Sunday, January 9, 2011

True Grit, or The Return of Cowboy?

I’ve been hearing good things about the re-make of True Grit. Reviewers are saying that it is more true to the original novel than the John Wayne version. The New York Times said, “The Coens' version brandishes wide-open adventures, grizzled hearts on the sleeve and a young heroine who is by far the biggest pistol in a film full of them.”

Could this be the return of the western? Charles Portis wrote True Grit in 1968 and it became a cult classic. A version was first serialized in The Saturday Evening Post. It is the story of precocious Mattie Ross and how, as a fourteen year old, she hired Rooster Cogburn, a one-eyed overweight lawman, to avenge her father's murder. Ross decides that Cogburn has "grit". As a part of the bargain, Ross joins him on his mission along with La Boeuf, a Texas Ranger.

I have long been a fan of Larry McMurtry novels, both his contemporary and historical fiction and his nonfiction.. Western fiction has all the excitement and adrenalin of a well-plotted thriller. The characters are brave and plucky, but not always likable. The frontier could be a dangerous place and moral dilemmas were plentiful.

The library has some great new westerns on order:

Beecher Island
by Tim Champlin;

The Book of Murdock
by Loren B. Estleman;

Montana Dawn
by Stone Wallace;

Ambush Creek
by Phil Dunlap.

A Congregation of Jackals
by S. Craig Zahler

This novel strikes me as particularly good - "One of Oswell's old bank-robbing gang is getting married out in Montana Territory, and the rest of the boys are all invited. But someone else will be there too. Quinlan. He was part of the gang once, but betrayal turned an ally into a bitter enemy; one who will stop at nothing to get his revenge. He and his gunmen will be at the wedding out for blood and to revenge the betrayal in a final showdown. Oswell knows there's no way out of it. You can't outrun your past. All you can do is face it-- and hope to survive." - publisher. Library Journal says, "Zahler teases us with lighthearted humor and gives all his characters - major and minor, seemingly good and seemingly evil -; a chance to confound us with their complexity. In the end, though, the sky turns dark, and the novel shows it's true colors as a noir western of uncommon power."

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