Firstly a little explanation - this is not a list of books published in 2010, nor is it a list of what I think are the best westerns out there. Rather it is a list of westerns I have read in the past year and enjoyed enough to place them in my top selections - I have two lists, on for fiction and the other non-fiction and I can guarantee that each title is superb value for money and will both inform and entertain.
First to paraphrase Olivia Newton John, "Let's get all fictional, fictional, wanna get fictional. Let's get into fictional."
The Hart Brand
Johnny D Boggs
Leisure eBook also published as a paperback
Recently I mentioned how rare a first person narrative is in western fiction and yet two of the five books in my fiction selection use the first person device. The narrator is young Caleb Hart who is packed off from his home in St. Louis to work for his father's brother Franklin J. Hart in the rugged New Mexico Territory. It's a great story with some excellent characters, particularly the grizzled cowboy with a girl's name Kim Harrigan and action that comes thick and fast. But above all the book shines with the author's understanding of the Old West and the cowboy way of life.
Bloomsbury paperback edition
I only read this book in the last week - spurred on by the forthcoming film version by Charles Portis. I had been warned that the book was totally unlike John Wayne's 1969 film version and that after reading the book I would dislike the Wayne movie, but that was not the case. The book is excellent and Wayne's film is surprisingly faithful regardless of what others may have you believe.
Leisure eBook - also available in paperback
HERE. It also holds the distinction of being the first western I read on my excellent Sony eReader.
Edge: The Loner
George G Gilman
Solstice eBooks - also soon available in paperback
I had to include this book here - I'm a lifelong fan of the series and I was heavily involved with bringing the book back into print as an eBook. It's a revenge story that introduced the world to the ultimate western anti-hero - think The Man with No Name on steroids. The new eBook edition actually contains an introduction from myself but regardless of that I am first and foremost a fan of these wonderfully surreal and violent westerns.
I read the book again whilst preparing the original text for digital publication and I loved it just as much as I did all those years ago.
Halycon Classics eBook - also available in trade paperback
Robert E. Howard is of course best known as the creator of Conan the Barbarian and this collection of western short stories which were originally published in the pulps, show that he had a great voice for the Old West. Out of all the stories here The Scalp Hunter and Riot at Cougar Paw were particularly good but every tale is more than readable. Some of them may be a little old fashioned but that's to be expected from stories that are well over sixty years old. Anyone who loves the old pulp magazines will love this book and western fans will find much to enjoy.
Draw: The Greatest Gunfights of the American West
Berkley trade paperback - also available as an eBook
Meticulously researched the book can be read from cover to cover in a single sitting,and once picked up it's hard to put down, or browsed through whenever the mood takes you.
Cowboys, Mountainmen and Grizzley Bears
Mathew P. Mayo
Twodot Books trade paperback - also available as eBook
This book takes on a similar style to the previous title but its scope is set wider. It contains fifty stories set in the Old West ranging from tales of doomed wagon trains to cattle stampedes, from men who survived shootings and scalpings to mass hangings. Again it's a book that can be dipped into from time to time or devoured in one sitting.
Stagecoach to Tombstone
Tauris trade paperback
All in all pretty much every film that matters from the golden age of the western is covered, though I did find it odd that the western selected for 1969 is Support your Local Sheriff rather than True Grit. Though I suppose it could be argued that SYLG is more representative of where the western was during this period of its evolution. The essay on The Searchers alone makes the book worth its weight in gold.
Simon and Schuster Paperbacks
This book was my main source of research while working on my novel, A Policeman's Lot. The Pulitzer Prize winning author looks at the legends of Buffalo Bill with the emphasis on his Wild West Circus. He makes an effective case for the Buffalo Bill story representing the beginnings of superstardom in America. It's a unique angle in which to present Cody's story and the book is absolutely fascinating.
Of course it helps that the author has such an understanding of narrative and he brings all his skills as a fiction author to this work and both Buffalo Bill and Annie Oakley step as real people from the page and into the imagination of the reader.
The above represents only a fraction of the Old West./Western material I've read in the past year and the one thing they all have in common is that they stick in the mind long after the covers are closed.
That's the list for 2010 then...see you for another in a year's time.