book in her Bareknuckle Bastards series, featuring a scoundrel duke and the powerful woman who brings him to his knees.

Holding Out for Christmas by Janet Dailey – A demure kindergarten teacher with dreams of Nashville stardom makes a difficult choice when she reunites with a smitten and wildly attractive rancher during an annual western-themed Christmas ball that launches a holiday season of romance and promise.

Word to the Wise by Jenn McKinlay – It’s no-holds-barred murder. Lindsey Norris is finally getting married to the man of her dreams but it’s not all roses for Briar Creek’s beloved library director, as town newcomer Aaron Grady gives the term “book lover” a whole new meaning. Inappropriate looks and unwelcome late-night visits to Lindsey’s house have everyone from the crafternooners to Lindsey’s fiancé, Sully, on edge.

The Empire of Gold by S. A. Chakraborty – In this final installment in the critically acclaimed trilogy, Nahri and Ali are determined to save both their city and their loved ones, but when Ali seeks support in his mother’s homeland, he makes a discovery that threatens not only his relationship with Nahri, but his very faith.

The Chicken Sisters by K. J. Dell’Antonia – Three generations. Two chicken shacks. One recipe for disaster. The last thing Brooklyn-based organizational guru Mae Moore, Amanda’s sister, wants is to go home to Kansas. But when her career implodes, helping the fading Mimi’s look good on Food Wars becomes Mae’s best chance to reclaim the limelight. When family secrets become public knowledge, the sisters must choose: Will they fight with each other, or for their heritage?

One Last Lie by Paul Doiron – When his beloved mentor disappears amid the discovery of an antique badge,Mike Bowditch investigates the presumed death of an undercover warden before the cold case is upended by dangerous secrets and a daughter’s return.

Firestick by William W. Johnstone & J. A. Johnstone – In this exciting new series, bestselling authors pay homage to America’s trail – hardened backwoodsmen who, like a fine grain whisky, only get better with age. Firestick is the town marshal. Beartooth and Moosejaw are his deputies. And when a hired gunman shows up with bullets blazing, these three hard-cases are ready to prove they aren’t getting older.

Nacho Average Murder by Maddie Day – While looking forward to her high school reunion back in California, Robbie’s anticipation is complicated by memories of her mother’s untimely death. But then she gets wind of rumors that her mother, an environmental activist, may not have died of natural causes. With the help of friends, Robbie starts clearing the smoke surrounding the mystery; but what she finds could make it hard to get back to Indiana alive . . .

Selfcare by Leigh Stein – Have you ever scrolled through Instagram and seen countless influencers who seem like experts at caring for themselves from their yoga crop tops to their well-lit clean meals to their serumed skin and erudite-but-color-coded reading stack? Self Care delves into the lives and psyches of people working in the wellness industry and exposes the world behind the filter.


Imagine Your Story – TV & Video-gaming on the New Frontier

It’s true confession time–I’m a bit obsessed with a video game. Red Dead Redemption II is a survival game set in 1890s in a fictionalized representation of the Western, Midwestern, and Southern United States. Players become Arthur Morgan, a member of a notorious gang, and are encouraged to follow the game’s story-line in order survive the decline of the Wild West, government forces, rival gangs, and other adversaries. Usually, this kind of a game is a bit too shoot-em-up for my style, but I find that as Arthur, I can mount a horse, ignore the missions the game wants me to embark on, and instead just ride on and on, enjoying the gorgeous landscape of early 19th-Century America. Don’t laugh –the scenery in this game is indeed that good. In fact, the game designers actually were inspired by 19th-century painters like Rembrandt and American landscape artists who were members of the Hudson River School when they created this game. After an hour of play, I’m relaxed from all the flora and fauna around me and, oh yeah, did I mention that I get to be a cowboy too?

In reality, taming the wilderness was neither all that fun or easy, and I get to see that in live action too, while I’m watching “Barkskins” on the National Geographic channel. This TV adaptation of Annie Proulx’s 2016 novel is set in the colonial region of New France in the last years of the 17th-century. It chronicles the deforestation of the New World, beginning with the arrival of two immigrants to New France, René Sel and Charles Duquet, who are tasked with work as wood-cutters, or “barkskins.” As you might imagine, it’s a rough life for these men, and on all sides there is threat of death as English and French vie for land and power. The show, lavishly set with wood-built settlements of the main town, dark candle-lit interiors and rustic pathways where we would have modern city streets, creates the feel of danger around every corner and puts viewers right in the action. Part western, part soap opera, part saga of good versus evil, this show is 100% totally binge-able. I dare you to look away.

