Did you know that today, July 25, is the National Day of the American Cowboy? Yee haw! Now, ideally, you’ll be celebrating by saddling up Old Paint for a ride out onto the ol’ prairie, where you’ll round up some dogies before settling in around the campfire for son-of-a-gun stew and a few shots of red eye. But, in the unlikely even that your horse has gone to that great round-up in the sky, you may have to make do with reading about the real thing. These recent westerns, which all received starred reviews in Booklist, will help you get in the spirit.
Black River, by S. M. Hulse
Twenty years ago, an inmate, Bobby Williams, held correctional officer Wes Carver hostage during a prison riot. He mutilated Wes’ arms with cigarette burns and broke all his fingers.
On Cimarron, by Paul Joseph Lederer
In far-western Kansas, along the Cimarron River, the Kiowa woman Ki-Ki-Tai lives a happy life with her husband, Nakai, and their two sons. But in the late 1850s, white settlers begin arriving on the other side of the river, a foolish chief signs a treaty, and the army erects a fort, inspiring great turmoil among the Kiowa.
Don’t Be a Stranger, by John D. Nesbitt
Lawrence Elwood, known simply as El, is top hand on a medium-size Wyoming ranch. He’s a quiet, responsible man who avoids trouble and prides himself on his knowledge of the land, horses, guns, and tools.
High Rider, by Bill Gallaher
Born a slave in South Carolina, and none too happy with the state when he’s freed, big John Ware walks to Texas. After many colorful adventures and little food, he’s taken in by a white family, the Coles, near Fort Worth.
The Last Shootist, by Miles Swarthout
Swarthout does a fine job with the sequel to The Shootist, his father Glendon’s famous western (from which the even more famous John Wayne movie was adapted).
The Poacher’s Daughter, by Michael Zimmer
Rose Edwards takes up with two horse thieves after vigilantes kill her ne’er-do-well husband, Muggy, and burn down her cabin. Rose owns the land, a pretty Montana homestead, but now she’s penniless.