by Former President Ronald Reagan as
This is the all-time classic novel chosen by the Western Writers of America as one of the best western novels ever written. It is also the inspiration for John Wayne's last great starring role -- the acclaimed 1976 film, The Shootist
This new Bison Books edition
contains an updated Introduction by the authorís son,
in which he explains how this famous Western tale was created and about
the making of this famous film.
Winner of the 1975 Spur Award from the Western Writers of America for Best Western Novel and chosen in their 2000 members' poll as one of the 10 Greatest Western novels written in the 20th century. The Shootist was also made into a classic Western film a few years later, starring John Wayne in one of his best, as well as his final role. More about this novel and film can also be found in Miles' lengthy article in the spring, 1996 issue of Persimmon Hill, the magazine of the National Cowboy Hall of Fame, entitled "The Westerns of Glendon Swarthout."
The Shootist is John Bernard Books, a man of principle and the only surviving gunfighter in a vanishing American West. He rides into El Paso in the year 1901, on the day of Queen Victoria's demise, there to be told by a doctor that he must soon confront the greatest Shootist of all: Death himself. In such a showdown against such an antagonist, J. B. Books cannot win. Most men may end their days in bed or take their own lives, but a mankiller has a third option, one which Books decides to exercise. He may choose his own executioner.
As the word spreads that the famous assassin has reached the end of his rope, an assortment of vultures gathers to feast upon the corpse -- among them a gambler, a rustler, a clergyman, an undertaker, an old love, a reporter, even a teenager. Books outwits them, however, by selecting the where, when, who and why of his death and writing in fire from a pair of matched Remingtons the last courageous act of his own legend. The climatic gunfight itself is an incredible performance by an incredible man, and by his creator, Glendon Swarthout.
The Shootist will rank with such classics as Shane and Lonesome Dove, but it is much more than a Western. When in the final afternoon of his life, J.B. Books crosses a street and enters a saloon to make something of his death, we cross, we enter, with him. He is us.
Miles Hood Swarthout wrote the Writers Guild-nominated Best Adaptation screenplay for this famous film, but copies are not available from Hoodwinks Productions.
"A taut, leathery, masterful tale." Los Angeles Times
"The Shootist by Glendon Swarthout is the tale of the Old West's version of the modern 'hit man.' It is a splendid story, well-told and with a really satisfying ending." Charleston, South Carolina Evening Post
"Mr. Swarthout's climax is a superbly-controlled piece of writing that should have them sniffling even in the back rows when they show the film. His prose is gritty and without a trace of sentimentality as he describes the old killer's last hour as he dresses his feeble, wasted body and says his restrained, unspoken farewell to the gentle widow he might have loved, and sets off -- carefully barbered, suit pressed, boots gleaming -- to find his last gunfight in a brutal, ghastly and cynically ironic denouement. And yet it is also done with consummate delicacy and Books' last ride to his final saloon is beautifully described, almost idyllically, as he rides to his chosen end in the warm spring sunshine. There are not many Westerns I would read more than once, but The Shootist is one of them." Graham Lord, the London Sunday Express
"This excellently written book will keep you glued to your chair for a couple of hours . . . The author is most adept with our language. His descriptions of the anatomical disturbances made by the violent passage of heavy caliber bullets through a man's body are spine-tingling." San Rafael, California Independent Journal
"This is an extremely well-written Western and gives the reader vivid insight into the workings of the mind of a wanderer and gun man." Baton Rouge, Louisiana Sunday Advocate
"This is definitely more than a Western; the characterization is flawless, the plot absorbing and convincing." Barbara Branstad, Library Journal
"The final gunfight for Books is a classic -- an incredible tale about an incredible man by an incredible author . . . The best sections of the book involve the way in which Books arranges for compensation from those who will profit most from his death: the undertaker, a photographer, the Marshal, the barber. Attention to detail -- too much in some spots -- has a tendency to make Books' story bog down, but those moments are soon passed, and the tale romps on with verve and gusto. It's a fascinating tale, and once started, is difficult to leave until the final sentence has been absorbed." Robert Shotwell, Arizona Republic
"How J.B. Books manages to salvage his pride and honor and chose the time, place and manner of his death, makes suspenseful, gripping reading. And the legacy he passes along will make readers shudder. The Shootist is not a western. It is a fine novel that happens to be set in the early West." Albert F. Nussbaum, Abilene, Texas Reporter News
"Chilling . . . grisly . . . extremely exciting to the very end." the Times of London
"The final gun-battle is entirely convincing . . . I do not ever remember reading one better described."
"Such style . . . such a strong central idea . . . the showdown is as unremitting as the build-up." The Sunday Times of London