Thursday, September 12, 2019

“When a Document is Official” by Frederic Remington

Men with the bark on do not say things in their lighter moods that go for much; but when these men were behind a sage-brush handling a Sharps, or skimming along the tailing buffaloes on a strong pony, what grunts were got out of them had meaning!

The artist Frederic Remington who so ably rendered what he saw into visual form also was quite handy with the written word. He lived in the midst of much of what was and this first hand observation fills his prose pieces with a verisimilitude that many others simply must infer via research.

This tale in the campaign against Sitting Bull is filled with such on-point observations.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

The Searchers Alan LeMay

He made a labored calculation, and decided Laurie was twenty-one. That explained why she seemed so lighted up; probably looked the best she ever would in her life. She was at an age when most girls light up, if they’re going to; Mexicans and Indians earlier. A look at their mothers, or their older sisters, reminded you of what you knew for certain. All that bright glow would soon go out again. But you couldn’t ever make yourself believe it.”

A summary of this classic is likely unnecessary as fans of the genre are already familiar with either the novel, or more likely the classic John Ford/John Wayne film.
In short, we have a ride to retrieve a young girl abducted during a Comanche raid. 

But the novel is more than the action sentence summary would suggest. The opening quote shows the author is steeped in the realities of the period, people, and places. He brings a poet’s eye to what is often in other books a mere revenge ride tale of gun smoke action.

Action does abound, but the mature reader is in for a treat of wise observation.

A classic.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

The Book of Stock Car Wisdom Compiled & Edited by Criswell Freeman

Drivers are a breed apart. Ken Squier observed, “The stock car driver is the new American cowboy.” Like gunfighters at a showdown, racers face danger with a calm resignation that leaves the rest of us in awe.

A slim book that I stumbled across. A quick browse led me to the above excerpt, and I must say that I found much of what is within the pages remarkably akin to the Old West sentiment. 

With that said, not essential, but also not trivial.

Those who risk their lives in skin-in-the-game endeavors have something to say.

Monday, August 5, 2019

The Big Book of Biker Flicks by John Wooley and Michael H. Price

“I had gotten this idea in 1967 for a new kind of Western. We’d put these two hipsters on cycles in place of cowboys on horses, and turn ‘em loose in a lawless modern-day world.” Peter Fonda on Easy Rider

This book sports the full title The Big Book of Biker Flicks: 40 of the Best Motorcycle Movies of all Time, it is a large lavishly illustrated guide to the subject.
Plot synopses, behind-the-scenes takes on the making, and many comparisons to the Old School Western.

The authors seem to love all these films whether good or bad, but I wager if you have a fondness for a few biker flicks at all and can see Fonda’s parallels to the Western you might find this a fun browsing book.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Races, Chases & Crashes by Dave Mann and Ron Main

Actually, the complete title is Races, Chases & Crashes: A Complete Guide to Car Movies and Biker Flicks. In past entries I’ve been up front with my view that I see the drive-in carsploitation phenomenon of the 70’s as an off-shoot of the Modern Western. And a good argument can be made that the biker flick is an offshoot of Wild West Outlaw tales. As a matter of fact, more than a few bikers argue for that Wild West connection themselves. No less a personage than Dave Nichols does so in his interesting book The One-Percenter Code. Nicols being an editor at Easyriders magazine likely knows the connection inside-out, so who am I to dispute him?

This fantastic volume reviews over 500 films and the added attraction is that the authors sincerely love the genre and [this is unusual in a viewer/reviewer] they actually know the cars and bikes in the flicks. 
This inside knowledge goes a long way to inform how they see each film.

It has reminded me of old favorites, and led me to more than a few “Well, I’ve never even heard of that one” flicks. 

If the title moves you at all, then this volume is a safe bet for you. Easily the best of its kind on the subject.

Monday, July 29, 2019

The Outsider by Frank Roderus

His eyes dragged closed and he tried to let his body go loose and limp. Tightening up against pain was the worst thing you could do. If you could go loose, completely and absolutely loose, the body would float away from the mind where the pain was held, and the pain wouldn't be so bad. A gray-haired old private first class, a man whose past owners had not always been considerate, taught Leon that a very long time ago and the advice had been proven sound.

A simple Western tale of a black soldier cashiered out of the cavalry who heads to Arizona to work his own land. The town simply does not want a black man around.
On one hand this is a simple, straight-forward story and in the end no surprises but…be damned if this thing did not have heart to burn. While “simple” it is never really that—there are a few characters that I would love to know in real life. A heart-breaker.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

The 100 Greatest Western of All Time

Actually, this is a large glossy magazine special edition produced by the Editors of Wild West magazine [a fine publication by the way.]

There are a few historical sidebars of interest peppered throughout.

But, the meat of such volumes lives or dies on the list itself and in that regard, it is an admirable list with a few unfamiliar choices that sent me scampering to queue up. 

A slim but superlative volume.

“When a Document is Official” by Frederic Remington

Men with the bark on do not say things in their lighter moods that go for much; but when these men were behind a sage-brush handling a...