It is not commonly known that westerns fueled much of the hatred of the Indian by Americans in its early history. Western fiction, in the form of “dime novels,” became the tool used to alter the cultural perception of millions of pioneers. Dime novelists placed images of the Indian into the minds of these early settlers who devoured these early works of pure fiction that produced horrific prejudices. But, it is true that some of the tribes such as the Blackfeet and the Comanche gave credence to the wild, unfounded tales found in the dime novels produced by the tens of thousands by the House of Beadle and Adams.
All good fiction has some basis in fact. But, even bad fiction (which most of the dime novels were) plays with truth. A good western novel will attempt to convey some measure of reality, even if the setting and the people are exaggerated to a small degree, and even if there is a romanticizing of the setting. Zane Grey was one of the best at romanticizing the Old West.
Here is an excellent summary of how the movie industry has solidified that image.
Those who settled in the American West in the 1800′s came to realize that some of the tribes of Indians were to be feared. But, most of them were friendly in the beginning. There are many instances where Indians helped travelers, mountain men, and even the Lewis and Clark expedition. The French trappers had been in the West decades before the Americans and gotten along with the various tribes.
But, as the Americans pushed westward, conflicts grew. In early Tejas (soon to be Texas), the Mexicans and the “Texicans” came to fear the marauding Comanche Indians, together with the Apache. The Comanche would terrorize the entire land of Texas and down into Mexico, for the Comanche knew no boundaries. They roamed where they wished, took what they wanted, and murdered anyone who opposed them. Indeed, stories abound of tales of stark, unmitigated terror at the hand of the Comanche in Texas, from the days of Steve Austin and even into the 1870′s.
So, there was a factual basis for the hatred of the Indian by many. However, it was commonly known that not all Indians were to be feared and not all Indians hated the white man.
But, the advent of the dime novel would change that.
One of the earliest Westerns they published was Seth Jones, or, The Captives of the Frontier. The first printing of 60,000 sold out immediately. It was also translated into half a dozen languages. Eventually, this title would sell more than 600,000 copies. This was not uncommon. They had many other titles sell similarly.
Quindaro, or, The Heroine of Fort Laramie illustrates perfectly, the kind of fare that was regularly offered which had a profound affect on the minds of the millions who read the story. Quindaro is the hero in this western, written and published in 1865. He is an avowed Indian hater, but he is also something of a Puritan, in that he has the perception of the West as a kind of Garden of Eden, a place given to deserving Americans by God, especially to test and spiritually prepare God’s chosen for the thousand year reign of Christ, that period of time in the Bible known as the Millennium.
Mary is Quindaro’s sweetheart. When Quindaro inquires as to whether she is willing to leave her wilderness home to go to a civilized world, one she’s never seen, she replies: “I have read of the ‘Garden of Eden,’ where our first parents were so happy. And I have pictured to myself even a brighter scene, where intellect controls the actions of mankind. But, there was a serpent in Eden. Is there any such where Christian men and women dwell?” Quindaro confesses that such as live in that civilized world have amongst it, “such serpents as cursed the beautiful garden.” He sees the elimination of the Indian, indeed, the eradication or complete extermination, as the plan of God, a divine order as it were. This idea would permeate many minds and cause men who were otherwise Christian in their views, to view the Indian as subhuman, a creature not worthy of redemption.
There was no television to alter the minds and attitudes of people as we have today. There is little question but that we, as a nation, have had our culture affected in many ways by television.
Dime novels were America’s “television” and millions “tuned in” to every channel.
Like now, not everything was worth a nickel, let alone a dime.Luke Adams was a fun-loving, hi-yu cowboy from Tennessee, but who finished his growing-up chasing long-horn steers through sagebrush that cut chaps like a razor and quickly made men out of boys.
Luke is one of those young men who grew up in hard times, doing a man's work years before he was grown. He also learned early in life to take care of himself, and had learned to shuck a gun quicker than most men.
But, Luke's life as a care-free cowboy came to an abrupt end one white-hot Texas summer day. Three riders came upon Luke while he and another cowboy were at a line shack gathering strays and branding calves. The riders were chasing rustlers.
