West Is West by Eugene Rhodes
Published in 1917 by Grosset & Dunlap, this is one of the vintage books written by the renown western author Eugene Manlove Rhodes.
West is West is a collection of 8 short stories that are loosely tied together—they all take place on roughly the same range land, with many of the same characters. The stories are as follows:
A range war is at a momentary standoff between Ben Morgan and Clay Mundy, when MacGregor, a man on the run from the law, stops in to hide at Clay Mundy’s spread. He stays on as a hand and starts finding out that fishy things are happening between enemies Clay Mundy and Ben Morgan’s daughterr–and he feels it necessary to intervene.
Once Upon A Time
Emil James, the main character of this story, takes a young tenderfoot (John Sayles) on a journey across the Malibu Flat and through the mountains, to reach the N 8 ranch. Emil tells the history of the land—the stories of the conquistadors to the young man–meanwhile several key bits of information for later stories in the book are exposed.
The Spring Drive
John Sayles is now a full-fledged cowboy on the N 8 spread. One day an old family friend and ex-cowboy drops by to take John back east so he will stop “wasting” his life on the range when he could be getting rich. What follows are some lively and interesting debates between the two about the character, habits, work ethic, and prospects of the range man vs. the “business” man— which lead to an interesting discovery of his friend’s past, which in turn, is put to the test in a life-or-death test of moral courage.
Meanwhile a cowboy’s humorous and wise ways of dealing with unpractical and slightly corrupted government officials like tax collectors, inspectors and such is portrayed as Steve comes head to head with various officials and try to make their points about freedom and reasonableness.
The Fool’s Heart
This story’s name fits perfectly. A man’s character is put to the test when a perfect opportunity arises for him to “bump off” a man and take his fortune with no consequences or chance of discovery. Cleverly woven, this tale is one of the best in the book and has a predictable, yet masterful ending.
I love stories that end with a short, meaningful last sentence.
This is a tale of Crooknose, an unlikely looking character, who, under his rough exterior is a man of honor who fights injustice, defends the innocent and sets wrongs right wherever he comes across them. An observant man with a hatred of those who take advantage of folks, he ends up in quite a few scrapes in all manner of places– from a gambling hall to a brothel.
A crooked scheme by the main stockholders of a mine is taking place in the town where Dick Rainboldt lives. This story introduces the bad men of the scheme, Dick Rainboldt, and the girl he loves; Judith Elliot. It is practically a “part one” of the next story: The Bells of San Clemens.
The Bells Of San Clemens
This story tells of the big crooked mine scheme and how Dick Rainboldt started out to solve the mystery and get proof against the thieves. Using cleverness he tackles the job in a difficult and surprising way…
Over On The Malibu
A railroad is coming through, and with it come the main characters in a finale as the loose ends get wrapped up, and we bid farewell to the folks in the lovely valley and mountains.
Although West Is West is a fun book, the stories and characters are slightly hard to keep up with, which can make it difficult to read.
It is not an exceptional book in that sense, but for any Gene Rhodes fan (like myself) it is a treasure and well worth adding to your collection. It has one black and white illustration by Harvey Dunn, which is is poorly done, and it does not match the story, as the girl in it not only looks terrible, but also doesn’t even have the slightest resemblance to a western girl or any of the characters in the story. She would look more at home in ancient Greece or Rome. The cowboy in the illustration looks alright, but in general it is poor art. There is a lovely little cactus silhouette on the spine!
Below are a few excerpts of dialogue from the book to whet your appetite and give you a taste of his writing style:
On a cowboy’s work ethic…
“That is exactly the point. These fellows [cowboys] sacrifice everything else so that they can go their own way just as they please and keep their so-called ‘independence’–with no provision for the future. They will not accept orders—.”
“I have been here two months and I have not heard an order given yet,” said John Sayles dryly. “Every man knows what to do and when to do it. He does it without orders. And every man-jack of them tries to do it first! Is that a fault? Why, if you had men who would do that, you would hold them invaluable. And Independence? Since when has that been a crime? Isn’t self-respect — even exaggerated self-respect — better than the cringing obsequiousness of our tip-takers?
