Westerns Not Riding Into Sunset
April 14, 2015
Many of you in the branches have done an excellent job disabusing me of the notion that westerns are a fading genre. In some places, you’ve been insistent that there are younger readers of Westerns, too. Because of that, in 3M I’ve been purchasing and re-purchasing the classic writers like Ralph Compton and Louis L’amour, as well as newly popular authors writing westerns as such or regular fiction with a western “feel.” In talking books, fans of the Smoke Jensen series have requested the series be filled in and it, too, is being built up. I’ll try to get some more copies in the first place as these are published in print.
As part of the effort, I’m also asking Leanne to build a 3M display shelf for Westerns. Look for its appearance soon.
Some examples of recent “mainstreamed” western fiction :
Meyer, Philipp. The Son.
The Son is an utterly transporting novel that maps the legacy of violence in the American West through the lives of the McCulloughs, an ambitious family as resilient and dangerous as the land they claim Spring, 1849. The first male child born in the newly established Republic of Texas, Eli McCullough is thirteen years old when a marauding band of Comanches storms his homestead and brutally murders his mother and sister, taking him captive. Brave and clever, Eli quickly adapts to life among the Comanches, learning their ways and language, answering to a new name, becoming the chief’s adopted son, and waging war against their enemies, including white men–which complicates his sense of loyalty and understanding of who he is.
Hart, Brian. The Bully of Order.
Washington Territory, 1886 Jacob and Nell Ellstrom step from ship to shore and are struck dumb by the sight of their new home–the Harbor, a ragged township of mud streets and windowless shacks. In the years to come this will be known as one of the busiest and most dangerous ports in the world, and with Jacob’s station as the only town physician, prosperity and respect soon rain down on the Ellstroms. Then their son, Duncan, is born, and these are grand days, busy and full of growth. But when a new physician arrives, Jacob is revealed as an impostor, a fraud, and he flees, leaving his wife and son to fend for themselves. Years later, on a fated Fourth of July picnic, Duncan Ellstrom falls in love. Her name is Teresa Boyerton, and her father owns the largest sawmill in the Harbor. Their relationship is forbidden by class and by circumstance, because without Jacob there to guide him, Duncan has gone to work for Hank Bellhouse, the local crime boss. Now, if Duncan wants to be with Teresa, he must face not only his past, but the realities of a dark and violent world and his place within it.
And an older title recently reprinted…
Swarthout, Glendon. The Homesman.
IN PIONEER NEBRASKA, A WOMAN LEADS WHERE NO MAN WILL GO Soon to be a major motion picture directed by Tommy Lee Jones, The Homesman is a devastating story of early pioneers in 1850s American West. It celebrates the ones we hear nothing of: the brave women whose hearts and minds were broken by a life of bitter hardship. A “homesman” must be found to escort a handful of them back East to a sanitarium. When none of the county’s men steps up, the job falls to Mary Bee Cuddy-ex-teacher, spinster, indomitable and resourceful. Brave as she is, Mary Bee knows she cannot succeed alone. The only companion she can find is the low-life claim jumper George Briggs. Thus begins a trek east, against the tide of colonization, against hardship, Indian attacks, ice storms, and loneliness-a timeless classic told in a series of tough, fast-paced adventures. In an unprecedented sweep, Glendon Swarthout’s novel won both the Western Writers of America’s Spur Award and the Western Heritage Wrangler Award.