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Welcome to Hard Times

3.79  ·  Rating Details ·  1,183 Ratings  ·  112 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
Kindle Edition, 224 pages
Published November 27th 2010 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published 1960)
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Jeffrey Keeten
Jan 04, 2017 Jeffrey Keeten rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: the-old-west
“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
Aug 14, 2012 Tfitoby rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Apr 10, 2007 Margaret rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: men-authors
kicks cormac mccarthy's ass
Feb 27, 2012 Shaun rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jean Poulos
This is Doctorow’s first book written in 1960. I understand a movie was made from the book staring Henry Fonda. The book’s genre is classified as a serious western.

“Welcome to Hard Times” is about average people who fail to organize and stand as one against evil and never recover from the devastating results of their failure to act. The story also has many subplots for a book that is only 224 pages or 6 hours audio.

Doctorow has the traditional characters of a typical western, a bullying evil vi
Aug 14, 2008 Xio rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"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
Nov 09, 2009 Cynthia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 19, 2015 Solistas rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Μια πόλη κοντά στα ορυχεία της Ντακότα καταστρέφεται απο έναν βίαιο άντρα (Bad man from Bode) που δεν εκφέρει λέξη παρά μόνο σκοτώνει κ τρομοκρατεί τους κατοίκους της. Ο αφηγητής με το όνομα Blue, που όλοι τον αποκαλούν δήμαρχο, θα αποφασίσει πεισματικά να χτίσει την πόλη απο την αρχή και να την ονομάσει Hard Times.

Το ντεμπούτο του Doctorow ειναι ενα αντί-γουέστερν γραμμένο σε μια εποχή που το είδος γνώριζε την εμπορική του κορυφή. Εδώ το American Dream ειναι ακόμα πιο σκληρό αφού ειναι τελείως
Adrian Stumpp
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 04, 2015 Steve rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A tragic scenario though philosophically realistic as an allegory on what a community back then got, and any will again, when there's no organized society/community or, as Thomas Paine would put it, with out the necessary evil of government based on the common good.

Libertarian anarchism brought to life in frontier times (some time in the 19th century, it seems). And it's also where America is headed if we don't reverse course on the extremist Dominionism and Tea Party based exploitation of the 9
Stephen Gallup
May 01, 2015 Stephen Gallup rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 23, 2015 Mary rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm not sure if I liked this book or not, but maybe that's not a bad thing. It opened my eyes to what the early American West was truly like while destroying any naive Cowboys vs. Indians/Little House on the Prairie notions I had in my head. For that, I really have to praise this book. This book also provided a fascinating glimpse into fear and cowardice and revenge, how they permeate our lives and can destroy us in ways that "Bad Men from Bodie" cannot. I appreciated the narrator's cowardly per ...more
Aug 12, 2012 Shawn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 30, 2008 Antha rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.

Las novelas son los mejores vehículos para trasladarse por el espacio y el tiempo o, en palabras de Baudelaire, para "viajar sin vapor y sin vela". Lo que pasa es que no todas las expediciones son igual de valiosas, sólo algunas son capaces de conducirnos con la máxima eficacia a otras épocas y paisajes. Son esas las que de verdad consiguen sacarnos del sillón de orejas, del vagón del metro o de la cama para hacernos vivir vidas improbables (casi siempre imposibles)
Gil T.
Nov 11, 2016 Gil T. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've never really been a fan of westerns but every once in a while one just grabs me. This audiobook did just that. The story of a small town in the old west (North Dakota) that is struggling to become a full fledged town. The town services a gold mining camp as its main source of income. One day a bad man from Bodie, comes in and kills some of the citizens, then upon his leaving town, having tired of the pillaging, he burns the town to the ground.

The mayor, a woman, and a newly orphaned boy are
Jan 07, 2017 Frank rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: westerns, literature
Excellent Western novel showing the hope, despair, and challenges of living and trying to get a town in the Dakota territory to thrive. Would recommend.

From an review:

Doctrow's debut novel is a grim and dirty slice of bleak frontier life. A novel that sets out to destroy the myths of heroism in the old west. In Welcome To Hard Times heroism results in death and cowardice merely delays it. The only kind of accomplishment to be proud of is survival. As Blue narrates how the new town of
Alex Taylor
A good read but you can see its an early Doctorow effort when compared with the much later (and much better) The March.
Hyunbo Sim
Dec 24, 2016 Hyunbo Sim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What makes the Bad Man so bad?
Why does Blue insist on building the town again?
Craig Childs
May 07, 2015 Craig Childs rated it liked it
I once believed Larry McMurtry was the first author to write a true anti-Western, a demystification of the American West myth, but it turns out that honor should go to E.L. Doctorow who penned this hard little classic a good twenty-six years before anyone had ever heard of Lonesome Dove.

Welcome to Hard Times is the bleak, almost nihilistic tale of Mayor Will Blue, an aging coward living on the western frontier in the Dakota flatlands. Blue watches his friends murdered and his town burned to the
Jul 04, 2012 Stefan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Sep 24, 2016 Tim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3 1/2 stars
Mar 27, 2012 Barbara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
“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
Adam Mendez
Jul 10, 2016 Adam Mendez rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was an odd one for me. Usually I do a little research before picking up a new read, but with this one, I knew nothing. I picked it completely at random off my dad's bookshelf, purely because of it's small size, and I wanted a quick read. So I just blindly opened it and started reading. I think I should do this more often because this was a great book.

The story evolves around a small band of residents from the town of 'Hard Times'(a name incredibly well placed) on the flats of Dakota. O
Alison McLennan
Sep 22, 2013 Alison McLennan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Paul Lorentz
One of my favorites, this is maybe the fifth or sixth time I've read it, the first since visiting South Dakota a few years ago. Opening with the sudden and senseless, horrifically violent destruction of a barely-hanging-on town in the Dakota Territories, it is a recounting of events as recorded in three ledgers by the town's "Mayor", a glorified bookkeeper named Blue. By dumb luck, willfully blind optimism, and a persuasive way with words, Blue and the remaining survivors (a brutally victimized ...more
Oct 07, 2008 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  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
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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
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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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