100 books like Alcohol and Opium in the Old West

By Jeremy Agnew,

Here are 100 books that Alcohol and Opium in the Old West fans have personally recommended if you like Alcohol and Opium in the Old West. Shepherd is a community of 9,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Hell's Belles, Revised Edition: Prostitution, Vice, and Crime in Early Denver, With a Biography of Sam Howe, Frontier Lawman

Randi Samuelson-Brown Author Of Market Street Madam

From my list on the dark side of the Wild West.

Who am I?

I recall the exact moment when my interest sparked about frontier prostitution and Denver’s underbelly — a friend mentioned the ‘bad blood’ in her family — an ancestor who was a second-rate madam and who employed her own daughters. The quest started. Who were these women, and why did they make the choices they did? I’ve spent years chasing down traces of the old west’s prostitutes, fascinated by their identities and lives. The west had opportunities for women who were willing to take chances. As a fifth-generation Coloradoan, I hoped to capture the story of these enterprising and overlooked women, their lives, and the world around them.

Randi's book list on the dark side of the Wild West

Randi Samuelson-Brown Why did Randi love this book?

This is a no-holds-barred account of prostitution in Denver’s Market Street district with all the accompanying Wild West behavior this implies. Secrest’s account is well researched, the photographs are fascinating, and it brings the seedy side of old Denver back to life! Be prepared for rather graphic descriptions of “the trade” replete with accounts of alcohol, drugs, and varying forms of violence and crime. A must-read for people interested in Denver’s History, the Wild West, or frontier prostitution.

By Clark Secrest,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Hell's Belles, Revised Edition as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This updated and revised edition of Hell's Belles takes the reader on a soundly researched, well-documented, and amusing journey back to the early days of Denver. Clark Secrest details the evolution of Denver's prostitution, the gambling, the drug addicts, and the corrupt politicians and police who, palms outstretched, allowed it all to happen. Also included in Hell's Belles is a biography of one of Denver's original police officers, Sam Howe, upon whose crime studies the book is based.

 

The popular veneer of Denver's present-day Market Street - its fancy bars, posh restaurants, and Coors Field - is stripped away to…


Book cover of Daughters of Joy, Sisters of Misery: Prostitutes in the American West, 1865-90

Jan Mackell Collins Author Of Behind Brothel Doors: The Business of Prostitution in Kansas, Nebraska, and Oklahoma (1860–1940)

From my list on historical prostitution.

Who am I?

Having grown up with an older generation—my great-grandparents, great-great aunts and uncles, and a godmother, all who were born between 1877 and 1900—I learned to appreciate how they lived and what they went through. As a child, I found a hand-written poem about a brothel queen who caused a gunfight between her paramour and a stranger. Then, in college, I met a wonderful old man who told me stories about the former red-light district right in my own neighborhood. Once I learned the often tragic, but also successful stories of these ladies, I decided to be their voice and remind America how important they were to our history.

Jan's book list on historical prostitution

Jan Mackell Collins Why did Jan love this book?

Of the six books the late Ms. Butler authored in her lifetime, this one is by far my favorite. Her academic account of the prostitution industry is all facts, with plenty of sources to back them up. There is no flowery talk here, just the truth of how women of the demimonde lived during the late 1800s.

By Anne M. Butler,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Daughters of Joy, Sisters of Misery as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book is in good used condition. Ex-library book. History of prostitution in the American West 1865-1890. Good book for anyone interested in learning more about: Prostitutes -- West (U.S.) -- History -- 19th century.


Book cover of The Homesman

Venetia Hobson Lewis Author Of Changing Woman: A Novel of the Camp Grant Massacre

From my list on the old west with in-depth characters.

Who am I?

I’m an amalgam of all of my varied interests and varied employments from actress and singer to corporate paralegal at a movie studio. Since my teenage years, I’ve loved to research. That joy leads into writing factually-accurate historical fiction set in the West. Delving into the private lives of both the fictional and the real people gives the reader a better understanding of the characters’ designated paths leading to the events upon which my novel is based. My recommendations for the best books set in the West with in-depth characters have qualities I’ve employed in my novel. Some of these books also delve into characters from differing races, reflecting most towns in the Old West.

Venetia's book list on the old west with in-depth characters

Venetia Hobson Lewis Why did Venetia love this book?

Novelists eternally search for or try to develop a unique story idea that could only occur at one point in time, place, and circumstance. Swarthout succeeded. And it’s a gem. 

