cover image Great Stories of the American West 2

Great Stories of the American West 2

. Dutton Books, $22.95 (304pp) ISBN 978-1-55611-481-6

An unexpected novella by Ed Gorman that deftly blends the crime and western genres anchors this adequate follow-up to Greenberg's 1994 anthology Great Stories of the American West I. The 17 other stories here come from sources both predictable and unlikely. Expectedly, Bret Harte is represented, with the masterful ``The Idyl of Red Gulch,'' about a proper schoolmarm and her intriguing and ambiguous relationship with the inhabitants of Red Gulch, especially one pupil, and so is Owen Wister (The Virginian), who shows up with ``Timberline,'' a tale of violence and unsolved murder. Also on hand are Louis L'Amour, Jack London and Stephen Crane, with his familiar ``Blue Hotel,'' a yarn of gambling, grudges and death. On the other hand, Erle Stanley Gardner, remembered almost exclusively for his Perry Mason mysteries, is represented by ``Singing Sand,'' and John Jakes, the godfather of epic historicals about the American Revolution, shows his roots in standard genre fiction in ``The Naked Gun.'' Mark Twain leavens the mix with criticism, a viciously funny assault on ``Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses'' in the Deerslayer, with Twain finding Cooper guilty of 114 artistic crimes out of a possible 115. Given its eccentricities, this volume is better suited to those already enamored of this peculiarly American art form than to those seeking an introduction to its pleasures. (Feb.) ~ Mystery