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 – in my opinion, no one does better at descriptions than Ms. Allende. This is a story of the California gold rush that I think has far too much description, and an unlikely and thin plot. I would read it for the imagery, if the California gold rush is of interest. (B-)

Woman of Ill Fame, Erika Mailman – novel about a prostitute, a murder and the California gold rush. Unlikely plot, fun descriptions of early California and “the life”. Read this to see what was out there as I was writing my own novel on similar subject matter. Why everything was about this woman, I cannot imagine. If you read it, you’ll see what I mean. 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++++ Can’t say enough about this where Market Street and Prostitution is concerned. 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?