The Shootist


The Shootist

Glendon Swarthout
Introduction by Miles Swarthout

248 pages


October 2011


$18.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

This is an extremely well-written Western and gives the reader vivid insight into the workings of the mind of a wanderer and gunman.―Baton Rouge, Louisiana Sunday Advocate 

By the author of The Homesman, now a major motion picture The 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 spreads that the famous assassin has incurable cancer, an assortment of human vultures gathers to feast on the corpse—among them a gambler, a rustler, a clergyman, an undertaker, an old love, a reporter, even an admiring teenager. What follows is the last courageous act in Books’s own legend.

This classic, Spur Award–winning novel was chosen by the Western Writers of America as one of the best western novels ever written and was the inspiration for John Wayne’s last great starring role in the acclaimed 1976 film adaptation. The Bison Books edition includes a new introduction by the author’s son, Miles Swarthout, in which he discusses his father’s work and the making of the legendary film.

Author Bio

A prolific writer in multiple genres, Glendon Swarthout (1918–92) won the Owen Wister Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Western Writers of America and is now in their Hall of Fame. His novels include The Homesman and The Old Colts. Miles Swarthout is the author of The Sergeant’s Lady and the editor of Glendon Swarthout’s short story collection, Easterns and Westerns. He is also a screenwriter who adapted his father’s book for the movie The Shootist.


"Many cowboys suffer prostate problems after years spent in the saddle, and aging gunfighter J.B. Books, the hero of this novel, is among them—a man with a fatal cancer. Determined to die in a way that would give meaning to his life, he plans a suicidal shootout against El Paso's three bad guys, to take place in the town’s best saloon. The crystalline descriptions of the bar violence are memorable—as are the details of death—and delivered in unflinching prose. But there is more to Books than killing. He is also a man given to sitting in his bedroom poring over newspaper ads, social items and excerpts that describe the recent death of Queen Victoria and the plans for her death mask—rich additions to this arresting portrait of an old gunslinger in his final days and at the end of an era."—Wall Street Journal

“A treasured addition to my library.”—Ronald Reagan

“A taut, leathery, masterful tale.”—Los Angeles Times

“This is definitely more than a Western; the characterization is flawless, the plot absorbing and convincing.”—Library Journal

“A classic—an incredible tale about an incredible man by an incredible author. . . . It’s a fascinating tale, and once started, is difficult to leave until the final sentence has been absorbed.”—Arizona Republic

“Chilling . . . grisly . . . extremely exciting to the very end.”—Times of London

Table of Contents

[no TOC; 6 numbered chapters]

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