Not Your Father's Westerns

By Brenna Murphy

Move over, Zane Grey. These westerns go beyond the gunslinging cowboy plot with underrepresented perspectives and nontraditional storylines.

  • Vampires of El Norte

    2023 by Cañas, Isabel

    On the Texas-Mexico border, vampires stalk the night. Childhood sweethearts Nena and Néstor team up to fight the supernatural, and perhaps rekindle their love in the process. A western that blends romance, horror, and fantasy in a unique way.

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  • How Much of These Hills Is Gold

    2020 by Zhang, C Pam

    During the California Gold Rush, orphans Lucy and Sam strive to give their father a proper Chinese burial, no matter what it takes. Rich with magical realism and adventure and with well-written characters, this story is perfect for fans of historical fiction.

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  • Forbidden

    2016 by Jenkins, Beverly

    A steamy romance set in 1870's Nevada. Rhine and Eddy’s connection is undeniable, but can their love survive with society’s expectations against them?

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  • Tread of Angels

    2022 by Roanhorse, Rebecca

    This dark fantasy novella reimagines the Wild West with biblical themes of good and evil. Roanhorse’s worldbuilding is on point, and the fast-paced storyline about two sisters draws the reader into the suspenseful story.

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  • The Hunger

    2018 by Katsu, Alma

    This is a bone-chilling retelling of the Donner Party expedition of 1846. As the group moves west, more and more people begin to disappear. Are natural causes at play, or something more sinister?

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  • Lucky Red

    2023 by Cravens, Claudia

    This coming-of-age story follows Bridget, a tenacious young woman who finds work at a brothel in Dodge City, Kansas. Perfect for fans of scrappy protagonists and atmospheric storytelling.

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  • Lone Women

    2023 by LaValle, Victor

    In early 1900's Montana, Adelaide Henry arrives in town with a suitcase and a secret. This story combines elements of history, mystery, and horror for a thrilling ride.

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  • Fools Crow

    1986 by Welch, James

    A young man of the Blackfoot Tribe comes of age in the years following the Civil War. As tensions arise between the tribe and white settlers, their way of life is forever changed. A moving novel with a distinctive writing style and strong sense of place.

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  • Four Treasures of the Sky

    2022 by Zhang, Jenny Tinghui

    Set primarily in the western United States during the Chinese Exclusion Act, main character Daiyu will do whatever it takes to survive in a country that is not safe for her. Compelling characters and well-researched historical detail make this a standout.

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  • The Good Luck Girls

    2021 by Davis, Charlotte Nicole

    In this gritty and haunting read, the “good luck girls” are sold into work at a brothel before making a harrowing escape. They may be seeking a bit of revenge. With elements of fantasy, this book is set in a dystopian version of the Old West.

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  • The Thousand Crimes of Ming Tsu

    2021 by Lin, Tom

    Assassin Ming Tsu is seeking revenge after the kidnapping of his wife and 10 years of forced labor on the Central Pacific Railroad. A sinister, action-packed tale of violence and crime.

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  • River of Teeth

    2017 by Gailey, Sarah

    When you think of westerns, you think of hippos. Right? This alternative history imagines an America where hippos are introduced to the Mississippi River, causing violence and chaos. Riding hippos rather than horses, an unlikely crew of wranglers is dispatched to deal with the problem. An unusual and entertaining novella.

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  • The Bullet Swallower

    2024 by Gonzalez James, Elizabeth

    In 1895, a bandido on the Texas-Mexico border seeks revenge. In 1964, his grandson delves into family history as inspiration for a film. Grim and compelling, this novel takes on themes of racism and politics. It’s also loosely based on the author’s great grandfather’s life.

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