One of the men was a hothead, the son of a powerful, local rancher. He insisted that Luke and his friend were the rustlers.Luke convinces the leader of three riders, an older man with moves Luke considered to be like that of a big cat, that they had the wrong men. However, he shouldn't have discounted the rancher's son. It was a mistake that would cost several men their lives before all was done.
Luke tells it this way:
That kid though, he was like a dog when you take away a piece of meat he's about to sink his teeth into. He just went mean all of a sudden. Even though I'd put away my Colt, I was still watching close. Hadn't been that I was still watching, I might have missed the kid's move because he drew his gun without me seeing it. All I caught was his wild eyes and the twitch of his right shoulder, and I dove for the dirt and yelled for my partner to do the same as me.
That kid got a shot off, but it went into the earth right beside his own horse because my shot took him right out of the saddle backwards. I heard him scream and heard him hit the ground with a heavy thud. He made no sound after that.
After the dust settles, Luke is warned by the older man that there will be some hard riders coming after him because Briner, the rancher, was a powerful man who would want revenge, and it didn't matter that his kid was in the wrong. The man would have the Texas Rangers looking for him, and he'd be sending his own crew of gunmen.
Luke immediately heads for New Mexico Territory. He is tracked, but manages to elude the men chasing him. Once there, Luke partners with three other men and they buy a small ranch. All goes well for nearly a year. Luke even manages to fall in love. And then one day, Briner found him.
The rancher and every hard-case that rode with him would one day regret they found Luke Adams. They'd regret accidently hurting the girl Luke loved, and would regret shooting one of his partners. The hard-case gunmen that rode with him into New Mexico, would learn that they had come to hang a man who wasn't quite what he appeared to be. He wasn't the usual cowboy who wore a gun for the coyotes, snakes, and other critters. A gun was as familiar to Luke as a rope. He'd spent years as a kid jerking a big, bone-handled .44 out of his waistband and firing it, until he could catch a jackrabbit on the hop and a squirrel on the run.
Those Texas riders found a man who was tougher than the land in which he lived. They also discovered that they had created an enemy who became a relentless foe. They encountered a man who reached a point where he was not content to just defend himself.
They found a man who hunted them.
Down to the last man.This exciting western fiction novel will keep your attention all the way through. There's romance (Luke falls in love and his biggest surprise in life is that she loves him), there's plenty of action, and even some cowboy humor. Luke Adams is a funny man, and a lover of good cowboy jokes. You'll like him.
The American frontier comprises the geography, history, folklore, and cultural expression of life in the forward wave of American westward expansion from the original colonial settlements to the early 20th century. Enormous popular attention in the media focuses on the second half of the 19th century, a period sometimes called the Old West, or the Wild West. As the American frontier passed into history, the myths of the west in fiction and film took firm hold in the imagination of Americans and foreigners alike. America is exceptional in choosing its iconic self-image. “No other nation,” says David Murdoch, “has taken a time and place from its past and produced a construct of the imagination equal to America’s creation of the West.” [Wikipedia]
It is impossible to gauge the impact that the experience of the Americans who flooded into the Old West had on our nation. It instilled within the psyche of Americans a kind of independent spirit, a sense that nothing could stop us and nothing could impede our progress.
American men fought Comanches on the Texas plains, in spite of the fact that these plains warriors were the scourge of Texas. They were brutal, merciless, and brought terrorism to Tejas and those who dared live there, for decades. But, they didn’t run. They stayed. They endured the attacks. They fought back. Texas ranging companies were formed, later to be called the Texas Rangers. Texas bred men who rose to the challenge and eventually challenged these marauders, these early American terrorists, in their own ground, on their terms: by horseback, out in the wilderness, on horseback, with only their weapons and their courage and skills. These Rangers began to win battles with this fierce, savage band of wild men.
The American spirit of individualism and never quitting, even against all odds, was born in the western frontier. It is that spirit that shocked Japan and amazed an entire world when they saw Americans rising to the challenge, in spite of being down, in spite of being hurt terribly. This same spirit would be demonstrated in our fight against Germany. Hitler and all of Germany discovered in Americans a fighting spirit that was unstoppable. They found the Americans would not run. Japan and Germany watched in awe and fear as American men charged into hellish gunfire on beaches and jungles around the world. If they’d read a bit of American history, particularly the American experience in the Old West, that frontier that existed in early America, they’d have known that Americans would not run, and that they will, in the face of danger and attacks, eventually go on the offensive.
