Wednesday, February 12, 2014


Looking for a book at free digital libraries is like buying a lottery ticket and waiting with bated breath. You might never win a lottery in your lifetime but you’ll hit the jackpot at online book sites more times than you can count. The magic of it is that, unlike a lottery ticket, you don’t have to pay for a free ebook. Who am I kidding? I’ll take a lottery win any day. 

Anyway, this afternoon, between writing and editing and laying out the pages for my newspaper, I came across an ebook I thought was worthy of download by all those who enjoy the movies, particularly westerns—Stagecoach to Tombstone: The Filmgoers’ Guide to the Great Westerns by Howard Hughes. I’d no hesitation in downloading the ebook from Archive. It was free and legal too.

My excitement over the discovery was, however, shortlived. There was no way Hughes or anyone could have written about the great westerns in just 50-odd pages. I was looking at a fraction of the 272-page book that had a detailed pictorial analysis of only two of the 27 great westerns—Stagecoach (1939) and My Darling Clementine (1946).

Besides the other 25 films, the other missing segments were Preface: Colt Movies, Acknowledgments, Out of the West: An Introduction to Westerns, Ten Top Tens, Western Filmography, and Bibliography and Sources. The Index was intact, but what good would it do?

It felt like the time I won my only lottery, a princely sum of Rs.50, less than a dollar. I don’t think I claimed it.

Amazon is selling Stagecoach to Tombstone: The Filmgoers’ Guide to the Great Westerns for a little over $15 (paperback or kindle). I guess I'll be looking out for the book in a used bookstore.

The book is described as “The true story of the American West on film, through its shooting stars and the directors who shot them…”

Going further, “Howard Hughes explores the Western, running from John Ford's 'Stagecoach' to the revisionary 'Tombstone'. Writing with panache and fresh insight, he explores 27 key films, and draws on production notes, cast and crew biographies, and the films' box-office success, to reveal their place in western history. He shows how through reinvention and resurrection, this genre continually postpones the big adios and avoids ending up in Boot Hill…permanently.”

These are the 27 great westerns according to Howard Hughes.

1 ‘The Tumbril Awaits’
Stagecoach (1939)

2 ‘Shakespeare in Tombstone’
My Darling Clementine (1946)

3 ‘Your Heart’s Soft…Too Soft’
Red River (1948)

4 ‘Tomorrow’s All I Need’
She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949)

5 ‘What Will I Do If You Leave Me?’
High Noon (1952)

6 ‘You Can’t Break the Mould’
Shane (1953)

7 ‘I Never Shake Hands with a Left-Handed Draw’
Johnny Guitar (1954)

8 ‘We’ll Fool Saint Peter Yet’
Vera Cruz (1954)

9 ‘I Came a Thousand Miles to Kill You’
The Man from Laramie (1955)

10 ‘That’ll Be the Day’
The Searchers (1956)

11 ‘There’s a Hundred More Tombstones’
Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957)

12 ‘I Bet That Rattler Died’
Forty Guns (1957)

13 ‘There’s Some Things a Man Just Can’t Ride Around’
Ride Lonesome (1959)

14 ‘I’d Hate to Have to Live on the Difference’
Rio Bravo (1959)

15 ‘We Deal in Lead, Friend’
The Magnificent Seven (1960)

16 ‘I Seen the Other Side of Your Face’
One-Eyed Jacks (1961)

17 ‘All I Want is to Enter My House Justified’
Ride the High Country (1962)

18 ‘Ain’t You Got No Respect For Your Elders?’
The Sons of Katie Elder (1965)

19 ‘The End of the Line’
Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)

20 ‘The Fastest Finger in the West’
Support Your Local Sheriff! (1969)

21 ‘This Time We Do it Right’
The Wild Bunch (1969)

22 ‘Who Are Those Guys?’
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)

23 ‘I Got Poetry in Me’
McCabe & Mrs Miller (1971)

24 ‘Here in This Land, Man Must Have Power’
Ulzana’s Raid (1972)

25 ‘Whooped ’Em Again, Josey’
The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)

26 ‘I’ve Always Been Lucky When it Comes to Killing Folks’
Unforgiven (1992)

27 ‘I’m Your Huckleberry’
Tombstone (1993)


  1. I'll agree that 50 pages won't cover a lot and there will be omissions. I think any round-up or collation would suffer from that to a degree. I've not seen many on the list, but the Unforgiven and 3.10 to Yuma was a favourite in our house.

    1. Col, it did not occur to me that a book published as recently as 2008 would not actually be available freely and legally on the internet. I don't know how books like these get on Archive. I haven't seen many of the films on the list.

    2. Col, a correction. This particular edition was published in 2008 by I.B. Tauris & Co. Ltd. Hughes must have written it a long time ago considering that he died in 1976.

  2. The concept of the book sounds really interesting. In many cases it seems the actuality doesn't stand up to the concept and the promise.

    1. Charles, I think this is a fine anthology of western films by some of the finest directors. Hughes appears to have covered the two films I mentioned above quite well. Of course, I'm no expert on Hollywood cinema.

  3. With "free," you often get what you pay for.

    1. Ron, this one had me fooled completely. I think the copyright to this work is still intact.

  4. Replies
    1. David, a free ebook or a lottery?! I don't mind either. I download ebooks provided they are legally available. In any case Kindle and Nook have made lots of books, including new books, affordable.

  5. Sorry you rolled a crap shot on that free book, Prashant. But another victory for us eBook dissenters. ;^)

    Wow, for someone who's not much of a western fan I've seen 14 of those movies -- exactly half of the list. Guess I've been hitting the cream of the crop. NAKED SPUR is a western I always recommend. It should be up there instead of...well, quite a few on this list that I think are rather routine. I'd also recommend a very unique western set one month after the Civil War ended about some renegade soliders who are led to believe the war is still going on. It's called HANGMAN'S KNOT.

    1. John, I paid the price for being greedy. I didn't know you were opposed to ebooks. Frankly, ebooks is the reason I'm reading more books now, especially vintage books from the period 1800 to early 1900 that I'd scarcely ever find in my neck of the woods. I still read the popular Classics in physical form and whatever else I can lay my hands on. As with all lists, I suppose this one is subjective too. You've already pointed out one that isn't there.

  6. Hughes is a busy writer of very accessible books on various film genres and I've always enjoyed them. I've seen all of the films he discusses and they are all well worth seing though let me add another vote for HANGMAN'S KNOT, a great little movie by Roy Huggins, better known for his work on TV creating such shows as MAVERICK, THE FUGITIVE and THE ROCKFORD FILES.

    1. Sergio, I'm familiar with Hughes' writing on films though I haven't read anything substantial. I was hoping to make an unintentional start with this book. Hopefully, I'll have better luck with the films in his list. In fact, I haven't seen any good westerns for a while now.