virginianName: Craig Johnson, author of A Serpent’s Tooth

Favorite Penguin Classics:  Owen Wister’s The Virginian: A Horseman of the Plains

Why I love this book: It is the quintessential novel of the American West. It elevated the Western to an art form above the pulp and penny dreadfuls and is an invaluable guide to period western dialogue and deportment. There is an endearing closeness to the epic tale of the nameless, mounted aristocrat of Medicine Bow, Wyoming, a feeling that you’ve read the story before, and you have in Zane Grey, Louis L’Amour and the countless writers who’ve ridden and written the trail that Owen Wister blazed.

What Should I read next? In counterpoint read Bret Harte’s The Luck of Roaring Camp and Other Writings as an ironic and comical send-up of the classical Western invented by Wister but with a surprising quality of human expression.

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