Looking for sweeping FICTION epics of the old west
January 27, 2014 3:59 PM   Subscribe

Help me find more sweeping fiction epics of the old west like Lonesome Dove and Hard Country, please. Horses, cattle, cowboys, empty country, ranching, pioneers, prospectors, trappers, etc. Bonus points for very long books or multiple books in the series. I've read everything by Larry McMurtry, and know about Michael Garrity's series, having just finished Hard Country. What else should I read? (I have lots of nonfiction books lined up already, so let's concentrate on fiction, or near-fiction.) Thanks!
posted by bluesky78987 to Writing & Language (21 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
It might be sweeping and epic (which it is) in a different way than you mean, and it is heavy, but Blood Meridian is sui generis.
posted by thinkpiece at 4:06 PM on January 27, 2014 [4 favorites]

It definitely has empty country and horses.
posted by thelonius at 4:09 PM on January 27, 2014

Best answer: The Son is exactly what you are looking for!
posted by OHenryPacey at 4:10 PM on January 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yes, you want Blood Meridian. Also check out All the Pretty Horses.
posted by dfriedman at 4:12 PM on January 27, 2014

I want to add, very old West, highly anglo-centric and for my taste, kinda corny-but-people-love-it: Zane Grey.

Of course, if your mood changes and you want to go contemporary, you will set forth on a wonderful reading journey with the incomparable Louise Erdrich.
posted by thinkpiece at 4:30 PM on January 27, 2014

Response by poster: These are great so far!!! More like this!
posted by bluesky78987 at 4:47 PM on January 27, 2014

Perhaps the first actual western is Owen Wister's The Virginian. It is the forerunner of Zane Grey and all the others and is an enjoyable read. As a bonus it is available for free online.
posted by sciencegeek at 4:58 PM on January 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The Sackett series from the late, great Louis L'Amour!!!

There's, like, seventeen books, but oh...!


Also: Centennial, by James Michener
posted by magstheaxe at 6:03 PM on January 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: For older stuff, Louis L'Amour sprang immediately to mind to me as well (Hondo is one of his classics.)

I also thought of Max Brand and Jack Schaefer. It looks like this webpage has some suggestions for you.

You might also try Marilyn Durham's 2 westerns.
posted by gudrun at 6:35 PM on January 27, 2014

Best answer: James Michener's Centennial is a fabulous book about the state of Colorado, the cattle ranchers vs the sheep ranchers and the consequent range wars, but it's also thorough and a fascinating history of the state.

Truth is, reading that book inspired me to move to the Western Slope of Colorado, where I lived happily for eleven years.
posted by aryma at 9:08 PM on January 27, 2014

i know you requested fiction, but j. frank dobie's western non-fiction "voice of the coyote", "the longhorns", "the mustangs" were staples of my childhood.
posted by bruce at 3:04 AM on January 28, 2014

Response by poster: Yes, Thank you!! I read Centennial some time ago and loved it. Also some kids book called something like Ride the Wind, about the fur trappers, was great.
Great recommendations here thank you!
posted by bluesky78987 at 6:47 AM on January 28, 2014

I really liked A.B. Guthrie's books; I don't recall that they're a series, but each is lengthy and dense, and most definitely sweeping if a bit bleak at times.
posted by stellaluna at 8:53 AM on January 28, 2014

Best answer: Check out Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner.
posted by TrarNoir at 10:21 AM on January 28, 2014

Most of Ian Doig's novels satisfy your need - also try nonfiction like Diary of a Woman Homesteader, (or) The Shirley Letters. The Jump-off Creek is another novel from a woman's pov. The Son is really the best: you could try looking it up in a good library's online catalog, and browsing using the subject headings; OR go to the library and walk the shelf!
posted by mmiddle at 12:26 PM on January 28, 2014

Joseph Altsheller has several books available via the Gutenberg project. Kind of like readable James Fenimore Cooper.
posted by mearls at 7:21 PM on January 28, 2014

Dorothy M. Johnson, the author of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and A Man Called Horse.

Her short story collections are amazing (especially The Hanging Tree), including one story that leaves me bawling like a baby (The Gift of the Wagon). I know short stories don't sound sprawling, but they feel that way, and her stories often tie together.
posted by emcat8 at 8:55 PM on January 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

I love Westerns! Skip Blood Meridian (too gory/heavy) and head straight for the All the Pretty Horses trilogy, which is AMAZING. Seconding Ivan Doing (check out English Creek) and The Big Sky by A.N. Guthrie.
posted by emd3737 at 3:53 AM on January 29, 2014

Best answer: highly, highly, highly recommend the Sackett series...

depending on how you feel about James A. Michner, you may want to consider some of the following books:

* Centennial ("Centennial traces the history of the plains of northeast Colorado from prehistory until the early 1970s") -- not the traditional "old west"
* Texas ("based on the history of the Lone Star State")


overall, the Sackett books should be right up your alley...
posted by knockoutking at 6:47 AM on January 29, 2014

Response by poster: Ok so I have "The Son" next up to listen during my commute, and am reading the first Sackett book on my iPad. So far I love it! Thanks everybody!
posted by bluesky78987 at 7:16 AM on February 8, 2014

You should try Clair Huffaker's The Cowboy and the Cossack, about a group of 1880s Montana cowboys hired to take a herd of cattle across the Pacific and into northern Russia. Epic in emotional scope, if not in length, and funny too. I'll paste what I wrote about it on the blue last year:

If you want to read one of the great lost cowboy novels of the 20th century, The Cowboy and the Cossack by Clair Huffaker was recently reissued as part of librarian/author Nancy Pearl's Rediscoveries series, after being out of print for decades. It's a beautifully written adventure story about a group of Montana cowboys in 1880 contracted to deliver a huge herd of cattle to a starving town in Siberia, chaperoned by an equally odd group of cossacks.

Trust me: it's one of the most fun and fascinating cowboy novels ever written, with tigers replacing mountain lions, Tartar warriors instead of Native Americans, tons of gripping action and so much heart it'll make you ache...Huffaker was a screenwriter on a bunch of Westerns and TV shows including The Comancheros, Flaming Star, The War Wagon, Bonanza and Rawhide.
posted by mediareport at 5:44 AM on February 14, 2014

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