Monday, October 23, 2006

"Western" Novels Recommended by George Pelecanos

"I got my sense of story from watching old movies on television with my father and grandfather on Sunday afternoons. Westerns were my favorites and remain so to this day."

So says crime writer George Pelecanos, on this list of 10 Westerns To Read. This got me thinking of the Sunday afternoon movies of my youth. Most of them would bore a kid to tears, but Pelecanos is right on the money re: westerns I can easily recall the thrill of seeing Vera Cruz the Sunday I was hanging out with a bunch of my mates in someone's family basement. "Anyone else side with Curly?", quoth Burt Lancaster after he draws and shoots two armed men -- with his gun-hand behind his back. (Needless to say, the film doesn't have quite the same effect on an adult re-viewing it in '06 as it did on an 11-year-old in '76.)

Pelecanos has some interesting picks, including a few I'd never heard of. I'd read Shane by Jack Schaefer -- but Monte Walsh? News to me. Looks like I'll be paying a visit to the local library this afternoon, perhaps to compile a list of my own. Larry McMurtry's Lonesome Dove would, of course, be included. Any others?


DarkoV said...

Can't add any books to the list, well, at least ones I'd want my name tied to. I read tons of Zane Grey when I was a kid and thought he was the best. Then, re-reading, or at least trying to, in my later teens, I couldn't believe how gloppy and romantic they were. And then I realized that Riders of the Purple Sage was a Harlequin with chaps. Yeah, yeah, there wer some bullets and beef, but I didn't realize how much lovey-dovey things were happening.

Even the cattle were looking longingly at the cowboys.

Luckily, the Italian spaghetti western movies started coming out to save the fantasy of the smelly, smoky, squirrely cowboy.

Yahmdallah said...

Nope. He lists them all.

I do have one to avoid though: "Welcome to Hard Times" by E. L. Doctorow. What a pusillanimous piece of pus.

I'm gonna spoil it for you in hopes you won't waste your life on this one. It's written in accounting ledgers by someone who's dying. The plot is a small western town is attacked by a bad man who leaves nearly everyone dead, except the hero, a hooker who's badly burned, and I think a boy. They have a harsh winter living in a sod house. Well, the town eventually builds itself up again, then the bad man comes back and wipes everyone out again, save for the hero, who does die after he finishes writing it all down, and an insane Swedish woman. The end. Yes, it doth sucketh.

Reel Fanatic said...

I don't read many Westerns, but for my money, Pelecanos is just about the best writer working today in any genre, so I'll definitely try some from his list .. thanks for the heads up!

Whisky Prajer said...

dv - when I first gave Riders of the Purple Sage a try, I was 16 or 17. Too old for it to stick. Also, in contrast to the prolific Louis L'Amour, Gray just took too darn long to get to the brawlin' and shootin'. One of the things I remember enjoying about L'Amour was his frequent attempts to introduce a narrator who spoke with an Irish brogue. The fella would chatter in doggerel for the first 15 or so pages, but it was never long before L'Amour tired of this and resumed his usual no-nonsense "Let's type this ****er" voice.

yahmdallah - wow. You got a lot farther in WTHT than I did. A lot farther. I was never able to make it past the first five pages, which is unusual for Doctorow. I loved The Book of Daniel, thought Billy Bathgate and World's Fair were terrific. But every third or so book from this man seems to be a stinker.

rf - say, since the Western is usually a bit off your beaten track, some critical commentary from you might be just the thing (hint, hint)!

Yahmdallah said...

I had to read it for a class, so I was stuck.

And that was back when I felt an obligation to finish every book I stared, anyway.

I've gotten way over that.