The best influential western literature (to my writing)

Who am I?

I wrote my first short story eleven years ago for a flash fiction class, found my character Zebadiah Creed, and kept writing. In January 2017, at the age of fifty-nine, Five Star Publishing released An Eye for an Eye, Book One of The Tales of Zebadiah Creed worldwide, winning the American Fiction Award for Best Historical/Adventure. The Great Texas Dance, Book Two, was released in April 2020. Blue Rivers of Heaven, Book Three will be released in September 2022. I'm a member of the Western Writers of America and was a Spur Award judge for Short Fiction, 2019, and Best Traditional Novel, 2020. I’m currently writing my first stand-alone book entitled Sisters of the Field.

I wrote...

The Great Texas Dance

By Mark C. Jackson,

Book cover of The Great Texas Dance

What is my book about?

Because of the promise made to a friend left dead in Louisiana, Zeb finds himself lying on a rooftop of the Alamo overlooking the whole of Santa Anna’s army. As the Mexican red flag flies offering no quarter, he and Grainger, a fellow volunteer with the Texas militia, are called upon by Colonel William Travis to slip out one last message to General Houston, a desperate plea to thwart the bloody siege.

Zebadiah Creed tells a tale of the Texas Revolution, not as history, but a personal portrayal of men and the consequences of their decisions, sometimes made during the savagery of battle, most times made in quiet, their desperate acts allowing them no way out other than through loyalty and friendship, or ultimate betrayal.

The books I picked & why

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True Grit

By Charles Portis,

Book cover of True Grit

Why this book?

After my first book came out, I was interviewed by a local reporter. When he asked what influenced me to write western fiction, I told him I really didn’t know. Why had I been compelled to write a story told by an old man about his younger days spent chasing those who murdered his brother? Then, I remembered, at eleven years old, I had read True Grit. A tale of revenge; a teen-aged girl, strong-willed, saddled up with an old, one-eyed codger of a US marshal hellbent on finding her father’s killer, as told through the voice of an aging woman. Portis wrote a simple tale with elegant prose with the use of first-person narrative. His influence had stayed with me all those years, buried deep, to be released through my own words, inspiring Zebadiah Creed’s voice, and his story.


All the Pretty Horses

By Cormac McCarthy,

Book cover of All the Pretty Horses

Why this book?

What can you say about Cormac McCarthy that has not been said before, the poetry in his prose, his fearlessness to go to the human extreme of emotional tension and violence, the elegance of creating a world so real that one does not want to leave, yet cannot stay? The writer in me wants to write just like him, but... I cannot, I will not, for there is only one Cormac McCarthy, and the world could not stand another.


All God's Children

By Aaron Gwyn,

Book cover of All God's Children

Why this book?

This is what I wrote when, as a judge in 2020, I recommended All God’s Children win the prestigious Spur Award for Best Traditional Western:

“From the opening sentence, the opening paragraph, and page, Aaron Gwyn sweeps us into an early nineteenth-century America bursting at the seams. He tells the tale of two very different folks, a young man disowned by his family in Kentucky, and a young slave girl from Virginia who refuses to accept her lot in life. Both their paths lead them to Texas. For Duncan, to fight in the revolution and serve heroically with the Texas Rangers, yet can never have true love; for Cecelia, to know freedom and love on the frontier, only to have both brutally snatched away in an instant. Beautifully written in simple, classic prose, Gwyn offers us a fresh, yet timeless glimpse into two American lives that finally find, in themselves and in each other, solace amongst the violent growth of our nation.”

It was the first of two finalists.


Bless Me, Ultima

By Rudolfo Anaya,

Book cover of Bless Me, Ultima

Why this book?

I think I found out about Rudolfo Anaya on Facebook. Someone praised him, that he was the best writer to have lived in New Mexico and one of the first true voices to rise out of the bourgeoning Latino writers of the seventies. I immediately bought Bless Me, Ultima and entered a world so familiar, so American, yet so alien, where magic is not just expected, but necessary to live a full life. As I wrote book three of my own series, Anaya’s writing offered a profound influence in opening a world of dreams, a reality only a few can know and understand.


The Comanche Kid

By James Robert Daniels,

Book cover of The Comanche Kid

Why this book?

Wow, what an exciting, intense, emotional book about a sixteen-year-old girl, after killing most of the band of Comanches who killed her family and stole her sister, joins up with a cattle drive dressed a boy, to drive her cattle to market through Texas, Oklahoma, and into Kansas. Whew!! Oh, and along the way, she talks some of the cowboys into going after the rest of the Comanches with not too favorable results. And... she falls in love with her sidekick! One of the best “westerns” I’ve read in a while and was a finalist for this year’s Spur Award for Best Traditional Western. If I was one of the judges, The Comanche Kid would have been my top pick for the Spur! 


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Texas, the USA Mexico border, and revenge?

5,309 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Texas, the USA Mexico border, and revenge.

Texas Explore 85 books about Texas
The USA Mexico Border Explore 19 books about the USA Mexico border
Revenge Explore 50 books about revenge

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Wolf and the Buffalo, Civil War Blockade Running on the Texas Coast, and Lone Star Blue and Gray: Essays on Texas and the Civil War if you like this list.