I am a fan of the TV series Bonanza. I also enjoy reruns of Gunsmoke and The Rifleman so you would think I would like Western novels but I don't as a rule. I find them rather dry and the heroes two dimensional However, a year or two ago I was watching the movie How The West Was Won starring Debbie Reynolds, Caroll Baker, Jimmy Stewart and Gregory Peck. The movie begins in the 1840's and takes the characters on through to the 1880's and you get to see pivotal points in the history of the American West along the way. I enjoyed the movie and then a few weeks ago I found out that Louis L'Amour had written a Western based on the film and now having finished the book I can say it was an informative and enjoyable reading experience, just like the movie. Louis L'Amour is a prolific writer (100 novels and 250 short stories) and he is talented. He's a big name in the Western genre along with such writers as Zane Grey, Max Brand, Larry McMurty, Owen Wister etc.
How the West Was Won tells the story of the Prescott family, specifically the Prescott daughters, Eve and Lilith. The Prescotts are heading West in the early 1840's when the novel begins. Like many families they are hoping for a better life but tragedy strikes early on when the parents, Zebulon and Rebecca are killed as the family is crossing the Ohio river. This will leave the Prescott children Eve, Lilith, Sam and Zeke on their own and as the novel progresses through the 1850's, 1860's, 1870's and 1880's the focus is on Lilith and Eve. Eve marries Linus Rawlings a mountain man and they settle in the midwest to farm and raise a family. Lilith a free spirit becomes a singer in dance halls and marries Cleve Van Halen a gambler and business man and they settle in San Francisco.
The novel is divided into five chapters (The River, The Plains, The War (Civil War), The Iron Horse (The Railroad) and the Outlaw and each chapter moves you forward in the journey of Eve, Lilith, their husbands and Eve's son Zeb Rawlings who becomes a marshall in Arizona in the 1880's. Louis L'Amour knows the west, it's history, its key figures and he's a good writer which is the most important part. If you have never read a Western but are curious about the genre I would say that How The West Was Won, either the film or the novel is a good place to begin.