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The Searchers

4.20  ·  Rating details ·  2,845 ratings  ·  258 reviews

In this great American masterpiece, which served as the basis for the classic John Wayne film, two men with very different agendas push their endurance beyond all faith and hope to find a little girl captured by the Comanche.

Paperback, 352 pages
Published August 15th 1987 by Jove (first published 1954)
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Community Reviews

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Average rating 4.20  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,845 ratings  ·  258 reviews

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Jeffrey Keeten
Aug 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
”A man has to learn to forgive himself,” Amos said, his voice unnaturally gentle….”Or he can’t stand to live. It so happens we be Texans. We took a reachin’ holt, way far out, past where any man has right or reason to hold on. Or it we didn’t, our folks did, so we can’t leave off, without giving up that they were fools, wasting their lives, and washed in the way they died.”

 photo 19aa7423-60c3-4de5-9e3e-1525d7ecfcf7_zps2d794f9f.jpg
The moment of realization.

Amos Edwards and Marty Pauley are helping to retrieve some cattle that have been stolen from a
May 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
I was a huge John Wayne fan growing up. Like, embarrassingly huge. I had a framed picture in my bedroom. I had a thick celebratory magazine that provided descriptions of every single one of his movies (some 200 or more, including bit parts). I had a John Wayne paper doll collection! Whenever a cable station had a “John Wayne Weekend,” I’d buy a stack of VHS tapes and record for hours on end. I loved his drawl, his catchphrases, his swagger, and his big right hook.

Eventually, I grew up, and my c
Aug 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: film, western, fiction
I've seen the movie so many times that I couldn't put a number to it; I thought I would finally get around to reading the source material. I'm gonna say it, and I can only remember saying this once before, "The movie was better!" Not that the book wasn't good, but the movie was a masterpiece...some critics have argued that it was the best movie ever filmed.

Odd about reading the book after seeing the movie...had I read the book first I would never have pictured Monument Valley as the type of land
Remember watching the movie a few years ago and have always wanted to read the book. A classic western themed novel. It was the isolation and sense of community, the vastness of the country that is really brought home to the reader here, so well depicted and visual.

Really appreciated the foreword written about the making of "The Searchers" and an insight to the making of many of the TV westerns that I watched as a young child. Novel is well worth reading for the "foreword" alone.
Susan Stuber
Sep 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
If you are interested in the last years of the native Americans in Texas, and you want a highly nuanced, well-written and enthralling story to go with it, this is your book. I found it ever so much better than Lonesome Dove and The Son. LeMay does not try to make any of his characters into heros or villains, he simply tells the story (beautifully, without pathos) and lets the reader make his/her own opinions of who was morally right and wrong. There is no pat plot here, no foreseeable outcome, u ...more
Bob Brinkmeyer
May 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
Mention The Searchers and most people will think of John Ford’s film, generally regarded as one of the finest Westerns ever made. The novel from which the film was adapted, Alan LeMay’s The Searchers, while not up to the artistry of the film, is nonetheless a fine novel, particularly for lovers of Westerns. What is particularly impressive is LeMay’s deep knowledge of the land (Texas and New Mexico) and its history, including most notably Native American history and culture. You’ll learn a lot—or ...more
Sep 06, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Never saw the movie. Haven't been able to connect well with his other books. The Comanche kept me interested.

Quote from Alan LeMay, The Searchers :

“The Comanches were supposed to be the most literal-minded of all the tribes. There are Indians who live in a poetic world, half of the spirit, but the Comanches were a tough-minded, practical people, who laughed at the religious ceremonies of other tribes as crazy-Indian foolishness. They had no official medicine men, no pantheon of named gods, no or
robin friedman
Jul 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Reading The Searchers

Alan Le May's 1954 novel "The Searchers" is a victim of its own success. John Ford adapted the novel into the glorious 1956 film of the same name starring John Wayne while Le May's novel went out of print and was almost forgotten. Fortunately, Le May's novel is accessible on Kindle and is about to become even more so with the Library of America's impending publication of its new anthology, "The Western: Four Classic Novels of the 1940's & 50's". The LOA volume will help pres
Ben Loory
Jul 06, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Ben by: david mamet
it's funny, i've probably seen the john ford version of this book 25-30 times, and it never once even occurred to me that it might be based on a book... it took david mamet's mentioning it as one of his five favorite novels to get me to actually look into it. it's a very different kind of book than True Grit, the other western on mamet's list... slower, longer, straighter, never funny... it's calm and spacious and mythic but still realistic, informative while still always emotional. the ending i ...more
Jun 11, 2012 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: BBC Radio Listeners
Recommended to Bettie by: Isca Silurum
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 22, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was glad to find this new reprint of the 1954 Alan LeMay classic. LeMay has made a reputation as a writer of stories set in Texas. He has a score of screenplays, novels and short stories to his credit. This novel was the basis of a 1956 film directed by John Ford and starring John Wayne. It is considered to be a great classic western movie; it, and several other Ford-Wayne westerns, including the 1939 "Stagecoach" are quoted by modern directors, including Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese a ...more
Jan 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics, western
One of the more realistic Westerns that I have come across. There are no badass anti-heroes or invincible gunslingers here. The characters are flawed, emotional, and very vulnerable. LeMay also knew how to keep you on the edge of your seat.
Sep 05, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I’ve always wanted to read this story. Now, I can finally say that I have. It was quite different than the John Ford movie but no less powerful. Very easy to read with some great lines and scenes. The great blizzard during, their first years of searching was amazing and vividly painted.
Steven Howes
May 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
The Searchers is an excellent western novel that is loosely based on the story of Cynthia Ann Parker who was abducted by Comanches in Texas in 1836 when she was about 10 years of age. She remained a captive for over 20 years until she was "recaptured" by white society. While living with the Comanches, she was pursued by several family members but to no avail. She did give birth to several children during her captivity. Her oldest, Quannah, became a legendary Comanche chief and oversaw the transi ...more
Nov 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Many have likely seen the movie, featuring John Wayne-- I'd venture to guess far more than have actually read this novel. Having seen more than my fair share of westerns featuring "the Duke," I thought I knew the story and might not enjoy reading the novel upon which it was based.

