While flying to Asheville, I read these two westerns, which I happened to have on my Kindle.

I adore Louis L'Amour. This novel was a great demonstration of how good he is at pulling you into a story. Matt, the hero of this one, isn't the usual good guy who doesn't go looking for trouble, but is found by it. The first three pages of the book go basically like this:

Matt, a young gunslinger, swaggers into town and heads straight for the saloon. There he spots two tough-looking men glaring at each other.

Matt (to tough guy # 1): "I can kick your ass." (To tough guy # 2): "Yours too."

Tough guys: "Want a job?"

Matt: "No... I want a FIGHT."

Tough guys: "Suit yourself."

A beautiful girl, Moira, passes by.

Matt: "Hi, I'm Matt and I'm going to marry you. I can see our strong, handsome sons already!"

Moira: "W. T. F."

Helpful deliverer of exposition: "Hey, gunslinger! As you are probably not aware, those two tough guys are in the middle of a huge, bloody feud with each other. They both want the water from a river on property owned by a third party, Ball, who is no fighter and is going to get murdered any second now."

Matt goes to Ball's ranch.

Matt: "I'm a rough, tough gunslinger, but now I've fallen in love and mean to settle down and raise my future brood of sons. Give me a half share in your ranch and I'll fight two separate gangs of ruthless gunslingers for you!"

Enter Morgan Park, a giant ruthless gunslinger with tiny feet (this is a plot point) and a crush on Moira.

Morgan: "Make that three separate gangs of ruthless gunslingers."

Okay, this isn't actually the first three pages. Morgan doesn't appear until about page ten. But you get my drift.

I'd call this middle-grade L'Amour. The characterization and setting are pretty standard (both are much better in some of his other novels, which also goes for female characters), but it's quite engaging. I'm a bit sorry that Matt stops being such a cocky jackass early on, because he then becomes just a generic guy.

Silver Canyon

I've never read Zane Grey before, and this was not what I was expecting.

New Yorker Carey's fiance Glenn returns from WWI, shell-shocked and seriously ill from being gassed, and takes off for Arizona, to Carey's confusion. (He didn't tell her what bad shape he was in.) She finally goes out meet him. Cue lavish descriptions of scenery and life in the west. She learns that he nearly died, but has now recovered. Mostly. I was hoping for more shell-shock. What I got was this:

Carey: "Wow, life seems really rough out here. I'm not sure I like it. But I will do my best to keep up, because I love you, Glenn!"

Glenn: "City women like you are failures of the modern world and have abandoned your true female natures. You need to move here, do real work, and have babies. Also, stop wearing slutty dresses. I am shocked and horrified."

Carey: "But Glenn, I wore this white dress because you said you love me in white. Um, and also it's hot, and I love you, and you love me, right?"

Glenn: "I guess? But it's so slutty! It has NO SLEEVES! The skirts are at the knee! This is the sign of the decline of western civilization!"

Rachel [checks book to make sure that I am really reading Zane Grey, the famous writer of westerns, because I just summarized a three-page rant on the sluttiness of modern women's wear. Yep. Zane Grey.]

Rough sheep-dipper: "Hey, sexy city-slicker! Let me rape you!"

Carey [faints]

Rough sheep-dipper: "Never mind the rape. Let me lecture you on your slutty attire and how awful modern city women are, then leave in disgust."

Rachel: "Excuse me! Where are the gunslingers? The shoot-outs? The ranch wars? Or, failing that, can we have some more shell-shock? I'm always up for shell-shock!"

Characters of book: "Ha ha ha ha! No. But we've got lots more condescending lectures on the moral failures of modern women."

The Call of the Canyon
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