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Texas Tradition Books In Order

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Publication Order of Texas Tradition Books

The Day the Cowboys Quit (1971)Description / Buy at Amazon
Wagontongue (1972)Description / Buy at Amazon
Manhunters (1974)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Wolf and the Buffalo (1980)Description / Buy at Amazon
Stand Proud (1984)Description / Buy at Amazon
Dark Thicket (1985)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Man Who Rode Midnight (1987)Description / Buy at Amazon
Honor at Daybreak (1991)Description / Buy at Amazon

Texas Tradition is set of western novels authored by American bestseller of all time Elmer Kelton. The series publication began in 1971 with The Day the Cowboy Quit and concluded in 1991 when the ninth book Honor at Daybreak. The Good Old Boys was optioned into a 1995 American adventure television movie which was the directorial start of Tommy Lee Jones. Each novel in the series tells an individual story, and the series does not follow a single featured character.

The Day the Cowboys Quit

It is the year 1883, and the Cowboys in Texas refuse to be often referred to as alcoholics and to be exploited by the wealthy cattle owners who only pay peanut wages which cannot sustain the cowboy’s livelihood. The same ranchers want to take away the cowboy rights to owning cattle because they believe that the ownership would result to cattle rustling. In response and 1883 a decree is set that Cowboys cannot own a cow, but when such horrendous rumors spread from wagon to wagon, the Cowboys decide to rally and fight for their rights.

Elmer Kelton books feature some ingredients of pulp western fiction- the wealthy ranchers against the Cowboys, justice served at the end of the long road and most importantly a noble warrior wearing a sheriff’s badge. The author brings out lots of insight, historical background, and experience to the task of narrating this story. The narrative is enjoyable and full of well-crafted characters, some unexpected plot twists and turns right from the beginning to the end. The title might somehow seem to focus on the cowboy strike that occurred in 1883; however, the author’s primary focus is to explore the more complex psychology of the brave men who live by the code of the West. The damned strike is over even before the first few pages of the book, and Kelton focuses on the far-reaching and the unexpected aftermath of the strike. Just like many other novels about the Wild West, The Day the Cowboys Quit is about loss and the passing of an era. The cowboy way of life is affected as the open rangeland is soon disappearing, the settlers are quickly establishing a settlement, towns are spring up, and the cattle business is rapidly fading away due to the influence of venture capital from East.

The most enjoyable aspect of this book is the characterization of the lead character, Hitch. He is a single cowboy in his 30’s for which loyalty, circumstance, and honor send him out of the job he loves and led him directly into harm’s way until he unwillingly accepts the role of no small risk and responsibility in the all new social order on the Texas plains. He is not the fearless kind of hero you will encounter in most standard cowboy fiction, since he is more diplomatic that quick with his gun and his actions often require considerable courage.

The author’s rural Texas background and the understanding of the frontier history vividly shine though in many details that enhance the tale that he tells. He notes that cowboys drink more coffee than alcohol, and horses dislike for flapping laundry on a clothesline. Kelton realistically narrates a man’s path to recovery to self-sustenance.


As Chacho Fernandez flees to the Sanctuary of Mexico, he is completely unaware of the deadly spark he has added to the already increasing racing hatred in and the surrounding areas of Domingo, Texas. Through a series of events that are set in motion via a misunderstanding, Fernandez becomes the hero to his people and also an escapee to a group of committed lawmen. According to the author, Elmer Kelton, Manhunter was inspired by the story of contentious Mexican fugitive named Gregorio Cortez. In 1901, Gregorio Cortez, a horseman fatally shot a sheriff during an argument thus resulting to the largest manhunt ever reported in Texas history.

Chacho Fernandez is the lead character; he is a likable character and one of the unique characters you will encounter in books themed on the wild old west. He is in love with a beautiful girl living near San Antonio who he often says that she deserves the best horse he can buy. Even though he is lovesick, you will certainly appreciate his positive outlook on the world. He is a man of peace who even adapts to coexist peacefully with the gringos who are rapidly filling the land that once belonged to Mexico. He has been working all the summer to break horses for an English speaking horse trader, and in return, he was to be given a beautiful mare as payment. He only just wants to impress the girl he loves and her parents as well into thinking that he is a good man enough to be part of their family.

Unfortunately, Chacho gringo employer revokes his promise, but Chacho takes the mare by violence. This sparks a series of events that involve the town sheriff as well as his son in law. However, the local sheriff knowing that the trader might not be telling the truth decides to hear Chacho’s side of the story rather than arrest him for attacking a white man. However, the sheriff’s good friends whose translation skills are severely lacking mistranslates something that Chacho said, and this sparks anger, and actions are taken that eventually leave the sheriff dead and make Chacho a fugitive.

Manhunters is a great novel that teaches young people about the importance of carefully thought clear communication. It explores the horrible consequences of different miscommunication levels and does it in a well-thought manner. The two Texas Rangers who initially start out tracking Chacho with only a single-minded revenge eventually understand his motives better and gain respect for the young man.

Overall, Manhunters is a well-written book by novelist Elmer Kelton; the characters are well crafted, the plot development unfolds in such a way that you will connect with every aspect of the book. Additionally, the setting; Old Wild West is a good selection that will also enrich you with some useful historical bits of American Wild West.

Book Series In Order » Characters » Texas Tradition

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