ON THE SHELF: Take a trip to the Wild, Wild West

Published 8:00 am Sunday, March 20, 2022

This column was submitted by Evangeline Cessna, Local History Librarian at the Warren County-Vicksburg Public Library.

This week’s column features Westerns from our New Large Print collection.

To begin, we have “Librarians of the West: a Quartet” featuring four short stories by Randi Samuelson-Brown, Mark Warren, Charlotte Hinger and Candice Simar. “Too Much Dancing Going On” is about an independent-minded young woman who lives under the big sky of Montana and has a definite love of both books and horses—and later on a certain literary young man. In “The Cowboy, The Librarian, and the Broomsman,” Lyle Hardiman is an easy-going, but illiterate Montana cowboy who accidentally barrels into the new library thinking it was the livery. His meeting with the new librarian will set in motion a chain of events that puts the little town of Burnt Creek in the history books. In “The Book Mama,” Lady Jane Woodruff finds herself trapped in an abusive marriage in the middle of a harsh new country and she must rely on the wisdom of an ancient African American woman to guide her to freedom and safety. Finally, fourteen-year-old Pearl Ellingson learns one of life’s hard lessons while struggling to start a library on the frontier in North Dakota in “Terrible and Wonderful.”

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The latest from author James Clay is called “Satan’s Guns: a Western Adventure.” Range detective Rance Dehner manages to catch up with the vicious Kid Madero gang, but a terrible gunfight ensues and all three members of the gang are killed. Before dying, Madero taunts Rance by telling him that he and his gang had been hired to torture and kill Reverend Colt — a gunfighter turned preacher. The person who hired the gang will call on others to assassinate the preacher, but Rance’s only clue to the culprit’s identity is Madero’s last whispered word, “Satan.” As murder and chaos descend on the town of Grayson, Texas, several friends of Reverend Colt meet violent deaths. It does seem as though the devil is walking the streets. Rance teams up with the local sheriff to defend the town from an onslaught of gunfighters while trying to track down the person who has set this hell in motion.

In “Choctaw Trail” by Preston Lewis, retired U.S. Marshal Doyle Hardy is living a relaxed life outside the town of Fort Smith, Arkansas. He finds himself suddenly re-deputized and he has to shape up fast as the news of a brutal double murder in Shacktown breaks. Doyle follows the trail of the killer as it snakes between cathouses and moonshine shacks along the Choctaw Trail. To make matters worse, he’s being followed by vicious outlaws who have old scores to settle. He has sworn to find this heartless killer and hell raiser, but he doesn’t realize the hard truth and tough choices that are about to smack him in the face. After facing down death to bring one man to hanging justice, Doyle learns he’s been chasing Bud Hardy, his own son.

The latest in the Duff MacCallister series by William W. Johnstone is called “Savage Sunday.” Duff MacCallister is a Scottish cattleman who has staked a claim for his life in America — and has a righteous disdain for those who break the law. Finally, the railroad has come to Chugwater, Wyoming, bridging the gap between the small town and the larger city of Cheyenne. It also means that Duff can transport his black Angus cattle heard more easily by the iron horse instead of wasting two days on a cattle drive. The day after depositing the cash in his Cheyenne account, Duff learns that bank president — and long-time friend — Joel Prescott embezzled everything and then committed suicide. Joel’s widow doesn’t believe that her husband was a thief or that he killed himself and Duff agrees. After garnering a territorial marshal appointment, Duff is determined to bring every double-crossing lawman, red-handed outlaw and corrupt businessman to justice — be it behind bars or on the gallows.

The third title in the Have Brides, Will Travel series by William W. Johnstone is called “Till Death.” Bo Creel and Scratch Morton are the go-to guys for getting mail-order brides to the church on time. This time, however, they’ll face hell and high water to get the latest group of brides-to-be to a remote gold mining town in Alaska. This group of beauties includes a dangerously pretty widow, her sweet-hearted niece and two of their friends. Bo and Scratch don’t know they are about to come up against a lecherous saloon owner, a lovesick sailor and a gang of hired guns. That’s just the start of the journey, though. The real trouble begins when they reach the Alaskan boomtown. Bo and Scratch realize that the “eligible bachelors” are not as advertised, but — surprisingly — neither are the brides. Before any vows are exchanged or rice tossed, these gold-hungry wedding participants will wind up shooting it out.

Clay More continues the West of the Big River series with his entry “The Dime Novelist: a Novel Based on the Life of Ned Buntline.” Ned Buntline was an adventurer, showman, conman and best-selling author. He is even sometimes credited with creating the mythic version of the Wild West. His real name was Edward Zane Carroll Judson, but he often called himself Colonel Judson, though the rank was as fictional as his pseudonym. Buntline produced hundreds of dime novels during the second half of the 19th century and was the leading author of popular fiction during this time. He made heroes out of Buffalo Bill Cody and Wild Bill Hickok, but Buntline himself was a womanizer, a liar and an unabashed self-promoter who never missed a chance to build his own name and legend.