Wednesday, 5 June 2013

When books are a rewarding experience

“As the wind howled, it seemed to be the very soul of the land.”
— A line from Hard Texas Winter

Westerns are one of my favourite categories of books. I read them with an air of anticipation. There is excitement with every turn of the page.

I also enjoy reading westerns because of their historical backdrop as the stories are mostly set in and around the Frontier and the Civil War years.

For instance, the story of Hard Texas Winter (1981) by Preston Lewis begins just six months after the end of the Civil War.

Morgan Garrett, a former Confederate soldier crippled in the war, is riding from Alabama to Santa Fe in New Mexico in search of work and a new life. Tired and hungry in the bitterly cold winter, Garrett decides to spend the night at Crossrock, a small nondescript town in Texas.

On his way there Garrett meets former Union soldier Big Bill Murphy. When Garrett asks the massively-built man the way to Crossrock, Murphy replies with unconcealed contempt for the former Reb, “Just ‘bout two miles the way you’re headed, Johnny.”

I found out that ‘Johnny’ was the nickname given to Confederate soldiers by their Union counterparts during the war. That and "greyback," in reference to the grey uniforms the Confederates wore, were used in a derogative fashion.

Garrett enters the town’s only functional saloon wearing “a gray greatcoat with the faded gold braid in a double knot that signified a captain’s rank” and his useless arm hanging by his side. The saloon is empty save for the saloon owner and his wife and five men sitting in a far corner of the room. They mean trouble.

As the men leave the saloon, one of them deliberately knocks off Garrett’s greatcoat from the chair onto the sawdust-covered floor.

He says, “Oh, I’m sorry, soldier boy…but just a little bump and that coat fell just like the whole Confederate army.”

Garrett sits quietly and swallows the insult. He is in town only for a night, for some food and a warm bed, and he doesn't want trouble.

But gun trouble finds him.

All this action takes place in only the first few pages of the novel and there is already enough reference to the Civil War. In a way it brings the one-time foes, Morgan Garrett and Bill Murphy, on the same side of the battle in Crossrock.

I’m waiting to read the rest of the story as, I’m sure, it continues to unfold in the backdrop of the war.

As I said, there is never a dull moment in a western, a very enriching and rewarding exercise for me. Do you feel the same way about certain genre of books?


For Forgotten Books this week, head over to Patti Abbott's blog Pattinase.

10 comments:

  1. I have never been fond of Westerns, Prashant, but your enthusiasm makes me want to pick one up. Excellent post.

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    1. Thank you, Neer. I hope you try out a western or two. I'm sure you'll enjoy the experiment. And when you do, let me know.

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  2. I've got that book but haven't read it yet. I've got lots of westerns on stand bye in case of need!

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    1. Charles, I have plenty of westerns on standby, too, and I'm trying to read at least one every month.

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  3. Prashant: It is a long time since I read a Western. I found they usually presented a narrow view of Western America history. It is probably time I read some contemporary Western authors. They may have a broader perspective.

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    1. Bill, the "narrow view of Western American history" never occurs to me when I read western novels and you make an excellent point. In spite of it, I find them entertaining. I have a couple of copyright-free ebooks on the history of the American West which I hope will provide me with a "broader perspective." I'm hoping to read more historical fiction.

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  4. I really will have to take the plunge into this genre Prashant especially as I love the movies so much - cheers mate.

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    1. Sergio, I do hope you take the plunge as I'd love to know what you think of westerns as well as read your reviews of these novels.

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  5. I'll have to look for this book. Nice review!

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    1. Thank you, George. It's a good book with a rather unexpected ending.

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