Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Wild, Wild West

Our next meeting will be on Tuesday, August 27th at 6:30pm in the Library's conference room for a discussion of real life adventures.


What are the essential ingredients in a great adventure story? The Latin root of the word, oddly enough, means "an arrival," but adventure almost always entails a going out, and not just any going out but a bold one: Sail the Pacific on a balsa raft; pit your skills against K2; sledge to the South Pole. It is a quest whose outcome is unknown but whose risks are tangible, a challenge someone meets with courage, brains, and effort—and then survives, we hope, to tell the tale.

"Safe return doubtful," as the famous apocryphal newspaper ad soliciting Antarctica volunteers put it. No matter: There's seldom a shortage of applicants. Humans hunger for adventure, and most is voluntary—people choose to go out and explore or climb or fly alone across vast oceans. But sometimes adventure is thrust upon us: A jet crashes in the high Andes, stranding its passengers in the snows. A whale staves and sinks a ship.

These, too, are tests of courage, endurance, resourcefulness. We stay up all night reading to see what happens. Such stories are as old as civilization. The ancient Babylonian epic of Gilgamesh is an adventure story. So are the Odyssey, the Viking sagas, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. And they have mythological roots: Culture heroes go out into the unknown, endure various tests, bring back a boon—the Golden Fleece; the Holy Grail; the knowledge, at the very least, of strange new lands, strange new people. The adventurer's rewards today are more personal but no less considerable. And those of us who stay behind still ask: What was it like? These are the books that answer that question.

There is a display of adventure books at the 2nd floor Reference Desk.  Stop by and pick one out or bring a treasured favorite on August 27th and tell us about it!

Last night we discussed western novels of all stripes but before I tell you about the books we dished on, I wanted to let you know about Wild West Wednesdays coming up in September!  Each Wednesday evening at 6:30pm in September (4th, 11th, 18th, and 25th), we'll show a classic western film.  For titles or more information, give us a call at 205-445-1121!

(All book descriptions from unless otherwise noted.)

The Virginian: A Horseman of the Plains by Owen Wister
Set in the vast Wyoming territory, this masterpiece helped establish the code of the West and its stereotypical characters: the genteel but brave, white-hatted cowboy, the pretty spinster from back East, and villains beyond redemption. The novel is also on record for incorporating the first known "shootout" in American literature.

The Cowboy and the Cossack by Clair Huffaker
Fifteen Montana cowboys sail into Vladivostok with a herd of five hundred longhorns, ready to cross a thousand miles of Siberian wilderness. When a band of Cossacks, Russia’s elite horsemen and warriors, shows up to escort these rough and ready Americans to their destination, the clash of cultures begins. The feud between American six shooter and Russian saber is embodied in two men: Shad, the leader of the Montana cowboys, and Rostov, the Cossack commander. Nature and man are enemies that will force them to work together—and a ruthless Tartar army that stands between them and their destination. The code of the cowboy West and the credo of the Cossack East seem to be two different measures of a man—but honor and courage are the same in any language when a common enemy must be faced. Lonesome Dove meets Dr. Zhivago in this rousing tale of West meets East in the days of the Russian Tsars and the Wild West.

The Chili Queen by Sandra Dallas
Life may have been hard on Addie French, but when she meets friendless Emma Roby on a train, all her protective instincts emerge. Emma's brother is seeing her off to Nalgitas to marry a man she has never met. And Emma seems like a lost soul to Addie-someone who needs Addie's savvy and wary eye. It isn't often that Addie is drawn to anyone as a friend, but Emma seems different somehow. When Emma's prospective fails to show up at the train depot, Addie breaks all her principles to shelter the girl at her brothel, The Chili Queen. But once Emma enters Addie's life, the secrets that unfold and schemes that are hatched cause both women to question everything they thought they knew. With Sandra Dallas's trademark humor, charm, and pathos, The Chili Queen will satisfy anyone who has ever longed for happiness.  The Chili Queen is the winner of the 2003 Spur Award for Best Western Novel.

Wagons West! Idaho by Dana Fuller Ross
It's the wild lawless region beyond the River of No Return. Overrun with gold-crazed prospectors, money-hungry outlaws, and bloodthirsty tribes of Shoshoni and Nez Perce, the Idaho Territory is no place for a family to settle down. Which is why two battalions of cavalry troops are enlisted by the U.S. government to bring law and order to this untamed land. Led by Toby Holt, son of legendary wagon master Whip Holt, and his friend Rob Martin, a new generation of brave men and women are prepared to face whatever dangers lie ahead: hardened criminals overrunning the saloons and bordellos of Boise; marauding tribes spreading murder and mayhem across the mountains; and deadliest of all, an enemy from Toby's past seeking ruthless revenge. Nothing can stand in the way of a pioneer's spirit, a nation's dream, or America's future...

