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Historical "westerns"

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The Library of Congress

Post by Caveowl » Mon January 12th, 2009, 1:59 am

subject heading to try used to be "Frontier and Pioneer Life" and add a fiction to your google. That should lead to a lotta-library recommended lists.

Do any of you recommend Sandra Dallas, "Diary of Mattie Spencer" - possibly Cecelia Holland's "Lily Nevada."?

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Post by AuntiePam » Mon January 12th, 2009, 7:57 pm

[quote=""lindymc""]Auntie Pam

I noticed you mentioned Shane by Jack Schaefer. Have you read Schaefer's Monte Walsh - another great western. My husband read lots of westerns and one of his favorite authors was Elmer Kelton, lots of good stories with likeable characters.[/quote]

I haven't. Thanks for the recommendations -- I'll check them out.

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Post by Misfit » Mon January 12th, 2009, 8:08 pm

[quote=""Caveowl""]Do any of you recommend Sandra Dallas, "Diary of Mattie Spencer" - possibly Cecelia Holland's "Lily Nevada."?[/quote]

I've read the two Lily Nevada books by Holland. They are good, but not great and very very short novels.

While not quite considered "westerns" try Calico Palace by Gwen Bristow and The Proud Breed by Celeste de Blasis. CP is set in San Fran and the California Gold Country. TPB is a big fat family saga starting in Old California and finishes at the end of 1899.

Cathy Cash Spellman wrote a great one set in Leadville, Colorado, although some might consider that a romance (although there's not that much sex).

Celia Hayes
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Post by Celia Hayes » Sat June 13th, 2009, 3:03 pm

Alas, if you have a story set on the American frontier, it is casually lumped in as a 'western' - by everyone from agents, publishers, reviewers and readers - no matter how reasonably you keep repeating "well, no, it's a historical novel which is set on the 19th century American frontier..."

I finally said the heck with that and embraced it, with the trilogy that I wrote about the German settlers in Texas. Yes, I cheerfully threw in a lot of classic western elements - cattle drives, deadly feuds, Indian raids and Texas Rangers - but I put in lashings about women's lives on the frontier.

I wish the general public would embrace some other category ... but alas, I'm afraid we are stuck with the one that we have.

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Post by Celia Hayes » Sat June 13th, 2009, 3:09 pm

Did you ever check out "The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters" by Robert Lewis Taylor? It is this hysterically funny account of a boy and his father, hitting the Gold Rush Trail as '49ers. It won a Pulitzer for literature in 1959 and then about vanished from public awareness.

And one of the things that I liked about it, was the bibliography in the back. I always like it when authors put books lists and notes in the back, to let you know where they did their research....

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Post by Misfit » Sat June 13th, 2009, 5:35 pm

I've read The Travels of Jamie Macpheeters and loved it. I know MLE on this board has a very different opinion than I.

I'd forgotten this thread. I've got about 100 pages left on The Cowboy and the Cossack by Clair Huffaker (sp?). Although not in a Western setting, it is about a group of Montana Cowboys who bring cattle over to Siberia and their experiences driving them to their new home with their Cossack escorts. I think Chuck will like this one. Review coming soon.
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Anna Elliott
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Post by Anna Elliott » Sat June 13th, 2009, 6:26 pm

Has anyone read Shane by Jack Schaefer? The characters, especially that of Shane himself, are wonderful, and the story is interesting in that it is filtered exclusively through the POV of a ten year old boy. Reading the book I continually hold a silent debate with myself (although the book is such a classic that I know in some ways this counts as sacrilege!) as to whether the book would have been better or only different had the author allowed us to see through the eyes of the other characters, as well.
Last edited by Anna Elliott on Sat June 13th, 2009, 6:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by annis » Mon June 15th, 2009, 2:57 am

One I really enjoyed is an epic, rip-roaring Western send-up, "Wild Times", by Brian Garfield. I believe that the book was made into a TV mini-series, which I haven't seen.

James Lee Burke's "Two For Texas" is well worth a read- of course James Lee is a favourite of mine- that combination of lyricism and violence makes such a stunning impact.
Last edited by annis on Mon June 15th, 2009, 3:01 am, edited 1 time in total.

Chris Little
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Post by Chris Little » Tue March 30th, 2010, 9:14 pm

The following list of the 21 "Best Westerns" was voted by the Western Writers Association. Having been a collection development librarian in cowboy country, I've heard a lot of commentary over the circulation counter about westerns. When it came to cataloging them and selecting spine labels, I didn't consider then that some were westerns. ...?


Shane (Schaefer)
Lonesome Dove (McMurtry)
The Big Sky (Guthrie)
The Time It Never Rained (Kelton)
The Virginian (Wister)
The Shootist (Swarthout)
Death Comes for the Archbishop (Cather)
Riders of the Purple Sage (Grey)
Monte Walsh (Schaefer)
The Ox-Bow Incident (Clark)
Hondo (L’Amour)
All the Pretty Horses (McCarthy)
Centennial (Michener)
The Sea of Grass (Richter)
Riders to Cibola (Zollinger)
The Homesman (Swarthout)
True Grit (Portis)
The Searchers (LeMay)
The Rounders (Evans)
The Day the Cowboys Quit (Kelton)
Call of the Wild (London)

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The Trees by Conrad Richter

Post by Margaret » Tue April 19th, 2011, 6:09 am

Finished reading The Trees and have posted my review. I enjoyed this very much. It totally immersed me in the world of the early settlers who moved west into the wooded country across the Ohio River. Kind of a "Little House in the Big Woods" for grown-ups. It's part of a trilogy and although The Trees closes on a note of completion, there is enough left to be curious about that I'm eager to read the sequels, The Fields and The Town. The Town won a Pulitzer Prize in 1951.

And speaking of the primeval American woodland - does anyone here know the original source of the quote about a squirrel being able to cross (fill in the blank) without ever touching the ground? A web search turned up options ranging from "the East Coast to the Mississippi River," the U.S. from coast to coast, and various U.S. states, to Britain and Spain, but nothing on who said it first.
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