Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Top-10 list #3

Today, I have a list of fiction and nonfiction books about the Old West that I read during the past 12 months. While I read and enjoyed various western genre writers, new and old, I wanted to give note here to the books I've learned most from:

Cattle, Horses and Men. First published in 1940, this memoir by John Culley is a rich source of detailed information about life in 1890s New Mexico, at a time when the ranch where he worked was the only fenced-in rangeland from there to the Canadian border.

Life in the Saddle. Well-written cowboy memoir, by Frank Collinson, who arrived in Texas as a teenager in time for the first cattle drives to Kansas. Also very informative about the life and work of buffalo hunters.

Heart’s Desire. This 1905 novel by Emerson Hough is set in a “quasi mining camp that was two-thirds cow town” in south-central New Mexico. It captures the spirit of an early western town in the years before exploitation by "Eastern capital."

An Obituary for Major Reno. This historical novel by Richard Wheeler tells the story of the Little Big Horn from the point of view of Major Marcus Reno, one of the commanding officers who survived, but whose life followed an unhappy course after the famous battle.

Pasó Por Aquí. This classic western tale by Eugene Manlove Rhodes was first published in 1926. It is set before the turn of the century in south-central New Mexico and offers a study of character as understood by the code of the West. Rhodes' earlier novels Bransford of Rainbow Range and Good Men and True are equally good.

The Outlet. This trail-drive novel by former cowpuncher Andy Adams was published in 1905. It’s a sequel to his Log of a Cowboy and dedicated to providing an accurate portrayal of a trail boss’s work. Plenty of suspense, too.

Wild West. Here’s another novel from a writer who knew cowboying from personal experience. Author Bertrand Sinclair portrays life on the open range of northern Montana, while his cowboy hero is on the trail of cattle rustlers.

To Hell on a Fast Horse. This is a nonfiction book by western historian Mark Lee Gardner, who gives a colorful and informative account of the Lincoln County War and the two men most remembered from it, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid.

Chip of the Flying U. With this 1906 novel, B. M. Bower introduced readers to the bunch of hands at the Flying U ranch in northern Montana. Chip is a thoroughly likable hero, with a gift for painting, like Charles Russell.

The Cowboy Humor of Alfred Henry Lewis. This collection of stories was drawn from Lewis’ three books full of yarns from Wolfville, a fictional town in southern Arizona. Told by an old Texan, the Cattleman, they are an entertaining portrayal of frontier life.

Next time: top-10 classic film noir movies


  1. Some good stuff there that will go on my lists.

  2. A nice list. I'd wager life as a cowboy has changed more in the last 25 years than during the previous century.

  3. I read Chip of the Flying U for the first time this year too, and it quickly became one of my favorite Western novels. Some of Bower's later books (i.e. written in the 1920s and '30s) are excellent too, but much harder to come by since they're not in the public domain yet.

  4. Good reading and good info in those books.

  5. Interesting list here--wonder what your top 10 of all time would include?