Historical Western and Frontier Fiction Reading List (reviews/opinions are my own)

Historical Fiction Reading List for Western US/Frontier

Slogum House, Mari Sandoz – gritty Nebraska drama of a lawless family with the occasional decent member. Many parts hard to read. The sheer evilness and self-centeredness of the mother, Gulla, is staggering. (A)

Deadwood, Pete Dexter – started the TV Series. I confess that I saw the series before I read the book. The series is where my heart is, but the book was good, too! (B)

All the Pretty Horses, Cormac McCarthy – a writer and reader’s book – brilliantly written. (A+)

Dollybird, Anne Lazurko – Canadian writer and subject, beautifully written about settling the western plains and the phenomenon of the “Dollybird” – unattached women who helped single men get settled. (A)

A Lantern in her Hand, Beth Streeter Aldrich – Young Adult/New Adult. This one stands the test of time! Settling Nebraska Territory. (A)

Daughter of Fortune, Isabel Allende – No one does better at descriptions than Ms. Allende. This story of the California gold rush has far too much description for my taste, along with an unlikely and thin plot. Read for the imagery, if the California gold rush is of interest. (B-)

Woman of Ill Fame, Erika Mailman – A prostitute, a murder and the California gold rush. Unlikely plot, fun descriptions of early California and “the life”. I picked up this book as a comparative title.  The plot was unlikely – to say more would contain spoilers. Voice not quite in step with the time. (C)

Augusta Locke, William Haywood Henderson – interesting story about a single woman on her own in the west. Beautiful imagery! (A)

Lighter Reading:

Lucky Hat Mine, J.v.l. Bell. A story about a mail-order bride and the wild ways out west. Has some good historical detail for readers.

Behind every good Historical Fiction novel is a lot of research, here’s mine:

Links are reviews in Amazon for my more in depth reviews.


***Alcohol and Opium in the Old West, Use, Abuse and Influence. Jeremy Agnew. This is a great resource that is very nicely done.  Highly recommended. A++++. Expensive, but worth it! https://www.amazon.com/Alcohol-Opium-Old-West-Influence-ebook/dp/B00FW6HSKC/ref=cm_cr-mr-title

Brothels, Bordellos & Bad Girls, Jan McKell. A pretty good book, a cross between a fun and an academic read. B

The City and the Saloon, Denver 1859-1916. Thomas J. Noel. Interesting background on the saloon culture. B

***Daughters of Joy, Sisters of Mercy, Anne M. Butler. Academic and entertaining! Great resource on prostitution in the west. A++++

Denver’s Riverside Cemetery, Annette L. Student.  Great resource for the Denver dead…limited scope to those who call this cemetery ‘home’. A

***Hell’s Belles, Clark Secrest. Awesome book on Denver Prostitution pre 1913. A++++ Market Street and Prostitution have fabulous research and paint a lively picture. Not so excited about the portion on Sam Howe (early Denver Law enforcement). http://www.amazon.com/Hells-Belles-Revised-Prostitution-Biography/dp/0870816330?ie=UTF8&ref_=cm_cr-mr-title

Madeleine, Anonymous. There is some debate as to whether or not this book was truly written by a prostitute, but I believe it was.  Good background of “the life.” Keep in mind that this is an unreliable narrator, who might have supplemented fact with the way she wished to remember things. A

The Opium Debate and Chinese Exclusion Laws in the Nineteenth Century American West, Diana L. Ahmad. A bit dry, but informative. An all but forgotten chapter of the American west. B+. http://www.amazon.com/Debate-Chinese-Exclusion-Nineteenth-Century-American/dp/0874176980?ie=UTF8&ref_=cm_cr-mr-title

Soiled Doves – Prostitution in the Early West. Anne Seagraves. Basic resource, good enough starter book. B-

***Underground Sewer, Josie Washburn. A book about prostitution by a St. Louis madam. Interesting perspective on what leads to prostitution and ways to curtail “the life.” A

Upstairs Girls, Michael Rutter. Compilation of other people’s research. I gave it a one star, but other people like it better. If you are familiar with the subject matter, I wouldn’t spend time here…C. http://www.amazon.com/Upstairs-Girls-Prostitution-American-West/dp/1560373571?ie=UTF8&ref_=cm_cr-mr-title

Lighter Reading (still non-fiction)

Opium, A Portrait of a Heavenly Demon, Barbara Hodgson.  A coffee-table book for drug vice. Interesting read and photographs! For research, it is a bit light but still fun.

In the Arms of Morpheus, the Tragic History of Morphine, Laudanum and Patented Medicines, Barbara Hodgson. A coffee-table book for drug vice. Interesting read and photographs! For research, it is a bit light but still fun. http://www.amazon.com/Arms-Morpheus-Morphine-Laudanum-Medicines/dp/1552975401?ie=UTF8&ref_=cm_cr-mr-title

Cripple Creek Mine
Who knows where a book leads?