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The Shootists  By  cover art

The Shootists

By: Glendon Swarthout
Narrated by: J. P. O'Shaughnessy
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Publisher's Summary

The Shootist is John Bernard Books, a man of principle and the only surviving gunfighter in a vanishing American West. He rides into El Paso in the year 1901, on the day of Queen Victoria's demise, there to be told by a doctor that he must soon confront the greatest Shootist of all: Death himself. 

In such a showdown against such an antagonist, J. B. Books cannot win. Most men may end their days in bed or take their own lives, but a mankiller has a third option, one which Books decides to exercise. He may choose his own executioner. As the word spreads that the famous assassin has reached the end of his rope, an assortment of vultures gathers to feast upon the corpse - among them a gambler, a rustler, a clergyman, an undertaker, an old love, a reporter, even a teenager. Books outwits them, however, by selecting the where, when, who, and why of his death and writing in fire from a pair of matched Remingtons the last courageous act of his own legend. The climatic gunfight itself is an incredible performance by an incredible man, and by his creator, Glendon Swarthout.

©2010 Glendon Fred Swarthout (P)2010 Books In Motion

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What listeners say about The Shootists

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  • Overall
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Loved the story, disliked the narration

The story was great. Loved it. The narration though left much to be desired and detracted from my enjoyment. The narrator did a good job with the voices but I think the editor must have botched the job. I could hear papers rustling in the background, every now and then the narrator would suck his teeth or completely mispronounce a word. Not his fault, he is human. Do they not edit these things? Appalling treatment of a good book.

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Very different from the movie

I was surprised how different this was from the movie, but loved it! Now I've gotta watch the movie again to see if her son was as big a brat on screen as he is in print.

2 people found this helpful

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The Existential Hero wears six-shooters

The Shootist is a compelling tale. It takes us inside the mind of JB Books, a gunfighter stricken with cancer. Books is a powerful character, a hard man, a man who realizes too late that he has missed the best that life can offer: family, friendship, and gratitude for nature's blessings. His imminent death forces him to examine his life, and though he lacks a formal education, Books is a reflective man, a man who has wrestled wisdom from a tumultuous and violent existence. Whether through good fortune or the hand of providence, Books becomes the tenant of Bond Rodgers and father figure to her son Gillom. Their brief and fraught relationship gives the gunfighter a taste of family life, widening his spirit. Bond Rodgers' boarding house becomes a kind of afterlife for the not yet deceased Books. It is as though divine justice, acknowledging the complexity of judging Books, gives him his earthly reward before death.
Though Books would scoff at being called an existential hero he is one, deciding to meet death on his own terms. Given his profession, the exit he chooses is not surprising. Nevertheless, the climax is magnificently written and narrated; it is Homeric and, for my money, tops the somewhat disappointing clash between Achilles and Hector. You see, both Achilles and Books have a hard time finding a worthy opponent, but the American is more resourceful at devising one.

There is poetry in this book as well as sharp observations about what it means to face imminent death. This book made me think more about cancer than I care to, and made me fear it.
A minor criticism: the narrator does an exceptional job with Books' voice; the gunfighter's deep, masculine growl comes so easily to J.P. O'Shaughnessy that the voices of a woman and teenage boy are harder for him to do convincingly. But that's a quibble. You can tell when a performer loves and respects the material. Mr. O'Shaughnessy puts his heart into this story.
I highly recommend the Shootist.

2 people found this helpful

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A totally different type of Western.

Would you listen to The Shootists again? Why?

No, it is a classic, but a sad story.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Shootists?

The relationship between J.B. Books and his landlady going from mutual disgust to mutual respect.

What about J. P. O'Shaughnessy’s performance did you like?

He has a perfect Western character voice.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

The end of an era.

Any additional comments?

Not for the weak hearted.

2 people found this helpful

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The Shootist

I found this audible book with excellent narration. I really enjoyed the narrator bring this book of life for me. Of course, I've seen the John Wayne movie of this book many a Time and always felt the movie was excellent. There is a surprise ending in this audible book I was unaware of and highly recommend that you listen to the audible book too.

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  • Avi D Reader
  • 11-20-21

Bloody, brilliant.

A superb rendering of the end of the wild west. A 'shootist' who calls the sheriff on the phone and has his suit dry cleaned... conventional western this is not. If you’ve seen the film with John Wayne still read this- it is grittier, grimmer and more authentic. I can't wait for a Cohen Brothers remake (please!)...

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  • Mr. Mark Lewis
  • 09-27-21

Fantastic favourite

I read this after watching the John Wayne film yet again and thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience. Just as with true grit once you've enjoyed either the book film completely complement each other.

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  • David Hann
  • 08-22-19

Excellent and engaging

Really well written and engaging story about an old dying gunfighter living in changing times. Good dialogue and story right up to the end. Excellent narrator. Highly recommend to anyone interested in this period of American history.