Books

Between the Lines: How the Western was won, and other books

The frontier mythos of the Wild West continues to thrive in books, movies (“The Hateful Eight” notwithstanding) and TV series (“Justified,” “Hell On Wheels” and “Longmire,” the latter based on the novels by Craig Johnson and, perhaps ironically, starring an Australian actor). Let’s turn some pages:

“The American West” saga of a ranching family by Michael McGarrity concludes with “The Last Ranch” (Dutton, $29, 544 pages), following “Hard Country” and “Backlands.” Third-generation Matthew Kerney is tasked with saving a way of life amid the tumult of post-World War II America while avoiding being murdered by an ex-con.

In “Free Men,” Katy Simpson Smith spins the feisty tale of three desperate men cast together in the forests in the 19th-century South, on the run from the law (Harper, $27, 368 pages). One is an emotionally troubled white man, another is a Creek Indian, and the third is an escaped slave. They have more in common than they think.

Cultural historian Paul Andrew Hutton explores in detail what has become known as “the longest war in American history” (1861-86) in “The Apache Wars” (Crown, $30, 544 pages). The federal government battled the Apache nation in a bloody melodrama with a cast of deadly characters on both sides, including Apache war chiefs Geronimo, Victorio and Cochise; scouts Al Sieber and Tom Horn; and military strategists Nelson Miles and George Crook. The war ended with the capture of Geronimo.

A very different look at the Apache Wars is delivered in the graphic novel “Indeh” by actor-screenwriter Ethan Hawke (“Boyhood”) and illustrator Greg Ruth (Grand Central, $20, 240 pages). In dialogue and dramatic black-and-white drawings, it follows the travails of the future Apache war chief Cochise and morphs into the telling of the war by Cochise’s son, Naiches. The Utah Historical Quarterly calls it “a major contribution to ethnography, Apache history and the history of the Southwest.”

Author-screenwriter Chris Enss of Grass Valley has written more than 30 nonfiction books about the frontier, including “Entertaining Women: Actresses, Dancers and Singers in the Old West” (TwoDot, $17, 224 pages). “We lived near Tombstone, Ariz., when I was a kid, and I hung out there,” she said. “I got hooked on the Old West and what it represents – the adventurous spirit of the people who ventured out to tame a rugged land.”

Recommended reads

Books have been piling up for weeks here at Reading Central, literally forming a bunker against the vagaries of the world. Let’s move some outta here:

Pulitzer Prize winner Richard Russo is among the deans of American fiction, proven again with the poignant and hilarious “Everybody’s Fool” (Knopf, $28, 496 pages), in which he revisits the incomparable cast of characters from his 1993 novel “Nobody’s Fool” (made into a film starring Paul Newman). This time out, aged hustler Sully Sullivan’s cardiologist gives him bad news, which has unexpected ripples in Sully’s hometown of North Bath, N.Y.

Before there was Playgirl magazine, or HBO’s “Sex and the City” and “Girls,” Helen Gurley Brown ruled the single-career-woman world with her groundbreaking advice book “Sex and the Single Girl” (1962) and the quiz-centric Cosmopolitan magazine. As its editor-in-chief for 32 years, the self-described “mouseburger” from Arkansas created the template for young women in the day to achieve happiness in all its forms – including matrimony. “Enter Helen” by Brooke Hauser details the arc of the original Cosmo Girl from 1958 through 1982 (Harper, $29, 480 pages).

Who was Meryl Streep before all those Oscars and the mantle of “world’s greatest actress?” Michael Schulman of The New Yorker magazine delves in to find out in “Her Again: Becoming Meryl Streep” (Harper, $27, 304 pages). The focus is on the 1970s, when Streep was navigating the theater scene in New York and got her first big breaks in “The Deer Hunter” and “Manhattan.”

The new movie version of Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle Book” (1894) is setting the box office on fire with its story of Mowgli, a boy raised by wolves. The new “What Elephants Know” by Eric Dinerstein takes a similar path through the jungle with Nandu, who is protected by a pack of wild dogs, then delivered at age 2 to the elephant stables of the king, where he is raised by “a fierce and affectionate female elephant.” Ten years later, he must find a way to save his “family.”

When it comes to psychological thrillers, no one could touch the late Patricia Highsmith, most notably the author of “Strangers on a Train” (made into the 1951 Alfred Hitchcock film) and the five-title Tom Ripley novels (with Matt Damon playing the psychopath in 1999’s “The Talented Mr. Ripley”). Now comes what could be Ripley’s successor, Judith Rashleigh, an “ambitious” young British woman running for her life. She hitches a ride on a yacht to the French Riviera and reinvents herself through “rage.” She’s the “very, very bad” protagonist of L.S. Hinton’s “Maestra,” the first in a trilogy (Putnam’s, $27, 320 pages). Sony Pictures won the battle for movie rights.

Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë contributed novels and timeless lines of poetry to world literature, especially “Jane Eyre.” In “The Madwoman Upstairs,” author Catherine Lowell introduces the last living descendant of that literary family, a young woman who must solve “a vast literary mystery” and puzzling legacy (Touchstone, $26, 352 pages).

A year after his wife dies, a senior citizen discovers a gold charm bracelet hidden in one of her shoes. Intrigued about about the origins (and context) of the eight charms and why his wife had such a secret, he embarks on a global adventure to unlock the mystery. “The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper” is Phaedra Patrick’s debut novel (Mira, $25, 336 pages).

Circumstances put Tim Shanahan in the unique situation of being invited into Muhammad Ali’s home when the legendary boxer was at the peak of his powers. That visit led to a lifelong friendship, recounted in “Running With the Champ: My Forty-Five Year Friendship With Muhammad Ali” (Simon & Schuster, $27, 320 pages).

Allen Pierleoni: 916-321-1128, @apierleonisacbe

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