Butch Cassidy: The Lost Years by William and J.A. Johnstone
On November 3, 1908, in the town of San Vicente, suspected of stealing a mining company payroll, Butch Cassidy was killed in a bloody shootout by the Bolivian Army.

Or was he?

In a small Texas town in 1950, a man from the Pinkerton Detective Agency interrupts an old-timer's daily game of dominos to learn the truth about Butch Cassidy--who is still alive and well and sitting right in front of him…

So begins the novel of the West's most legendary outlaw--as told by America's master storytellers, William W. Johnstone and J.A.Johnstone. Butch Cassidy The Lost Years reveals the stunning secret behind that infamous shootout in Bolivia that claimed the lives of the Sundance Kid and, allegedly, Butch himself. For years, there were rumors that Cassidy survived. Now, almost half a century later, an old man playing dominos tells the real story of his life and times, legend be damned.

After fleeing South America and informing the beautiful Etta Place that her beloved Sundance is dead, Butch returns to Texas searching for a place to call home. When he comes across a dying rancher who'd been shot by some rustlers, Butch promises to avenge him--and take over the ranch after his death. Assuming the name Jim Strickland, Butch tries to start a fresh new chapter in his life. But even with his old gang gone and his outlaw past behind him, trouble has a way of finding Butch. Cruel injustice--in the form of a corrupt railroad baron--pulls him into the most dangerous train robbery he's ever attempted. But if Butch Cassidy is going to ride again, it'll have to be with a newer, and wilder, Wild Bunch...

Filled with page-turning action and authentic historic details, Butch Cassidy The Lost Years is a exciting and fitting tribute to a true American original. Robert LeRoy Parker. Butch to his friends. Mr. Cassidy to those on the business end of his gun.

The Quick and the Dead by Louis L'Amour
When Duncan McKaskel decided to move his family west, he knew he would face dangers, and he was prepared for them. He knew about the exhausting terrain, and he was expecting the punishing elements. What he worried about was having to use violence against other men—men who would follow him and try to steal the riches that he didn’t even possess.

Yet bandits were only part of McKaskel’s worries. For a mysterious stranger, Con Vallian, had appeared one night and saved his life. But was Vallian’s true interest Duncan’s wife, Susanna? And, more important, how did she feel about him?

As they push on into the wilderness, Duncan must discover who is the greater threat—the thieves outside his camp or the enigmatic stranger within.…

Spur: Minetown Mistress by Dirk Fletcher
An outsider in the unfriendly town of Timber Break, Idaho Territory, Spur McCoy is determined to track down a missing colonel and conquer both a blonde and a redhead.

All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy
Now a major motion picture from Columbia Pictures starring Matt Damon, produced by Mike Nichols, and directed by Billy Bob Thornton.
The national bestseller and the first volume in Cormac McCarthy's Border Trilogy, All the Pretty Horses is the tale of John Grady Cole, who at sixteen finds himself at the end of a long line of Texas ranchers, cut off from the only life he has ever imagined for himself.  With two companions, he sets off for Mexico on a sometimes idyllic, sometimes comic journey to a place where dreams are paid for in blood.  Winner of the National Book Award for Fiction.

Cormac McCarthy interview with Oprah

Truly entertaining movies with the feel of a western, but set in Australia:
The Man From Snowy River
With its unforgettably heroic story, its stunning cinematography, and acting performances that are uniformly excellent, THE MAN FROM SNOWY RIVER is one thrilling adventure you won't want to miss. Set during the 1880's, when the Australian frontier was as wild and dangerous as the American West, the film follows the exploits of a handsome youth (Tom Burlinson) who sets out to tame a wild herd of horses. Taking on a challenge many men had attempted before him, he rides deep into the treacherous and untamed wilderness of his native timberlands where boys become men fast - or die trying. Featuring Kirk Douglas in a remakable dual role and highlighted by a climactic chase involving 40 horsemen and 90 wild horses thundering across snow-covered peaks, THE MAN FROM SNOWY RIVER is destined to become a legendary film!

Return to Snowy River
(From Romance and adventure abound in this sequel to the popular Australian film The Man from Snowy River. The story takes up five years after the other ended. It is still the 1880s when Jim Craig returns to his humble mountain cabin after he rounds up a heard of mustangs in the hope that he will earn enough money to finally be able to marry Jessica. Unfortunately, Jessica's dad wants her to marry the banker's son. Now the two lovers must work long and hard to be together.

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