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The Shootist

4.11 of 5 stars 4.11  ·  rating details  ·  428 ratings  ·  47 reviews
This is the all-time classic novel chosen by the Western Writers of America as one of the best western novels ever wrttten. It is also the inspiration for John Wayne's last great starring role--the acclaimed 1976 film, "The Shootist" This special commemorative edition includes a brand new introduction by the author's son, Miles Swarthout, in which he talks about his father ...more
Paperback, 215 pages
Published August 1st 1998 by Berkley (first published January 1st 1975)
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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.
Jul 14, 2014 Jeremy rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jeremy by: Dennis Cutchins
Shelves: classics, fiction
The Shootist is a fascinating study of the end of an era and one of the best westerns I've ever read. Set at the end of the era in 1901, JB Books is an anachronism who came to life after Swarthout read an article about prostate cancer being one of the main killer of cowboys in the old west.

Books is the real deal, but instead of glorified violence we get descriptions of how he can't urinate without pain. I love books like this that twist the traditional image of something.
"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.
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
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
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.
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
Short and harsh. This book is not a happy read, but it is interesting. The suffering of an ex gunfighter dying of prostate cancer is not something I'd normally expect to read about. It was interesting to me that I liked the shootist character better than the angry young man who wanted the gunfighters weapons after he died. I wanted the shootist to have more time to do the things he wanted to make peace in his life, but I guess like life, this book isn't fair.
Without a doubt one of the best westerns ever written. JB Books is a hero and an outlaw at the same time. The book explores a man who has outlived his time. It is a bittersweet story of an old man passing into history and a young man who wants nothing more than to follow in the old mans step's. In the end he makes the right decision. The book is full of symbology and is a story of passage for the western frontier from the "wild and wholly west" to a civilized country.
Huw Collingbourne
What a gem of a book! Whether or not you like Westerns and whether or not you have seen the (rather good) John Wayne film based on this book, you should read this. The premise, an ageing gun-fighter dying of cancer, may not sound like an entertaining read. On the contrary. This slim novel is both funny and sad and totally absorbing. Just great.
Greg O'byrne
Great book. This should be a book read in School. Talks about mortality, morality, changing times and American history. I'll read this again someday.
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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

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“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.” 4 likes
“Everybody has laws he lives by, I expect. I have mine as well."
"What laws?"
Bond Rogers was dismayed. Yet she waited, evidently as curious as her son.
"I will not be laid a hand on. I will not be wronged. I will not stand for an insult. I don't do these things to others. I require the same from them.”
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