Welcome to Hard Times
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Welcome to Hard Times

3.73 of 5 stars 3.73  ·  rating details  ·  776 ratings  ·  78 reviews
E.L. Doctorow's Welcome to Hard Times a taut, unadorned tale about the Old West was a foreshadowing of his unmatched literary style. Always displaying mastery in the historical fiction genre, he accurately depicts the desolate & often hopeless lifestyle experienced by western pioneers.
Set in the Dakota Territory, a small town that owed it's existence to a nearby minin...more
Kindle Edition, 224 pages
Published November 27th 2010 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published 1960)
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Jeffrey Keeten
“One day you stepped in snow, the next in mud, water soaked in your boots and froze them at night, it was the next worst thing to pure blizzardry, it was weather that wouldn't let you settle.”

I read several Doctorows back in the late 1980s and never really clicked with him. His writing was fine; it just didn't blow my skirt up. For years though I have thought about picking up a copy of his first book Welcome to Hard Times. I usually like first books and I'm always intrigued with westerns that h...more
I wanted a western in a noir style and I got it in spades.

Doctorow achieved in 155 pages what others spend 600 attempting; he has written a piece of literature in a popular style as an allegory for human nature whilst at the same time analysing what happened in Europe and specifically Germany in the 1930s, all the while making it an entertaining read. And this was his first novel!

Whilst this new title evokes a certain mood before you've even turned a page I think the original title of The Bad Ma...more
Doctorow's first novel is a literary western. That's right. It was shelved in Westerns at my library. In truth, it is a philosophical though action packed story set in Dakota Territory during the wild, lawless days when the West was being settled.

The writing is taut and just about perfect. You can see, hear, almost smell the town of Hard Times and the characters leap to life. The "Bad Man from Bodie" rides into town, rapes the whores, then burns down the entire town.

Blue is the default philosoph...more
kicks cormac mccarthy's ass
Coming across as a mixture of Blood Meridian and Mccabe and Mrs. Miller, this revisionist western examines and undermines the myths of the American west while emphasizing the role violence played in carving out civilization. In a strange way, I was also reminded of J.M. Coetzee's Waiting for the Barbarians; the method of narration was quite similar. Mayor Blue's record-keeping is very reminiscent of the Magistrate's journal-keeping. In both cases, there is a town on a frontier fearing the invasi...more
"Nothing is ever buried, the earth rolls over in its tracks, it never goes anywhere, it never changes, only the hope changes like morning and night, only the expectations rise and set. Why does there have to be a promise before destruction?"

This simple novel, set in the Dakota flats well before statehood, is written simply and directly and somehow contains a few sharp insights and phrases to be found echoing through all of Tragedy. To be sure, these thoughts are not original. There is no origina...more
I love Westerns and Doctorow, as expected, turns out a great one especially considering this was his first published book. Blue, a hyper responsible, self appointed mayor devotes himself to keeping town records. People naturally turn to him when a mean gunslinger hits town. He fails them, horrible things happen, lots of scared people scatter and desert the town of Hard Times. Blue takes the few remaining people under his wing including the badly burned and terrorized lady of the night and an orp...more
Adrian Stumpp
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Miguel Alcázar
[...] En Cómo todo acabó y volvió a comenzar (uno de esos raros casos en los que el título traducido es mejor que el original, en este caso un anodino Welcome to Hard Times) lo que básicamente contempla el avisado lector es la destrucción de un pueblo y el nacimiento de otro (como si estuviéramos jugando al Sim City u otro videojuego de construcción de ciudades pero con total confianza debido a la pasión historiográfica de Doctorow). Esta premisa le permite a su autor tratar un asunto clave en t...more
I never read a western quite like this. Well read and disturbing it is quite the book. It is too simple to call the hero in "Welcome to Hard Times" a coward. At times he seems like a principled pacifist, but his ideals and actions do no one he knows any good. I liked the way Doctorow explored what happens when the helpless are prayed upon by pure irrational evil. It is not a pretty sight. Although I read the story in one weekend I would not call it a quick light read. The author's most famous bo...more
I just read this book at the end of last year and was blown away. I just gave it to a friend. Love the spare writing style for emotional impact.
Jonathan Briggs
The Western has traditionally been the genre of manly men. E.L. Doctorow puts a spin on things and gives us the coward's eye view in "Welcome to Hard Times." The Bad Man from Bodie is not very welcome in Hard Times, a flyspeck town in the Dakota Territory. He's so mean, he'd shoot a man before he ever had the chance to fall asleep and start snoring. The terrified townspeople run to their sort-of mayor, Blue, asking him to do something to run the Bad Man out of their town. Blue figures attempting...more
“Bad men from Bodie weren’t ordinary scoundrels, they came with the land, and you could no more cope with them than you could with dust or hailstones.”

