j-a-johnstone_favorite book_true westWell, four from 2012, plus a timeless classic. Anytime Shane shows up on a list, the rest of the bunch has to be top-notch storytelling.

1. Wildfire (Ralph Cotton; Signet): Cotton is one of the best in the business. I’ve read most of his Westerns, and he can really sling the words.

2. Hard Country (Michael McGarrity; Dutton): I love those big Western sagas that span a generation or two. This one moves from Texas to New Mexico and goes from 1875 through WWI. Hard Country shows what life was like on the frontier, and it wasn’t always pretty.

3. Red River Desperadoes (James Reasoner; Kindle Edition): Reasoner is one of the great Western writers of our time, and he’s underrated to boot. He writes the kinds of Westerns I loved when I was kid, like those by Nelson Nye, Ernest Haycox and Max Brand.

4. Death is the Hunter (Charles G. West; Signet): Maybe not the most original Westerns out there—and from experience, I can tell you that coming up with new ideas for Westerns is tougher than an Applebee’s steak—but West’s stuff is hugely entertaining.

5. Shane (Jack Schaefer; Bantam Books): Shane has what may be the greatest opening line of any Western: “He rode into our valley in the summer of ’89.” Seems simple, but it grabs you by the throat and keeps you riveted.

—J.A. Johnstone, co-author of A Rocky Mountain Christmas (Pinnacle)

favorite_reads_J johnstone

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