Call-in Cancelled: Round up of range-riding writing

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Golden Age Western Comics press photo

Golden Age Western Comics press photo

The call-in program scheduled for Friday, September 27 has been cancelled. It may be rescheduled for a later date to be determined.

We’re heading out to the plains, the Rio Grande, the Four Corners and the western badlands on the next book club call in. On Friday, September 27, John Ernst and I talk about western writers we love, and take your calls about your favorite books set in the American West.

Earlier today, I was talking about the show with Dale Hobson and Bill Haenel–our digital team–and both mentioned the two icons of American Western fiction–Zane Grey and the prodigiously prolific (about 100 books) Louis L’Amour. My neighbor, a farmer in his mid-seventies, has read every Louis L’Amour novel. Across America, Zane Grey was a similar favorite in the first half of the last century–and “Riders of the Purple Sage” was the author’s biggest hit. When I was a kid, we watched “Dick Powell’s Zane Grey Theater” on tv; later, we followed a western rock group called New Riders of the Purple Sage (there were at least a couple of bands with that name before them).

I have a feeling John Ernst will pick more literary favorites from the West. Some of my favorite authors whose work is dusted with desert sand and cactus-prickly, or evokes the smell of pine and smoke of the high country, include:

Jim Harrison, who was born in the midwest but has lived in and written about the (true) west for most of his adult life. Harrison has written in virtually every genre–poetry, essays, novels, novellas, short fiction. He is perhaps best known for the novella “Legends of the Fall,” which was made into a well-received film some years ago.

Cormac McCarthy, of course.

Larry McMurtry, whose “Lonesome Dove” won the Pulitzer–for me the ultimate cattle drive tale.

 

Cow Boy, circa 1888. Library of Congress

Cow Boy, circa 1888. Library of Congress

Annie Proulx, who spent much of her life in the east and won the Pulitzer and National Book Award for “The Shipping News,” a book set about as far east as you can get in North America–Newfoundland, nonetheless has captured the western ethos through years spent in Wyoming. Perhaps best known in recent years for the short fiction, “Brokeback Mountain,” which was made into an award-winning movie (and for which McMurtry served as screenwriter).

But I’d better stop.

I’m going to discover at least one new western fiction writer between now and the program…and I’ll be looking forward to hearing about your favorites. You can send me authors’ names and recommended titles in advance of the show: ellen@ncpr.org. Thanks.

Check out Leadbelly singing Jesse James–a song jointly attributed to Leadbelly and Woody Guthrie. Complete lyrics posted below the video.

Golden Age Western Comics press photo

Golden Age Western Comics press photo

Words and music adaptation by Woody Guthrie & Huddie Ledbetter

Just about the worst gun battle ever out on the western plains
When me and a bunch of cowboys went running with Jesse James
Come a cow-cow yicky, come a cow-cow yicky, yicky yea.

Run into Jesse James, boys, run into Jesse James
The guns went off like thunder and the bullets fell like rain
Come a cow-cow yicky, come a cow-cow yicky, yicky yea.

The guns went off like lightning and the bullets fell like hail
Was on our way to Denver on the old Dodge City trail
Come a cow-cow yicky, come a cow-cow yicky, yicky yea.

And in that bloody battle with Frank and Jesse James
My partners fell around me with bullets in their brains
Come a cow-cow yicky, come a cow-cow yicky, yicky yea.

Frank and Jesse James, boys, they robbed that midnight mail
The bank and express station and broke the county jail
Come a cow-cow yicky, come a cow-cow yicky, yicky yea.

If you’re afraid to fight, boys, if you’re afraid to die
You’d better stay out of the Badlands where the red hot bullets fly
Come a cow-cow yicky, come a cow-cow yicky, yicky yea.

If you’re afraid of dying, if you’re afraid of death
You’d better stay at home, boys, stay out of Jesse’s path
Come a cow-cow yicky, come a cow-cow yicky, yicky yea.
Come a cow-cow yicky, come a cow-cow yicky, yicky yea.

  1. Mr. Wakiki says:

    autumn 10/13/13

    on my bike again
    chasing the long shadows

    with my new used camera
    i capture the bending light

    there are deer, boats and the sun
    finding comfort in the mountains

    though it is late
    the afternoon is warm

    i clean leaves off
    the lizzie stone

    i am finding the refraction
    as sensual as if i was wrapping

    around
    you

  2. Ginger Dunlap-Dietz says:

    Ellen,

    He never gets on a horse in A COLD DISH but Craig Johnson’s Wyoming sheriff, Walt Longmire, is a genuine western character. The town, the country side, the characters who live there or drop in and make the mystery are genuine and memorable. This is the first of Johnson’s mystery series. It was made into a TV series which I haven’t seen but luckily the Jefferson Country Library system has most of the books.

  3. Ellen Rocco says:

    I’ve heard from a few of you with recommendations, including Val in Saranac Lake who says, “Anything by Max Brand!”

    Keep those recommendations for gun-totin’ tomes coming. Ooh, that was really bad. :)

  4. Jerry Manor says:

    Ellen,
    I’m looking very forward to this program. Another author you might want to check out is Robert B. Parker of Spencer and Jesse Stone fame. He also wrote several westerns including “Appaloosa” that are very good.