Read the High Country: A Guide to Western Books and Films

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Assist readers in their book selections with this guide, which covers titles spanning the entire spectrum of the Western genre—from such classics as those written by Zane Grey, Louis L'Amour, and Max Brand to traditional novels by Elmer Kelton and contemporary novels of the West by Annie Proulx, Louise Erdrich, and Larry McMurtry. Mort describes and maps approximately 2000 titles, grouping them by subgenre and theme, and describing their features and plots. Also included are chapters on the history of the genre, six great authors of the genre, a Western timeline, information on resources and awards, and detailed indexes.

Often overlooked or written off as a dying genre, the Western, in fact, holds great appeal for many readers today. While traditional Westerns have managed to retain a loyal cadre of fans, new followers have been drawn in by recent iterations of and new directions in the genre written by such authors as Larry McMurtry, Annie Proulx, Louise Erdrich, and Tabor Evans; as well as contemporary authors writing in the traditional vein, such as Elmer Kelton. Westerns are also thriving within the flourishing Christian fiction genre.

This guide, intended to help you assist readers in their book (and film) selections, covers the entire spectrum of the Western, describing and mapping the genre—from classics that are still enjoyed by dedicated readers to more contemporary and literary novels of the West that feature the alluring themes of freedom, individualism, and moral regeneration set against the magnificent backdrop of the Western landscape. By grouping titles by subgenre and theme, and describing their features and plots, the book guides users to similar titles and read-alikes. Young adult and adult. Grades 10 and up.

Mort takes a broad historical perspective, covering the Western from its origins in the 19th century to today. Selections represent the best and most popular titles as well as those commonly available in libraries. Chapters focus on past giants of the genre (Zane Grey, Louis L'Amour, Max Brand) as well as on current subgenres and themes such as Christian Westerns, Sagas, Western Romance, Western Mysteries, Young Adult Westerns, Native Americans, and Mountain Men. Western films, so integral to the evolution of the genre, are annotated in a separate chapter. Approximately 2,000 titles are covered, about 250 of them films. Coverage of books is broad and thorough; coverage of films is selective. In addition, there are a brief history of the genre, a Western timeline, information on resources and awards, and author/title, subject and geographic indexes. This is the definitive resource on the Western genre, and an essential readers' advisory and reference tool.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Read the High Country: A Guide to Western Books and Films is another useful readers advisory tool in the Genreflecting Advisory Series. Mort opens the volume with an informative and thoughtful history of the Western… Mort's annotations are concise and witty… the High Country makes an excellent addition to any library dealing with readers advisory.'



Colorado Association of Libraries

"This guide focuses on Western books and films, listing about 2,000 titles categorized by subgenre and theme, such as Native Americans, mountain men, exploration, the army, range and ranch life, sagas, Western mysteries, and Western romances. Mort, a reference librarian, also provides a brief history of the genre and a discussion of six writers: Zane Grey, Max Brand, Ernest Haycox, Louis L'Amour, Elmer Kelton, and Larry McMurtry. Book records list publishing information and setting, summarize the plot, and note appeal to women, young adults, and book clubs, and if books have Christian themes, are out of print, or have received awards. Movie entries list cast and crew, production information, setting, and star rating, and include a plot summary. Indexes are by author/title/subject, settings, and film."


Reference & Research Book News

"If your familiarity with the genre [Western] doesn't extend past recognizing the name Louis L'Amour, John Mort rides to the rescue in Read the High Country: A Guide to Western Books and Films. He divides his list of nearly 2,000 books into Traditional Westerns (stories of settlers, gunfighters, ranchers, and the like) and Nontraditional Westerns, such as mysteries, romances, and tales of the contemporary West. Then, because the history of the Western is as much about movies as books, Mort includes a section on films available on DVD. The book is the latest addition to the Genreflecting Advisory Series that so many librarians have found indispensable in supporting readers' advisory."


