The Wister Trace: Assaying Classic Western Fiction (2nd ed.)

Written by Loren D. Estleman
Review by Jeff Westerhoff

The first edition of The Wister Trace was published in 1987. This second edition is the author’s update analyzing American western writing. He breaks down the western genre into different categories or subtopics such as ranching, gunfighters, greed, and even women authors. Estleman includes his own opinions regarding the writing abilities of authors such as Larry McMurtry, Zane Grey, and Louis L’Amour, to name three. He assesses American western writing since the advent of the pulp westerns written during the late 19th century. He also expresses his thoughts about films made from popular novels written during the 20th century.

As a reader of westerns, you may agree or disagree with Estleman’s final analysis, but I found his opinions interesting and sometimes on the mark. The author has written over 70 crime and western stories, so he is more than knowledgeable in this genre. I’ve read a number of his novels, and they are well written; he has earned a number of awards. The appendix lists many film adaptations and other notable books that he didn’t include in his essay. If you are a western aficionado, I recommend you add this book to your collection.