On keeping the law…
“You’ll get yourself in trouble, Steve,” warned the inspector. You don’t want to defy the law. A good citizen ought to uphold it.”
“Don,” said Steve, more seriously, “a man that keeps a foolish law is only a fool—but a man who doesn’t break a wicked law is a knave and coward, or both, and a fool besides.”
A humorous meeting of a girl and a cowboy meeting out in the middle of nowhere…
“And you’ve had an accident ? Not hurt I hope?” he held out the canteen, first unscrewing the top.
“Thank you. No, I’m not hurt a bit. Except my feelings. They’re ruined. If you’ll excuse me, I’ll drink first and tell you afterward. Dear me, what a jerky conversation!”
That’s because I’m afraid– my part of it,” said Dick gravely. “Not of you, you know. Of girls.” He waved a hand to explain. “Any girls. All girls. I suppose you’re afraid of men. Girls are.”
“Not!” supplemented the girl, and wrinkled her nose at him. Then: “Oh, my soul!” she sighed. “What would poor, dear mamma say if she knew I’d make a face at a perfect stranger?”
“Me, too,” echoed Dick, mournfully sympathetic. “I’ve never behaved this way before. I don’t know what is getting to be the matter with me—unless, as Topsy said, it’s my wicked heart. But my perfection was not shocked when you made the face. It was very effective. Not the nose so much– the dimples.”
“Upon my word!” said the young lady.
“Why don’t you drink? You must be thirsty/”
“Look the other way, then. I haven’t learned to drink from a canteen yet—not gracefully.”
Dick looked the other way. “Why, drinking from a canteen is easy,” he said. “The first rule is, you mustn’t laugh–.”
The girl laughed promptly, with disastrous results. There was a sound of spluttering and gurgling and of splashing water. “There! See what you’ve done! You made me choke myself—you made me spill it!”
“I didn’t want to do it.” observed Dick, with a decidedly musical effect.
The young lady shot a suspicious glance at him, and frowned slightly; but the young man’s eyes were fixed on a distant hill with a gaze so innocent, so guileless, and so unswerving straightforward that she broke out into dimples again.
“That wasn’t a song, however it sounded,” she remarked. “Now you keep still till I drink.”
(for the 21st century folks who don’t know, the last couple of sentences are making reference to the 1913 hit song by Al Jolson “You Made Me Love You” that was wildly popular at the time)
Gene Rhodes had an excellent way of capturing his way of life on the range for us all with such realistic characters and dialogue that can never be equaled for authenticity by most other western writers. He also had a strong code of honor and firmly held principles that always show up in his stories—sometimes obviously in the print, and at other times hidden under the surface and not directly visible. He was not a man to change those deeply held principles for a story, as was evidenced when he turned down a handsome offer as a scriptwriter in Hollywood because he wouldn’t write a scene the Script Department insisted upon.¹
His love for the land and culture of the south-west, and the personality of the people permeates his writing. If any man had a first hand knowledge of the territory and land, it was Gene Rhodes. When he writes about the land out west, it is as if you were writing about your own backyard. He knew every mountain, every waterhole, every hidden valley, every town . . .and by reading his works you can feel in his descriptions that he has touched the mesa, tasted the dust, and been down the adobe streets of the town and knows them with the same familiarity that you have for your house and garage.
The realistic-ness of Rhodes books are unequaled in western fiction to my knowledge, and a real store of wealth to be treasured and savored.
¹ Cleavland, Agnes Morley, No Life For A Lady University Of Nebraska Press ©1977
I just discovered these lovely book tins filled with tea and sure to please any readers who like sipping a steaming cup o’ tea while pursuing their favorite book. Paired with a vintage book, this tin would make an exceptional gift! The tins are made by NovelTeas and come in three charming variations each with it’s own unique blend of tea:
Aside from making lovely pieces of decor they are a very beautiful and practical way to store tea (three more designs are being introduced via Kickstarter on July 5th!).
One thing that is sure to impress vintage book collectors is the detailed, and high quality artwork. It captures the “antique book atmosphere” that so many of the vintage-inspired products of today never achieve.