Set in the 1850s, The Homesman takes place on the barren flats of prairie land with winds that swirl constantly, sending women to the ends of their sanity. Berserk with loneliness, hardships of life, personal losses of children, these women are transported across Nebraska in boarded-up wagons, fitted out with restraints, to insane asylums in the east. 

One lone woman takes charge of a wagon. A man, looking to purchase that woman’s ranch, reluctantly goes along. Soon the journey turns in his favor. The Homesman is a gripping, stark tale from a true literary writer of the Western genre.

By Glendon Swarthout,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Homesman as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Homesman opens in the 1850s, when early pioneers are doing anything they can to survive dreadful conditions. Women especially struggle with broken hearts and minds as they face bitter hardships: One nineteen-year-old mother loses her three children to diphtheria in three days; another woman left alone for two nights is forced to shoot wolves to protect herself. The situation calls for a "homesman"-a person charged with taking these women, driven mad by the conditions of rural life, to asylums in the East. Not exactly a job people are lining up for, it falls to Mary Bee Cuddy, an ex-teacher…


Book cover of Slogum House

Randi Samuelson-Brown Author Of Market Street Madam

From my list on the dark side of the Wild West.

Who am I?

I recall the exact moment when my interest sparked about frontier prostitution and Denver’s underbelly — a friend mentioned the ‘bad blood’ in her family — an ancestor who was a second-rate madam and who employed her own daughters. The quest started. Who were these women, and why did they make the choices they did? I’ve spent years chasing down traces of the old west’s prostitutes, fascinated by their identities and lives. The west had opportunities for women who were willing to take chances. As a fifth-generation Coloradoan, I hoped to capture the story of these enterprising and overlooked women, their lives, and the world around them.

Randi's book list on the dark side of the Wild West

Randi Samuelson-Brown Why did Randi love this book?

Slogum House is a fairly brutal account of the dynamics between a gentle patriarch who married a shifty woman and the influence her brutality had on the family. Parts of this novel are disturbing and hard to read, but this is an interesting tale of a desperate and driven woman who will literally stop at nothing to get what she wants, and how that ruthlessness colors her family and children’s lives. The setting is the remote western sand-hills of Nebraska. Brilliant writing.

By Mari Sandoz,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Slogum House "lay on the winter flat of Oxbow like the remains of some great, hulking animal that had foraged the region long ago, leaving its old gray carcass to dry and bleach at the foot of the hogback." Ruled by Gulla Slogum, the house was headquarters for a clan that terrorized what it couldn't seduce or steal. Using her daughter as poisoned bait and her sons as predators, Gulla plotted to put a whole county under her control. She had been insulted too often and worked too hard; now she sought power, land, and revenge.


Book cover of Roughing It

Fedora Amis Author Of Have Your Ticket Punched by Frank James

From my list on that bring a touch of humor to the Old West.

Who am I?

I love history and I love to laugh. That’s why I brand myself as a writer of Victorian Whodunits with a touch of humor. I’ve spent decades learning about 1800s America. I began sharing that knowledge by performing in costume as real women of history. But I couldn’t be on stage all the time so I began writing the books I want to read, books that entertain while sticking to the basic facts of history and giving the flavor of an earlier time. I seek that great marriage of words that brings readers to a new understanding. As Albert Einstein said, “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” 

Fedora's book list on that bring a touch of humor to the Old West

Fedora Amis Why did Fedora love this book?

Mark Twain is my writing idol. Before Roughing it, I’d never read a book written during the Civil War era which didn’t take sides and grind axes. From it, I learned detachment, that personal adventures can live side-by-side with even the most earth-shattering events. And that hilarious stories like “Bemis and the Buffalo” are the best antidote for the chaos and pain of war.

By Mark Twain,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Roughing It as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The celebrated author of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn mixes fact and fiction in a rousing travelogue that serves as “a portrait of the artist as a young adventurer.”*
 
In 1861, young Mark Twain found himself adrift as a newcomer in the Wild West, working as a civil servant, silver prospector, mill worker, and finally a reporter and traveling lecturer. Roughing It is the hilarious record of those early years traveling from Nevada to California to Hawaii, as Twain tried his luck at anything and everything—and usually failed. Twain’s encounters with tarantulas and donkeys, vigilantes…


Book cover of The Hanging Tree and Other Stories

Steve Hockensmith Author Of Holmes on the Range

From my list on Westerns that will take you to the frontier.

Who am I?

Although I grew up with a fondness for Western movies thanks to my John Wayne-loving dad, I never seriously explored the genre until I began writing my Holmes on the Range mystery series. What I discovered when I began regularly reading books about the West took me a bit by surprise: I loved them! Since then I’ve read dozens of history books, novels, and short story collections that bring the Old West to life.

