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90 Western American Literature Turnstone Press, a consistently excellent regional press, has issued two books that introduce new readers to the magnificence of contemporary Manitoba writing and reconfirm the habituee in its appreciation. FRANCES W. KAYE University ofNebrasha-Lincoln The Best Western Stories ofJohn Jakes. Edited by Bill Pronzini and Martin H. Greenberg. (Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 1991. 273 pages, $24.95/ $14.95.) Even if one did not read Dale L. Walker’s informative introductory essay to this collection, it would be easy to tell which stories John Jakes wrote in the 1950s and which were written in the last few years. Of the eleven tales (one excerpted from the 1987 novel Heaven and Hell) seven appeared in various Western pulp or other magazines in the 1950s. Although these are well crafted works, most use traditional Western plots and have cliched endings: a lone man fights the bad guys and gets the gal in the end. Of these stories, “The Winning of Poker Alice”is among the best, for its portrait of the tough lady gambler who, exasperated at the hero’s romantic reticence, finally proposes marriage—which he accepts. The four more recent tales in the collection show how much Jakes has improved his writing skills. Less predictable in plot and characterization and more apt to contain irony and surprise endings, these stories are a pleasure. In “Shootout at White Pass,”the middle-aged sheriff, dreaming of returning to his native Florida, is shot in the foot by a gunslinger—a wound that, ironically, gets the lawman moving. Another fine piece is “Little Phil and the Daughter ofJoy,” a humorous, poignant account of a prostitute seeking revenge against General Phil Sheridan for what she thinks are his Civil War crimes. Be they Westerns from the 1950s or 1990s, however, Jakes does employ several themes throughout his work and these serve to unify the stories in this volume. As is often the case in Westerns, his heroes are alone, seeking to prove their courage and ability to do “what a man’s gotta do.” The heroes find this isolation very lonely, but only after they have proven themselves can they reap rewards—kudos from the townsfolk and, of course, the girl. Also running through the stories is a sense of resignation; the characters often seem caught in lifestyles not of their own choosing—they just somehow ended up this way. It is this underlying discontent, as well asJakes’nicely-honed sense of craftsmanship, that makes the Western stories ofJohn Jakes better than average and certainly well worth reading. CANDACE KLASCHUS University ofHartford ...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
p. 90
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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