Jun 12, 201203:50 PMThe Telegraph
The Premier Blog of the West
Western Words: June 12, 2012
Editor's note: Welcome to "Western Words," a regular rundown of the new and re-released Western-themed books hitting stores.
Cowboy Life on The Western Plains: The Reminiscences of a Ranchman, by Edgar Beecher Bronson
When the frontier officially “closed” in 1890, it sparked an uptick in fascination with the Wild West. Eager to feed a cowboy-crazed public were the dime novel publishers that turned every two-bit outlaw into a quick-draw hero, and famed self-promoter Buffalo Bill Cody, whose Wild West Show gave greenhorns a chance to watch Indians attack a stagecoach from the comfort of their stadium seat.
In 1910, Edgar Beecher Bronson (1856–1917) published Cowboy Life on The Western Plains: The Reminiscences of a Ranchman. At just 76 pages, it wasn’t as action-packed as a Buffalo Bill show or the tales of Jesse James and Wild Bill Hickok, but it had something they did not – authenticity.
Bronson, in addition to being a prolific writer, was also a Nebraska rancher, a West Texas cattleman, an African big-game hunter and a talented photographer. After a stint with the New York Tribune, he headed west in 1877, and after one season on the Wyoming range he opened his own spread in Sioux County, Nebraska.
The book describes Bronson’s transition to the cowboy lifestyle, and what it was really like to run a cattle ranch around the turn of the 20th century, from the bitter cold winters to the constant threat of rustlers. First editions of Cowboy Life on the Western Plains are hard to find now, but the work makes its debut this month as an eBook, a concept ol’ Edgar Bronson would never have imagined.
The tumultuous relationship between the westward moving pioneers and the Native population is chronicled in fascinating detail, through first-hand interviews, in this marvelous two-volume series.
The hardcover edition has been available for a while but it’s pricey now, so the just-released paperback version should bring these remarkable interviews to a wider audience.
Eli S. Ricker (1843-1926) was a Nebraska judge who covered a broad range of topics with his interviewees, which included many Sioux Indians who were there during the Battle of Little Big Horn. He long planned to write a book with the material, but never got around to finishing it. Fortunately, the interviews were preserved and are presented here with an informative introduction by editor Richard E. Jensen.
Dead Reckoning, by Mercedes Lackey
Somehow, when our attention was elsewhere, zombies became a hot commodity in books, television and movies. Mercedes Lackey, who has written more than 100 fantasy novels, puts a western spin on the undead in her latest. If you’ve ever wanted to read about a saloon brawl with zombies, Dead Reckoning has you covered.
Squaring off against the slow-moving monsters are Jett, a girl who disguises herself as a cowboy to get a ranching job, and to search for her lost brother. She joins forces with inventor Honoria Gibbons and a young Native American boy, White Fox. They soon discover that the rise of the zombies did not happen by accident.
Open Fire: J. Golden Kimball Takes on the South, by Scott M. Hurst
“I can tell my whole life story in five minutes, if I leave out all the bad parts.” So begins the fast-paced adventures of J. Golden Kimball. Kimball is a revered figure in the Mormon community, and there are numerous stories attributed to him that land somewhere between history and folklore. What always shines through is a quick wit and sense of humor, even in the direst circumstances.
Sam Sixkiller: Cherokee Frontier Lawman, by Chris Enss and Howard Kazanjian
It sounds like a story made in Hollywood: Sam Sixkiller was a real-life Cherokee lawman in the Oklahoma Territory, circa 1880. He kept the streets of the Wild West safe while honoring his traditional Indian heritage. His reign was short – an assassin’s bullet took his life in 1886, but he was celebrated in his day as one of the state’s most accomplished gunslingers. Not surprisingly, it took a screenwriter and film producer to bring Sixkiller’s story to light. This way if the book sells, they won’t have to buy the movie rights.
A Man Called Sunday, by Charles G. West
Since 1998, Charles G. West has been a reliable source of engaging western fiction about heroes of fairness and courage. Fans of his Jason Coles and Jordan Gray series should also enjoy his latest, A Man Called Sunday. Luke Sunday serves as a scout for General George Crook, then engaged in a campaign against the Sioux. Having lived among Native Americans in the past, Sunday tries to settle the conflicts between his two worlds, but any chance to do so is destroyed when a fellow scout leads a brutal cavalry attack on a peaceful Cheyenne village. Sunday moves on, but as often happens in these tales, his past follows along on the journey.
No one ever said the life of a prospector was easy. But beyond the odds against finding any gold in them thar hills, the Forty-Niners who headed west also had to contend with bandits and con men who let others do the back-breaking work, then stole the spoils with a pack of lies or a loaded pistol.
Author Matthew Mayo has explored the dark side of the frontier before in Cowboys, Mountain Men and Grizzly Bears: Fifty of the Grittiest Moments in the History of the Wild West. In the latest installment of his “Grittiest Moments” series, Mayo shares 50 hard-luck stories of riches won and lost. Some are pretty brutal, and others are hilarious in the “I can’t believe he fell for that” tradition.
As Disney and Johnny Depp prepare yet another adaptation of the legendary masked rider of the plains, The Lone Ranger Chronicles collects stories of the Lone Ranger and Tonto written by a who’s who of western fiction authors and comic book writers, including Spur Award-winner Johnny D. Boggs, Alex Award-winner Mel Odom, Paul Kupperberg, Denny O’Neil and Richard Dean Starr. Whether or not these tales qualify as ‘canon,’ is up for debate, but any fan of the character from his radio, movie, television and comic appearances will love reading such stories as the origin of Silver, and the Lone Ranger’s meetings with Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday and The Cisco Kid.
The McLaurys in Tombstone, Arizona: An O.K. Corral Obituary, by Paul Lee Johnson
Our endless fascination with the most famous gunfight of all time continues to inspire new works of history, fiction, and speculation. Here, Paul Lee Johnson takes a second look at the McLaury brothers, Tom and Frank, neither of whom survived the OK Corral shoot-out. We remember them as villains, because they were not among those striding down the street with Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday – but is that reputation deserved?
Johnson interviews family descendants and uncovers letters never before published, to provide a more in-depth biography of two men generally regarded as historical footnotes.
Peckinpah Today: New Essays on the Films of Sam Peckinpah, by Michael Bliss
Anyone seeking a reason to revisit the classic films of Sam Peckinpah need look no further than this collection of nine essays from screenwriters, scholars and film critics. Four of the essays explore the transition from original source material to film, which offers new insight not only into the movies but the books that inspired them. For fans of the director’s brutal yet somehow still beautiful westerns, Peckinpah Today contains analyses of the spiritual and Biblical themes in The Wild Bunch and The Ballad of Cable Hogue. Don’t be surprised if these films wind up back in your Netflix queue after reading these provocative essays.