The best books of the West…the gateway to discovering a great new thriller series

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been a traditionally published author of thrillers and mysteries for nearly 20 years. I grew up in rural southern California (yes, it was rural then) surrounded by open spaces, riding horseback through the rolling cattle pastures of San Juan Capistrano. My recollections of those experiences, and the culture shift that inevitably arises out of every generation is a deep and fascinating well from which to draw stories and the characters who flesh them out. My thrillers have won a number of literary awards, and have been bestsellers—for which I am profoundly grateful. I hope you’ll join to relive the ethos, the passion, and the challenges faced when the Old West meets the New.

I wrote...

South California Purples

By Baron Birtcher,

Book cover of South California Purples

What is my book about?

A veteran of the Korean War, cattleman Ty Dawson finds refuge running his family’s cattle ranch in rural Oregon. But the year 1973 finds the country falling into turmoil, with the last American soldiers returning from Vietnam, a standoff at Wounded Knee, and the ongoing Watergate scandal dividing the nation. 

A string of mysterious cattle deaths leads to the murder of a Dawson cowhand. News leaks that the Bureau of Land Management plans on a wild horse slaughter, which brings protestors and news cameras into the area, not to mention a violent gang of bikers, the Charlatans. Overwhelmed, the county sheriff appoints Ty Dawson as his undersheriff, and Ty must take matters into his own hands to protect his family, his livelihood, his ranch, and his way of life…

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Cold Dish

Baron Birtcher Why did I love this book?

This early installment of Craig Johnson’s venerable Walt Longmire series explores Walt’s roots, both personal and professional, and begins to describe the Wyoming landscape he inhabits, and the cultures—both contemporary western and Native American—that shape the people who live there. 

Craig Johnson masterfully builds upon both Longmire’s strengths and internal struggles to create a character that resonates with real-life pathos and relatability. The challenges that face him are shaded by the world around him, the expectations of the townsfolk who rely on him, and the slowly disappearing ways of the old west. 

The scenery is as much a character as the human players, and the dialogue and well-wrought language of the author brings a welcome clarity to a fabulous page-turner that will have you returning to the bookstore for more Walt Longmire.

By Craig Johnson,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Cold Dish as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Introducing Wyoming's Sheriff Walt Longmire in this riveting novel from the New York Times bestselling author, the first in the Longmire mystery series

Craig Johnson's new novel, LAND OF WOLVES, is forthcoming from Viking

Fans of Ace Atkins, Nevada Barr and Robert B. Parker will love this outstanding first novel, in which New York Times bestselling author Craig Johnson introduces Sheriff Walt Longmire of Wyoming's Absaroka County. Johnson draws on his deep attachment to the American West to produce a literary mystery of stunning authenticity, and full of memorable characters. After twenty-five years as sheriff of Absaroka County, Walt Longmire's…

Book cover of Lonesome Dove

Baron Birtcher Why did I love this book?

This Pulitzer Prize winner was one of the first Western epics I ever read, and I was gripped from the first paragraph.

There is a reason this won the world’s top literary prize, and Larry McMurtry uses his considerable skill and makes it look easy. 

An epic telling of a cattle drive, and the women and men to make the trek, the narrative is both sprawling in its scope, and intimate in its understanding of its characters. Nothing here is overwrought or predictable, no cardboard-cut-out characters or cheesy dialogue.

Every scene feels like it is unfolding before your eyes, the reader as a stakeholder in the story, caring deeply about the fates of this magnificent cast of characters.

Some may find its sheer size daunting, running at 700 pages or thereabouts, but set those reservations aside and take courage—you will not be disappointed, nor will you find yourself doubting yourself or the book’s epic nature, and the author’s ability to hold you rapt on every page.

By Larry McMurtry,

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked Lonesome Dove as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Larry McMurtry's Pulitzer Prize winning novel is a powerful, triumphant portrayal of the American West as it really was. From Texas to Montana, it follows cowboys on a grueling cattle drive through the wilderness.

It begins in the office of The Hat Creek Cattle Company of the Rio Grande.
It ends as a journey into the heart of every adventurer who ever lived . . .

More than a love story, more than an adventure, Lonesome Dove is an epic: a monumental novel which embraces the spirit of the last defiant wilderness of America.

Legend and fact, heroes and outlaws,…

Book cover of Blood Meridian: Or the Evening Redness in the West

Baron Birtcher Why did I love this book?

While more manageable in size, this novel hits on every cylinder.

Spectacular insights into the Old West and the New are told with language that somehow manages to be both elegant and gritty at the same time. 

Sometimes the scene descriptions are rendered sparely, other times with a nearly poetic hand, but at all times create a durable and memorable backdrop for the drama.

If you are a writer, this is a book you’ll want to read more than once or twice, just as you will likely find yourself re-reading entire paragraphs just to experience the language for a second time.

This book was a significant catalyst in my career, and proved foundational in my pursuing the crafting of a new contemporary western thriller series of my own. 

