Honor roll: Western books

Each of these Western books has received at least one award nomination. They are ranked by honors received.

Book:Lonesome Dove

Lonesome Dove

Larry McMurtry

A love story, an adventure, an American epic, Lonesome Dove embraces all the West—legend and fact, heroes and outlaws, whores and ladies, Indians and settiers—in a novel that recreates the central American experience, the most enduring of our national myths.

Set in the late nineteenth century, Lonesome Dove is the story of a cattle drive from Texas to Montana—and much more. It is a drive that represents for everybody involved not only a daring, even a foolhardy, adventure, but a part of the American Dream—the attempt to carve out of the last remaining wilderness a new life.

Augustus McCrae and W. F. Call are former Texas Rangers, partners and friends who have shared hardship and danger together without ever quite understanding (or wanting to understand) each other’s deepest emotions. Gus is the romantic, a reluctant…[more]

Book:The Tree of Life

The Tree of Life: A Novel

Hugh Nissenson

Eighteen months of the life of Thomas Keene, a fictitious 19th-century congregational minister, is traced in this journal-like novel. Having suffered a loss of faith, Keene abandons the East for frontier life in the Ohio wilderness. His account is by turns violent, tender, and erotic. Keene is both a witness to history, describing the many ordinary and horrific details of frontier life (including the conflict between white settlers and Indians), and a man searching for personal meaning in a world without God.

Like a true frontier journal, the novel includes illustrations attributed to Keene. As a foil to the main character, the historic figure John Chapman, better known as Johnny Appleseed, is portrayed as a believer who lives with self-doubt.

Book:Fools Crow

Fools Crow

James Welch

The year is 1870, and Fool’s Crow, so called after he killed the chief of the Crows during a raid, has a vision at the annual Sun Dance ceremony. The young warrior sees the end of the Indian way of life and the choice that must be made: resistance or humiliating accommodation. “A major contibution to Native American literature”.—Wallace Stegner.

Book:Son of the Morning Star

Son of the Morning Star: Custer and The Little Bighorn

Evan S. Connell

Custer’s Last Stand is among the most enduring events in American history—more than one hundred years after the fact, books continue to be written and people continue to argue about even the most basic details surrounding the Little Bighorn. Evan S. Connell, whom Joyce Carol Oates has described as “one of our most interesting and intelligent American writers,” wrote what continues to be the most reliable—and compulsively readable—account of the subject. Connell makes good use of his meticulous research and novelist’s eye for the story and detail to re-vreate the heroism, foolishness, and savagery of this crucial chapter in the history of the West.

Book:Bendigo Shafter

Bendigo Shafter

Louis L'Amour

They came west inspired by the boldest American dream. Pioneers whose hands and hearts shaped the proud destiny of a nation. Seven men and thirteen women and children—strangers who shed their blood to build a community out of the Wyoming wilderness. And towering above them all was Bendigo Shafter, a giant of a man whose love and courage were the equal of the mighty land.

Book:The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Ron Hansen

Hansen re-creates the real West with his imaginative telling of the life of the most famous outlaw of them all, Jesse James, and of his death at the hands of the upstart Robert Ford. James, a charismatic, superstitious, and moody man, holds sway over a ragged gang who fear his temper and quick shooting. Robert Ford, a young gang member torn between worshipping Jesse and taking his place, guns him down in cold blood and lives out his days tormented by the killing.

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