ON THE SHELF: Large-print Westerns to read by the campfire

Published 8:00 am Sunday, April 23, 2023

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

This week we are featuring Historical and Western fiction from our New Large Print collection.

Bestselling author Loren D. Estleman sets his latest, “Paperback Jack,” in the 1946 world of pulp fiction publishing. Jacob Heppleman is a hack writer fresh from the War in Europe who has discovered that things at home have changed. The pulp fiction magazines he used to write for are dying and being replaced by paperback novels that offer cheap excitement for the everyday man and woman. Though they are maligned by critics, these raunchy drugstore novels fly off the shelves — or so the head of Blue Devil Books tells Jacob. Using the pseudonym “Jack Holly,” Jacob finds success as the author of scandalous and bestselling crime novels. He prides himself in the authenticity of his work, but this means Jacob picks the brains of some of the least reputable citizens of the world. Cue the Irish gangster who wants a cut of the profits — or else. When Hollywood comes calling, overzealous politicians want to tame the paperback industry in the name of public morality. Targeted by both the mob and Congress, Jacob has become a victim of his own success.

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“Too Proud to Run” is the latest by Western author Brett Cogburn. U.S. Deputy Marshal Morgan Clyde has worn his star long enough to leave his mark on the Indian Territory, but his long years of service are wearing on him. His territory is running wilder than ever, and the Hanging Judge in Fort Smith is determined to bring it to heel. When a rich man’s family is kidnapped by a murderous gang of outlaws, Morgan is going to need all the allies he can get. Who’ll ride with him? His own family hates him, and his screw-up friends and the women in his life may be more deadly than any outlaw. If he’s going to survive, he’s going to need to be quicker on the trigger than any man ever born, and he’ll have to watch his own back.

James J. Griffin’s book “Desperate Ride” is an homage to the Golden Age of Western action books. This series of adventures features veteran Texas Ranger, Will Kirkpatrick and his Ranger recruit, Jonas Peterson. The duo has received orders to clean up a huge chunk of West Texas and they run into outlaws and renegades before they even reach their new territory. Outlaws are lurking in saloons, at camp, on trains and stagecoaches. Chasing down renegades, fugitives, crooked lawmen, and trigger-happy drunks makes for some bloody good excitement. Adding authenticity to the stories is the meticulous research into Texas Ranger history, weapons, geography and historical events done by the author.

“Bozeman Paymaster: A Tale of the Fetterman Massacre” by Robert Lee Murphy is the story of how the blundering drive to advance Manifest Destiny led to one of the nation’s most distressing reverses. Lakota Chief Red Cloud led a coalition of Sioux, Northern Cheyenne and Arapaho that managed to drive the military forces out of the Powder River Country in what is now Wyoming. On a bitterly cold day in December 1866, Captain William Fetterman led eighty men into the army’s worst defeat at the hands of the Natives until Custer’s Last Stand a decade later. Amid all the turmoil of constant Native attacks at Fort Phil Kearny, a young paymaster clerk and a beautiful young schoolteacher fall in love. Their future is torn asunder, however, in the aftermath of the Fetterman massacre that causes the United States to abandon the forts protecting the Bozeman Trail — closing the shortest route used by immigrants to reach the Montana goldfields.

“Westbound” is by Dusty Richards. In the spring of 1849, Mackworth “Mack” Harrigan’s family’s Ohio mill burned to the ground. It had brought them prosperity, but it was now a pile of cinder and ash. To add to the devastation, his ruthless father and their fortune also perished in the flames. If the Harrigan family is to survive, then they must seek a new fortune out west in the wide-open country where opportunity waits. Mack is sure that his wife Ell and their three children Kane, Meghan and Fitch are more than capable of rising to the challenge of the journey and weathering the untamed frontier and its deadly battles. From a rough river voyage to wagon train travel across desert lands plagued by dust storms, the Harrigan family encounters outlaws and merciless killers who view them as little more than prey. Mack and his family realize they must adapt to their surroundings and so they enforce their own laws and dispense their own brand of justice.

Mariah Fredericks fictionalizes the most famous kidnapping in American history with her novel “The Lindbergh Nanny.” When Charles Lindbergh, Jr. is kidnapped from his New Jersey home in 1932, the case makes international headlines thanks to his pilot father’s fame. Charles, Sr. and his lovely, wealthy wife, Anne Morrow Lindbergh are devastated. Betty Gow is the formerly obscure young woman living in the house who would become known the world over by another name: the Lindbergh Nanny. Betty is a Scottish immigrant still learning the customs of her new homeland and the East Coast elite. She finds Colonel Lindbergh eccentric and a bit odd, Mrs. Lindbergh is kind, yet nervous, and young Charlie is simply darling. Having survived a love affair gone horribly wrong, Betty finds comfort in her duties caring for the child and even warms to the attentions of the handsome sailor named Henrik, sometimes called Red. When Charlie disappears, she’s suddenly thrust into the limelight as a suspect in the eyes of both the media and the public. Betty must find out the truth about what happened that night if she is going to clear her own name.