Monday, February 22, 2010

The Outlaw Josey Wales by Forrest Carter (The Classic Film Collection)

I'm a big proponent of judging an author by his work. Whatever ideals author Forrest Carter espoused during his life, or whatever deceptions he perpetrated, you simply can't deny the power of his storytelling. A perfect example is The Outlaw Josey Wales, which was made filmed by Clint Eastwood in 1976 and has now been reprinted by Leisure Books as part of their acclaimed "Classic Film Collection."

The Outlaw Josey Wales (originally published as The Rebel Outlaw: Josey Wales and then changed to Gone to Texas for a reprinting) is a sneaky kind of "sleeper" novel. At first it didn't seem to be affecting me, but before I knew it, it was over, and I was eager to revisit the characters. (The sequel carries the title The Vengeance Trail of Josey Wales, and it's available bound with this novel as Gone to Texas.)

Carter ensures that we sympathize with this feared outlaw (he seems to be notorious wherever he goes) by giving us some history. Josey Wales was a farmer and family man. But when he found his cabin and family burned black by red-leg raiders, he became one of the Missouri guerillas known as "Quantrill's Raiders" (another fictional Quantrill rider was Rooster Cogburn). Carter shows Wales's other aspects subtly in how he deals with other people: the young boy Jamie Burns; Lone, the Indian who becomes his "brother"; and the two women he saves from Comancheros and who ride with them.

The Outlaw Josey Wales is not the typical kind of action-packed Western, though plenty happens. It's more a portrait of a man not easily understood. It is one of those novels that reveal more on subsequent readings, a modern classic, and I hope this reprinting gives it the audience it deserves.


KentAllard said...

As a small boy, I Briefly met Asa Carter. Not much to admire as a person, but I remember Gone to Texas as a very good book.

Craig Clarke said...

Have you read the sequel? How does it stand up?

KentAllard said...

I haven't read the sequel. But I'm thinking of ordering the omnibus edition and reading them back-to-back.

Craig Clarke said...

That sounds like a great idea.

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