American Libraries

"Read the High Country: A Guide to Western Books and Films is a no-nonsense book and film selection guide created especially for librarians and anyone else seeking to choose just the right cross-section of novels and movies from the Western genre. Describing approximately 2,000 titles grouped by subgenre and theme, Read the High Country includes the classics by such well-known authors as Max Brand, Louis L'Amour, Zane Grey, Elmer Kelton, as well as contemporary novels of the West by authors such as Ann Proulx, Louise Erdrich, and Larry McMurtry, and much more. Cover works aimed toward readers in grades 10 and up, Read the High Country is an intuitively organized, easy-to-use media selection guide."


Midwest Book Review - Library Bookwatch

"Texas reference librarian Mort compiles an ambitious work….Thousands of books and films are included and the appendices at the end are exhaustive, including a detailed historic time line."



"This new entry in the Genreflecting Advisory Series covers almost 2,000 books, with emphasis on those published after 1995. In a departure for the series, it also treats around 250 films….[p]ublic libraries with a demand for readers' advisory in the western genres will find it useful."


Booklist/RA Corner

"For anyone not familiar with the Western, Read the High Country is a treasure trove, informing not only about the genre in books and film but also about the history of the American West. In fact, Mort includes in the appendix a Western Time Line, from 28,000 BC to 1929 AD. One category in the Traditional Westerns section is The Business of the West, revealing the importance of buffalo, railways, and mining to the commercial health of the America West. And, given the importance of the Native American in this time and place, the book is a great source for titles involving First Nations….With a conversational tone, Mort wonderfully succeeeds in guiding the readers' advisor to a much greater knowledge and understanding of the Western book and film. This book is likely to attract an entirely new readership to the genre."


Reference & User Services Quarterly

VOYA - James Blasingame
Texas reference librarian Mort compiles an ambitious work, covering everything from James Fenimore Cooper's creation of the Western archetype in 1823 to the pulp fiction of the late 1800s, the matinee idols of the 1930s, the John Wayne years, and all the way to Brokeback Mountain. Mort goes to great lengths to contextualize his topic through an accurate historical account of the American frontier and a parallel account of its evolving portrayal in the media and literature. The majority of Westerns share common elements, including historical events, adventure, and a quest for freedom, but Mort digs deeper to examine how Westerns have come to inhabit a special niche in the American psyche. Characters such as James Fenimore Cooper's Natty Bumpo from Last of the Mohicans, Owen Wister's Virginian of The Virginian, John Wayne's Ethan Allen of The Searchers, and Gary Cooper's Will Kane from High Noon are icons in a very rich American mythology that intertwines historical fact with fiction. The book is arranged by topic and can be read from cover to cover or used as a reference work to look up particular movies, books, authors, characters, or events. Early chapters contain historical facts about the West and its portrayal in media and literature. Following chapters detail the works of six authors: Zane Grey, Max Brand, Ernest Haycox, Louis L'Amour, Elmer Kelton and Larry McMurtry. Middle chapters are arranged by topics such as Native Americans, African American cowboys, gunfighters, young adult, and contemporary westerns. The last section of the book deals with films and is also arranged by topics, such as Wyatt Earp, Mountain Men, Range Wars, and contemporary Native American stories.Thousands of books and films are included, and the appendixes at the end are exhaustive, including a detailed historic time line.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781591581345
  • Publisher: ABC-CLIO, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 10/30/2006
  • Series: Genreflecting Advisory Series
  • Pages: 508
  • Product dimensions: 7.20 (w) x 10.10 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

JOHN MORT, award-winning novelist and author of the popular and critically acclaimed Christian Fiction, has been a longtime reviewer for Booklist. He is a reference librarian at Allen Public Library in Allen, Texas.

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Table of Contents

Pt. 1 Western beginnings
1 A short history of the western 3
2 Six great western writers 13
Pt. 2 Traditional westerns
3 Native Americans 29
4 Mountain men 51
5 The way West 63
6 The army 93
7 Range and ranch life 123
8 The good, the bad, and the ugly 157
9 The business of the West 231
10 Sagas 245
Pt. 3 Nontraditional westerns
11 The contemporary West 265
12 Contemporary western mysteries 289
13 Western romances 305
14 Short stories 319
15 Young adult 331
Pt. 4 Films
16 At the movies 343
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