Best Stories of the American West, Volume I

Edited by Marc Jaffe

Forge Books



Trade Paperback

320 Pages



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Here is the first in a series of collections of the best contemporary writing to come from the American West—short stories by a diverse group of writers—young and old, male and female, well-known and not-so-known. And for the first time there appears, side-by-side with these, the work of so-called "traditional" Western writers, such as Max Evans and Elmer Kelton, and the "literary" contingent, represented by William Kittredge and Valerie Miner.

Best Stories of the American West reflects the extraordinary diversity of the culture and lifestyles of the American West. Stories by Sherman Alexie, Melanie Rae Thon, and Lannan Award winner Luis Alberto Urrea center on the world of Indian Country, a world unknown to most Americans but crucial to an understanding of American society as a whole. Elmore Leonard deals with violence and justice; Richard Cass and Steven Patterson offer dramatic stories of women engaged in perilous worlds of work and sex. Max Evans describes a cowboy life that is, in a curious way, the other side of the coin of Brokeback Mountain. There is an all-pervading, tragic sense of history in John Graves's "The Last Running."

Well-known film director and author John Sayles offers a unique view of the workingman's Hollywood, and Geronimo Tagatac, of Filipino heritage, takes the reader through an immigrant experience typical of the West. In Drum Hadley's "Southwest Stories," poetry and prose merge into the tradition of mythic storytelling going back to Mark Twain and Bret Harte and returning to the present day of Gary Snyder and others. Idaho-born and -bred John Rember uses metaphor and humor to tell a story of sadness, growth, and love in "Sudden Death, Over Time," which appears in print here for the first time.


Praise for Best Stories of the American West, Volume I

"Taking the West more as a geographic indicator than a genre heading, this collection boasts a surprisingly wide range of stories, from Sherman Alexie's tale of an aging would-be Indian basketball star struggling through crisis and vigorous reinvention, to windies from traditional westerners Max Evans, Elmer Kelton, and Richard Wheeler, and more poignant, graceful takes on family, friendship, and perseverance from Valerie Miner and Bruce Machart. Many of the authors deal with themes of loss, particularly as the generation once-removed from the last frontiersmen dies off, taking with them the remaining vestige of life in the wilder days of the West. But the exuberant, strong-willed spirit endures, even if the cowboys have traded in steeds for pickups and open-range ranching for modern agricultural textbook science. The issue remains survival in a tough world and a hard-won terrain, with a wistful gaze looking back, to be sure, but steeled to the path ahead, be it dusty or paved."—Ian Chipman, Booklist

"Wyatt Earp was a lousy lover but a very shrewd judge of people. You'll learn that in Owen Wister Award winner Richard S. Wheeler's 'Hearts.' Some Indians can play basketball—PEN/Malamud Award winner Sherman Alexie shows us that in 'What Ever Happened to Frank Snake Church?' There are 18 more fine stories in editor Jaffe's collection, by such big-name writers as Elmore Leonard, William Kittredge, and Elmer Kelton. But don't be fooled—this is not a book of Western stories. Here, you're just as likely to meet a pilot, a deep-sea fisherman, or a redneck as you are a gunslinger like Earp. Jaffe's theme is not really 'the West'; rather, it's loss. Every story is about losing someone or something—family, friends, innocence, faith. A fine collection of American short stories good for larger fiction collections everywhere; this shouldn't be put with the Westerns."—Ken St. Andre, Library Journal

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Edited by Marc Jaffe

  • Marc Jaffe, an editor and publisher—for eighteen years Editorial Director at Bantam Books—has had decades-long experience with writing of the West, beginning with his first job in publishing as Western Editor at New American Library. Most recently, he collaborated with the late historian Alvin M. Josephy, Jr. in editing Lewis and Clark Through Indian Eyes, published in April 2006 by Alfred A. Knopf. He has, over the years, traveled widely throughout the West and now lives with his wife in Williamstown, Massachusetts.