Want some adventure in your life? Place a hold for Barkskins in book format in our catalog here.  And, don’t forget to place holds on all your favorite videogames, including Red Dead Redemption II for  Playstation 4 and Xbox One

Until next time, happy trails. ~Carol


Your Library Staff at Home- Favorite Comics on Hoopla

Revisiting favorites is a comforting and fun activity during these uncertain, and often stressful, times. Whether it is a favorite film (I just watched Back to the Future last night!) or a favorite book, there is something about that second or fifth re-watch or re-read that feels like visiting with an old friend.

Maybe you will notice a small detail in the plot you never caught before, or a line will hit you in a new way, or maybe the story will read entirely different to you this time around! I’ve been perusing some of my all-time favorite comics series and have shared them below. Maybe you’ll spot a favorite of your own or find a brand new series to pick up!

East of West by Jonathan Hickman

A weird series that has it all- dystopian future Earth, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, epic robot/monster battles, political intrigue, forbidden romance (with Death!), sci-fi spaghetti western tones.. .and the art is gorgeous. This series hasn’t ended yet so snag Volume 1: The Promise now on Hoopla and prepare for the end!

Locke & Key by Joe Hill

Joe Hill’s talents as a terrific horror and thriller author shine in this amazing series! Readers follow the Key family as they move into the mysterious Keyhouse mansion, which they discover is filled with mysterious and powerful keys. The Key kids also soon find other nefarious forces are at work to obtain the keys- will they survive? You may have recently caught the new Netflix series based on the comics, but I can assure you the books are much weirder, darker, and spookier than the show- in the best way. You can read the entire series from beginning to end on Hoopla, starting with Volume 1: Welcome to Lovecraft.

The Sandman by Neil Gaiman

This is the series that truly began my love affair with comics. Sure, I’d read X-Men and Spider-Man plenty, but when I picked up Gaiman’s brilliant tale of Morpheus aka Dream I was blown away by how philosophical and creative The Sandman world was. The imaginative weaving together of mythology, fairy tales, Shakespeare, and more will entrance you. The impressive cast for the Audible adaptation was announced last week and inspired me to want to read this series for a third time! You can read the entire series, including the 30th anniversary edition of Volume 1: Preludes & Nocturnes, on Hoopla now.

Saga by Brian K. Vaughan

Saga is a huge, sweeping sci-fi epic that is actually about love and parenting- but also super weird, graphic in more ways that one, and sometimes soul-crushingly sad. But it is so so good! Two soldiers on opposite sides of a long-running war fall for each other and have a child, quickly making them the most wanted fugitives in perhaps the entire galaxy. Saga is their story, as told by their daughter, Hazel. The series is on a hiatus, so while we patiently await the next new issue (or not so patiently), you can get caught up on Hoopla starting with Volume 1!

If you are a comics fan be sure to check out our online programming celebrating comics, graphic novels, and fandom kicking off June 6th- RiverCon! Originally envisioned to be a mini-con in the library, we have revamped our plans to offer you some awesome goodies and activities to safely enjoy at home! Register for a RiverCon@Home activity kit now on our event calendar and keep your eyes peeled on our website for more great stuff. I’ll be posting next week with a sneak peek of some of the cool content coming your way in June.

Stay safe and happy reading!

New Fiction Coming in April 2020


With so much time at home on our hands these days, you might be in need of something fresh and new to read. We’ve got some exciting titles for you, sure to keep you interested for hours on end!



4/07: Chosen Ones by Veronica Roth – On the 10th anniversary of the Dark One’s defeat, one of the Chosen Ones—who brought the Dark One down—dies and the remaining four discover the Dark One’s ultimate goal was much bigger than they, the government or even prophecy could have foretold.

4/07: Afterlife by Julia Alvarez – Reeling from her beloved husband’s sudden death in the wake of her retirement, an immigrant writer is further derailed by the reappearance of her unstable sister and an entreaty for help by a pregnant undocumented teen.

