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Books of the West
What are your favorite books about the American West
We don’t mean to rub it in, but Linda and I managed to escape the cold north and our flood recovery woes for a few days at the Key West Literary Seminar. I was invited to join eleven other writers in a workshop/cri…tique group led by Paula Alden, with the purpose of “taking your writing to the next level.”
The workshop was very helpful as I work to put the finishing touches on a prequel to my historical novel, Mariano’s Crossing. The new book’s working title is Mariano’s Choice. Mariano Medina falls for Takansy when they first meet at Fort Bridger in 1842, then must choose between abandoning her or betraying his friend, and her husband, Louis Papin.
Paula Alden is the author of The Answer To Your Question, a literary thriller. Linda and I are half way through it, and are totally in its grip. A devoted mother is awakened by police looking for her college-age son, who they claim is a serial killer. The harrowing hunt unfolds in alternating chapters, first through the eyes of the mother, then from the point of view of a poor, uneducated young woman seeking the mother’s help to resolve her own troubles. Each point of view is authentically rendered, each with a distinct, and very believable, voice. We find ourselves caring about these people, even the son, and can’t wait to keep reading.
When I started twelve years ago to write my historical novel, Mariano’s Crossing, I never thought I would be sharing a speakers platform with two of my favorite authors, Laura Pritchett and Patty Limerick. Now, I am pleased to say, that moment has come.
On Saturday, October 5, starting at 10:00 AM, the three of us will be speaking at a “Conversations with Authors” event at the Embassy Suites Hotel near the Budweiser Events Center Near Crossroads Blvd and I-25. Sponsored by the American Association of University Women, the event raises funds for post-graduate scholarships for women. The cost is $50.
For reservations, including lunch, contact Martha Diccico by e-mail or call 970-461-5794. The RSVP deadline is Monday, September 30, but if you get this too late, try anyway!
I first learned about Laura Pritchett when I got hooked on her book, Hell’s Bottom, Colorado. It’s a collection of inter-connected short stories which, taken together, create a compelling account of three generations of a ranching family in a town suspiciously like Bellvue, Colorado, where Laura lives. Word is out she has a sequel in the works, and I’m elbowing everyone else aside to be first in line to buy it.
Patty Limerick runs the Center for the American West at CU, and in her previous books has transformed the way we view the history of the American West. Her latest book, A Ditch in Time, tells the fascinating story of Denver Water, with some characters that appear stranger than fiction. Each wonderfully readable chapter begins with–you guessed it–a limerick.
Hope you can join us. For me, it will be a nice break from Sylvan Dale flood recovery!
PS. Click here to read an article about this event in the Loveland Reporter Herald.
If you ever get a chance, go to Crested Butte, Colorado. Boosters call their town the Wildflower Capital of the World, with good reason. Our visit, on August 1, was two weeks later than the peak blooming season, but the valley was still spangled with yellow coneflowers, blue asters, red firecracker flowers and scores more. The Slate River meanders through the flat valley floor, meeting itself coming and going like a gray snake coiling for sheer pleasure through the green meadows.
My reason for visiting was to give a presentation and book signing at the town’s Old Rock Library. Book club members had read Mariano’s Crossing and wanted to meet the author. I was only too happy to oblige. “Readers in the Rockies,” they call their author series. Not only are they enthusiastic, gracious hosts, they happily promoted my book to the local “Townie” book store, which bought several copies. Icing on the cake.
Like many mountain resort towns, Crested Butte’s shops, restaurants, and art galleries draw crowds of tourists. But celebrity wealth is less on display than in Aspen or Telluride. It feels more accessible somehow. The Old Rock Library’s historic, two-story stone walls embrace a thoroughly modern, well-lighted interior, the kind of classy, comfortable place that makes you want to curl up with a good book when those summer rains fall.
Publishing your first novel is a bit nerve-wracking. First you get an ego adjustment from your critique group as they pick apart your precious prose. Then you get more character-building experience by having your finished manuscript rejected by scores of harried agents and editors. When you finally get published, expectations sufficiently lowered, you wonder whether anyone will come to your book launch. You’d be happy with a crowd of three, over and above your immediate family.
So it was with a sense of wonder and gratitude that I peered out at a crowd of over one hundred book enthusiasts who elbowed into Loveland’s Anthology Book Company Friday night, October 12, to hear about my historical novel, Mariano’s Crossing. Thank you thank you and thank you. The book store thanks you. They sold some eighty books, and not a few beers. And let’s add the thanks of the Loveland Historical Society, who will receive my part of the proceeds of your generous purchases.
Now the euphoria is fading, and I’m wondering if anyone will like the book.
Attention, readers: If you do like it, feel free to infect the social media with your viral accolades. Tweet away, however that works (it’s a mystery to me). On the other hand, if you don’t like it, contact me privately. I’m used to it, but why spoil it for others? Heh, heh.
PS. You can buy autographed copies from my website at www.davidmjessup.com. The book is also available at Anthology Books, 422 E. 4th Street in Loveland, CO, and will be distributed through regular channels to bookstores and on-line retailers after November 26.
Peace Like a River, a novel by Leif Enger
Eleven-year-old Reuben Land narrates this harrowing cross-country journey prompted by his older brother’s murder of a bully. Davy, the brother, becomes a fugitive. The rest of the family—father Jeremiah and Reuben’s younger sister Swede–set out from Minnesota to find him. We chewed our knuckles listening to this book-on-tape during our own drive back to Maryland, as Reuben’s family tracks Davy down, one step ahead of the law.
The Work of Wolves, a novel by Kurt Meyers
Dakota rancher Carson Fielding is hired to train horses by land baron Magnus Yarborough and becomes entangled with Yarborough’s much younger wife. In revenge, the wealthy rancher sets out to slowly starve his wife’s horses to death. Fielding teams up with Lakota math whiz Earl Walks Alone and German exchange student Willi Schubert to try to rescue the animals. Meyers weaves Lakota mysticism with tension between ranchers who love their land and those who seek to develop it.
The Hearts of Horses, a novel by Molly Gloss
This is a quiet story of Eastern Oregon ranch life at the time of World War I. Nineteen-year-old loner Martha Lessen goes to work training horses for rancher George Bliss and his neighbors. She gets crossways with a hired hand who abuses horses, helps a German family after a wagon accident, and is courted by a persistent Irish cowboy who tests her determination to lead a solitary life.
The Diary of Mattie Spencer, a novel by Sandra Dallas
No one gets the lingo and the culture of the westward wagon trek like Denver’s Sandra Dallas. Mattie leaves her Midwest home with new husband Luke to create a life homesteading in Colorado. As recorded in her “diary,” she copes with the hardships of frontier life and tries to learn more about her stranger of a husband. One of Linda’s favorite books, this one transports you back in time.
The Meadow, by James Galvin
LOCAL AUTHOR. An American Library Association Notable Book.
Raised in northern Colorado and owner of a ranch in Tie Siding, Wyoming, James Galvin has crafted one of the most authentic (and poetically beautiful) descriptions of ranch life we’ve ever read. You’ll meet Lyle, Ray, Clara, and App, the quirky characters that live along the Colorado/Wyoming border. They try to tame the landscape, but it tames them.