THE AMERICAN WEST (mostly): Fact and Fiction (mostly fiction)

"NOBODY GETS TO BE A COWBOY FOREVER." -- Chet Rollins (Jack Palance) in MONTE WALSH (NG, 1970)

Total Pageviews

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

BLESSED MCGILL by Edwin Shrake

Edwin "Bud" Shrake was a crime reporter, sportswriter, magazine writer, and screenwriter. He also wrote novels -- ten of them. A native of Texas, most of his novels were about that state, its history, and its people. Among his novels are several Westerns. They were what are now classified as "literary Westerns," meaning they were less formulaic and more serious than the "genre Westerns" churned out by Louis L'Amour and many others (I don't mean this as a putdown, because some of the skilled practitioners in the genre field have given me many hours of pleasure.)

Other examples of writers of literary Westerns would include the likes of Cormac McCarthy, Douglas C. Jones, and Larry McMurtry, also a Lone Star native. Another Texan, Elmer Kelton, churned out many a genre Western, but occasionally produced a novel that could be compared favorably with the works of the above writers. Two good examples of his work that are worthy of the literary label would be The Time It Never Rained and The Man Who Rode Midnight.

Blessed McGill, published in 1987, was Shrake's third novel and is generally conceded to be his best.

One Peter Hermano McGill, a half-Irish, half-Spanish adventurer who roamed the American southwest and Mexico in the years after the Civil War, narrates the story.  Although McGill is self-educated, he is a good writer and a great storyteller who weaves his life story through flashback episodes that are not always related in chronological order. True, that narrative device has the effect of keeping the reader in the dark and guessing at times, but in the end, everything converges and the reader learns why the nickname "Blessed" is bestowed upon him; but I'm not telling.

Bud Shrake

No comments:

Post a Comment