I don’t know why, exactly, but when I chose this novel I thought it took place in the dust-bowl era. I was wrong. Welcome to Hard Times is a narrative set in the late 1800′s in the Dakota Territory. In the outset of the novel, the mayor is relating the story of the day the man from Bodie came and terrorized his town. The name of the town is Hard...more
Stephen Gallup
I happened upon this novel in a Florida bookstore while on vacation in 1978. The back cover warned that, once I started reading it I wouldn't be able to stop. "Ha! We'll see about that!" I said to myself and proceeded to scan the first page. "I can put this down," I told myself proudly, and I walked out of the store.

Then I spent the rest of that vacation worrying about it! As soon as I got home, I found another copy and added it to my permanent collection. I also made a point of reading all Doct...more
E.L. Doctorow's debut Welcome to Hard Times is a relatively minor work compared to his later efforts. The author, mostly known for historical fiction epics, turns in an old school tale in the Western genre that doesn't aim for the grandiosity of Larry McMutry or the psychological complexity of Cormac McCarthy, electing instead to keep it simple - a single setting with four main characters. The scene is Hard Times - a small town on the Western frontier that's bound to disappear as quickly as it a...more
The action in this book is confined to a small town, Hard Times, in the Dakota territory. It lies adjacent to a silver mining community, and its amenities are largely determined by that group's needs - a saloon, complete with requisite whores, a general store, an Indian medicine man, and the main character, who functions as the town's record-keeper. The stage comes through every couple of weeks, to replenish supplies and transport mail. There is no jail or sheriff, and no need of one - life runs...more
Alison McLennan
This book takes place in a wild west boom/bust town in the Dakota Territory and is narrated in first person by the protagonist, a man named Blue. His story and back-story is only revealed to us in bits and pieces. Blue's character is formed by his actions, or more accurately his lack of action and his gnawing regret. The antagonist in this story is The Bad Man from Brodie. He is the terrifying and yet one-dimensional embodiment of pure evil. I don't usually like these types of characters. I like...more
Oct 07, 2008 Michael rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Readers tired of Victorian romances
The one thing I've learned about E.L. Doctorow is that he never, ever disappoints. He could write a novel about the different varieties of Jell-O and it would probably be a masterpiece.

Hard Times, Doctorow's first novel, is one of the most pessimistic of his career. Everything that would illuminate his later work is here, if only in rough outline: dignity, blunt sexuality, the brutalization of the American way of life, which, he points out, has been with us since we realized we were Americans. H...more
Gina Rheault
The bad man from Bodie comes in shoots everyone in town (almost), burns down the town and leaves. Most survivors up and leave, but a few stubborn survivors bravely regroup and stay on to form a new town. Only to find, on the verge of real prosperity, the bad man from Bodie comes back, shoots everyone in town (almost), burns the town down and leaves.

Reminded me of mass killings in the USA. You know, the bad kid living in a video games comes into school with a semi-automatic and shoots everyone h...more
Well. Picked it up and started reading and I would just like to note that the first dozen pages or so are... slightly less bleak than Threads, and more horrible.