4/07: Redhead by the Side of the Road by Anne Tyler – A tech expert and building superintendent finds his circumscribed routines upended by his significant other’s eviction and the appearance of a teen at his doorstep who claims to be his son. By the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Breathing Lessons.



4/07: The Book of Lost Friends by Lisa Wingate – A modern-day teacher discovers the story of three Reconstruction-era women and how it connects to her own students’ lives in this latest from the New York Times best-selling author of Before We Were Yours. She brings to life startling stories from actual -Lost Friends- advertisements that appeared in Southern newspapers after the Civil War.

4/07: Hid From Our Eyes by Julia Spencer-Fleming – Police chief Russ van Alstyne races to solve a baffling murder that eerily resembles two unsolved killings from decades earlier for which he was the prime suspect. By the award-winning author of One Was a Soldier.

4/14: Simon the Fiddler by Paulette Jiles – The critically acclaimed, bestselling author of News of the World and Enemy Women returns to Texas in this atmospheric story, set at the end of the Civil War, about an itinerant fiddle player, a ragtag band of musicians with whom he travels trying to make a living, and the charming young Irish lass who steals his heart.



4/21: The Business of Lovers by Eric Jerome Dickey – While a father struggles to reconnect with his estranged son and spiteful ex, his bodyguard brother is invited by three women escorts to consider a job as a male prostitute. By the NAACP Image Award-winning author of A Wanted Woman.

4/21: Dead Land by Sara Paretsky – Dragged by her impetuous goddaughter into a legal battle over a clandestine deal that is threatening community land, V. I. Warshawski uncovers a developer scheme that ends the life of the young man her goddaughter is dating, in this propulsive novel from New York Times bestseller.

4/21: Walk the Wire by David Baldacci – The best-selling author of The Fix presents a highly charged thriller in which fan-favorite character Amos Decker embarks on an action-packed investigation that is complicated by Baldacci’s signature twists and turns. One million first printing.




American History

With a degree in American History, you’d think I’d enjoy reading historical non-fiction more than fiction, but that often isn’t the case; I really love learning through fiction and even enjoy getting a lesson through movies. Sometimes they capture characters and images that a dusty old history book isn’t able to. Here are a few titles that immerse you in American history and lives, but it’s only scratching the surface – you’ll find more here at RRPL!


~ Dori

Happy Trails Y’all …it’s time for the Western Genre!

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.



Time to Hit the Dusty Trails… Western Genre style!

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!

— Stacey

Round ‘em Up -for the Western Book Discussion!

Yee-haw! We rustled up some purty interesting books for our wild Western genre discussion this last time around! Our books were filled with big conflicts, but equally big resolutions, and flawed heroes you can’t help but appreciate. At first appearance this might seem like a fairly narrow group of books, with little variety possible. After you read the descriptions of what everyone read I think you’ll see what a misconception that is. So are you ready to become a fan of the western genre?

Megan: Sisters Brothers by Patrick de Witt tells the story of Eli and Charles Sisters, the notorious henchman of the mysterious Commodore. When they are charged with killing one Hermann Kermit Warm, they must journey from Oregon City to Sacramento, California. Along the way Eli, who does not share his brother’s love of whiskey, women, and killing, begins to question his career choice. This western noir novel pays homage to classic westerns through a colorful cast of characters who convey the violence, lust and greed associated with the gold rush era. The humor and philosophical musings are an entirely unexpected, but welcome treat. Not your typical western, this is a story of brotherhood, blood ties, and redemption.

Emma: Riders of the Purple Sage was written by Zane Grey in 1912. It’s 1871 in southern Utah, and Berne Venters is about to be whipped by Elder Tull for befriending Jane Withersteen. Jim Lassiter, a Texas gunfighter, stops the whipping before it begins. Tull wants to marry wealthy Jane and take over her cattle and land. Jane is not interested in Tull, so he plots with Oldring to have her cattle stampeded and her riders intimidated. Berne goes after Oldring and his men, killing Oldring and wounding a masked rider. The masked rider turns out to be Bess, Lassiter’s niece. Bess had been taken from her mother, Lassister’s sister Millie, when she three years old. This is a happy ever after story for Bess and Berne who fall in love and leave Utah and for Jane and Lassiter who also fall in love. This was Zane Grey’s bestselling and best-known novel.

