Lost Ecstasy shows the Old West’s ugly underside

cowboy boots and woman's high heels beside bed on cover of Lost Ecstasy

Mary Roberts Rinehart’s Lost Ecstasy turns the romance of the Old West on its head.

Handsome cowboy Tom McNeil can ride, rope, and sing baritone. His only flaws—binge drinking, womanizing, and using paper napkins—aren’t enough to put off pretty, Eastern heiress Kay Dowling.

Lost Ecstasy by Mary Roberts Rinehart.
Doran, 1927. 372 pp.
1927 bestseller # 6. My Grade: B-.

She throws herself at Tom.

Kay leaves her fiance and family money for Tom, who at the time is working in a traveling Rodeo and Wild West Show .

When Tom is injured in the show and can no longer do cowboy stuff, Kay finagles a ranch for him to run by offering the local banker her pearls and a check from her aunt as security.

Tom is on the verge of making the ranch pay when Kay’s mother has a heart attack.

Kay goes home to care for her.

While she’s gone, a bad winter wipes out all Tom’s work. He ends up working the Wild West Show again.

When her mother dies, Kay must decide whether she loves Tom enough put up with his faults.

Kay and Tom are both stereotypes. The plot is hackneyed. Even the settings feel as if they were written on the back lot at Universal Studios.

The paper napkins, though, are a nice touch.

© 2017 Linda Gorton Aragoni

When You Read The Virginian, Smile

In the late 1800s, Owen Wister fell under the spell of Wyoming. The result of his infatuation was The Virginian. 

It is an episodic novel, loosely tied together by a clash between two men, the dastardly Trampas and the heroic Virginian, who lived in and off the rugged land.

The story is told by an Easterner who comes to visit Judge Henry at Sunk Creek. The judge sends the Virginian to meet his guest at Medicine Bow. Under the Virginian’s tutelage, the greenhorn grows into a friend and companion the Virginian is happy to ride with.

The Virginian is the novel that gave us the famous line, “When you call me that, smile.”

All the elements we’ve learned to expect in a Western first came to public attention in this novel: the strong, silent hero; the challenge over a poker hand; the pretty school teacher from the East; the shootout on the public street.

What’s surprising is the humor. The Virginian’s story of the frog farm is a marvelous tall tale with a satiric bite. And I love the story of what happens when the Virginian feels sorry for Emily, the hen, and gives her a clutch of eggs that another hen has been sitting on for 10 days.

Even if you aren’t normally a person who enjoys westerns, I think you’ll like this granddaddy of the genre.

The Virginian: A Horseman of the Plains
By Owen Wister
350 pages
1902 Bestseller # 1
1903 Bestseller #5
Project Gutenberg ebook #1298
© 2012 Linda Gorton Aragoni

Mysterious Rider appealingly predictable in western garb

The Mysterious Rider is a classic Zane Grey western, combining romance with adventure cushioned by the sights and sounds of the untrammeled frontier.

Bill Belllounds wants his son, Buster Jack, to marry the girl he raised after her family was killed in an Indian attack. She’ll comply to please her adopted father, but cowboy Wils Moore has touched her heart.

Belllounds must find hands willing to work with Jack, a bully and an abuser of horses. A stranger, who says his name is Bent Wade, answers the call. Wade has been wandering ever since his girl and their child disappeared in an Indian massacre.

You don’t need a map to know where the story goes from there. You know what the cowboy stands for and what he won’t stand for. By the code of the old west, the handsome young cowboy will get the girl, and the bad guys will get their comeuppance.

Grey’s predictability is part of his appeal. Readers enjoy an excursion through pristine wilderness led by a novelist who may be the best nature painter to ever dip his brush in ink—and to do it all from the comfort of their favorite chairs. No wonder Grey’s novels keep on selling year after year.

The Mysterious Rider
by Zane Grey
1921 bestseller #3
Project Gutenberg EBook #13937

© 20111 Linda Gorton Aragoni