There is a reason Cormac McCarthy is considered a modern treasure, and this book is one of his most (in my opinion) underrated gems.

By Cormac McCarthy,

Why should I read it?

14 authors picked Blood Meridian as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy is an epic novel of the violence and depravity that attended America's westward expansion, brilliantly subverting the conventions of the Western novel and the mythology of the Wild West. Based on historical events that took place on the Texas-Mexico border in the 1850s, it traces the fortunes of the Kid, a fourteen-year-old Tennessean who stumbles into a nightmarish world where Indians are being murdered and the market for their scalps is thriving.

Book cover of Motel Chronicles

Baron Birtcher Why did I love this book?

I will admit that Sam Shepard is one of my literary idols.

He is one of a very few with an equal facility and skill in developing characters, and in illuminating cogent insights as to human nature and its flaws.

Like many of his books, this is a collection of short stories, vignettes, character sketches, and travelogue—and the variety of voices he uses in crafting each piece is a minor miracle in itself. 

Here again, if you’re a writer, you can take a masters class on Sam Shepard by starting with this volume. You’ll find some stories so lean and seemingly insubstantial that it takes a while for it to sink in…

Other sketches are so powerful in their honesty, you feel as though you might be intruding on the author’s most private thoughts. 

This is a book you’ll want to take down from the shelf and consume in small installments. It’s just that good.

By Sam Shepard,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Motel Chronicles as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Motel Chronicles reveals the fast-moving and sometimes surprising world of the man behind the plays that have made Sam Shepard a live legend in the theater. Shepard chronicles his own life birth in Illinois, childhood memories of Guam, Pasadena and rural Southern California, adventures as ranch hand, waiter, rock musician, dramatist, and film actor. Scenes from this book form the basis of his play Superstitions, and of the film (directed by Wim Wenders) Paris, Texas, winner of the Golden Palm Award at the 1984 Cannes Film Festival.

". . .essential reading. A scrapbook of short stories, autobiographical reveries, poetry and…

Book cover of Glorious

Baron Birtcher Why did I love this book?

Author Jeff Quinn uses his formidable talents as an award-winning journalist to bear on this sweeping saga of the American West.

His eye for historical detail, and his ear for dialogue, are never employed to display his deep wealth of knowledge, but rather for the most noble of purposes: to add dimension to the story and the characters. 

Glorious is the first (of three) installment(s) in the story of Cash McClendon, an everyman of sorts, eking out a living in St. Louis. When an unexpected tragedy strikes, McClendon has little choice but to go on the run, seeking refuge and a new life in tiny frontier town Glorious, Arizona. 

The series brings together the best elements of historical fiction, and mixes real-life figures with those created by the author, but done in the most organic and believable of ways. If you're seeking an epic story of the West, replete with realism and a solid grasp of history, this is the series! (The full series is highly recommended.) 

By Jeff Guinn,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Glorious as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The New York Times bestselling author of The Last Gunfight turns his eye for evocative detail to a sweeping novel of the American West that “will delight historical fiction fans longing for the return of classic Westerns” (Library Journal).

Cash McLendon has always had an instinct for self-preservation, honed by an impoverished childhood with an alcoholic father on the streets of St. Louis. He eventually builds himself up to become the son-in-law and heir apparent to industrial mogul Rupert Douglass. But when tragedy strikes and his life falls apart, his instinct for survival kicks in and he flees St. Louis…

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Book cover of The Spanish Diplomat's Secret

Nev March Author Of The Spanish Diplomat's Secret

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author History lover Scriptwriter Reader Nature lover

Nev's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

An entertaining mystery on a 1894 trans-Atlantic steamship with an varied array of suspects, and a detective who must solve his case in six days to prevent international conflict.

Retired from the British Indian army, Captain Jim is taking his wife Diana to Liverpool from New York, when their pleasant cruise turns deadly. Just hours after meeting him, a foreign diplomat is brutally murdered onboard their ship. Captain Jim must find the killer before they dock in six days, or there could be war! Aboard the beleaguered luxury liner are a thousand suspects, but no witnesses to the locked-cabin crime.

Fortunately, his wife Diana knows her way around first-class accommodations and Gilded Age society. But something has been troubling her, too, something she won’t tell him. Together, using tricks gleaned from their favorite fictional sleuth, Sherlock Holmes, Captain Jim, and Diana must learn why one man’s life came to a murderous end.

By Nev March,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Spanish Diplomat's Secret as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In The Spanish Diplomat's Secret, award-winning author Nev March explores the vivid nineteenth-century world of the transatlantic voyage, one passenger’s secret at a time.

Captain Jim Agnihotri and his wife Lady Diana Framji are embarking to England in the summer of 1894. Jim is hopeful the cruise will help Diana open up to him. Something is troubling her, and Jim is concerned.

On their first evening, Jim meets an intriguing Spaniard, a fellow soldier with whom he finds an instant kinship. But within twenty-four hours, Don Juan Nepomuceno is murdered, his body discovered shortly after he asks rather urgently to…

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