I’ve been going back and reading the classics of the western genre. The cornerstones of gunslinging pulp.
(The following contains spoilers. So if you just want my reaction, I loved it. I recommend you read it).
Shane by Jack Schaefer was first published in three parts in Argosy magazine in 1946. Pulp to the core. It came out as a novel in 1949 and has never been out of print. Literature with a capital W.
It’s a small book that takes its time. A slow burn. Told from the viewpoint of a boy, Bob Starrett, who watches this mythic rider come into town. The man on the horse stops at his farm house and asks for water for him and his horse. His name is Shane. The boy becomes infatuated with him. His father, Joe Starrett, offers the stranger a bed for the night and he ends up staying for much longer.
They spend time on the land. Shane helps Joe remove a tree stump. It takes a long time and Schaefer keeps with it. Showing each swing of the axe.
Shane doesn’t talk about his past and much speculation is made of him.
Soon that past, or knowledge of who he is, catches up to him. A man flees town upon merely setting eyes on Shane.
Bob and his parents are being run out of town by a rancher who needs their land back. They are homesteaders who staked their land on Luke Fletcher’s ranch. Land Fletcher had never claimed himself.
Shane stands up and defends his new home.
At first I wasn’t sure about the book. You’re spending time with these characters without a lot happening. But the writing won me over. There is something about the farm and the people that pulls you in. I liked spending time with Shane, and Bob, and Joe.
It rewards you for your patience with a great final act.
I would read it again. If you love westerns and haven’t read this one yet it’s well worth it.