Ann: Juliet in August by Dianne Warren is a novel told as a series of stories about the people of Juliet, Saskatchewan on a particular day in August. Juliet is a sleepy little prairie town at the edge of the Little Snake Sand Hills, which is actually desert land. We meet people such as Lee Torgeson who reminisces about how Astrid, his adoptive mother, found him on her doorstep in a laundry basket (she actually at first mistook him for a tom cat!) There is Willard and his sister-in-law Marian. They run the local drive-in movie theater, and Marian sometimes watches the movie from the house’s big picture window. People in the town are tied to the land and their animals. The pace of the book is slow and leisurely, and the writing is rich and beautiful. While set in the present, the novel has a very western feel, and the author, who is Canadian, says the book is informed by the western books and movies she grew up with.

Carol: The Thicket by Joe Lansdale, set in the early 1900s in East Texas, opens as 16-year-old Jack Parker’s parents die of smallpox. Only a few pages later, Jack’s grandfather is killed by a troupe of bank robbing ruffians who also kidnap Jack’s sister Lula . Jack enlists a grave robber named Eustace and dwarf bounty hunter named Shorty to help him find Lula, and the bloodthirsty revenge begins. Filled with gritty, sharp, well-written dialogue, wicked dark humor, violence, sex, and strong language, this book is definitely not for the faint of heart. That said, this western had me laughing out loud as I read, and I could not put it down until it’s bloody end.

Steve: The Californios, by Louis L’Amour, finds the Mulkerin family trying desperately to save their pre-gold rush Malibu ranch, which has fallen in to debt after the death of the father. The family knows that in the past their father had ventured out in to the wilderness with a secretive Indian known as the Old One, and on occasion the Mulkerin patriarch had brought back gold from these trips. The Old One trusts the son, Sean, but will Sean be able to find the much needed gold before the bandits take the ranch? Find out and see if you enjoy the elements of mysticism that are sprinkled into this adventurous Western.

Dori: The Son: A Novel by Phillip Meyer is a family saga that spans 200 years ands documents the fortunes and misfortunes of the McCullough family of Texas. Three members of the family narrate the tale, beginning with Eli McCullough who, at age 13, is taken captive by the Comanches after the brutal murder of his family. Adapting to their way of life, he becomes a respected tribal member only to have to return to Anglo society when his tribe begins to die out. Shaped by his survival skills, he buys land, becoming a successful cattle rancher and then discovers oil. Peter, Eli’s grandson, struggles with the tradition of violence that is his family’s legacy, specifically the murder of a neighboring Tejano family. The third narrator is feisty, independent Jeanne who grew up at Eli’s knee, hearing his stories and idolizing him. She takes the family into the present, inheriting their money and their unhappiness. A fascinating, detailed story of the power, greed, and violence that is part of American history.

Chris: The Arbor House Treasury of Great Western Stories edited by Bill Pronzini and Marin H. Greenberg is an impressive collection. I was surprised to learn that some great writers like Mark Twain, Bret Harte, Stephen Crane and O. Henry also wrote westerns and are featured in this book. I gravitated toward “I Woke Up Wicked” by Dorothy M. Johnson—one of a small number of women who write westerns. It starts out innocently—A young puncher meets up with a crooked relative (a deputy) while waiting for the bank to open so the trail boss can pay off the men. He’s standing by the sheriff’s horse while his relative goes in to see if the bank is open for business. Suddenly there’s the sound of gunfire, the relative and a few others burst out of the bank and leap onto horses. The puncher jumps on the sheriff’s horse right behind. That moment, he becomes a bank robber and a horse thief. And the wickedness continues.

Stacey: I also read The Son by Philip Meyer. Dori did such a good job with her description I can only add: this book offers plenty of family drama, fascinating historical information, and more than a few surprises along the way.

And next time? We’re getting ready for the Holidays by selecting stories based on or around the upcoming winter celebrations, aka the Holiday Stories Genre! Would you like to read along? Then why not come in and take a look for a new or classic story that features the holiday season and get ready for a fairly tame -but mostly happy?- discussion!

— Stacey