Talked to novelist Leif Enger today for an upcoming Q and A, and though he denies it, I am starting to believe he's keeping the rousing tradition of the American western alive and well. His new book, So Brave, Young, and Handsome, continues the tradition of the western with style to spare. It's narrated by a Midwestern writer who joins a retired outlaw in his quest for the wife he abandoned decades ago. It's got cowboys, posses, shootouts, chases, flights, reunions, one really big flood, pretty much everything you might ask for. It's got short, fast-paced dialogue-driven chapters for good reason: "A lot of those books I remember reading had really short chapters," Enger says. "So they had this galloping rhythm that works well for creating and maintaining momentum. I thought something like that would be fun to do - and to read."
And he's right. Enger, who wrote Peace Like a River, which is one of my favorite books, says he grew up reading Louis L'Amour and Zane Grey, and later learned to love Larry McMurtry (Lonesome Dove = genius) and Charles Portis (True Grit, another classic). I've never really been a western fan (despite my love for the remake of 3:10 to Yuma, which I swear is not solely due to Russell Crowe's presence), but So Brave is just one of those books you can't help but love.
Enger will be at Books & Books on Wednesday, June 4.