Author Bill Brooks Shares His Love of Great Westerns

Bill-Brooks-Western-Author-book-reviewAccording to Bill Brooks, “Writing has brought me experiences I never would have otherwise had.” He loved the history of the West and grew up watching Roy Rogers, Gene Autry and Lash LaRue. In his twenties, he realized he wanted to be a writer, but like many before him, his trail to success was not easy.

He never gave up hope, even after numerous rejections of manuscripts. Brooks’ first Western novel, The Badmen, was published by Walker & Co. in 1992. He has published nearly 40 novels, including The Stone Garden: The Epic Life of Billy the Kid, named by Booklist as one of the ten best Westerns of the 2000s. Brooks’ latest Five Star Western was released in May, The Righteous Revenge of Lucy Moon.

Five authors and novels that inspire him as a writer:

1 The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (Ron Hansen, Harper): This happens to be my favorite Western. Hansen is a skilled and gifted writer, and to read his book on Jesse puts me right there throughout the outlaw’s life and with his gang. I love the authenticity and its keen insight into both the bad Jesse and the good Jesse,
and of course that of his killer, the ill-fated Robert Ford.

2 The Homesman (Glendon Swarthout, Simon & Schuster): This was not only one of my favorite Westerns, but one of my favorite novels, period. Swarthout never wrote a bad novel, in my opinion, and this was simply his best because it did not follow a traditional Western storyline.

3 Monte Walsh (Jack Schaefer, Houghton Mifflin): This is the best of Schaefer’s books, even though I know Shane is considered his most popular. But you can’t read Monte without connecting right off with his abusive home life as boy who runs off and comes to be the man who never met a horse he couldn’t ride. The dialogue and scenes are as authentic as cowboy beans and Arbuckle.

4 The Shootist (Glendon Swarthout, Berkley): It’s hard not to include another Swarthout novel. The storyline is unique—a dying gunfighter seeking his final peace as he realizes his past mistakes and regrets many of them. It includes one of the best lines I’ve ever read in a novel when John Bernard Books says, “I won’t be wronged. I won’t be insulted. I won’t be laid a hand on. I don’t do these things to other people, and I require the same from them.”

5 True Grit (Charles Portis, Penguin): A classic in the sense of Mattie Ross’s authentic first-person narrative. From the opening sentence, “People do not give credence that a fourteen-year-old girl could leave home and go off in the wintertime to avenge her father’s blood…” It achieves in that opening what every good novel should ascribe todraw the reader immediately in to the story. Mattie is likable, determined and fully capable; we shall never forget her.


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