I’ve always enjoyed a good western. Ever since I was a little kid, and now as an adult, but mostly in the summer, when the heat is sweltering, and especially when I go to visit family in the high desert, a little tiny town that so closely resembles any of the ones you would see in these movies. Don’t get me wrong, to the best of my recollection, I have never read a Western novel, but I have seen tons of movies, and some of the better ones were based on books, such as 3:10 to Yuma based off a story by Elmore Leonard, the amazing Lonesome Dove based off a book by Larry McMurtry and True Grit from the novel by Charles Portis. That last one being the newer adaptation by the Coen Brothers with Jeff Bridges, not so much the earlier version with John Wayne.
I was never much of a fan of John Wayne. But growing up my mom loved him and we would sit together on many a night, drinking hot cocoa and having cookies and watching some of his greats like Big Jake, The Shootist and El Dorado. But as much as my mom loved John Wayne, I always thought he was just alright. Even as a kid, without in retrospect having seen any of his actual movies, just the commercials they would play on television, I was more of a fan of Clint Eastwood. I was familiar with Clint from the movies my parents watched of his, but those were mostly war and cop movies. It wasn’t until later that I saw the brilliant High Plains Drifter, The Outlaw Josey Wales and Unforgiven. Where John Wayne was always the nice guy who would get the job done, Clint was the guy who would ride into town and seemingly not give a shit, but he was always after something. Somebody had almost always done him wrong and he intended to get even, or he saw a personal advantage to be gained. His characters were always more real to me and his movies better, especially his nearly three hour spaghetti opus The Good, The Bad and the Ugly.
By now you are either nodding in agreement, shaking your head in disagreement or thinking I’m speaking another language. That’s okay, Westerns aren’t everyone’s taste. But it is a very cool genre filled with great stories of redemption, revenge, love, loss, good and evil. There is also a barrage of larger than life, real life characters to be found such as Billy The Kid (Young Guns 1&2), Frank and Jesse James (The Long Riders), Wild Bill Hickock (Wild Bill), Wyatt Earp and Doc Holiday (Tombstone).
As I’ve said, I’ve never read any westerns, except if you want to count it How the West Went to Hell by Eric S. Brown which is a hilariously over the top zombie’s in the old west book. But all of the movies I’ve mentioned are quite good if you’re interested, and a few are in fact based off of novels. I’m told the latest True Grit movie and Charles Portis’ novel are pretty close, but should be worth a look and Lonesome Dove the movie miniseries was a pretty amazing, rich world with amazing characters so I’d imagine the book would be too, as well as the four or five sequels McMurtry has written since.
By Author Wade Joseph Le Fevre