This is the summer where I decide whether to fish or cut bait on the Western I’ve been toying with for several years now. My reading list reflects that, and likely will for the next couple of months. It’s okay. There’s no dearth of great stuff to read in this area.
Deadwood: Stories of the Black Hills, David Milch. This is the inside story book written to accompany the HBO series. In it Milch details how and why he made many of the creative decisions that made the show what it was, some of his research, and includes sections by various actors about how they played their roles and how the characters grew as the show moved on. A fascinating ‘inside baseball” look at what may have been TV’s most fascinating series, though with a melancholy ending: the closing article was written with the full expectation that the series would conclude with two two-hour movies, which we now know never happened.
Six Guns at Sundown, Eric Beetner. It’s a good thing Beetner is such a nice guy and so generous in his aid to other writers because he’s so good and so prolific it would be easy to hate him otherwise. Even so, I may give it a try. Not content to write some of the best and most concise crime fiction around, he branched out into Westerns and nailed it. All of the things one loves about his crime stories are here, including the cinematic textures that lead the reader to visual a movie scene while reading.
True Grit, Charles Portis. A re-read, and well worth it. As good as everyone who loves it says it is, a book that will survive endless readings. Portis was a treasure and should be better remembered for his other works (which include Masters of Atlantis and Dog of the South) but it’s no crime that True Grit holds the primary position. The only shame is that so many read this one and stop there.
Dodge City: Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson and the Wickedest Town in the American West, Tom Clavin. I stumbled onto this at a book event and it followed me home. Lucky me. Meticulously researched and written with a dry and appropriate wit, Dodge City captures not just the flavor of the town but gives a good, broad look at the origins of law enforcement on the American frontier circa 1870 – 1890 or so, including why there was a need for it. Highly recommended.