Candy Moulton: Reading the West 4-11-11 |

Candy Moulton: Reading the West 4-11-11

Richard S. Wheeler has won his sixth Spur Award from Western Writers of America for “Snowbound,” a novel based on the journey of John C. Fremont through Colorado.

The Livingston, Mont., author previously won Spurs for “Fool’s Coach” in 1989, “Sierra” in 1997, “Masterson” in 2000, “Drum’s Ring” in 2002, and “Vengeance Valley” in 2005. His novel, “Canyon of Bones,” was a finalist in 2008. Wheeler is also a recipient of the WWA’s Owen Wister Award for lifetime achievement in the field of Western writing.

“True Grit” the rousing, hard-riding remake of the 1969 movie classic of the same name, written and directed by brothers Joel and Ethan Coen, tied with “Temple Grandin,” an HBO-TV movie, for the Spur Award in the Drama category. Christopher Monger and William Merritt wrote “Temple Grandin.”

The “True Grit” movies are based on Charles Portis’ masterful 1968 novel about a determined young girl who hires crusty, one-eyed, pot-bellied, two-fisted, fast-shooting, faster-drinking U.S. Marshall Rooster Cogburn to track down her father’s killer in the Indian Territory during the latter years of the 19th century.

“Temple Grandin” stars Claire Danes in the title role of a woman with autism who pioneered practices for the humane handling of livestock. In addition to the Spur Award, “Temple Grandin” was nominated for seven Emmy Awards and won five, including best actress for Danes.

Eighteen Spur Awards in 17 categories will be handed out June 25 in Bismarck, N.D., during the annual convention of the WWA, an organization of more than 600 writers of fiction and nonfiction about the American West. The WWA established the Spur Award in 1953, the year the organization was founded.

Novelist Wheeler, a Milwaukee, Wis., native who now makes his home in Livingston, Mont., won his Spur in the Short Novel category. This is Wheeler’s sixth Spur, ranking him second only to the late Elmer Kelton (“The Time it Never Rained,” “The Day the Cowboys Quit”) in the accumulation of Spurs. Kelton, the Western-writing wizard of San Angelo, Texas, won seven Spurs prior to his death in 2009.

Other repeat Spur winners this year include Max McCoy and Paul Zarzyski, who were each awarded a third Spur, and Lucia St. Clair Robson, who won her second. McCoy, who previously won Spurs in 1991 and 2008, won this year in the Mass Market Paperback category for Damnation Road, a novel about a desperate man who follows a beautiful woman in search of a treasure hidden in a harsh land guarded by hostile Apaches.

Zarzyski and co-writer Tom Russell won in the Song category for “Heart of a Bucking Horse,” a song about colorfully named and legendary rodeo horses. Zarzyski won his first two Spurs just last year – one in the Poem category for “Bob Dylan Bronc Song” and one, with co-writer Wylie Gustafson, in the Song category for “Hang-n-Rattle.”

Robson won her 2011 Spur in the Long Novel category for “Last Train From Cuernavaca,” which tells the story of two young women – one Mexican, one English – who get caught up in the Mexican Revolution of 1910-1920. Robson won her first Spur in 1982 for the historical novel “Ride the Wind.”

Spur winners this year in nonfiction categories include James Haley in Biography and Thomas Powers in Historical Nonfiction. Haley won for “Wolf: The Lives of Jack London,” his comprehensive study of the fascinating and complicated life of the man who wrote the American literary classics “Call of the Wild” and “White Fang” as well as many other books, short stories, plays. poems and articles.

Powers received his Spur Award for “The Killing of Crazy Horse,” the story of the enigmatic Sioux warrior who played a major role in the defeat of George Custer at the Battle of the Little Bighorn and who was stabbed to death while in the custody of the U.S. Army. Powers pieces together the many elements of fear and misunderstanding that resulted in the killing of Crazy Horse.

Spur winners in categories for young readers include “Moon Over Manifest” by Clare Vanderpool in the Juvenile Fiction category and “A Night on the Range,” written by Aaron Frisch and illustrated by Chris Sheban, in the Storyteller (picture book) category. In “Moon Over Manifest,” her first novel, Vanderpool writes about 12-year-old Abilene Tucker, who travels to the former mining town of Manifest, Kan., in 1936. There she meets a host of colorful characters, hears lots of good stories and tries to find out about the life her father lived in Manifest in 1918. The novel has also won the prestigious Newberry Award for juvenile literature.

Author Frisch and artist Sheban’s “A Night on the Range” is about a little boy who prepares for the rugged life of a cowboy by sleeping under the stars in his back yard.

You can find the full list of 2011 Spur Awards at

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