For those who have been reading and re-reading Zane Grey, Ernest Haycox, Max Brand, Luke Short, Will Henry, and of course, Louis L’Amour, here is a list of other Western novels to explore. Some are more traditional, some have a strong element of romance, and some combine fantasy with the Western theme.
Camp Ford by Johnny Boggs
Boggs bends the traditional mold in some respects, as in this tale set in Texas during the Civil War that is also a story of early baseball, pitting Union POWs against Confederate guards in a crucial game that takes the place of the usual wild West showdown.
Territory by Emma Bull
Everyone knows that Wyatt Earp was a lawman. What you may not know is that he was also a sorcerer. The legendary shootout at the OK Corral in 1889 in Tombstone, Arizona was about far more than a family feud or conflicts with cowboys. In Territory, unsavory sorcerers with familiar names subtly wield dark magic while humble heroes call upon unknown pools of strength to save the day.
The Actor by Robert Conley
The clever, often amusing story of a disgraced Broadway actor, Bluford Steele, who flees to 1870s Nebraska, where he joins a frontier troupe. When a crooked power broker withholds the troupe’s profits, Steele takes on the greatest role of his life: real-life gunfighter. If you like Conley’s traditional approach, you should also try Peter Brandvold.
The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt
It seems inevitable that a postmodern western would eventually be written. This wry, amusing novel chronicles the adventures of the Sisters brothers, two assassin siblings plying their trade in the West in the 1850s. These gunslingers are hired to track down and kill a prospector named Herman Kermit Warm. In their quest the brothers journey from Oregon to San Francisco, running into a witch, a bear, a dead Indian, a parlor of drunken floozies, and a gang of murderous fur trappers.
Fools Gold by Ken Hodgson
If you like traditional Westerns, but don’t mind a little comic relief, give this author a try. In this yarn set in Oregon in the 1880s one Jake Crabtree is a hapless, often drunken prospector with only one friend, Doc McNair. Just as his friend dies, Jake finds gold — and also finds himself presiding over a boom town. Soon, he longs to be poor again.
All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy
For a more modern take on the Western, which doesn’t ignore the suffering caused by the Westward expansion, try Cormac McCarthy’s novel. This one tells the story of sixteen-year-old John Grady Cole who, after he is denied the ranching life that he loves, sets out for Mexico with two companions in order to seek his fortune.
Dark Trail to Dodge by Cotton Smith
This Kansas author is perfect for fans of L’Amour. This yarn features the Triple C cattle drive from Texas to Dodge City, Kans., which is Ty Bannon’s first job as a cowboy. What Ty and the others don’t expect is that a spy in their crew is setting them up for an ambush by rustlers.
Pieces of Sky by Kaki Warner
In this romance pregnant milliner and writer Jessica Thornton leaves England for the Wild West in search of her brother. There she falls for Brady Wilkins, a rough-edged rancher involved in a land feud.
The Outsider by Penelope Williamson
This romance set in the Montana during the 1880’s features Amish widow Rachel Yoder whose life turns upside-down when a wounded gunslinger appears on her property.
Also check out this review written by librarian Christina Callison of the Western thriller called Under Tower Peak by Bart Paul.
Desire a little nonfiction?
Librarian Dave Coleman recommends Shot All To Hell. In riveting detail Mark Lee Gardner recounts the capture of bank robbing brothers and the job that ended their criminal careers. Learn (or re-familiarize yourself with) the story of the Younger Brothers and Jesse and Frank James. I would recommend Shot All to Hell to anyone who loves to read history about the “Old West.” And certainly fans of the western genre should find this book an enjoyable.