Curious about Westerns, but not sure about finding a good one? One way to find some of the best is to check out winners and finalists of the Spur Award. The Spur Award was created by the Western Writers of America to recognize the best literature focusing on the American West. The Spur Award recognizes different types of fiction and nonfiction focusing on the American West (“About” section of the Western Writers of America website).
The Spur Award offers a variety of Westerns. When I felt like a quick and action packed read I found The Secret of Lodestar by Tim Champlin. When I wanted a longer and thought provoking read I found Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry. To find a great Western, click here to check out the Spur Award winners and finalists on the Western Writers of America website.
New sheriff Phil Guthrey has plenty of lawbreakers to tangle with. There are horse rustlers, a greedy rancher grabbing land, and a grisly murderer. Can the Texas Ranger turned sheriff handle them all?
Guthrey doesn’t let low odds of success stop him from seeking justice. Other characters include an Apache raised Mexican who joins Guthrey’s force as a deputy. The story takes place in Arizona in the 1870s giving Guthrie the chance to visit rough Tuscon and Virgil Earp’s Tombstone. Lucky clues, stealth, and determination help Guthrey and his deputies bust lawbreakers. Once a Ranger offers a quick paced story of a sheriff battling lawlessness in the West.
Want other books like Once a Ranger?
A new sheriff is determined to end the range war in Doubtful or die trying in Blood Valley by William W. Johnstone.
A Pinkerton turned sheriff battles to bring a killer to justice before his town erupts into chaos in Once a Lawman by Peter Brandvold.
Want to learn about real sheriffs and the lawbreakers they fought? Check out books like With Badges and Bullets: Lawmen and Outlaws in the Old West edited by Richard W. Etulain.
Young Joseph Roper chases outlaws who kidnapped a woman and killed Coalville’s sheriff. When Joe learns of lost gold he’s determined to find it too. Can an untried youth beat some of the West’s deadliest outlaws?
Joe is honest about himself and others. He reveals a West that is not romantic or clean but gritty and complicated. Youthful health and determination keep him going, but they also make his dangerous mission even riskier. City of Rocks offers a gritty Western adventure.
Want more books like City of Rocks?
A journalist runs into trouble when he discovers a frontier town’s darkside in Flint’s Gift by Robert S. Wheeler.
Sheriff Joe Mundy faces ruthless lawbreakers and those seeking revenge for past justice in Mundy’s Law by Monty McCord. (Click here for my blog entry on Mundy’s Law.)
Young Mattie Ross seeks the man who murdered her father in True Grit by Charles Portis. (Click here for a entry I wrote about True Grit on another blog.)
Marc Charvein goes to the ghost town of Lodestar seeking an outlaw and lost gold. He’ll find friendship, greed, and death. Will Lodestar be his end?
The characters in this quick read are memorable. Marc is a smart sharp shooter with a slight philosophical side. He crosses paths with a secretive hermit, a romantic but strong secretary, and a rogue law man. Shifting alliances, deadly hide and seek, and the gold’s fate create suspense. The Secret of Lodestar offers a quick Western, interesting characters, and plenty of suspense.
Want more books like The Secret of Lodestar?
A marshal living in solitude is drawn into the troubles of a woman on the run in The Ghosts of Apache Creek by Ralph Compton.
An amnesiac struggles to remember his unsettling past and protect a female rancher from thieves in The Man Called Noon by Louis L’Amour.
A cowboy framed for rustling a herd must rescue it before a posse catches up to him in Trail Hand by R.W. Stone.
Big Red Amlingmeyer’s older brother is determined to be the West’s Sherlock Holmes. When murder strikes at a ranch Old Red has the chance. Can a rough cowboy successfully think like Holmes?
Old Red is a loner and deductive like Holmes, but his vastly different experiences make him his own man. Big Red shows Watson level loyalty, but also thinks about whether he wishes to be a detective’s ally. Together, the two are an effective team. Cowboy customs and ranch life give the mystery a Western feel. There are plenty of clues but they don’t make the solution obvious. Holmes on the Range offers a twist on Holmes and a Western mystery.
Want more books like Holmes on the Range?
Two San Francisco PIs find their investigations helped and complicated by a man claiming to be Holmes in The Bughouse Affair by Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini. (Click here to read my blog entry on The Bughouse Affair.)
A federal investigator must recover a powerful weapon apparently stolen by his estranged brother in The Killing Machine by Ed Gorman.
Sherlock Holmes comes to America to thwart a railroad arsonist in Sherlock Holmes and the Red Demon by Larry Millett.
Retired Texas Rangers McCrae and Call miss adventure. When they hear of bountiful and uncivilized Montana they decide to move their ranch there. What happens during their journey to an unfamiliar land?
Lonesome Dove is leisurely paced epic which provokes amusement, sadness, and thoughtfulness about the bygone West. It’s a cowboy adventure in a slowly civilizing West. It also has a coming of age story and bittersweet love. Its characters are compellingly interesting, endearing, and/or odd. Lonesome Dove offers thoughtful Western adventure and compelling characters.
Want more books like Lonesome Dove?
A haunted Civil War veteran journeys the West seeking peace and finding turmoil in Far As the Eye Can See by Robert Bausch.
A Canadian Mountie becomes a Montana rancher and is entangled in white-Native American conflict in A Good Man by Guy Vanderhaeghe.
The West is seen through the eyes of a group of pioneers traveling from Missouri to Oregon in The Way West by A.B. Guthrie Jr.
Lonesome Dove was made into a TV miniseries in 1989.
When Conquistador Juan Garcia is separated from his troops he forms a temporary alliance with the Native American tribe called the People. Juan’s horse skills gain the People’s respect and they begin to gain his respect. After Juan helps fight the vicious Head Splitters he questions his destiny. Can a Spanish warrior make a permanent home among the People?
Juan gains maturity as he slowly learns to respect and care about the People. The People, especially cunning and caring Coyote, are likeable. Plenty of adventure occurs as Juan helps the People fight the Head Splitters and develop a horse herd. There is also some romance when Juan falls in love with the beautiful and brave Tall One. Trail of the Spanish Bit offers a story focusing on Native American culture meeting other cultures, adventurousness, and romance.
Want more books like Trail of the Spanish Bit?
A white and a Native American raised as blood brothers find their bond challenged by the Battle of Little Big Horn in Blood Bond by William W. Johnstone.
A group of Welsh colonists blends with a Native American tribe in Children of the First Man by James Alexander Thom.
Tired U.S. soldier John Dunbar’s life changes forever after he encounters a Comanche camp in Dances with Wolves by Michael Blake.