Although Westerns appear to have fallen out of favor with modern audiences, they were once a staple of both the literary and film world. Contemporary shows, such as West World, has put a new science fiction spin on the genre, but readers yearning for tales set in the American Old West frontier have less newer material to choose from. Fortunately, there is still a wealth of books from the early 20th and mid 20th century that are now available for free. So, if you have a hankering for tales featuring shootouts at high noon, brave sheriffs and brazen bandits, courage cowboys facing off against thieves and outlaws, and fast horses then these books will deliver in spades.
by Max Brand (Frederick Schiller Faust)
Frederick Schiller Faust wrote a number of western novels under the pen name Max Brand and The Seventh Man is one of his best. Although it is a western, The Seventh Man features enough action and suspense to draw in readers that might not necessarily be fans of the genre. This novel is also unique for a western as there is no clear contrast between good and bad. The protagonist is a man named Whistling Dan Barry and he is on a mission of revenge. In order to avenge the death of one horse he sets out with his black stallion and fierce wolfhound in tow to kill seven men. However, there is much more to the tale than just revenge, but to say any more would ruin the surprises.
by Zane Grey
Zane Grey is another prolific writer of the western genre and Riders of The Purple Sage wasn’t just his best-selling book, but is also considered by many to be the most popular western novel of all time. The novel tells the story of a beautiful rancher named Jane Withersteen who appears to be destined to marry a Mormon elder whether she likes it or not. Fortunately for Jane, a gunslinger named Lassiter shows up in the nick of time to save her from this ordeal. However, Lassiter is on a mission of his own, but agrees to stay on and help Jane who, is having some trouble with the locals.
by Clarence E. Mulford
Hopalong Cassidy was one of the most famous fictional cowboy heroes of his era and the creation of author Clarence E. Mulford. He wrote a number of books about the adventures of Cassidy and the popularity of these resulted in more than sixty films in later years. Fans interested in the rougher, more dangerous version of Cassidy as he is portrayed in the earlier books, should start with Bar-20. It is the first in the series and features a number of incidents in the life of Cassidy, which makes it feel more like a collection of short stories. However, those who get hooked by the adventures of Cassidy will be happy to hear that Mulford went on to write more than 20 novels in the series and fellow western author, Louis L’Amour, went on to pen a few more.
Not all early western novels were solely focused on violence and bloodshed as demonstrated by this 1916 novel from Grace Livingston Hill. It tells the story of Margaret Earle, who travels to Arizona to become a schoolteacher. Unfortunately, Margaret gets off at the wrong stop by accident and ends up stranded in the middle of nowhere. This is just the start of her troubles, but things soon look up for Margaret when she meets a man named Lance Gardley. Like most of Hill’s books, A Voice In The Wilderness features strong religious themes and characters who are clearly good or evil. However, the story is quite riveting and the author has a knack for describing the Arizona landscapes in great detail.