Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Writer's Guide to Everyday Life in the Wild West (Candy Moulton)

The Writer's Guide to Everyday Life in the Wild West
(The Writer's Guide to Everyday Life series)
Candy Moulton
Writer's Digest Books
Nonfiction, History/Writing
***+ (Okay/Good)

DESCRIPTION: The classic Wild West, the rough world of America's expanding frontier, only lasted about sixty years, from 1840 through the turn of the century. Yet the romance and imagery of the period resonates to this day, inspiring writers with tales of outlaws and sheriffs and cattle drives across harsh, untamed landscapes. But the visions many of us are familiar with from TV shows and movies (and even some books) are riddled with inaccuracies; the ten-gallon hat didn't show up until after 1900, and most saloons had normal doors rather than the "bat wing" style popularized by Hollywood. It was also a period of dynamic changes, as the frontier of the 1840's was a drastically different place than it was in the 1890's, not to mention regional variations in the vast swath of land encompassed by the term "the West." In this book, Moulton offers an authentic view of the time period, from major events (wars and treaties and mineral strikes) to humble details of daily life.

REVIEW: This looked like an interesting read, food for thought and grist for the ever-churning mill of half-baked stories in my head. As a guide for writers, I had hoped it would inject some life and inspiration into the subject. Unfortunately, it quickly becomes as dull as a textbook, a dry recitation of facts and timelines. It could've used more pictures and maps, too, as mere verbal descriptions weren't enough to help me visualize terrain or building styles or other subjects. An extensive and thorough bibliography, including additional reading and research suggestions at the end of each section, earns it an extra half-star on the reference front. The information itself seems to be sound; I'd just hoped for more spark in a book aimed at writers.

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