"Is not the history of the world no more than a record of violence and death cut in stone? It is a terrible, lonely, loveless thing to know it. . ."
The western is a quintessential American genre and while we have plenty of classic films, we have very few classic novels. Perhaps because it seems a little pulpy, perhaps because the western runs on a very small set of conventions. Originally published in 1958, Oakley Hall's "Warlock" has a claim on one of the few literary western novels with no less than Thomas Pynchon and Robert Stone, who contributes the introduction to this edition, praising it. Set in the small Southwestern town of Warlock, Hall hits on classic themes and situations, but also adds a political angle (striking miners) and a dark, almost existential tone that contrasts with the romanticism of many westerns. It runs long and can be a little plodding, but it's a rare serious and ambitious western and so is worth seeking out. Made into a film with Henry Fonda. Also see "True Grit," "Butcher's Crossing," "Little Big Man," and "Blood Meridian."
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