Sunday, July 17, 2005

Book Blogging

Finally finished A Stillness at Appomattox last night. I had ordered some other books, and as they arrived I kept setting it aside to read them.

I ordered two by one of my favorite authors as a child, Robert Arthur. He's probably unknown to all but the most dedicated readers of old pulp fiction. He was the originator of the Three Investigators mystery series. I read all the TI books in my elementary school library. Never got into the Hardy Boys, but thought these were great. The two books I ordered by him were Mystery and More Mystery and Ghosts and More Ghosts, both collections of shorts stories that he had originally written for the pulps. I used to own the first of those two. I bought it when I was in sixth grade. I wouldn't say the stories were all written for kids, but they are at least not inappropriate for kids. I still enjoy them thirty years later, and I will be happy to pass them along to my children. (The eldest has already started on the TI series, although she's yet to complete one.)

The other book I stopped for was The Best Western Stories of Ernest Haycox, also a collection of short stories. My dad introduced me to Haycox when I was a teenager. He's, imo, the best western writer ever. His books deal with a wider range of human emotion. His characters are more realistically drawn than most you find in westerns, and they are more engaging. His heroes are not just gunslingers or ranchers. They are also farmers, soldiers, merchants and freighters. Any man (or woman) who acts boldly and intelligently to gain what he wants is a hero. The emphasis is on 'intelligently', because the antagonist in a Haycox story is often a man who is as strong, assertive and bold as the hero, but whose desires are not disciplined by his intelligence. His actions are therefore self-destructive, not to mention being destructive of the people around him.

I also finished the above book last night, so I've started another Haycox while I wait for the wife to finish with the new Harry Potter, which arrived in the mail yesterday. (When I catch her not reading it, I grab it up and read a few pages, so I'm two chapters into it as well.) Alder Gulch is the title of the Haycox book. I read it many years ago, but don't remember exactly how it goes. A number of Haycox novels have been made into movies: Trail Town (Abilene Town), Bugles in the Afternoon, Trouble Shooter (Union Pacific), and Canyon Passage. The most famous of his stories to be made into a movie, though, was the short story, Stage to Lordsburg, which was retitled Stagecoach in the movie version--the John Ford movie that gave John Wayne his start.

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