Review 5 star
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My Plunder: Westerners and Warriors is a memoir by Myles Culbertson. It consists of 8 vignettes that chronicle the people and lore of his family’s ranch in New Mexico. The short, factual snippets span the entire 20th century and end in 2007, each piece contributing a layer to compile a detailed history. The last (most recent) is written by his son-in-law, sharing how he embraced the family traditions of the ranch. Photographs of the people represented, and thoughtful western art by Mike Capron help bring the story of generations of a family of modern cowboys, their friends, loved ones, and—of course—horses, to life for readers as they get to see this rugged American lifestyle in operation over the years.
Myles Culbertson’s fascinating glimpse into ranch life in the 20th century is unmatched by anything I’ve read before. It was amazing for me to follow the stories of a horse with a legendary attitude, a father determined to vote even with cracked ribs, a selfless colonel who was a general at heart, a tiny forgotten town livened by adventure when cowboys visited, and a young Marine getting his first experience as a real cowboy branding cattle amid gorgeous scenery. From the vintage era through the Vietnam War to the present day, My Plunder: Westerners and Warriors is a nostalgic collection that is grounded and rooted in the unchanging personality of the people who work with cattle and horses and their harsh, yet deeply beautiful environment. This one-of-a-kind book is something I’m delighted to have read and I would recommend it to anyone.
Review 5 star
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This short western novel is the 10th in the Landon Saga by author Tell Cotten, and it drew me in from the first page. Picking up on adventures from the preceding book, Midway sees Texas Ranger Cooper Landon returning from fighting Apaches. He seeks only peace and quiet, but it’s not to be. His adopted son is growing up, his brother Yancy is getting married, his friend’s new cowpuncher is a dangerous alcoholic, the sheriff is an incompetent child barely out of his teens--and that’s just for starters. When a rough-edged Mexican with a vendetta against Yancy and a local rancher with a bad marriage show up in town, Cooper just keeps getting into situations. Sometimes there is no rest for the weary.
Midway was a stellar book and I enjoyed every minute of it. Tell Cotten is a minimalist and every word counts, making for a crisp, action-packed story that is easy to follow and easy to read. The humorous writing, the dry wit, and the memorable, sharply visualized characters had me deeply involved. Cooper and Yancy’s banter alone is priceless, but the cast around them is also good, keeping the story brisk and punctuated with surprises at every corner. Midway creates a thoroughly real western town populated by drunks, cranks, rough ranchers, romantic love-birds, and domestic violence—all while keeping it clean and entertaining, with a light satirical undertone that makes it stick out a notch from the crowd. Laced with unobtrusive flashbacks, it does fine as a stand-alone, meaning people can easily dive into this series. Highly recommended.
This is the companion for Sarah Scheele's newsletter blog. In it I share reviews for books I'd recommend/are similar to my own.