Friday, August 24, 2012

Read Alike: The Wettest County in the World

Shia LaBeouf's new movie, Lawless, is scheduled for release next week. The story tells of three brothers who make their living in the violent world of Prohibition era bootlegging. The plot is based on the Depression era ancestors of author Matt Bondurant. Mr. Bondurant used their story in his suspenseful 2008 novel, The Wettest County in the World.

When you add in the recent excitement around Western inspired novels, many of which have been adapted to the big screen in recent years, you wind up with today's list of reading suggestions.

For more on the Prohibition and the rise of organized crime during the Depression, check out Boardwalk Empire: the birth, high times, and corruption of Atlantic City by Nelson Johnson (974.985 JOH). This nonfiction title about the rise of Atlantic City and the powerful men behind the city served as the basis for the HBO drama of the same name.

No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy
Mr. McCarthy is not a cheerful author. His menacing novels delve into the dark sides of humanity and our propensities for violence. He's known for setting his stories in the Southwest, whether in the lawless past, or the lawless future. No Country for Old Men is the story of Llewelyn Moss, who gets himself caught up in the violence of drug trafficking in the '80s. The 2007 film adaptation starring Tommy Lee Jones and Josh Brolin received the Academy Award for Best Picture.

True Grit by Charles Portis
In his career, Mr. Portis has been both a journalist and a novelist. In fact his second novel, True Grit, was originally serialized in The Saturday Evening Post. This engaging, suspenseful novel takes its cues from the Western genre, but creates something unique. A dialog-rich story told from the perspective of 14 year-old Mattie Ross, and her quest for revenge on the man who killed her father and the not quite upstanding men who join her in her quest. This novel has seen multiple film adaptations, from the 1969 version with John Wayne to the 2010 version, which also stars Josh Brolin.

Doc by Mary Doria Russell
Ms. Russell's most recent novel is, like her earlier works, richly detailed and character-driven, as she plays with genre conventions. Ms. Russell is known for experimenting with genre, often combining science fiction elements with historical settings. Doc is the story of the infamous Doc Holliday and how he came to meet up with Wyatt Earp in Dodge City, Kansas, though not the infamous shootout at the OK Corral. While there is no movie adaption for this title yet, rumor has it there might be an HBO series in the works.

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt
Mr. deWitt's second novel, The Sisters Brothers, has garnered quite a bit of positive attention, including winning The Morning News' 2012 Tournament of Books. It's a gritty and darkly comic novel of the California Gold Rush. Eli and Charlie Sisters, brothers and hired guns of fearsome reputation, are on a mission to kill Hermann Kermit Warm. Eli, the narrator, begins to question their violent life. While there is no movie yet, John C. Reilly's production company has purchased the film rights.

Readers who enjoy stories about living on the wrong side of the law in a lawless land should also check out Joyce Saricks' recent Booklist column on books with a Western inspiration. It's a creative field, whether you prefer something historical or fantastic, violent or less so. Which was your favorite, Deadwood or Firefly?

Please stop by the Recommendations Desk on the first floor, check out NoveList Plus on the library's website, or visit W. 11th & Bluff next week for more reading suggestions. Or submit a Personal Recommendations request, and we'll create a reading list just for you!


  1. Any ideas why these books are not only rising in popularity but also being quickly snatched up for movie/tv adaptations?

    Great list and observation.

    --RC of

  2. I'd like to think that the books are popular because they are good books! That said, there's an appeal to the freedom of the lawless past and the attraction of a not so heroic hero that makes the stresses of your daily life a little more bearable. But that's just a theory!

    As for the adaptations, there's always been a strong relationship between Hollywood and the literary world - just look at the Wizard of Oz! Why there seems to be an up-tick in adaptations recently... I can only guess there's something about built in audiences and cross marketing.