So, I’m doing a bit of research for a post apocalyptic Texas writing project, and let me be frank, the best thing about the two westerns I’ve read so far is the smell of books printed in the 40’s and thereafter stored more or less untouched in the library at The University of Texas at Austin. Okay, I kid, someone else with lavender scented hands picked these texts up in ’87 and ’01.
Zane Grey’s Rider’s of the Purple Sage (1912) and Code of the West (1934) would seem like promising titles, particularly as the former appears on many “Top 10 Westerns of All Time” lists. However, apart from some stirring chase scenes on horseback and stunning visualizations of the West, these books were just not very good. I found the first novel to be riddled with inconsistencies and characters that made down-right stupid life decisions. As much as the author tried to place the blame for the protagonist’s misery on the LDS, I couldn’t help but feel that they were the architects of their own “Oh mah lord, it is my own darn fault for having lady-parts” destruction.
As for the second novel, Code of the West, I’d like to draw your attention to the following quote: “The world was a better place when men fought for women, even if it was a matter of possession. The pity was that she, and all her kind, were not worth it.”
Just… wow. The point at which this quote occurs, one of the primary female characters is coming to the realization that her feminist ways were wrong in any setting and that she would be ashamed to have a daughter that thought and acted like she did. Never mind that the main love interest in the story has recently, and I’m not kidding, decided that it was a good idea to reinforce her love for him by roughly kidnapping her and dragging her off to get married with the hope that she would be so shamed by the circumstances that she wouldn’t try to get out of it.
I enjoyed Code of the West quite a bit more than the earlier novel, if only because the quality of the writing was significantly better. I did find myself laughing at the well anticipated jokes that the author had laid in wait for multiple chapters, but the book came off as more of scolding of women for wanting to be equal than a western in which men and women were struggling to survive against a world that might otherwise crush them individually.
I’ve got a few other novels queued up for research, including Hondo and Shane, and I’m hoping things improve a bit, but if any of y’all have recommendations, please… let me know.