Best Books About The Wild West

Best Books About The Wild West

Best Books About The Wild West

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The Wild West era, also known as the American Frontier, holds a legendary place in history, synonymous with tales of rugged cowboys, lawmen, outlaws, and the spirit of adventure. If you’re captivated by the allure of the Wild West and want to explore its rich history, numerous exceptional books can transport you back in time and immerse you in the untamed landscapes and remarkable characters of the era. So what are some of the best western novels about the history of the west you can read?

What are some of the best wild west western novels?

Best Books About The Wild West

Appaloosa By Robert B. Parker

Appaloosa By Robert B. Parker

Originally published in 2005. It is the first book in the Appaloosa series, featuring the characters Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch, who are lawmen in the Old West.

The story is set in the little town of Appaloosa, a small western town plagued by lawlessness and violence. Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch, two seasoned lawmen with a reputation for getting the job done, are hired to bring order to Appaloosa and rid it of the ruthless rancher Randall Bragg and his gang.

As Cole and Hitch work to establish law and order in Appaloosa, they face various challenges and encounters with dangerous individuals. Along the way, they also encounter Allie French, a beautiful woman who becomes a love interest for both men, creating a complex dynamic between the three.

Appaloosa is known for its tight and evocative writing style, capturing the essence of the Old West and the morally ambiguous choices faced by its characters. The American classic explores themes of justice, loyalty, American culture, way of life, and the struggle to maintain order in a lawless land.

The book was well-received by readers and critics alike and has been praised for its authentic portrayal of the Western genre. It was adapted into a film in 2008, directed by and starring Ed Harris, who portrayed Virgil Cole, with Viggo Mortensen as Everett Hitch.

Three-Ten to Yuma and Other Stories By Elmore Leonard

Three-Ten to Yuma and Other Stories is a collection of Western-themed short stories written by Elmore Leonard. The book features a diverse range of characters and events set in the American West during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. While each story presents a unique narrative, they all share Leonard’s trademark blend of gritty realism, sharp dialogue, and unexpected twists.

The titular story, Three-Ten to Yuma, centers around a small-time rancher named Dan Evans, who accepts the dangerous task of escorting a notorious outlaw, Ben Wade, to a train that will take him to prison. As they journey together, Evans faces numerous challenges and moral dilemmas, testing his courage and integrity.

With vivid descriptions and a keen understanding of human nature, Elmore Leonard captures the essence of the Wild West, showcasing the struggles, conflicts, and complex relationships that defined the era. Three-Ten to Yuma and Other Stories is a captivating collection that delivers thrilling narratives and memorable characters, exemplifying Leonard’s mastery of the Western genre.

The Tonto Woman and Other Western Stories by Elmore Leonard

The Tonto Woman and Other Western Stories by Elmore Leonard

While Leonard is famous for his modern crime stories, the Detroit writer earned his fame by writing Westerns. He started crafting his stories during the 1950s while he was still working in the advertising industry. He chose to write about the American West because, like millions of Americans, he enjoyed Western movies. He focused his research on what life was like in the Southwest in the 1880s and began to write about it. His early stories sold for about $100 each, which was about 2 cents per word. While it was tough going at first, he soon found success.

Many of his Western stories still resonate today. The Tonto Woman is a delightful short story about a cattle thief who comes to the rescue of what one could call a discarded woman. Sarah Isham has been kidnapped by Native Americans and handed off from one tribe to another.

The Mojaves tattooed her cheeks so she can be recognized at the time of her death as one of them. This is to make sure the spirits do not take her soul into a rathole. But during a drought, the Mojaves trade her to a group of Tonto Apaches for two mules and a bag of salt. She survives and eventually finds her way home. Unfortunately for her, her proud husband abandons her and confines her to a shack in the desert, under the watchful eye of some of his employees. That’s when Ruben Vega, the cattle thief, comes riding up.

The dialogue is what makes the story sizzle and it’s easy to see why Hollywood keeps returning to Leonard’s creations for screenplays.

Lonesome Dove By Larry McMurtry

Lonesome Dove By Larry McMurtry

Lonesome Dove is Larry McMurtryís greatest American literature achievement. Itís an epic masterpiece that won the Pulitzer Prize for its sweeping scenery, loveable characters, and epic storyline. McMurtry is the master of the American West. Most, if not all of his novels are dedicated to the subject.

Gus McCrae and Woodrow F. Call are retired Texas Rangers living in the barely on-the-map town of Lonesome Dove running the Hat Creek Cattle Company. With them is faithful Pea Eye Parker and Deets, along with young Newt who adores both Gus and Call.

Through a series of events (stealing cattle and horses from Mexico, mainly) and an off-hand idea from a friend, Jake Spoon, Gus and Call round up a herd of cattle and a herd of rowdy cowboys and head north to Montana.

