by Beth Cronk, Litchfield head librarian
Readers of Westerns are always looking for something new. The popularity of this genre peaked in the 1960s along with Western television shows. Unfortunately for some of our regular library users, not as many Western novels are being published these days. But there are still some good Western novels coming out.
Minnesota author Lin Enger has a novel coming out later in September called The High Divide. Amazon has named it one of its best books of the month, and it has gotten fantastic reviews. Publishers Weekly magazine called it a “Western reinvention of Homer’s Odyssey” and says it will also remind readers of the book and movie The Searchers. Lin, a professor in Moorhead, is the author of Undiscovered Country. His brother Leif wrote the modern classic novel Peace Like a River. I worked with Lin’s wife Kathy at the Augsburg College library back when the brothers were writing and publishing the Gun Pedersen mystery series together as L.L. Enger, so it’s exciting for me to see the national buzz about Lin’s new book.
Backlands: A Novel of the American West is the 2014 sequel to Hard Country by Michael McGarrity. These novels are set at the end of the frontier West, in the Twenties through World War II. They are actually a prequel series to the Kevin Kearney mystery novels. In Backlands, eight-year-old Matthew takes on adult responsibilities to try to save the drought-stricken family ranch in New Mexico during the Depression. Reviews are good, with the novel compared to the style of Lonesome Dove.
Glorious: A Novel of the American West is the first in a planned trilogy from Jeff Guinn. The main character is Cash McLendon, a St. Louis street urchin who climbed his way to riches and connections without worrying about what it took to get there. When he loses it all, he flees to the mining town Glorious in the Arizona territory. Can he hide there from the powerful father-in-law who’s out to get him? Reviewers say it’s a good old-fashioned Western.
Larry McMurtry has a new book out: The Last Kind Words Saloon. McMurtry tells his version of the Wyatt Earp/Doc Holliday story. It’s not a romanticized or historically accurate version. Reviewers describe it as darkly humorous, almost parody. If you’re a fan of Lonesome Dove, this may not be your cup of tea.
Candace Simar’s Abercrombie Trail series has been locally popular because it’s about Scandinavian immigrants in Minnesota during the Dakota Conflict. The series was published by North Star Press of St. Cloud and was recently picked up by a national large-print publisher. The book titles are Abercrombie Trail, Pomme de Terre, Birdie, and Blooming Prairie.
We continue to get the Ralph Cotton and Ralph Compton paperback novels (even though Ralph Compton is dead and other authors are writing his books), as well as the Wagons West series. We also get two new large print Westerns every month at Litchfield. Most of them are re-releases of vintage titles, like The Brass Man by Max Brand and A Bullet for Billy the Kid by Will Henry. Our patrons still check them out as though they were newly published. If they’re new to you, it doesn’t matter, right?
I know we have a demand for Westerns from our patrons here in Litchfield, so even though the choices are thin in the publishing world, I add them to the collection whenever I can. I hope that some of the nontraditional Westerns that are coming out will make our traditional Western fans happy, too.