Posts tagged ‘western novels’

April 22, 2008

Best Western

by cowboylands

A writing buddy of mine had a few e-questions when he saw Owen Wister in the last post. Then he had a few more e-thoughts and a few more e-thoughts, and then by the end of the day he had a list. And what a list it is! I’m proud that this list will be inaugurating the
CowboyLands Best Western Lists.

What Western authors do you like? was his question. I mentioned Owen Wister in the last post, but I can’t say he’s a favorite or even in the stable of favorites. I’ll corral all my likes and just saddle the ones whose job is to tell a story and nothing but the story. Three come to the fore:

Luke Short: (Not the historic gunfighter.) Short’s prose is as laconic as one of his heroes. His gunslingers have eyes like gimlets, his women have mouths shaped for kissing, his landscapes are bleak, and his words are hard and muscular. A title like Ramrod says it all. Blood on the Moon was made into a movie, starring Robert Mitchum.

Ernest Haycox: As voluble as Short is taciturn. His gunfighters nurse secret sorrows, his women turn away so no one will see their tears, and his landscapes are as literally and figuratively furrowed and convoluted as Einstein’s brain. If that makes sense. The Far Country and Stagecoach were based on his stories.

Elmore Leonard is the master of the Western short story. Words are cheap in the land of the cowboy; Leonard’s are spare and worth gold. His words are chosen with such care that one short story can create a visual epic like 3:10 to Yuma.

So here is my writing buddy’s list gleaned from “various e-sources,” which is rather coy of him, and I hope it doesn’t get me into trouble. Interestingly, no McMurtry. What’s up with that? He also recommends, apart from the list, The Last Cowboy by Jane Kramer and The Last American Man by Elizabeth Gilbert. Looks like I have some reading to do in my bedroll tonight….Any additions? Subtractions?

1. The Virginian by Owen Wister
2. The Ox-Bow Incident by Walter van Tilburg Clark
3. Shane by Jack Schaefer
4. The Big Sky by A. B. Guthrie, Jr.
5. The Searchers by Alan Le May
6. Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey
7. Paso por Aqui by Eugene Manlove Rhodes
8. Bugles in the Afternoon by Ernest Haycox
9. The Long Rifle by Stewart Edward White
10. Vengeance Valley by Luke Short
11. The Hell Bent Kid by Charles O. Locke
12. Cheyenne Autumn by Mari Sandoz
13. Destry Rides Again by Max Brand
14. Hondo by Louis L’Amour
15. The Sea of Grass by Conrad Richter
16. Ride the Man Down by Luke Short
17. The Day the Cowboys Quit by Elmer Kelton
18. Stay Away, Joe by Dan Cushman
19. The Time It Never Rained by Elmer Kelton
20. True Grit by Charles Portis
21. Monte Walsh by Jack Schaefer
22. Flint by Louis L’Amour
23. From Where the Sun Now Stands by Will Henry
24. Hombre by Elmore Leonard
25. The Wonderful Country by Tom Lea
26. The Homesman by Glendon Swarthout
27. The Shootist by Glendon Swarthout
28. Valdez is Coming by Elmore Leonard
29. The Rounders by Max Evans
30. The Hi-Lo Country by Max Evans