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Warlock
 
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Oakley Hall
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Warlock (Legends West #1)

4.3 of 5 stars 4.30  ·  rating details  ·  965 ratings  ·  143 reviews
Oakley Hall's legendary Warlock revisits and reworks the traditional conventions of the Western to present a raw, funny, hypnotic, ultimately devastating picture of American unreality. First published in the 1950s, at the height of the McCarthy era, Warlock is not only one of the most original and entertaining of modern American novels but a lasting contribution to America ...more
Mass Market Paperback, 464 pages
Published January 1st 1988 by Random House Publishing Group (first published 1958)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Madeleine
The venerable Thomas Pynchon wrote a laudatory back-cover blurb for Warlock, a book that he indirectly directed me to via his introduction to Richard Fariña's Been Down So Long it Looks Like Up to Me, wherein he details its prominent role in the pair's Cornell days and how their own whole sick crew adopted the vernacular of the beleaguered characters making their ways through this novel. I'm not even going to pretend like I have any business treading terrain already traversed and thoroughly owne ...more
David
Feeling barfy and delirious this past weekend finally gave me the necessary downtime to finish this book—which isn't meant to imply that Warlock is a chore to read, but only that I had developed a sudden distaste for reading itself and preferred to while away my hours watching bad television with my hand down my pants. (By the way, from the mouthbreathing vantage of my sofa, all of you nerds mooning over Bolaño and Pynchon look like Urkel.) Anyway, even though this western novel has a lot of ins ...more
Drew
If you haven't already read Pynchon's encyclopedic blurb above, let me direct your attention to it right now.

Done? Well, let me assure you that every bold claim Pynchon makes about this book is true. And the beauty of it is that Warlock may be a novel of ideas, as he argues, but it is not primarily that. It's primarily a thinking man's Western, a history of authority, a gritty tale of revenge and strife. If that sounds roughly the same, there's a good reason for that: that all of the preaching o
...more
Brian
Jan 02, 2014 Brian rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Brian by: Thomas Pynchon

Is not the history of the world no more than a record of violence and death cut in stone?

There's a lot to love in Warlock for fans of American westward expansion, gritty Manifest Destiny narratives with well-drawn morally ambiguous characters. At every turn in the story Hall reminds the reader that frontier life was forever covered in blood and dust, and when humanity works hard to create a hero out of a human, the best that can happen is that person will fail miserably. Hall writes the story sh
...more
tim
Nov 24, 2009 tim rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to tim by: Jonathan Davis
Maybe I wasn't entirely in the mood for an existential moral western, or maybe I just don't know enough about frontier history and ensuing mythologies to completely appreciate the subtleties of reference and jumping-off framework for the larger themes at play here, but nonetheless, this is a damn fine book.

The plot is as convoluted and unguessable as good vintage noir. And almost every character is constantly shown from conflicting sides, like a Janus coin flipping in the hot, dry, dusty desert
...more
Zach
An existential western, I suppose? A story of humanity forcing some meaning into (or out of) their lives, contending all the while with the madness of crowds, political reputations, and expectations both internal and external. I can't really think of a way to explain it without sounding kind of hokey, but it doesn't come across that way in the book at all.

But anyway, it IS a western, and so you have the outlaws, and the new marshal and his friend the saloon owner, and the concerned townfolk, and
...more
Jim
I’ve wanted to read this book since I spied Thomas Pynchon’s endorsement in his introduction to Richard Farina’s Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me, in which he reveals that he and Farina were fond of aping the book’s peculiar dialect. “We set about getting others to read it too, and for a while had a micro-cult going," he writes. "Soon a number of us were talking in Warlock dialogue, a kind of thoughtful, stylized, Victorian Wild West diction.” Pynchon’s influences are encyclopaedic but t ...more
Ben Loory
every now and then while i was reading this, i'd stop and close it and sort of look at it in my hands, first front cover, then back, then top and bottom, then side and spine, trying to figure out how so many people, places, and events could be held inside it. this book is like a world. a really small world, in that it all takes place within one tiny western frontier town, but by the time it ends it's like you know every inch of the place and every corner of every townsperson's soul and understan ...more
Jim
Nicely written but a bit drawn out; I think the book could have been 50 pages shorter and possibly been more effective. I wouldn't give Mr Hall full points for originality, however - his gunfight at the Acme corral is practically a carbon copy of the OK Corral shootout, right down to what were reported to be direct quotes from the principals involved in the latter gunfight. The Rattlesnake Canyon massacres were obviously derived from the historical Skeleton Canyon and Guadalupe Canyon massacres. ...more
Patrick
An excellent existential, noir western. The only familiarity I had with Oakley Hall was through Thomas Pynchon, who has raved about Warlock at various points. I, like many others, picked it up because of Pynchon's mentions. It was published in 1958 and apparently at that time, the literary agent Candida Donadio (Pynchon, Heller, Robert Stone) was pushing it on her friends and clients.

