Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Shootist” as Want to Read:
The Shootist
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Shootist

4.1 of 5 stars 4.10  ·  rating details  ·  473 ratings  ·  53 reviews
By the author of The Homesman, now a major motion pictureThe Shootist is John Bernard Books, a gunfighter at the turn of the twentieth century who must confront the greatest Shootist of all: Death. Most men would end their days in bed or take their own lives, but a gunfighter has a third option, one that Books decides to exercise. He may choose his own executioner.
As word
Paperback, 248 pages
Published October 1st 2011 by Bison Books (first published January 1st 1975)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Shootist, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Shootist

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtryTrue Grit by Charles PortisBlood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West by Cormac McCarthyBury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee BrownAll the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy
Best Westerns
215th out of 622 books — 814 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,096)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Richard Vialet
John Bernard Books has found out he has terminal prostate cancer.

Books is an aging but notorious gunman, who is known across the frontier for being dangerously quick on the draw, for loving women, and for killing over thirty men. So it comes to his dismay that he is destined to die an undignified and unremarkable death, taken down by a disease in his crotch. He doesn't have long to live and pretty soon news of his condition spreads around town. But J.B. Books is determined to die with some sembl
Mike (the Paladin)
I got to know about this book from the movie (staring John Wayne). If that's also your knowledge of the story all you really have is a sort of general outline of the story. It's also an outline that leads you to a different destination than the story in the novel will.

This is another book where I find myself hesitant to say things such as "I like it", or "I enjoyed it" as it is a dark and even sad story with few bright corners. I suppose it might be best here to say what's different from the mov
Victor Drax
Es cierto el cliché: Si vas a leer un libro de western, que sea este.

Una historia triste, una leyenda en su ocaso, una prosa hermosa.
David Berardelli
This story probes the mind of a dying man. In this case, the man in question is a notorious gunman who has discovered he has reached the final stages of a fatal disease. The story deals with his own personal "last stand," as he faces his rapidly approaching death on his own terms. Thought-provoking and dark, the book is well-written and suspenseful, with finely drawn characters. More detailed than the 1976 film, the story depicts the character and the inner workings of the western killer, fleshi ...more
Miles Swarthout
The Shootist was the winner of the 1975 Spur Award from the Western Writers of America as the Best Western Novel of that year. In a recent 60th anniversary poll among its expert members, the Western Writers also ranked The Shootist #4 among the best Western novels ever written. This novel was also quickly made in 1976 into one of John Wayne's very best Westerns, as well as being Duke's last film.

The Shootist is John Bernard Books, a man of principle and the only surviving gunfighter in a vanish
I did not know the classic John Wayne movie was based on a novel until my colleague Rich Heldenfels let me borrow the book. I always thought that the Duke knew he was dying of cancer when he made the film and that it had been written with that in mind. It turns out I was wrong. Wayne didn't even have cancer at the time of production. In any case, it was a pleasure to read this book. I couldn't help but seeing John Wayne and Lauren Bacall in my mind, even though their characters are younger in th ...more
Edward Erdelac
I'm afraid the Don Siegel John Wayne movie colored my enjoyment of this a bit as well. It's superbly written, but awfully cynical compared to the uplifting movie. Books is the same man as the Duke portrays, but Gillom is extremely different - I didn't care for him at all in the novel version, and the ending bleeds a star off my rating.
If all you know is Don Siegel's 1976 film, starring John Wayne, then you don't really know "The Shootist." While I liked that film (enough, anyways), and was especially charmed by Wayne's final screen performance (he died 3 years later), the book tells a much more powerful elegiac tale of a man on his way out, both as a living creature and as a breed of man. J.B. Books is a notorious gunman, or "shootist," who comes to El Paso in 1901 to see a doctor who once saved him from certain death after a ...more
I've been a big fan of Loius L'Amour and other "traditional" Western authors for most of my life, but have only recently come to the somewhat "revisionist" works of Charles Portis and Glendon Swarthout. THE SHOOTIST, in particular, is a deeply cynical book with several highly unlikable characters and a final page that made me cringe. It's short, it's violent, it's upsetting, and yet also somewhat moving and over far too quickly.

I've never seen the John Wayne movie version, but reading online pl
Lawrence FitzGerald
Never saw the movie.

Good, serviceable prose. Good story. Lots of unlikable characters. Other reviewers have outlined the story.

More length could have been usefully employed in characterization. Predictable.

Ok, let's take predictable first. Authors need to foreshadow to eliminate those "Perry Mason moments" where the story turns on shit you never knew about. Swarthout foreshadows in a fairly narrow way that lets the reader guess the ending a little too easily.

The gunman's landlady sees the gunm
Clarence Tinklebottom
This book is a trick bag. On the one hand, it is very much like the movie starring John Wayne; the dialogue is mostly verbatim. On the other hand, the book is very different from the movie. So the trick is trying to divorce the movie from the book when the two are so similar yet so different. If you can manage that, it’s a terrific read. The prose is lean and spare. It doesn’t quite get into the heart of the main character, but it that’s one of its strengths. It gets you close enough to J.B. Boo ...more
I don't read westerns, so I have nothing to compare this to in my experiences. If I could guarantee that all were of similar quality, perhaps I would read more. Unlike the John Wayne film version, this tale does not make the shootist (J.B. Books) a tragic hero, and the ending certainly does not have the movie's "uplifting" conclusion. And that is what makes this western a refreshing read for audiences accustomed to Hollywood's way of making every story end as we want it to end.
"At this rate El Paso would soon be as citified as Denver, far too highfalutin for a man who liked to let the badger loose now and then."