I was wrong! Come to discover that the screenwriters took some liberties (as they often do) and altered the story significantly. Neither is a bad way to go, mind you. If you enjoyed the film and never read the book, I'd
Oct 27, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Laura by: Bettie
From BBC Radio 4 - Classical Serial:
Texas, 1848. When Comanches attack the Edwards family's settlement on the Texas plains, they kidnap two girls - seventeen year-old Lucy and ten year-old Debbie. So Amos Edwards sets out on the dangerous mission to recover his two nieces, with the help of his nephew Mart and a rag-tag bunch of searchers. Their epic mission will last six years. The concluding episode is at the same time next week.

Alan Le May's 1954 novel is a timeless work of western fiction and
Nov 26, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017, western-fiction
I enjoyed the beginning and the end but found the middle a bit repetitive and boring. Certainly more gritty and realistic than the movie.
Paul Ataua
Dec 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
John Ford’s “The Searchers” has always been one of my favorite movies of all time, so it was with trepidation that I turned to the novel that spawned it. I needn’t have worried. They are close in many respects and do tell more or less the same story, and yet there are significant differences between them. I am not going to play the game of which is better , but I am going to say I enjoyed both of them immensely.
Aug 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Searchers by Alan Le May was turned into a movie in 1956 by John Ford, starring John Wayne and Vera Miles. It's a gritty, powerful Western, not a genre I normally read.

The story is set in the Texas frontier where settlers struggle to survive, fearing attacks by Indian warriors. Amos Edwards and Martin Pauley leave Amos' brother's homestead to search for cattle rustlers with other homesteaders. On their return they discover the farm has been attacked by Commanche warriors. All of the people h
Feb 11, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Simon Lewis
May 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: western
As night falls in the Texas borderlands, a lone rancher prepares to defend his family against Comanches. Miles away, his brother leads a posse tracking cow thieves. He finds only carcasses. There are no thieves: the Indians have lured the men away so that the family can be killed. They race back, running their horses to death, and return to the aftermath of a slaughter. The only bodies missing are those of the two young girls.
All this happens within about a dozen pages, making the opening of Th
May 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: westerns
This classic Western was the source of the John Ford-John Wayne movie of the same title. The film differs in some critical ways from the book. The novel has a great, exciting beginning, with settlers lured away from their homes, leaving them unprotected from Comanche attack. Two sisters are taken by unknown Indians -- and then the long (years long) search ensues. The book has a little trouble keeping up its intensity, simply because the two searchers travel, and travel some more, and continually ...more
Oct 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
I fell in love with the film version of The Searchers, the very first time I saw it, but I never did read the original novel. Well, I have corrected that oversight and I was not disappointed. This is not a western pulp read. It is dark and edgy, as it follows Amos Edwards, (Ethan in the film) and Martin Pauley as they doggedly search the Texas territory. for a little girl, kidnapped by the Comanches. This was based on an actual event. A good, solid read.
Rex Fuller
Apr 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books of any kind I've ever read. It formed the basis of the John Wayne/John Ford movie of the same name which has been hailed as the greatest western and among the best of all motion pictures ever made. Reading the book, you get the sense its power simply rushed onto movie screen.

Writing a historical novel in accurate but readable dialogue, while maintaining narration in effective modern language that is not a broken version of the dialogue is extremely difficult. LeMay does it
Sep 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Had he been a cow-horse you might have bought him, if you liked them mean, and later shot him, if you didn't like them treacherous. ...more
Jun 10, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow. What a saga of struggle, of perseverance, of the battle against the weather and the land and, yes, the tribes that created Texas. Going to be thinking about this one.
Jim Ament
Jan 14, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: western
From my blog:

The Searchers by Alan Le May (1899-1964), published 1954

I had been curious about this book for a long time, having never read it, but knowing that I've seen the movie enough times over the years to know some of the lines, I thought it was time to look at the source. So, roughly fifty years after the book was published, I read it.

Amos Edwards (not Ethan Edwards, as in the movie) is the Captain Ahab of the book, in this case, a man driven by an
Raids, revenge & violent atrocities between Comanches and Texas settlers.
Apr 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction-western
This was the best western novel I've read so far. The characters and the details of life in post-Civil War Texas are rich and flavorful. The effort put into the dialogue is amazing. Reading this novel is like living a bit in the 19th century through the lives of these people. The main characters (Amos and Marty) are simply unforgettable. This is truly a character study more than a western story. You get to know "the searchers" over their long and perilous search like few characters in fiction. T ...more
This book beautifully evoked place and time. However, I didn't read too far into because... well, I can't say for sure, exactly. I think I could just get all I wanted from it (setting, as it turned out) from reading the first part and then looking through the rest. But I didn't feel the need to read the whole thing cover to cover because not much was really going to happen, and I was also uncomfortable with the portrayal of all Indians as evil incarnate. Maybe it's a legitimate portrayal of thin ...more
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Alan Brown Le May was an American novelist and screenplay writer. He is most remembered for two classic Western novels, The Searchers and The Unforgiven. They were adapted into the motion pictures "The Searchers" and "The Unforgiven".

He also wrote or co-wrote the screenplays for "North West Mounted Police" (1940), "Reap the Wild Wind" (1942), "Blackbeard the Pirate" (1952). He wrote the original

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