So, if you are looking for a classic gift for a reader in your life hop on over to NovelTeas and look over their selections! These tins are added onto my personal curated gift idea list for bibliophiles, and would make an excellent gift this Christmas.
After mailing out a box loaded with books to one very happy customer last week, this lovely quote came to mind. With every box-full I mail out, I grow delighted to think of the joy the opening of the package will bring to the book lover, and of the small hand I have in helping build my customers personal libraries. It makes me wonderfully excited. And if the box is full of glorious antiques with years of history buried in their past, it’s even better.
As I stated earlier this month summer reading is important. Now, I’m an avid summer reader. I’m an avid reader in the the fall, winter, and spring too. But regardless of the season, books pile up on my dresser waiting for me to read them. Inspired by author Elizabeth Foley, I decide to pull some out of the stacks to make an official list of the volumes I want to read before fall. Here are the dozen I selected:
- Flying U Ranch by B. M. Bower
- I Love You, Ronnie-The Letters of Ronald Reagan to Nancy Reagan
- David Harum by E. N. Westcott
- Wild Man Of The West by R. M. Ballantyne
- American Women and World War II by Doris Weatherford
- American Guerrilla in The Philippines by Ira Wolfert
- 1776 by David McCullough
- The Banditti of The Plains by Mercer
- The Great American Broadcast by Leonard Maltin
- West Is West by Eugene Manlove Rhodes
- The Whoop-Up Trail by B.M. Bower
- A Treasury of Great Mysteries Vol. 2 by Various Mystery Writers
My list is a 50/50 split between fiction and easy reading non-fiction. This list is not exhaustive, and doesn’t contain all my deep study books and theology volumes I’m working through. It is nice to have an official list to start with, many of these books are stunning vintage pieces that I’m debating on weather to keep for my shelves, or to be generous with and make them available to you all in the shop.
In particular I’m excited about reading The Great American Broadcast, it’s a book all about the history of old time radio, one of my favorite subjects. I’m looking forward to learning more of the history, shows, writers, ideas, and people that made up one of the most popular pastimes for several decades, and ultimately studying how they affected culture (then and now) and the entertainment industry!
Do you have a planned summer reading list? Have you read any of the titles above? I’d love to hear about it!
Wolfville: This book from the 1800’s is not only 119 years old, but is also illustrated by THE Frederick Remington! Quite a piece for anyone’s collection.
Paul Revere: This Little Golden Book uses original artwork from Walt Disney’s studios of 1957!
The Code of The Karstens: An antique novel from the 20’s…
Drop by and take a look!
Synopsis: Ted and Buck are a couple of “clean cut, manly boys” who agree to go on a month long camping trip with 18 younger boys. Stepping up to their responsibilities manfully they come across some mysterious doings that calls out their resourcefulness. Camping in the middle of nowhere, on a historic piece of land where a group of Patriot guerrilla fighters once met clandestinely during the Revolutionary War. They come across many unusual occurrences and become the victims of some “haunted” tricks by an unknown antagonist. Then the tricks become more than play and start to become dangerous…and if that weren’t enough, one of the boys in their group is becoming hard to handle…
This little-known book was written by Campwell Wyckoff (1903-1953), author of the Mercer Boys series. It is a children’s mystery story probably aimed at the age range of 10-15 year-olds, though younger boys may enjoy it just as much. It follows the tradition of the Hardy Boys series and the countless others of the time: a simple clean mystery, with manly boys who shoulder responsibility, take risks, and whose ingenuity and braveness pulls them out of many a scrape.
Title: In The Camp Of The Black Riders
Publisher: The Saalfield Publishing Company
Original Publication Year: 1931
It’s a fun, lighthearted story that would make a nice gift to your little man (and help him start a fine antique library), a easy-to-read story to pull out on his sick days, or a great book for summer reading in the tree-house.
It’s Currently Available in the Shop! In The Camp of The Black Rider
Earlier this week I wrote about the dearth of, and the importance of, summer reading. Here are a few vintage books available in the shop to help you start building your list for this summer.
