The wife is, as I've often mentioned, a really good book finder. She passed on The Giant Book of The Western to me to read, and boy, did I enjoy it! It's a collection of twenty-seven short stories written by many of the names I recall seeing as a boy in the cheap reading editions often seen on newspaper stands at railway stations and newsagent shops. These writers cut their teeth selling stories to the American pulp magazines that proliferated from the 1920s through to the 1960s. They only sold their stories if people bought the magazines, so they had to work fast and learn to do what they did well - if they wanted to make a living that is! A huge number of the most illustrious names in twentieth century American literature seem to have started their careers this way. It's a fact that if you want to improve at any craft the secret is doing (no secret).
It goes without saying that I liked some of the stories more than others. My wife had put a tick by her favourites and it was fun seeing where our tastes coincided. We weren't unanimous by any means in the stories each of us liked the best - although we were in agreement about fifty percent of the time. I particularly liked the way Jon E Lewis, who edited this anthology, introduces each story with a brief biography of its author. I sincerely hope to meet a great many of these again. Here is my personal list of favourites:
On the Divide by Willa Cather
All Gold Canyon by Jack London
The Last Thunder Song by John G Neihardt
Wine on the Desert by Max Brand
At the Sign of the Last Chance by Owen Wister
Great Medicine by Steve Frazee
The Tall T by Elmore Leonard
Blood on the Sun by Thomas Thompson
Soldier Blue by T V Olsen (an excerpt from his novel Arrow in the Sun)
Beecher Island by Wayne D Overholser
Desert Command by Elmer Kelton (an excerpt from his novel The Wolf and the Buffalo)
The Bandit by Loren D Estleman
I liked all the stories, the ones I've listed above in all probability simply appealed or spoke most at the time of reading to either my mood or taste. lf I had to pick one story out of the entire collection, I'd name On the Divide by Willa Cather. It stood out for me as one of the best short stories I think I've ever read. I shall definitely be looking out for her Western novels O Pioneers! (1913), My Antonia (1918), The Lost Lady (1925), and her collected short stories Obscure Destinies (1932).
This is a lovely collection and I can highly recommend it.