Lonesome Dove is the story of Gus, who lusts after whores and reads scripture while heís baking his famous biscuits. Heís a genuine cowboy, sharpshooter, card sharp, and charmer. Itís also the story of Call, who is looking for fulfillment after a lifetime of adventure. This cattle drive is the perfect opportunity for him to have something to do because heís a natural-born leader.

On the way to Montana, they meet with hostile Indians, old friends and lovers, and a variety of decisions to make. Gus visits his old sweetheart, Clara, and realizes that heíll always love her but canít give her what she needs. Call realizes that Newt probably is his son and own up to it.

But, it all changes after Gus is attacked by Indians and Call has to find him.

An epic novel such as Lonesome Dove cannot be summarized in such a short review. However, readers and fans of the American West who are looking for a beautiful representation of the West to read, Lonesome Dove will not fail you. McMurtry manages to capture the essence of one of the greatest eras in American History through his rough-and-tumble cowboys, the whores they fall in love with and an epic cattle drive that changes all of their lives forever.

Larry McMurtry uses Lonesome Dove to paint a vivid picture of the real American West. His characters have no delusions and he gives them no outside agenda. What you see is what you get with McMurtry. Lonesome Dove transports readers to Texas, Nebraska, and Montana in such a way thatís never been done before. Before long, readers will have a lasso in their hands wanting to follow Gus and Call to the ends of the earth.

Hondo (Louis L’Amour’s Lost Treasures) By Louis L’Amour

Hondo (Louis L'Amour's Lost Treasures) By Louis L'Amour

Those that have read many Louis L’Amour books will be unsurprised by much in this one but for those who have not read his books, Hondo (the main character) makes for an excellent introduction. With the story set against the Arizona desert, L’Amour details the harshly beautiful landscape that existed long before the big cities and freeways marred the barren terrain. He takes the time to acquaint one with the harsh realities of trail life. Extolling the virtues of patience, conservation, and working with the land, the story captures you and makes you believe that you are the trail-seasoned army scout searching for water while watching your back trail for Indians and outlaws.

The plot line of the book follows a man named Hondo Lane. Mr. Lane begins the story as a man in trouble. Although he manages to free himself from the situation, his horse dies in the process. Now afoot, Hondo walks many miles with Sam (a mean, mangy, and wild but somehow lovable dog) before encountering a small ranch set in a cup-like valley. Here he meets a woman named Angie Lowe and her six-year-old son, Johnny. Hondo knows the man of the ranch has been absent for a long time, despite Mrs. Lowe’s effort to conceal this fact.

After a trip to the fort to attend to his duties, Hondo returns to see about the safety of the woman and child. Along this journey, he meets and is forced to kill Ed Lowe, Angie’s missing husband. He then is captured by the Apache. The chief of the tribe to which Hondo finds himself prisoner has had dealings with Angie Lowe and through an odd twist of fate has adopted Johnny as a brother.

After a brief bit of torture, a knife fight, and more luck, Hondo is led to Angie’s ranch and is told to teach and raise the boy as an Apache would. The story continues from here as Hondo learns how to be a father figure and his relationship with Angie goes through an interesting transformation. But when the US Army decides to ride out and make war with the Apache, what will happen?

In response to Louis L’Amour’s foreword, I have to say not only did he try to tell a great American story – he succeeded! The story is inspiring but believable. Even though the time of the Wild West had come and gone long before Hondo was written the settings, characters, and plot lines make you feel like you are there. This, for me, is the greatest compliment I can give any book.

Best Books About The Wild West

Other recommendations of Western literature and favourite books:

  • Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy: Set in the mid-19th century, this dark and violent novel follows a teenage runaway known as the Kid who joins a group of scalp hunters on the Texas-Mexico border. The book delves into the brutality and lawlessness of the American West.
  • True Grit by Charles Portis: Set in the 1870s, this novel tells the story of fourteen-year-old Mattie Ross, who hires the hard-drinking U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn to help her avenge her father’s murder. A gripping tale of justice and determination unfolds against the backdrop of the Wild West.
  • Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown: This non-fiction work provides a powerful and heartbreaking account of the struggles and injustices faced by Native American tribes during the conquest of the American West. It chronicles events such as the Trail of Tears, the Sand Creek massacre, and the Battle of Little Bighorn.
  • Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey: Set in the rugged landscapes of Utah, this novel follows a woman named Jane Withersteen as she fights against the oppressive religious group that seeks to control her land. It is a classic tale of romance, adventure, and the fight for justice in the Wild West.
  • The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt: This darkly humorous Western follows two notorious assassin brothers, Eli, and Charlie Sisters, as they journey from Oregon City to California during the Gold Rush. As they confront violence, greed, and their relationships, the novel explores themes of morality and redemption.

These best westerns represent just a fraction of the captivating literature available on the Wild West. Whether you’re fascinated by the ways of the apache and lives of Native Americans, intrigued by the adventures of cowboys and their cattle drives and outlaws, or interested in the historical context of westward expansion, these titles offer immersive storytelling and deep insights into the captivating era of the American Frontier.

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