Category: Western

The Cold Dish by Craig Johnson

Posted November 16, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Crime, Western / 11 Comments

The Cold Dish by Craig JohnsonTitle: The Cold Dish (Goodreads)
Author: Craig Johnson
Series: Walt Longmire #1
Narrator: George Guidall
Published: Penguin, 2004
Pages: 400
Genres: Crime, Western
My Copy: Audiobook

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The Cold Dish is the first book in the Walt Longmire series by Craig Johnson, which is basis of the short lived A&E television show Longmire. While the book and show both have western mystery vibes, they have subtle differences. The book shares similar attributes but does not have the same feel as the television program, which seems to target western fans before adding any mystery or drama. I suspect the reason the show never really took off was the fact that everyone was middle aged.

Walt Longmire is the sheriff of the fictional Wyoming county of Absaroka. His only friend is Henry Standing Bear; together they remind me of a more serious Statler and Waldorf with their self-deprecation. The novel revolves around the death of Cody Pritchard, a man who two years earlier was suspected for raping a Cheyenne girl. Longmire is on the case and Henry helps him by being a liaison between the Sheriff’s office and the Cheyenne reservation in the effort to solve this crime.

I have only watched the first season of Longmire so it is hard to compare between the book and the show. I know Longmire is portrayed as rough and tough in the show but it leaves out a lot of his wit and humour. Deputy Victoria Moretti shows the most change between the book and series; her whole attitude and backstory played out in very different ways. To be honest I do not know why I did not watch any more of this show, I think it was a matter of timing and a busy schedule.

I read this for my Literary Exploration reading challenge and I thought a western with a mystery was the best way to experience this genre. While this novel is full of the typical mystery tropes, this was actually a very entertaining novel. The wry wit and self-deprecation is what worked for me within the novel; it almost makes me want to re-watch the TV show to see what I missed. I am tempted to read more of this series but I fear the formulaic elements will quickly get in the way.

The Dead of Winter by Lee Collins

Posted October 22, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Fantasy, Western / 0 Comments

The Dead of Winter by Lee CollinsTitle: The Dead of Winter (Goodreads)
Author: Lee Collins
Series: Cora Oglesby #1
Published: Angry Robot, 2012
Pages: 384
Genres: Fantasy, Western
My Copy: ARC from Netgalley

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I didn’t know much about this book apart from the tag on the front of the book ‘True Grit meets True Blood’. This was enough to get my attention and I felt like a western paranormal urban fantasy novel might be a fun read. Cora and her husband Ben are hunters, but for things that should not exist in the world. When the Marshall of Leadville, Colorado calls her in to help with a series of mysterious deaths, Cora feels she may have finally met her match.

I’m not sure how to classify the novel; is it a Western, paranormal, dark fantasy or even urban fantasy novel? The Dark of Winter seems to mash all these elements into the one book, and it does a decent job at doing that. I was hoping that Cora would be as sassy as Mattie Ross in True Grit but she was just a bitch, plain and simple. In fact the only True Grit element in the book was that this book is a western. I felt a little disappointed in that, I wanted sassy, but I got bitchy. I did get over that pretty quickly and was able to settle in to enjoy the plot. The characters never seemed to be developed enough for me, but this may have been due to my expectations.

On the whole, I felt that there was just something missing from the book; the characters just didn’t come together properly, but there was some chemistry between Cora and the English hunter. The writing of this book was good and the pacing of the plot was decent enough but for some reason I still think the book needed something else to improve the story. I’m not sure if it needed the sass, or maybe some wit or humour but I think adding an extra element like these would have helped the book overall.

A Vampire Western novel seems very unique and there was a sense of mystery throughout the novel but there was always some cliches which counteracted the good parts. Its adventure elements were let down by the dialogue between the characters. It just felt like for every good element of this book, I had an issue with something else. I’m sure some people will really enjoy this book I just felt like the pros and cons of this book just equalled out to make it feel like an average read. I’m not sure if I’ll read the sequel when it comes out but I know I won’t be rushing out to get it.

True Grit by Charles Portis

Posted October 12, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Classic, Western / 0 Comments

True Grit by Charles PortisTitle: True Grit (Goodreads)
Author: Charles Portis
Published: Overlook, 1968
Pages: 224
Genres: Classic, Western
My Copy: Personal Copy

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True Grit is a classic Western novel that seems to have stood the test of time. True Grit follows fourteen-year-old Mattie Ross who sets out to avenge the shooting of her father. She hires Marshall Officer Rooster Cogburn to help her track down the killer Tom Chaney. However, most people will know this story from the John Wayne movie or the recent adaptation directed by the Coen brothers.

This book would be nothing if it wasn’t for narrator and protagonist Mattie Ross. She is a thrifty, strong minded girl that doesn’t let any of the men walk all over her. Her wit and strong personality is the driving force of this novel and you can’t help but root for her when she outsmarts or stands her ground throughout the book. This is a typical western, which means it is a tough environment and the men expect women to know their place, so when a loud mouth, bratty little girl decides to take charge then expect some personality clashes and an enjoyable read.

While Cogburn and Texas Ranger LaBoeuf are two interesting characters with very different styles of tracking down Tom Chaney, their personalities don’t really come through as well as Mattie and while she seems to like Rooster Cogburn for helping her, both men are outshined. This is a very short novel that surprisingly jams everything it needs to in fewer than two hundred pages.

Charles Portis’ writes the book masterfully; the pages are jammed pack with this adventure and this doesn’t detract from the fabulous prose. While this book sometimes feels very blunt and straightforward, I had so much fun reading about Mattie’s adventures and her commentary. I’m not much for westerns but I really did enjoy every minute of reading this book.

Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy

Posted August 12, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Historical Fiction, Western / 0 Comments

Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthyTitle: Blood Meridian (Goodreads)
Author: Cormac McCarthy
Published: Vintage, 1985
Pages: 337
Genres: Historical Fiction, Western
My Copy: Personal Copy

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I’ve wanted to read another Cormac McCarthy book after enjoying The Road so after a long time of sitting on my To-Read shelf; I decided it was about time to give Blood Meridian a go. This is probably McCarthy’s most known book; other than the Pulitzer winning The Road. Narrated by a runaway known as the “the kid”, Blood Meridian follows the Glanton gang scalp hunters as they massacred North American tribes. Judge Holden is the main antagonist and is an intelligent man but terrifying with his constant need for conflict and violence.

I often enjoy books’ aspects from history to make a compelling story; James Ellroy and Hilary Mantel come to mind when thinking of authors that do this well and now Cormac McCarthy. As an author McCarthy is rather brilliant, he knows how to spin an entertaining and intelligent story with wonderful prose for a book of intense violence and bleak environments. I’ve not read many Westerns but if this is anything to go on then I might have to read some more.

Blood Meridian has very environmental and character driven and it was a real pleasure to read. But then there is an aspect of this book that I really didn’t like. The violence and horror aspects of this book is not for the faint hearted, and I tend to enjoy these elements but even for me I feel like maybe Cormac McCarthy took it a little too far; to a sickening level. This is like reading a nightmare; the acts of violence are so intense and evil that even I was disturbed.

This book is not for everyone, it’s a hellish read and Cormac McCarthy brilliance does seem to be drowned out by the blood of Judge Holden’s victims. I couldn’t recommend this book to anyone as it is really intense, but if you think you can handle it, it’s worth reading. The book is fairly dense when comparing it to The Road, but it was still an interesting look at the disturbing nature of Judge Holden and the Glanton gang.