Are there any authors who still write good western novels?
Posted on 28th of January, 2019


While I don't think that true "Western" novels like the early ones are that common anymore, there are still more than enough historical novels with Western themes around. I can't say that I actively seek out books in this genre, but I have read a couple of ones. Patric deWitt wrote a good one in 2011, titled The Sisters Brothers. It is likely more comedic than typical fans of the Western genre would prefer, but in my humble opinion, it is a classic. The Sisters Brothers is about two brothers, Eli and Charlie, who are hired to assassinate a man that allegedly stole from their boss. They make the trip from Oregon City to San Francisco, but when they encounter they target, their plans change slightly.

It is a bit older, but I would recommend the Pete Dexter novel, Deadwood, as well. I think a lot of people tend to overlook this novel because they think that the HBO television series was based on it. While the show shared some eery similarities with the book, the producer of the show claimed to have never read the book. Whether you want to believe him or not, the one thing that the book has, which the television show did not, is an actual ending. If you are still upset that Deadwood was canceled before the show could finish the story, then you should definitely read the book.
Westerns have died down a bit as a genre lately, so unless you haven't already read all the classics, I don't think you are going to have much luck finding anything new that is good. I can't say that I'm too much of a fan of the genre, though, so don't take my word for it. For all I know there could be hundreds of great westerns out there, but personally I think that times have changed and books like that don't really fit in anymore. About the only "recent" western that I have read is the Cormac McCarthy book, Blood Meridian, but even this book don't have that much in common with the time period when westerns were all the rage.
Don't make the same mistake that I did by ordering books with cowboys on the cover because you think that makes them Westerns. Let's just say that the genre has been hijacked by authors who write for a certain segment of the female population who are attracted to the genre for reasons that have nothing to do with shooting guns and riding horses! All kidding aside, here are a few authors who managed to knock it out of the park with their Western novels.

- Elmore Leonard. I know that Elmore Leonard only wrote one Western novel, but Hombre is just such a good example of this genre that it can't be missed. The protagonist, John Russell, is as cowboy as they come and this book about him protecting a stagecoach as it makes it way through the desert is riveting stuff.

- Kim Zupan. Kim Zupan is a bit of an odd choice, but allow me to explain. His novel Ploughmen may not seem like it is part of the typical Western genre at first, and it really isn't actually, but somehow it does fit in. It is about a sheriff's deputy who has to watch over a murderer who is waiting for his trial. There is seemingly very little that these two men could have in common, but when they begin talking to each other, it is impossible not to get caught up. Ploughmen, to me at least, feels like a modern Western and I think it is a very underrated book.
For me, one of the best authors of Western fiction will always be Ron Hansen. Everyone who loves Westerns should already know about the one he wrote in 1979, called Desperadoes and the one from 1983, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Well, you asked if there are any authors who still write good Westerns and my answer would still be Ron Hansen. He didn't just write these classic Westerns, but in 2016 he also gave us The Kid. The Kid is the story of Henry McCarty, or as the world remembers him now, Billy The Kid. There are plenty of dime Western novels about Billy obviously, but The Kid is written in a way that only Ron Hansen can. Not all of his books are Westerns, unfortunately, but he is a great author that writes compelling stories no matter what genre he picks.

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