Oct 23, 201203:14 PMThe Telegraph
The Premier Blog of the West
Western Words: New Books For Oct. 23, 2012
It probably sounded like a great idea at the time. Since the James gang had become famous throughout the West for bank and stagecoach robberies, they would ride hundreds of miles east and hit a bank in Minnesota. What could possibly go wrong?
Sean McLachlan answers that question in The Last Ride of the James-Younger Gang, a brief (80 pages) but engrossing history of what happened when Frank and Jesse James, the Younger brothers and the rest of their outlaw band arrived in Northfield to take on the First National Bank. To say things did not go as planned is an understatement.
Sweet on Texas: Loveable Confections from the Lone Star State, by Denise Gee (Author), Robert M. Peacock (Photographer)
Texas has never been particularly renowned for its desserts, but that doesn’t mean the state’s cooks don’t know how to make that last course something special. Sweet on Texas offers unique recipes from four Lone Star regions, as well as stories about some of the state’s most promising young pastry chefs. From sweet pineapple tamales to — no kidding — deep-fried Coca-Cola, author Denise Gee has uncovered some wonderful sugar-coated delights.
How many people know that there was a real Tom Sawyer? In the 1860s, while Mark Twain was working for a newspaper in California, he made the acquaintance of a man with that name, who was already famous for saving 90 lives when the steamship Independence went down. Before that, Sawyer was a “Torch Boy,” the designation given to youths that carried torches and lit the way for San Francisco’s volunteer fire department.
Black Fire is three great stories in one: an account of Twain’s relationship with Sawyer, a Sawyer biography, and an investigation into a series of devastating arson attacks on San Francisco perpetrated by a madman known as The Lightkeeper. Graysmith paints a vivid portrait of the city in the Gold-Rush era with its gunfighters, prospectors, vigilantes, and corrupt politicians. By the time The Lightkeeper is brought to justice, readers will not be surprised at Twain’s decision to name his most famous fictional character after a real-life hero.
From the end of the Civil War to the beginning of the 20th century, the West was in a near-constant state of armed conflict between Native Americans and U.S. forces. While the moral haziness and political causes of these battles have been well documented, No Greater Calling focuses instead on paying tribute to those who fell on the Western frontier. More than 1,200 soldiers lost their lives, and while all historians will not celebrate their actions, their sacrifice in service to their country was no less profound.
Dead Man's Hand, by Eddie Jones
This is the first young adult adventure in a proposed series called The Caden Chronicles. Our protagonist is Nick Caden, an inquisitive 14-year-old on vacation with his family in the Deadwood Canyon Ghost Town that takes the “ghost” part a little too seriously. Nick starts seeing famous Old West gunfighters and is chased through an abandoned gold mine while trying to solve a very real murder — all while trying to convince his parents that he’s not seeing things. It’s a little bit Hardy Boys and a little Harry Potter. I wouldn’t be surprised if older readers get caught up in Nick’s adventures as well.
For more recent book releases, check out last week's Western Words post.