Thursday, June 19, 2008


Yes, this is a book (actually there have been several over the years) that, in spite of some redeeming features, I do not like and would not recommend (consider The Ox-Bow Incident by Bret Harte instead, if you must read a western). In this case, Warlock by Oakley Hall, is a book that I found uninteresting and repetitive in spite of being otherwise well written. Amazingly, it was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 1958 when it was originally published.
I say amazingly although I have never been able to determine the basis for the Pulitzer judges' selections and I've found the winners (those that I have read) uneven in quality and readability. Warlock was, however, thought highly enough by the editors at the New York Review Books press to warrant a recent reprinting. And writers as noted as Robert Stone and Thomas Pynchon have sung its' praises.
The novel does have some redeeming features for this reader. As I noted it is well written with a readable style that helped me to persevere in my reading and it has one structural feature that I found appealing: inserted throughout an otherwise straightforward narrative are selections from the "Journals of Henry Holmes Goodpasture". This character and his journals add a personal note and interesting commentary on the events in Warlock. Oh, by the way it is a "western" with all the typical characters and events including a shootout at the (Acme) corral. There is little else I can say about this book other than now I can take pleasure in moving on to other summer reading.

Warlock by Oakley Hall. New York Review Books, New York. 2006 (1958)

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