Our ongoing romance with the mythos of the West continues. Culturally, consider all the Western TV series and movies over the decades and look at the current buzz over the Jeff Bridges movie “Hell or High Water,” set in contemporary times and nominated for four Academy Awards.
“News of the World” by Paulette Jiles (William Morrow, $23, 224 pages): Set in 1870 Texas, this simple but moving story concerns a 72-year-old Civil War veteran who agrees to transport a 10-year-old orphan girl rescued from the Kiowa to her aunt and uncle, who live 400 miles away. The book was shortlisted for the 2016 National Book Award.
In “Revelation,” Robert Knott continues his five-title homage to the late Robert B. Parker’s original four-novel series starring Old West territorial marshals Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch (Putnam, $27, 336 pages). They’re tasked with finding and stopping a gang of marauding prison escapees, led by a charismatic madman. This one’s more involved and shocking than past series entries. Ed Harris and Viggo Mortensen played Cole and Hitch in the 2008 movie “Appaloosa.”
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C.J. Box brings back his favorite character, present-day warden-troubleshooter Joe Picket, in “Vicious Circle,” again set in Wyoming’s Bighorn Mountains (Putnam, $27, 384 pages; on sale March 21). Trouble from his past meets trouble in the present as Picket and his longtime friend, the deadly Nate Romanowski, take on some very bad guys in this 17th series title, one with a nice surprise amid the carnage.
In a more literary vein, but also with fast action (and unique language), is “Days Without End” by Sebastian Barry (Viking, $26, 272 pages). In the 1850s, two teenagers join the Army to fight the Sioux in the Indian Wars (which many recall as a genocide), and “graduate” to the further horrors of the Civil War. Finally, they find comfort in the most unlikely circumstances.
Through two previous novels (“Glorious” and “Buffalo Trail”) set in the 1870s, “reluctant frontiersman” Cash McLendon survives one near-miss after another in his flight from a killer wrongfully hired to bring him to false justice. Author Jeff Guinn ends Cash’s odyssey in “Silver City” in a confrontation that’s complicated by a kidnapping, an epic flood and attacks by renegade Apaches led by Geronimo (Putnam, $27, 400 pages).
“Quiet Until the Thaw” is award-winning memorist Alexandra Fuller’s first novel, set in contemporary times (Penguin, $25, 288 pages; on sale June 27). Two Oglala Lakota Sioux cousins – Rick Overlooking Horse and You Choose Watson – take radically separate paths in response to reservation life under the Big Brotherhood of the federal government. When they reunite on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, their renewed conflict has devastating consequences.
Lighter and with actual laughs is the sly “Huck Out West,” author Robert Coover’s imagining of what happens to Huckleberry Finn after “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain, when he says he’s going to “light out for the Territory” on the verge of the Civil War (W.W. Norton, $27, 320 pages). He does just that, finding many a grand adventure and echoing Twain’s sense of ironic social satire.
“World, Chase Me Down” by Andrew Hilleman is fiction based on the true case of rough-hewn Pat Crowe, who in 1900 kidnapped the young son of a robber baron for a $25,000 ransom and went on the lam (Penguin, $16, 352 pages). The national manhunt became known as “the thrill of the nation,” and Hilleman brings it to gritty life.
Stories On Stage turns 8
Stories on Stage is a literary series whose signature is a program of local actors performing authors’ short works. Opening its eighth season will be essayist-short story writer Steve Almond, author of “Against Football: One Man’s Reluctant Manifesto.” He co-hosts the podcast “Dear Sugar Radio” with Cheryl Strayed, who wrote the memoir “Wild.” His “Donkey Greedy, Donkey Gets Punched” will be read by Blair Leatherwood.
Joining Almond will be Deborah Meltvedt, whose writing has appeared in the creative nonfiction anthology “What I Didn’t Know: True Stories of Becoming a Teacher.” Her “It Was Hot” will be read by Jessica Laskey.
This edition of Stories on Stage will start at 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 24 at the E. Claire Raley Studios, 1425 24th St., Sacramento. A $10 donation is suggested. More at www.storiesonstagesacramento.wordpress.com. More events will be held this year on April 28, June 30, Aug. 25, Sept. 29 and Oct. 27.
Books to movies, 2017
Hollywood has always owed a debt to authors, whose books have been a gold mine for filmmakers. Just look at some recently released read-to-watch projects – “Hidden Figures” (from the nonfiction book by Margot Lee Shetterley), “A Monster Calls” (Patrick Ness), “Live by Night” (Dennis Lehane), “A Dog’s Purpose” (W. Bruce Cameron) and “Same Kind of Different as Me” (Ron Hall and Denver Moore).
There are more scheduled as the year rolls on, such as these (dates subject to change):
March 3: “The Zookeeper’s Wife” by Diane Ackerman (starring Jessica Chastain and Daniel Bruhl): The true story of Polish zookeepers who hid more than 300 refugees from the Nazis.
April 7: “Wonder” by R.J. Palacio (Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson): A boy with a congenital facial deformity proves it’s what’s inside that counts.
April 21: “The Lost City of Z” by David Grann (Tom Holland and Sienna Miller): The author mounts an expedition into the Amazon, tracking real-life British explorer Percy Fawcett, who vanished in 1925.
April 28: “The Circle” by Dave Eggers (Tom Hanks and Emma Watson): In the near future, a young woman is delighted to go to work for the world’s dominant internet company, but the dream job becomes a “totalitarian nightmare.”
May 4: “Break My Heart 1,000 Times” by Daniel Waters (Bella Thorne): In this supernatural romantic thriller, the barrier between this world and the next is breached, letting the ghosts in. Big trouble follows.
May 5: “The Dinner” by Herman Koch (Richard Gere and Laura Linney): Two families politely converse over a restaurant meal, but things turn very ugly when the real issue between them is broached.
June 2: “Captain Underpants” by Dav Pilkey (Kristen Schaal, Kevin Hart, Ed Helms; animated): Two fourth-grade boys transform their grumpy school principal into an unlikely “superhero.”
July 14: “My Cousin Rachel” by Daphne Du Maurier (Rachel Weisz and Sam Clafin): Is Rachel really that sweet, or is she a conniving murderer in disguise? From the 1951 mystery, a remake of a 1952 film.
July 28: “The Dark Tower” by Stephen King (Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey): A mix of “dark fantasy, science fantasy, horror and Western” set in a metaphorical universe. Short on laughs.
Oct. 20: “The Mountain Between Us” by Charles Martin (Idris Elba, Kate Winslet): A plane crashes in the mountains, leaving two injured strangers, a man and a woman. Can they survive? Will they fall in love?
Nov. 10: “Red Sparrow” by Jason Matthews (Jennifer Lawrence, Joel Edgerton and Jeremy Irons): An espionage thriller played out in the shadowy world of spycraft.
Nov. 22: “Murder on the Orient Express” by Agatha Christie (Daisy Ridley, Johnny Depp and Penelope Cruz): The most recent update of the classic whodunit-on-a-train from the grande dame of mystery, published in 1934 and solved by Belgian detective Hercule Poirot.