I’ve been trying to think of the very first western I ever read—but I can’t remember back that far! Growing up I was a TV western junkie—Bonanza, Gunsmoke, The Virginian… You remember the ones. I know you do.
But there were (and are) some writers who picked up where the dime novels left off, who shaped our genre and set it on the path to where we are now, and beyond.
Zane Grey, Louis L’Amour and William Johnstone (who was from southern Missouri!) are three favorites, but even they had many predecessors.
Andy Adams – Born in Indiana in 1859. He began writing at the age of 43, publishing his most successful book, The Log of a Cowboy, in 1903 The Log of a Cowboy is an account of a five-month drive of 3,000 cattle from Brownsville, Texas, to Montana during 1882 along the Great Western Cattle Trail. Although the book is fiction, it is based on Adams's own experiences, and it is considered by many to be literature's best account of cowboy life.
Owen Wister – Born July 14, 1860 is considered the "father" of western fiction. Best remembered for The Virginian, published in 1902, Wister never wrote about the West again.
B. M. Bower -- Bertha Muzzy Sinclair was born November 15, 1871. She wrote novels, short stories and screenplays featuring cowboys of the Flying U Ranch in Montana. She wrote 57 western novels, several of which were turned into films.
Willa Sibert Cather – Born December 7, 1873. She achieved recognition for her novels of frontier life on the Great Plains. Willa won the Pulitzer Prize in 1923 for One of Ours (1922), a novel set during World War I. Other well-known works include O Pioneers! (1913), The Song of the Lark (1915), and My Ántonia (1918).
And, of course--
James Fenimore Cooper – Born September 15, 1789. Cooper was a prolific and popular American writer of the early 19th century. His historical romances of frontier and Indian life in the early American days created a unique form of American literature.
According to William W. Johnstone: “The Western is one of the few true art forms that is 100% American….the Western has helped to shape the cultural landscape of America.”
Just for fun, let’s all add to the list. Introduce me to another of those amazing writers and tell me just a bit about them and which book of theirs I should read.