Brave Men by Ernie Pyle. This is one of the best books out there if you want to understand what it was truly like on the front during WWII. Far from being dry, this book is fascinating to read and a true gem to add to any library. Read more about it on Goodreads if you’re not convinced! No one captured the feel as well as Ernie, reading his books is about as close as you can ever get to experiencing war during the 1940’s for yourself. If you’ve already read this one, be sure to check out his book Here Is Your War; another grand piece of writing and realistic look into WWII.
Available for purchase here: Brave Men
The Poisoned Pen by Arthur Reeve. This is one in of a series of detective stories that are little known today, except by a very few mystery lovers whose sleuthing uncovered them. According to Goodreads:
“The second collection of 12 of the early Craig Kennedy mysteries, written by Arthur Benjamin Reeve and published in 1912. He was a prolific writer of “scientific mysteries.” His Craig Kennedy stories, of which these are early examples, earned their main character the nickname “the American Sherlock Holmes,” both for his highly rational and analytical detective work as well as for his ever-present Dr. Watson-like companion Walter Jameson.”
Step outside of the norm, and add to your detective knowledge by pursuing “the American Sherlock Holmes”!
In the shop: The Poisoned Pen
In The Shop: Ivanhoe
There are many great books out there, and many others in my shop I don’t have time to detail here. Browse around for yourself and you’re sure to uncover many more treasures!
Every season has it’s own unique opportunities. One that has been a part of summer, vacation, and travel, which has almost been forgotten by much of American culture is reading.
Once upon a time folks always traveled with a book.
Once upon a time men and women took pride in being well-read and able to converse on any subject; having an understanding and and a pleasure in books that has not been tasted by many in our current culture/generation.
But that need not be so. Anyone can pick up a book and change that. If you want to be well educated and go somewhere with your life reading extensively is a ticket to get you there. However most Americans don’t avail themselves of the opportunity.
“Only 30 percent of Americans ever read a book cover to cover following high school graduation. That is a phenomenal statistic. It’s devastating to folks who write books, and it’s a sad commentary on our education system. But what it means is that very few people are willing to stoke any kind of inner boiler at all. A friend of mine pointed out that to be successful you don’t need to be that much better than everyone else is, because everyone else is so mediocre: If you begin by reading just one book per year you’ll be in the top 25 percent of our culture by this measure. If you begin by reading a book per month, a much higher group.”¹
For myself I have a much higher goal than to just be “better than the mediocre”, I want to be great. One reason that many of us, including myself, have not read as much as we desire to, is not because of a lack of passions and interests, but rather a lack of time. I thought I was too busy to read much. Then I found out about the reading habits of Theodore Roosevelt; the man who lead an active and passionate life to the fullest. And all my reasons and excuses melted into nothing.
“By any measure Theodore Roosevelt was a remarkable man. Before his fiftieth birthday he had served as a New York state legislator, the under secretary of the Navy, police commissioner for the city of New York, US civil service commissioner, the governor of the state of New York, the vice president under McKinley, a colonel in the US Army, and two terms as president of the US.
In addition he had run a cattle ranch in the Dakota Territories, served as a reporter and editor for several journals, newspapers and magazines, and conducted scientific expeditions on four continents. He read at least five books every week of his life and wrote nearly fifty on an astonishing array of subjects–from history and biography to natural science and social criticism.
He enjoyed hunting, boxing, and wrestling. He was an amateur taxidermist, botanist, ornithologist, and astronomer. He was a devoted family man who lovingly raised 6 children. And he enjoyed a lifelong romance with his wife.”²
That inspires me. Isn’t it incredible? Every time I read about his life it always makes me resolve to find ways to use my time better, for after all we only have one life to live.
This summer, why not purpose to procure a stack of books, stick one in your travel bag, and fill your mind with something new. Make books a part of your EDC (Every Day Carry). Read them at home. Take them on your adventures.
The world is filled with stagnant minds, and with culture changing men and women who are going places. Who are you going to be?
¹Salatin, Joel, You Can Farm Polyface Inc. ©1998
²Grant, George, Carry A Big Stick Cumberland House Publishing Inc. ©1996