I guess if you live in Australia you equate this title with a popular rock band, but if you live in Montana and are involved in western history in any way, you have heard of Dorothy Johnson.  A gifted writer of western stories, Johnson won numerous awards during her career and saw many of her tales converted into Hollywood westerns.  My favorite example is The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, but I have never seen the Gary Cooper film that was based on the title story from this collection, The Hanging Tree.  This is a psychological western, a story based more on the complex emotions and motivations of the main characters rather than action (although the conclusion is rather exciting).  What is particularly impressive about this and the other short stories in this collection is the author’s ability to speak with believable authority regardless of the narrator’s gender.  As you might expect, western stories are primarily male in tone and delivery, and Johnson is able to pull it off regardless if she is doing a first person as a droll cowpucher-turned-reluctant-outlaw (“I Woke Up Wicked”) or an old man reminiscing his childhood (“Blanket Squaw.”) Each story was enjoyable and well written, and I highly recommend this book.  I particularly like the University of Nebraska Press edition, currently available on Amazon.Com, for its readability in type layout and overall design.

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