Philip Caputo’s CROSSERS (and a bit about Westerns)
Caputo weaves together with this the story of Gil’s grandfather, Ben Erskine- a real “old west” character. As we get snippets of Ben’s life we start to see a correlation between the Old West of cowboys and frontier law enforcement and that of the New West of border patrols and smuggling (drugs and people). “Crossing” is a strong theme throughout the book and not just Mexicans crossing the border. There are double-crossers in both law enforcement and within the drug cartels. Gil’s journey is not only cross-country but also from urban to rural and the violence he encounters in New York and Arizona is different but inherent in both. In juxtaposing Gil’s story with that of his grandfather the story crosses generations and examines the sins of one generation and the violence and hatred it sews in the next. At times there are elements of NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN and THE POWER OF THE DOG (both of which are better books) but overall CROSSERS is a great read.
The book did get me thinking about the Western as genre though. It is certainly a genre that has waned in recent years but when there are books written or other forms of western stories told they still have a powerful resonance. Hollywood played a big part in the decline of the genre as it pumped out movie after movie and turned westerns into a cliché and the meaning and importance of the genre was lost.
But me reading in the genre remains very thin. I loved Scott Phillips’ COTTONWOOD and really wish he would write another novel. And just because it is a new Coen Brothers film I have put TRUE GRIT into my ‘to read’ pile. But I would love to know what else is a must read in the western genre. My dad would say I have read Larry McMurtry’s LONESOME DOVE but if anyone has any other suggestions I am all ears.