(It made me think of the story that Shane Hensley tells about the first Deadlands game--or game that would become Deadlands, too. It does not have the comforting excuse of being monsters who do this.)


Continuing to read. About three-fifths of the way through. It's mellowed some, which is good; I don't think I could have handled t...more
Robert Thacker
Illuminating slice of the Old West, this tale tells the story of how people came together, how people survived, and how towns were born. A look at the eternal nature of man, always alone, yet always seeking connection.
Doctorow's first book, written over 50 years ago, left no doubt of his skill as a writer, storyteller, and master of the historical novel. The reader is at once engaged, interested, and educated.
"I felt the weight of him on my shoulders...my god he was just a man."

I loved this book because it embodies the idea of the American west and the lone desperado. The novel shows us that just like the Bad Man from Bodie seems more than he is from legends, the idea and romance of "The West" is merely an illusion. The opening chapter is a stark testament to what lawlessness and desolation really meant in the days of Westward expansion.
The characters are not heroes. The situation in which they have...more
Talk about a book I could read over and over and over again. Being introduced to this novel as a teenager is one of the many reasons I'm so grateful that my Mom is an anti-social, brainiac bookworm that has never read a Danielle Steele novel.

What other Mom would enthusiastically recommend a story about an old west town destroyed one night by a Bad Man from Bodie to be rebuilt by an assortment of prostitutes, cowardly old men, a drunk Russian, and a deaf and dumb Indian? And people still wonder...more
In the whole book, there are six women characters, four prostitute, one sociopath which is also implied to be a prostitute and one mad woman. Well.. Waiting for the next feminist class.
You could never tell that this was a debut novel.

Harsh, stark, and as evocative as the work to follow, this is a tale of hell in the Dakotas.

There are a number of books, both nonfiction and fiction, that use the catch phrase "hard times" to describe the Great Depression. This is not one of them. It harks to a time when the Dakotas were still a part of the Northwestern USA.

Check your "ick" threshold. This is not particularly cozy and won't leave you feeling warm and fuzzy at bedtime, but if you h...more
Existenciální (ne)western, který sice nedosahuje kvalit mccarthyovského formátu, ale to těžko může být bráno jako výtka, že?
Sally Grey
The writing wasn't always clear. My lack or the writer's? But it was a good read. Hard times, indeed.
Marcia Forecki
This book moves with the pace of a gold rush.
My third Doctorow book. First was The March, then Billy Bathgate and now Welcome to Hard Times. The man is one versatile writer.

The whole idea of rebuilding this small town where you know all the weirdos in the community is fun. It's a simple tale in some ways, but the Bad man from Bodie represents so much more. I believe this is similar to The March, in that it's a quirky, enjoyable story that takes the reader on a wacky ride. At the same time, there's so much underlying meaning besides the ev...more
Jennifer Innes
This is Doctorow's first published novel. I enjoyed the description and the moral discussion that is created by the characters and their thoughts and actions. In this novel, a man named Blue watches the destruction of his town during the wild days of the American West. Unable to accept failure, and full of renewed hope, Blue - with good intentions - manipulates those around him to rebuild the town; bringing in new settlers and old wood. But some things never change, and some mistakes have to be...more
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E. L. DOCTOROW’S works of fiction include Homer & Langley,The March, Billy Bathgate, Ragtime, the Book of Daniel, City of God, Welcome to Hard Times, Loon Lake, World’s Fair, The Waterworks, and All the Time in the World. Among his honors are the National Book Award, three National Book Critics Circle Awards, two PEN Faulkner Awards, The Edith Wharton Citation for Fiction, and the presidential...more
More about E.L. Doctorow...
Ragtime The March Homer & Langley Billy Bathgate The Book of Daniel

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“one day you stepped in snow, the next in mud, water soaked in your boots and froze them at night, it was the next worst thing to pure blizzardry, it was weather that wouldn't let you settle.” 2 likes
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