Library notes: WEsterns may change, but they never go out of style

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 21, 2009

By Betty Moore
Rowan Public Library
Westerns are a classic fiction genre, representing American values of hard work and standing up for one’s beliefs.
Traditionally, they have been set west of the Mississippi River in the 1800s, with good and evil facing off against the backdrop of the barely settled and often lawless frontier. This was a place where a person, usually a man, could reinvent himself by overcoming hardship. The landscape was almost a character, as well.
Traditional western fiction often featured stereotypical portraits of Native Americans, Latinos and women, and problems were often solved with force rather than reason.
While fewer traditional western books are published these days, books set in the West with western themes and landscapes have spread over into other genres, notably mysteries and thrillers.
A good example of this is “Dark Horse,” the latest book in Craig Johnson’s series about Sheriff Walt Longmire, a Vietnam vet now dealing with social justice in a rugged, sparsely populated area of Wyoming.
Walt doubts Mary’s confession that she shot her husband, Wade, after Wade allegedly burned down their barn with all Mary’s horses inside. Johnson’s previous book, “Another Man’s Moccasins,” won a 2009 Spur Award in June from the Western Writer’s Association for best western novel.
The WWA also awarded Elmore Leonard the 2009 Owen Wister Award for lifetime contributions to the literature of the West. Although better known today for crime writing, he has written many westerns, such as “3:10 to Yuma” and “Hombre.” Their Web site ( features their newsletter, “Roundup,” and other items of interest, such as “Best Western” lists of fiction, nonfiction, films and TV shows.
“Brimstone” is Robert B. Parker’s third western adventure featuring Everett Hitch and Virgil Cole. Here they track down Virgil’s sweetheart Allie and the three head north to start over in the town of Brimstone, where they secure positions as the town’s deputies. They struggle to keep the peace as a local church leader stirs up trouble at local saloons.Richard S. Wheeler has written more than 60 westerns and holds five Spur Awards plus the Owen Wister Award for his work. “North Star,” his latest entry in the Barnaby Skye series, takes Skye and his younger Indian wife on a search for his half-blood son North Star. After more than 50 years of trapping and hunting, fighting Indians and living outdoors, Skye is old, in pain and losing his eyesight, but is still crafty and wise.
C.J. Box writes modern Western thrillers about Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett. In his latest book, “Below Zero,” his daughter seems to be held hostage by a deranged ecoterrorist. He dives into the middle of a topical environmental issue, putting his and his girls’ lives on the line. A Library Journal reviewer calls Box’s series “the gold standard in the western mystery subgenre.”A number of writers of religious fiction also set their stories in Western times and places. Lori Copeland’s latest, “Outlaw’s Bride,” blends classic Western romance with religious themes. While being rehabilitated for a crime he didn’t commit, Johnny schemes to be released early so he can kill the man who wiped out his family. But then he meets beautiful and kind Ragan.
A delightful companion book at RPL is “The Writer’s Guide to Everyday Life in the Wild West” by Candy Moulton. Readers as well as writers will enjoy this book, with its extensive research into daily life of those days, plus a reading list and glossary of western slang.
RPL also carries books by many writers of traditional Westerns, such as Zane Grey, Louis L’Amour, Elmer Kelton, Tabor Evans, J.R. Roberts, Ralph Cotton and William Johnstone.
Tuesday Night at the Movies: All movies are at 6:30 p.m. All movies are rated G, PG or PG 13; some movies are inappropriate for younger audiences. Children should be accompanied by an adult. Free popcorn and lemonade.
Recent releases will be featured in August.
Tuesday, “Slumdog Millionaire,” rated R. No one under 18 admitted without parent.
Displays: Headquarters ó wood art by Howard Reinhardt and N.C. Rowan County Anime Group by Robert Allen; South ó lunch box collection by Sharon Ross. East ó wood artist Stephen Martin.Literacy: Call the Rowan County Literacy Council at 704-216-8266 for more information on teaching or receiving literacy tutoring for English speakers or for those for whom English is a second language.