Ask Saddam Hussein. Ask Osama Bin Laden. Ask Hitler.
In America, the Old West has been fictionalized. But, while some of our history has been made into great stories, some of the real heroes of the Old West were not fiction. They were the real deal. And there are many stories, many western fiction stories, that are based in fact. The stories really happened. Indeed, the half has not been told of the heroes in America’s frontier past.
We’d be speaking another language.
Some videos that may interest you dealing with the American Frontier
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One of the premier writers of westerns was Louis L’Amour (now deceased). He wrote over one hundred novels, most of them westerns. Estimates range from 200 to 300 million copies in print, with many of them turned into movies. The Sackett series have proven to be some of his most popular western fiction series.
Westerns turn up everywhere. Inevitably, when kids are trying to gather all of their parents’ stuff after they’ve passed on, they will find in the attic, or the basement, boxes, or bags, of paperback westerns because Dad loved westerns. And, more than likely, he loved L’Amour and there’d be some of his books in the boxes and bags. Finding a good western fiction novel is pretty easy.
Curling Up with a Good Book Wrote this about Western Fiction
Known simply as westerns, these novels about life on America’s post Civil War western frontier usually involve conflicts between cowboys and outlaws, cowboys and Native Americans, or Easterners and Westerners. While this category still has a mass-market audience and a thriving regional market, it’s not the popular genre it was 25 years ago.
If you’re interested in writing a western, contact the Western Writers of America
Zane Grey and Louis Lamour, both deceased, are still among the popular western writers.
Read more: Curling Up With a Good Book
By the time he was 18, Kyle Elliot was fighting Plains Indians in the Old West, especially the most fierce warriors who’d ever ridden across the broad plains of Texas, the legendary Comanche. He’d ridden with Captain John Coffee Hays, in the Texas Rangers and learned to fight in ways most men never understood. “Captain Jack” had taught him and the men he’d ridden with, skills with weapons, tactics, fighting from a horse, tracking, and surviving in the deserts and mountains. Hays and his Rangers were the only fighting unit the Comanche feared. His band of Rangers tracked the Comanche to their home, raided them, fought them on their own terms and on their own terrain, and won. They’d done the same against the Lipon Apache. These men did what the army couldn’t do. They did what no fighting force would manage to do until decades later.
Elliot tells of his education with Captain Jack:
I once saw a Comanche buck race his horse towards us as we were approaching a ravine. He came out of some brush on a dead run, and before any of us could move, came to a sliding halt about fifty yards away. He just sat there staring at us, daring us. I kicked my horse in the ribs and gave a yell, but I hadn’t gotten twenty yards before Captain Jack brought me up short. I trotted back, angered that he’d stopped me. I wasn’t afraid of that Comanche, and I knew I could have run him down. I’d have shot him on the run. I was that good, and he knew it. I showed my irritation when I rode up to him and said, “You figure I ain’t up to that buck, Capt’n?”
He shook his head at me, gave me a half of a smile and said, “Just wanted to keep you and your hair around awhile longer, Elliot. That Comanche wanted all of us to chase him. Apparently, you haven’t learned a thing, yet.”
Well, I got a dressing down in front of all of them. I was just a kid, and it had been my first real foray, so they all had a good laugh at me. We never followed that Comanche.
A gunslinger in the Wild West was fairly uncommon. A cowboy chasing “cow critters” could be found throughout the Old West. In western books, historical fiction novels, or western novels, the western cowboys are a dime a dozen . (Maybe that’s where the phrase “dime novel” arose?)
Cowboy stories were common on the western open range, and those cowboys told a lot of those stories, but cowboy novels were not. A “cowboy western,” was pretty uncommon during the early days of western novels. Usually, the greatest westerns were about some gunslinger in the Old West, or a marshal or sheriff made larger than life, or a mountain man or Indian fighter (such as Buffalo Bill).
This is another western fiction novel of the highest caliber, an action packed adventure from Brevia Books by Voyle Glover, an author one reader said “reminds me of Louis L’Amour’s books. He was my favorite when it came to westerns.”