They Came To Corduraby Glendon Swarthout
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They Came To Cordura was Random House's nominee for the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction in 1958. A New York Times top ten bestseller, it was published to superb international book reviews and was quickly made into a major motion picture for Columbia Pictures the following year, 1959. Cordura had an impressive cast in Gary Cooper, in his next to last film before he died of cancer a few years later, Rita Hayworth in one of her best later roles, the always excellent Van Heflin, and Tab Hunter in one of his best performance, and was directed by Robert Rossen. In 1980, They Came To Cordura made the Western Writers of America's initial list of the 30 greatest Western novels ever written, another expert endorsement for a masterpiece of Western historical fiction.
They Came To Cordura is the first novel ever set against the backdrop of 1916's American Army campaign into Mexico to capture the bandit Pancho Villa, whose troops crossed America's border on the black night of March 8th at Columbus, New Mexico, and killed eight civilians and seven American soldiers posted there, wounding seven more.
America was outraged and President Woodrow Wilson forced to act, authorizing General John J. Pershing to lead a punitive expedition of four regiments of Cavalry and support units after the Villistas. For eleven hot months they chased these irregulars all over northern Mexico by horse, truck, train, motorcar, and aeroplane, never catching Pancho, but fighting a number of largely forgotten engagements, including a battle at Ojos Azules (Blue Eyes), which was the last mounted charge against an enemy in the long history of the United States Horse Cavalry.
They Came To Cordura details the results of that last battle, as a disgraced Major is ordered to take five soldiers who have distinguished themselves in the fight back to base at Cordura and write them up for Congressional Medals of Honor, which they'll be shipped home to the States to receive. An American woman prisoner, the ranch owner who aided the Villistas, is also being sent home for trial, and it is in their confrontations with the bandits and increasingly, each other, that this tough, historical adventure across a burning desert for six days is made of. While trying to keep his men alive so that they can receive their medals for valor, harsh circumstances reveal all five "heroes" to be pathetic, corrupt, hypocritical, cowardly, and degenerate. Cordura describes with unsparing accuracy the conduct of the human spirit under stress. Its setting is a small corner of military history, but its concern is with war and the qualities that it unchangingly demands. It is a remarkable book for its creation of tension and its probing into the motives which make men behave courageously and selflessly on the battlefield.
Here are several more terrific book reviews among many world-wide --
"This story is above all sheer story-telling...But Glendon Swarthout is a real writer, and his story is much more than a what-happens next epic. He asks and seeks to answer a question: what is courage? The central human situation he has invented is both intriguing and ironic...It is a pleasure to report that he winds up the book at the top of his form, with a wonderful last paragraph that recaptures the heart of his story...We close the novel feeling that we have been given a sharp insight into the mystery of courage." Benjamin Appel, Saturday Review of Literature
"...the reader feels that he has actually experienced the events described...Mr. Swarthout's people live and perform powerfully in these pages. Throughout the book, the narrative, the characterization and the descriptive writing are excellent. Although the episodes have an authentic and documentary flavor, the story is the timeless one of human behavior under great stress. It seems to this reviewer that this distinctive novel is sure to bring its author recognition as a promising original talent."
Lewis Nordyke, New York Times Book Review
- Random House Adult Trade Publishing Group
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Meet the Author
Glendon Swarthout was an internationally bestselling author with a terrific novel-to- film track record, with 8 of his stories made into films and others among his 16 novels sold to the movies but never filmed. This was due to Glendon's very original plot-driven tales, which lent themselves well to film, but his stories ranged into all kinds of genres -- Westerns (The Shootist, John Wayne's final film); comedies (Where The Boys Are, the first of the "beach pictures"); A Christmas Gift (retitled the CBS TV-Movie A Christmas To Remember); and a teenaged animal rights adventure, Bless the Beasts & Children, which was his biggest bestseller. All of these fine stories are now available as ebooks.
Glendon Swarthout was twice nominated by his publishers for the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction, They Came To Cordura -- Random House, and Bless the Beasts &
Children -- Doubleday. He did win several Spur Awards and a Wrangler for best Western novel(for The Homesman) and was given a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Western Writers of America before he died of emphysema (from smoking) in the fall of 1992, at age 74. He is survived by his wife, Kathryn, with whom he co-wrote 6 juvenile stories for young adults, also available as ebooks. And only son, Miles, who is a screenwriter (The Shootist) and a Spur-winning novelist himself (The Sergeant's Lady).
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