Chris Enss’s recommended reads

Chris-Enss-BYWLAward-winning author Chris Enss finds inspiration every day from the men and women who built the American West.

Like the women in her most recent book, Love Lessons from the Old West: Wisdom from Wild Women, Enss has also overcome great odds to become a top selling author of women’s Western history. Growing up in Arizona, Enss’s goal in college was to become a professional comedienne like Phyllis Diller. She paid her dues on the comedy circuit and writing for Carol Burnett and Rosanne Barr in L.A., before she moved back to the Southwest to pursue a career in writing, which eventually brought her to her home in California’s gold country.

Today, Enss is the author or co-author of 16 books, has a book on The New York Times nonfiction bestseller list, The Doctor Wore Petticoats: Women Physicians of the Old West, and, a film in development based on Thunder Over the Prairie: The True Story of a Murder and a Manhunt by the Greatest Posse of All Time (details in “Rough Drafts”). A lover of books and authors, Enss’s highly recommends that anyone who loves the West, should own these five Western classics:

1. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance: And a Man Called Horse, the Hanging Tree, and Lost Sister (Dorothy Johnson, Riverbend Publishing): Billed as the “Four Best Short Stories of the American West,” my favorite is “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.” She sculpted these characters so well. She just wanted to be proud of the lives they lived. My favorite  single line is “when I die they won’t say I am a coward.”

2. Valdez is Coming (Elmore Leonard, William Morrow): Elmore Leonard’s prose is lean and economical; I love books where the bad guy receives justice in the end.

3. The Writer’s Guide to Everyday Life in the Wild West from 1840-1900, (Candy Moulton, F+W Media): An indispensable resource for writers, every writer of the West should own a copy. Mine is dog-eared and filled with notes and bookmarks from constant use. I love it.

4. The Ox-bow Incident (Walter Van Tilburg Clark, Arrow Books): A classic that has defined Western literature and film since it was published in 1940.

5. The Ballad of Frankie Silver (Sharyn McCrumb, St. Martin’s Griffin): One of my absolute favorites; Sharyn McCrumb has taken a true murder story in North Carolina in 1833, and interwoven it with a fiction story. She is so creative the way she has done it, it is mesmerizing, an Old West mystery that keeps you on edge of your seat.


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Stuart Rosebrook

As senior editor of True West Magazine, Stuart Rosebrook oversees all editorial covering Old West travel, firearms and books. He has a Ph.D in U.S. History from Arizona State University, and he owns a multimedia communications business, Quo Vadis Communications, based in Iowa City, Iowa.