Western Fiction from Between The Covers Rare Books
Western Fiction from Between The Covers.
By Michael Stillman
The American West was peopled with the tallest heroes and the vilest of bad guys. It was a black and white world, with few shades of grey. At least, that's how it was in the "western." Of course, the typical western novel had little to do with reality. The setting may have been right, but westerners came in all shades of grey, much like easterners. Nevertheless, this new and exciting land became the ideal setting for morality plays. So, the good guys were bigger than life, the bad guys more horrible than death. Few westerners fit anywhere in between.
We have reviewed many catalogues of western Americana before, but this is our first of western fiction. It comes from Between The Covers Rare Books, from, of all places, Merchantville, New Jersey. Perhaps that isn't as weird as it sounds. Western fiction was very popular in the East, perhaps more so than in the west where this fiction may have seemed more to be bending the truth. If not entirely accurate, western fiction never wanted for excitement. You will undoubtedly find thrills galore within the covers of these 250 books, mostly from the first half of the 20th century. Between The Covers 123rd catalogue is entitled Western Fiction, and here are a few samples of the books it has to offer.
Zane Grey is probably the best known of all of the western writers, one of the creators of the genre. His most popular book was Riders of the Purple Sage, published in 1912. Item 81 is a copy of this novel with the bookplate of the University of Pennsylvania. Attached to it is a letter from Grey to U. of P. publicity officer George E. Nitzsche saying he would "be delighted to have a list of books at the University." This would have been particularly meaningful to Grey since he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1896, but of all things, from its dental school. Priced at $1,250.
Item 83 is a reprint edition of the same title, also from 1912, but one that was in Grey's library. It contain Zane Grey's embossed ownership stamp, plus the signature of his son, Romer Zane Grey, himself an author of several fishing books. $850.
Item 87 is an inscribed copy of Grey's The Call of the Canyon, signed in the year of publication (February 12, 1924) at Long Key. The recipient was one Blanche M. Bosworth. Included are two photographic postcards from the era. One is of a young woman, the other of three women and a man, the latter of which appears to be Zane Grey, despite the hat brim which shades his face. The postcard has a pencil notation indicating it was taken at Long Key. $1,000.
Western Fiction from Between The Covers Rare Books
Zane Grey rides a horse at Buffalo Jones' ranch.
One final Grey item: a photograph of Zane Grey on horseback, containing his signature and the note "Zane Grey -- Buffalo Jones's Ranch, Northern Arizona." Buffalo Jones was a buffalo hunter from the same period as Buffalo Bill, though he is not as well remembered because he never put together a Wild West show. However, as the buffalo herds quickly disappeared, he became a conservationist and reestablished several herds before the buffalo disappeared completely. Grey was a great admirer of Jones and undoubtedly thoroughly enjoyed his time on the latter's ranch. Item 95. $550.
Next to Grey, the best known western author could well be Louis L'Amour. Prolific and popular like Grey, his books came a little later. Item 126 is a first edition of Smoke from this Alter, published in 1939. This was L'Amour's first book, a volume of verse, and it includes an inscription from him. The book was evidently given as a prize on May 31, 1939. $4,500.
This is not your typical western, but it was the basis for one of the more entertaining western movies. Item 36 is The Ballad of Cat Ballou, by Roy Chanslor, published in 1956. A decade later, it would become one of the more amusing films of the time, earning a best actor academy award for Lee Marvin, as the drunken, broken-down gunslinger. The title role of Ms. Ballou was played by Jane Fonda. $125.
William S. Hart was one of the first of the film cowboys to achieve huge box office success, long before the likes of Roy Rogers and Gene Autry. However, Hart was not a singing cowboy. He wasn't even a talking one. Hart reached superstardom during the silent film era. However, his voice must not have matched people's expectations, as his career tumbled after "talkies" were introduced. Hart responded by writing a western novel of his own. Item 102 is Hoof-Beats, by William S. Hart, published in 1933. $125.
Here is a novel with a most novel comment on its front flap. This is a 1934 reprint of Trigger Slim, by Clem Yore. The note says that this edition is being offered at a reduced price, first because it was produced from the same plates as the first edition, but then because of "acceptance by the author of a reduced royalty." One wonders whether the publisher twisted poor Clem's arm for that one. Item 249. $225.
Between The Covers Rare Books is found online at www.betweenthecovers.com, phone number 856-665-2284.