It is sort of an alternate take on the gunfight at the OK Corral mythology. I guess it could also be thought of a
...more
Carl Brush
I don’t know what took me so long to get around to this (probably) best-known of Oakley Hall’s works. Maybe the title put me off because I thought I might be getting into an Ann Rice world of vampires. Not a worry. Writer Working readers know my admiration for Hall (see my obit piece, May 5, 2008), and Warlock has only increased the admiration.

The premise is pretty simple--there’s a gunfight more or less modeled on the Tombstone Arizona event involving Wyatt Earp. But Hall is not writing a simpl
...more
Ryan Chapman
Jul 15, 2008 Ryan Chapman rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: McCarthy Fans
I am hesitant to give this novel four stars, as it might warrant five upon a reread. For a plot-heavy book such as this one, I've learned to be a little reticent in doling out hyperbolic praise so soon after finishing it. Certainly, this should be read in tandem to Cormac McCarthy's (anti-)western novels, which I do give that perfect rating to.

But about the book. I'd heard about it from Richard Farina and Thomas Pynchon, who both championed Hall's work as a masterpiece of 20th century fiction. T
...more
Scott
Having grown up in a small Western town not very far geographically, culturally, or psychologically from Tombstone, I was struck by how close this Western felt to my lived experience, compared to other novels of the West.

What Oakley gets right is that the space of a Western is built around a community, not around lone individuals having solitary showdowns against a backdrop of stables, sunsets and desert plains. Hall shows that the myth of the heroic lone gunman is built by community perceptions
...more
Jim
I did not know what to expect when I picked up Warlock by Oakley Hall. Suffice it to say that here was an incredibly told tale of the Old West, its gunmen, cowboys, miners, lawmen, whores, even the U.S. Cavalry and, farther off, the Indians. Instead of paying lip service to the legend of the West, Hall sees the endless violence as leading to a kind of speeded-up karma working itself out, leading to both madness, glory, and dissolution.

As storekeeper Henry Holmes Goodpasture writes among the diar
...more
Laura
Amazing. Fun and tragic and agonizing and hilarious. I have never enjoyed so thoroughly a book in which so many people are killed. The characters are simultaneously archetypes and originals; they're just the kind of people you'd expect to populate a town like Warlock, but then you begin to see through them and it's a bit sickening to know them too well. At the same time, they have convictions and reactions that I believe in but don't always understand, but my lack of understanding makes me appre ...more
Joe
Warlock left me with both a profound sense of literary satisfaction, and a less definable, more visceral sense of extreme unease. What, exactly, happened here? To these people, to this place, to the idea and ideals they were all striving for and living up to? What does it mean, that anybody can change so much, and yet nobody really changes at all? There is a feeling, upon closing this book, that the story of this one wild, small town has devastating ramifications for all of us, though I am not s ...more
M.L. Rudolph
1958. The 1881 shootout at the OK Corral.

I once lived in Arizona. I visited Tombstone and walked those mythic steps made memorable thanks to TV, movies, the generally accepted version of the settlement of the Wild West. Wyatt Earp. The tubercular Doc. The Clanton Gang.

As always, the physical reality of Tombstone and the Corral was a million times smaller than the version modeled on my imagination. Like Mount Rushmore: a miniature compared to what you expect.

Oakley Hall takes that mythic wester
...more
Steve
Oakley Hall died this past Monday. A friend turned me on to his "Warlock" last year, a very good read. If you are even remotely a fan of HBO's "Deadwood", you'll love this book. Here's an article from the S.F. Chronicle about Hall's life:
__________________________________________
Oakley Hall, a prolific author and influential writing teacher best known for the novels "The Downhill Racers" and "Warlock" - and as a founder of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers - died Monday night in Nevada City.
...more
James
Jun 20, 2008 James rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to James by: Joel Jacobsen
Yes, there is a book (actually there have been several over the years) that I do not like. In this case, Warlock by Oakley Hall, is a book that I found uninteresting and repetitive in spite of being otherwise well written. Amazingly, it was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 1958 when it was originally published. I say amazingly although I have never been able to determine the basis for the Pulitzer judges' selections and I've found the winners (those that I have read) uneven in quality and re ...more
Alex
An interesting portrait of the Wild West, this book places classic Tombstone-esque drama in a wider context of order, chaos, violence, and justice. Ostensibly composed in three major plot arcs, it starts off like any other Western, and gradually reveals more and more of a burgeoning American ethos of blood and fire. By the end, I realized I was reading a piece of high-end moral drama, and the trappings of the genre had fallen almost entirely by the way-side. Yee-haw.
BeerDiablo
Unfortunately, reading this book well over 30 years past its publishing has dated it severely. Perhaps this is in part due to it influencing writers that would far outstrip this book on all facets.

Slow moving, weak prose best read by intellectual wanna-be's with too much time on their hands.
Charles
A complicated turn on the simplest genre - the western. There are seven principal characters and perhaps twice that many secondary ones. Channeling the ghosts of the OK corral this retelling churns and chops the myths of the west in a bravura outing

Clay Baisedell is hired by a territorial city to insure peace for a cow town and mining city. Events quickly lead to a shoot out where three die.

It is about here the book become different and fascinating. Reaction to events is interpreted differen
...more
Chris
This and more at my blog.

