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Journal of the Gun Years


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About the Author

Richard Matheson was The New York Times bestselling author of I Am Legend, Hell House, Somewhere in Time, The Incredible Shrinking Man, A Stir of Echoes, The Beardless Warriors, The Path, Seven Steps to Midnight, Now You See It..., and What Dreams May Come, among others. He was named a Grand Master of Horror by the World Horror Convention, and received the Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement. He has also won the Edgar, the Spur, and the Writer's Guild awards. In 2010, he was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame. In addition to his novels Matheson wrote several screenplays for movies and TV, including "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet," based on his short story, along with several other Twilight Zone episodes. He was born in New Jersey and raised in Brooklyn, and fought in the infantry in World War II. He earned his bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Missouri. Matheson died in June, 2013, at the age of eighty-seven.


This nicely executed western takes the form of annotated diaries by legendary gunfighter Clay Halser, first met as a minor hero in the Civil War. The taste of excitement sours upon Halser's return to his bucolic home town, and he is forced to leave in haste after an argument over cards leads to a shooting. In the charming, picaresque tale that follows, Halser plays virtually every archetypal role the Old West has to offer: barman in a cow-town; shotgun-rider on an often-robbed stagecoach; hostler under a sadistic Prussian overseer; unwilling but effective--and ruthless--desperado; no-nonsense, much-beleaguered lawman; and, finally, burnt-out gambler. As Halser moves from one familiar Western town to another, and from one corpse to many, his legend grows. Dime-novels and newspaper articles are written about him, children idolize him, young men challenge him and he begins to rely on his legend to define his identity. Carefully structured set pieces clearly trace Halser's emotional evolution, as he slowly degenerates into a paranoid mess, short-tempered and murderous. The author, who wrote a number of original Twilight Zone episodes, gives his story a credibility and honesty unusual in the genre. (Nov.)

Bored with farm life, young Civil War veteran Clay Halser goes West in 1866 to find adventure and excitement. In his detailed and soul-searching journal (with profanity chastely blanked out), he describes his progress through the Southwest, from common laborer to deadly gunman with a charmed life, operating on both sides of the law. Newspapers run exaggerated stories of his prowess and make him a national legend--an identity he comes to believe himself. From that point, it is a short road to a sorry ending. While this study of the deterioration of a good man is not pleasant, it makes for a very readable novel. A wild Western.-- Sister Avila, Acad. of the Holy Angels, Minneapolis

"The best novel I read last year." --Stephen King"The best western of the season!" --Booklist"The author gives his story a credibility and honesty unusual in the genre." --Publishers Weekly"Breathtaking . . . first-rate . . . impossible to put down. Mr. Matheson has done something remarkable: with a single novel he has placed himself in the front rank of Western novelists." --Richard S. Wheeler, author of Virgin River"A novel filled with remarkable surprises . . . a fine and unique book." --Ed Gorman, author of Sleeping Dogs"A remarkable western novel. It strips the romanticism from the old West, but retains the blood-and-guts violence, as well as the high excitement of the frontier. Clay Halser's journals are the stuff of myth." --Norman Zollinger, author of The Road to Santa Fe"Journal of the Gun Years is a three carat diamond. Read and enjoy it without delay." --Max Evans, author of For the Love of Horses"Some of the best damn writing Matheson's done in his spectacular career." --Loren D. Estleman, author of Gas City

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