Jun 19, 201211:10 AMThe Telegraph
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Western Words: June 19, 2012
Prairie Fever: British Aristocrats in the American West 1830-1890, by Peter Pagnamenta
Did you ever watch one of those westerns where a stuffy British character is brought in for comic relief, to complain about the heat and the dust and exclaim, “I say!” at every new frontier indignity? Turns out that scenario actually happened, over and over again.
In Prairie Fever, Peter Pagnamenta vividly describes these expeditions, which were taken by aristocrats and fortune-seekers, retired military men and hunters hoping to bag a buffalo. Most just visited, but some stayed to build cattle empires, until Congress intervened. Having driven the British out 50 years earlier, no one wanted them staking new claims on America with their checkbook.
Brigham Young, by Leonard J. Arrington
First published in 1986, this massive biography has been hailed as one of the best, if not the best, on the famed western pioneer and Mormon leader. The new paperback edition, as well as a new eBook edition, arrives at a time when Mormonism has become more prominent, thanks to a presidential candidate and an irreverent Broadway musical. Arrington argues that Young deserves to be remembered as a figure of abiding influence in our society to this day, and makes his case through 500 pages of text that incorporate a wide range of sources, including personal diaries and private correspondence.
Fishing Texas, by Barry St. Clair
If you’re going to trust someone to know all the best fishing spots in Texas, it might as well be the guy who still holds the state record for a largemouth bass catch (more than 18 pounds, set back in 1992). Barry St. Clair describes each site in detail, with maps and directions and information on what you can catch, specifics on nearby camping facilities, weather guides and which flies, bait and techniques will bring the best results.
Tumbleweeds: A Novel, by Leila Meacham
In 2010, Leila Meacham released Roses, one of those generations-spanning East Texas dramas that television used to adapt into a miniseries starring Sam Elliott. With Tumbleweeds, she returns to Texas with a new tale of three young friends growing up where Friday night football games are the most important events of the year. According to her bio, Meacham was born in Minden, Louisiana because her father could not get her mother across the border of the Sabine River into Texas prior to the birth. She says that as far as she knows, it’s the only regret he ever had of his daughter. Technicalities aside, Meacham describes the sights and sounds of a Panhandle town with the insight of a native.
Every state has its strange stories and local legends, which has made the “Haunted” series so entertaining. In Haunted Utah, Andy Weeks spins macabre tales of a haunted hotel in Ogden, ghostly children spotted in Mercur Cemetery, and passed-down stories with titles like “The Phantom Hitchhiker of American Fork” and “The White Lady of Spring Canyon.” Apparently, Utah is also home to some very bizarre creatures, included the Moon Lake Monster and a black-eyed monster that lives in Utah Lake.
-- For more recent book releases, check out last week's Western Words post.
-- In related news, the Western Writers of America's Spur Awards were announced over the weekend. Find a list of winners here.