Steve's book list on Westerns that will take you to the frontier

Steve Hockensmith Why did Steve love this book?

Once upon a time, writers could make a good living selling short stories to American magazines. Those days are almost as long gone now as the Wild West. But the stories live on…provided you find the right used book store. First published in 1957, The Hanging Tree and Other Stories collects some of the best work by a prolific specialist in short fiction about the frontier: Dorothy M. Johnson. Years before Little Big Man, she was writing sympathetically and convincingly about Native Americans. Her stories could also be funny, thrilling, and surprising. It’s no wonder Hollywood turned to her for inspiration so often: The classic Westerns The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and A Man Called Horse are based on Johnson stories.

By Dorothy M. Johnson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Hanging Tree and Other Stories as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The title story, The Hanging Tree, is based on a true episode in Montana's gold-mining past. Three amazing characters meet: the cynical Doc Frail; the boy robber named Rune, whom Doc saves and enslaves; and Elizabeth, the young easterner who survives an Indian assault and comes under the care of Doc and Rune. In the gold-mining camp of Skull Creek Elizabeth becomes the mysterious Lucky Lady. A vigorous, psychological western, The Hanging Tree was made into a movie starring Gary Cooper. The stories in this book consolidate Dorothy M. Johnson's reputation for authenticity and artistic integrity. "Lost Sister" is based…


Book cover of The Complete Western Stories of Elmore Leonard

Thomas Leo Ogren Author Of Cowboys Don't Shoot Magpies

From my list on that are packed with action.

Who am I?

I am best known for my books on allergies and horticulture. But my first love was always writing fiction, and the first two books I ever sold, were both novels. I know a lot about exciting historical novels because I’ve read so many of them. I read; I don’t watch TV. I love history, and historical fiction that has good, strong characters that I can give a hoot about. And I love books that are full of action, where something exciting is always happening or just about to. A plug: I believe I’ve now written some books myself that fit that bill.

Thomas' book list on that are packed with action

Thomas Leo Ogren Why did Thomas love this book?

Elmore Leonard wrote a ton of books, and almost all of them were darn good. He’s most famous for his more modern books, Get Shorty, etc. His stories are raw, edgy, and exciting. Toward the very end of his career, he did crank out some novels that were, I thought, junk. But for the most part, his writing is terrific, easy to read, page-turning books. What many don’t know is that when he was young, he was writing Westerns. And wow, what fabulous Westerns, too! If you’re lucky enough to get a copy of this collection, you’ll both love it, and feel kind of bad when you get to the end. One of the very best Western writers of them all.

By Elmore Leonard,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Complete Western Stories of Elmore Leonard as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A bull's-eye of a short fiction collection that spans the master's career.

In 1950, fresh out of college and keen to make his name as a writer, Elmore Leonard decided he needed to pick a market, a big one, which would give him a better chance to be published while he learned to write. In choosing between crime and Westerns, the latter had an irresistible pull - Leonard loved movies set in the West. As he researched deeper into settings, Arizona in the 1880s captured his imagination: the Spanish influence, the stand-offs and shoot-outs between Apache Indians and the US…


Book cover of Fire and Brimstone: The North Butte Mining Disaster of 1917

Laurie Marr Wasmund Author Of My Heart Lies Here

From my list on why the American West always will be the "Wild West”.

Who am I?

Raised in the American West, I have watched the explosive growth in Colorado with dismay. In my lifetime, metro Denver has grown from a population of about 500,000 people to more than 5.5 million. The Colorado of large ranches and wide, open spaces is disappearing. I have named my publishing company “lost ranch books,” in honor of the ranch where I grew up, which was sold and developed with cookie-cutter houses. I’ve now set out to recapture historic Colorado by writing about it. My award-winning books center on Colorado’s and the American West’s history, for not only is it fascinating and, often, troubling, but it still resonates today.

Laurie's book list on why the American West always will be the "Wild West”

Laurie Marr Wasmund Why did Laurie love this book?

Punke’s book chronicles a story of heroism and company greed that isn’t that far in the past of America’s labor battles. It tells of a fire that spread through the underground tunnels of the copper mines belonging to J.D. Rockefeller’s Anaconda company and others. The book centers on the men trapped underground who exhaust every possible option in a dire bid to survive, including some ingenious methods and some which hasten their demise. Punke touches as well on political, labor, and business wranglings that put the workers at risk. He also follows Butte’s history to present day, demonstrating that the Montana city has never quite recovered from its past as a copper city.