"On the tile floor under what remained of Jay Cobb's face lay an eyeball and the brain matter which housed the accumulated knowledge of his twenty years, a grayish, adhesive slop of girls and kings and arithmetic and cows and prayer and mountains but primarily of how to fire a revolver accurately and hate himself and deliver milk and cream and butter."
Just read this one on my tear through some Westerns. I really enjoyed it -- maybe really 3.5 stars. Great prose and characterization. Perhaps it's story is a little too straightforward and simple -- a dying gunman (a "shootist") holes up in a boarding house, getting his life in order and pursuing a death that maintains his dignity.
Richard Givan
Powerful, bleak book about a gunfighter dying of cancer in 1901. If you've seen the movie, you know the basic plot, except that the Opie character is a real turd in this book, along with mostly everybody else. Still, one of those novels that makes you ponder as you read, and probably for a good bit thereafter.
This is a great novel on the Wild West. The main character JB Books is a old time outlaw who comes to a town to die. Wile he is in this town he wants to make up for all of his killings and me all of his nemesis for a final stand off. What happens then is a mystery to you to find out.
simply brilliant - a gunslinger confronts prostate cancer.... uniquely believable, superbly written - a distinctive story that is very difficult to put down. I wonder if I should read another book by Glendon Swarthout... incredible
Riley Womack
Much like McCarthy's Blood Meridian and Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven, "The Shootist" is a daring examination of the less-glamorous themes of the Old West. It is chilling, dark, and at some points just downright depressing. The West is dying, and so is the age of the gunfighter. J.B. Books is the last in a long line of famous gunslingers the likes of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday. And now, he is dying of prostate cancer. This leaves him three options: let the illness kill him, be his own executioner ...more
As the 20th century dawns, a dying 'shootist' decides how his life is to end. You know how it's going to end but it's an amazing finish.
Fantastic book, perhaps the best western fiction I have ever read. It is the story of J.B. Books an aging shootist (gunfighter) who is facing a final unbeatable for and chooses to do so on his own terms. Highly Recommended
It was a nice summer, and this short novel suit it just right.
Richard Downey
This is one of the best westerns I have read. Swarthout pays minute attention to the period details including the language used by the characters. It is a nice chunk of 1901 El Paso and an examination of the end of the frontier. It is different from the movie in many ways but just as satisfying.
Quick read. Makes watching the movie fun.
Shot through with dead eye and ear writing.
Biju Bhaskar
'The Shootist'is a tautly written book. JB Books is a renowned gunman, a specimen of a dying breed at the dawn of the 20th century. Afflicted by a terminal illness, that promises a painful and lingering death, JB Books chooses to exit with dignity. His code of honor does not permit him to kill himself. News of his impending demise attracts unsavory characters who hope to make a name killing the greatest shootist of the time.

Glendon Swarthout describes the last days of JB Books culminating in a
Claudette Gabbs
great book. I kept hearing John Wayne's voice as I read. :-)
Great story and great reader. Heavy disclaimers for language and intimate descriptions.
Scott Willis
A halfway decent book, it has some excellent one-liners. I've never seen the movie, but I'm certain John Wayne doesn't fit the part. He exibits more braggadocio than this character has.
As for the precise description at the end: I'm sure it was titillating at the time, but we've moved on to more greusome things these days. The change in style causes an interruption in the otherwise consistent flow of the book, and in my opinion should have been omitted. A simple narrative of the gunfight would h
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 36 37 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Searchers
  • Monte Walsh
  • The Good Old Boys
  • Valdez Is Coming
  • Josey Wales: Two Westerns
  • Mountain Man
  • Hondo
  • The Big Sky
  • Showdown At Yellow Butte
  • Deadwood
  • Gone to Texas
  • The Ox-Bow Incident
  • In the Rogue Blood
  • The Spirit of the Border
Glendon Fred Swarthout was an American writer. Some of his best known novels were made into films of the same title, Where the Boys Are, The Shootist and They Came To Cordura.

Also wrote under Glendon Fred Swarthout. Twice nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction.

More about Glendon Swarthout...
The Homesman Bless the Beasts and Children A Christmas Gift They Came to Cordura Where the Boys Are

Share This Book

No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »

“I won't be wronged, I won't be insulted, I won't be laid-a-hand on. I don't do these things to other people and I require the same of them.” 5 likes
“He thought: Oh, I have fed on honey-dew. On wine and whiskey and champagne and the tender white meat of women and fine clothes and the respect of strong men and the fear of weak and the turn of a card and good horses and the crisp of greenbacks and the cool of mornings and all the elbow room that God or man could ask for. I have had high times. But the best times of all were afterward, just afterward, with the gun warm in my hand, the bite of smoke in my nose, the taste of death on my tongue, my heart high in my gullet, the danger past, and then the sweat, suddenly, and the nothingness, and the sweet clean feel of being born.” 3 likes
More quotes…