“Moral Ambiguity” often gets thrown around as a plus in great novels, especially in the modern climate (or reflecting on the height of the McCarthy era when Oakley Hall wrote this book). The “good guys” have dark secrets, the “bad guys” love their moms, and probably have from some good reasons for being bad besides. Maybe there’s no good or bad guys at all. Warlock does not go this route. It does not take the heroic gunman of western lore and make him a pedophile or smug
...more
Laura Leaney
This novel is masterful. I am left stunned at the epic that is the small frontier town of Warlock. And like all very good books, I feel that I need to re-read it in order to understand its depth. Thomas Pynchon wrote that "it is the deep sensitivity to abysses that makes 'Warlock' one of our best American novels," and I do agree. The reader is privy to the hearts and minds of a number of characters (dim-minded miners, a violent cripple, saloon-owners, a dry-goods merchant, an agonized deputy, a ...more
Micha
“… in this rough-and-tumble corner of creation, such things will happen, and are usually considered no more than too bad.” A man has been shot in cold-blood by a six-shooter-wielding cowboy. Welcome to the frontier town (“which term I understand is a romantic one to those not there residing”) of Warlock, imagined by Oakley Hall in his novel by the same name, a Western that is also literature. What makes it literature? Well aware of the conventions of the “rough-and-tumble” West (established in T ...more
Alex Morfesis
Oakley Hall deserves a place among the classic American authors for his exploration of the Western archetypes. The characters in Warlock become increasingly aware of the roles they are playing: gunfighter and citizen, rustler and deputy, miner and proprietor, doctor and rabble-rouser, nurse and whore. However, this awareness does not bring any freedom from the constraints of the roles; paradoxically, the realization of their role in some conflict leads the characters to limit their choices and a ...more
Eric
I have never been very interested in Westerns. I picked this one up from the library on a whim.

It is a historical fiction, based loosely on the town of Tombstone and the legend of Wyatt Earp. At the beginning of the book, the parallels are obvious. The famous gunfighter is hired to keep the peace in a town where the law means nothing. His gambler best friend comes along. Rowdy rustlers are the adversary. Etc.

The novel quickly deviates from the historical basis and cuts its own trail. The main ch
...more
Cody
Fiction has no right to philosophize. If a book can't entertain beyond its subversion of conventions and demythologization of the American Western, it has no reason to be read. Whatsoever. Playing with genre and a country's view/history of itself was the standard of the day. When you opened a novel, it was a near expectation. The man did NOTHING progressive in that regard, merely proved he and his readers were well read.

The tone of the novel is arrogant, the pacing slow, and the rhythm miserably
...more
Max Nemtsov
чудесное околопинчоновское чтение. недаром у ТРП и Фариньи было общество поклонников этого романа (состоявшее из них двоих). кружная сага о диком западе с отсутствующим центром - понятно, что, видимо, по "Колдуну" ТРП научился изымать главного героя так, чтобы в повествовании оставался экзоскелет, а содержанием и значением текст набивал сам читатель (ну потому что это в любом случае его работа). крайне рекомендуется тж к переводу, только фиг кто его станет тут издавать - кому, в самом деле, нужн ...more
Ryan
maybe the best novel of the Western era I've ever read, aside from Little Big Man (which I now intend to re-read). similar in ways to Dune with the political machinations and the "plans within plans within plans;" similiar to the movie Rashoman in that you get conflicting viewpoints of the same event and are often left to sort it out for yourself based on your opinions of the characters. As such, a very involving and almost interactive book. I'm already thinking about re-reading this one when I ...more
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NYRB Classics: Warlock, by Oakley Hall 1 9 Oct 30, 2013 10:04PM  
Connections 1 18 Feb 26, 2010 03:09PM  
  • Butcher's Crossing
  • Sheppard Lee, Written by Himself
  • The Book of Ebenezer Le Page
  • Hard Rain Falling
  • Novels in Three Lines
  • On the Yard
  • Nightmare Alley
  • The Pilgrim Hawk
  • Selected Stories
  • A Meaningful Life
  • The Letter Killers Club
  • Been Down So Long it Looks Like Up to Me
  • Chaos and Night
  • Moravagine
  • Store of the Worlds: The Stories of Robert Sheckley
  • Blood on the Forge
  • The Judges of the Secret Court
  • We Think the World of You
Oakley Hall also wrote under the nom de plume of O.M. Hall and Jason Manor.

Oakley Maxwell Hall was an American novelist. He was born in San Diego, California, graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, and served in the Marines during World War II. Some of his mysteries were published under the pen names "O.M. Hall" and "Jason Manor." Hall received his Master of Fine Arts in English fr
...more
More about Oakley Hall...
The Art and Craft of Novel Writing Love and War in California Ambrose Bierce and the Queen of Spades (Ambrose Bierce, #1) How Fiction Works: The Last Word on Writing Fiction, from Basics to the Fine Points Ambrose Bierce and the Death of Kings (Ambrose Bierce, #2)

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“Any man who has got himself set over others and don't have any responsibility to something bigger than him is a son of a bitch.” 8 likes
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