By Michael Punke,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The author of the #1 New York Times bestseller, The Revenant -- basis for the award-winning motion picture starring Leonardo DiCaprio -- tells the remarkable story of the worst hard-rock mining disaster in American history.

A half-hour before midnight on June 8, 1917, a fire broke out in the North Butte Mining Company's Granite Mountain shaft. Sparked more than two thousand feet below ground, the fire spewed flames, smoke, and poisonous gas through a labyrinth of underground tunnels. Within an hour, more than four hundred men would be locked in a battle to survive. Within three days, one hundred and…


Book cover of Wyatt Earp: The Life Behind the Legend

Mark Warren Author Of The Long Road to Legend: Wyatt Earp, an American Odyssey Book One

From my list on Wyatt Earp by the top researchers in the field.

Who am I?

I am a teacher of primitive survival skills. As a young boy, I was fascinated with the concept of courage. At seven, I read the pseudo-biography of Wyatt Earp, a wonderfully written account of a courageous man. This book began my lifelong interest in Mr. Earp. Eventually, I met many of the giants in Western history research and accompanied them into the field. After 65 years of collecting the facts, I wanted to use my novelistic skills to portray the life and times of Wyatt Earp as best as the record shows.

Mark's book list on Wyatt Earp by the top researchers in the field

Mark Warren Why did Mark love this book?

The public was introduced to Wyatt Earp’s story by Walter Noble Burns and Stuart Lake around 1930, but the novelistic liberties taken by these two writers produced two books of fantasy. Other writers who reacted to this fiction swung to the other end of the spectrum and wrote damning indictments against Wyatt Earp. Tefertiller gives us the facts and leaves it to the reader to parse Wyatt Earp, the man.

I have visited many a Sonoran Desert site with Mr. Tefertiller—places where events in the Earp saga took place. There we have engaged in conversations and batted around ideas. I judge him to be a most reliable and dedicated researcher/writer.

By Casey Tefertiller,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Quite impressive. I doubt if there has been or will be a more deeply researched and convincing account." --Evan Connell, author Son of the Morning Star: Custer and the Little Bighorn "The book to end all Earp books--the most complete, and most meticulously researched." --Jack Burrows, author John Ringo: The Gunfighter Who Never Was "The most thoughtful, well-researched, and comprehensive account that has been written about the development and career of an Old-West lawman." --The Tombstone Tumbleweed "A great adventure story, and solid history." --Kirkus Reviews "A major contribution to the history of the American West. It provides the first…


Book cover of Westward Expansion: A History of the American Frontier

Mary Stockwell Author Of Unlikely General: Mad Anthony Wayne and the Battle for America

From my list on the history of the American West.

Who am I?

Born and raised in Ohio, the “First West,” I was trained by top historians of the American West at the University of Toledo where I received my doctorate in American History. I’ve worked as a university and research fellow, a writer in the business world, and a professor of history and department chair at Lourdes University. I left my teaching and administrative career to become a full-time writer. Along with Unlikely General, my recent books have included The Other Trail of Tears: The Removal of the Ohio Indians and Interrupted Odyssey: Ulysses S. Grant and the American Indians. Currently, I’m writing a dual biography of William Henry Harrison and Tecumseh.

Mary's book list on the history of the American West

Mary Stockwell Why did Mary love this book?

In Westward Expansion, Ray Allen Billington takes up the story of the American West where Morison left off. This is a sweeping narrative with Billington acting as a travel guide across the successively moving frontiers beyond the Atlantic Coast. He leads us to the crest of the Appalachians, and then over Ohio and down to Tennessee toward the Mississippi. Next, we race to the Pacific and then come back over the Rockies before finally heading onto the Great Plains west of the Mississippi. Yet Westward Expansion is more than a travelogue. In its pages, we travel with everyone who ever lived on these many frontiers: farmers, workers, soldiers, Indians, immigrants, townspeople. The list goes on and on. It’s America’s story with every triumph and tragedy bound up in constant motion. 

By Ray Allen Billington, Martin Ridge,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

When it appeared in 1949, the first edition of Ray Allen Billington's 'Westward Expansion' set a new standard for scholarship in western American history, and the book's reputation among historians, scholars, and students grew through four subsequent editions. This abridgment and revision of Billington and Martin Ridge's fifth edition, with a new introduction and additional scholarship by Ridge, as well as an updated bibliography, focuses on the Trans-Mississippi frontier. Although the text sets out the remarkable story of the American frontier, which became, almost from the beginning, an archetypal narrative of the new American nation's successful expansion, the authors do…


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