Christmas is coming and you’re still scratching your head over just what to get for that special Nevada friend or family member. May I be so bold as to suggest a gift that will keep giving long after the wrapping paper and ribbons are moldering in the landfill — a book, more specifically a book about Nevada or written by a Nevadan.
The first suggestion is an absolutely gorgeous coffee table book from our friends at Range magazine published just in time for Christmas. “Reflections of the West: Cowboy painters and poets” is the sequel to last year’s highly acclaimed and award-winning “Brushstrokes & Balladeers: Painters and poets of the American West.”
“Reflections” is a 160-page, slick paper stock book packed with some of the finest cowboy poems and breathtaking paintings that capture the spirit of the West, the open range, wildlife and the cowboy lifestyle.
The poems range from the humorous to the philosophical to the poignant from some of the best in the business, including Waddie Mitchell and Badger Clark and dozens of others.
The paintings include ones that capture scenes so detailed that you have to look twice to make sure they are not photographs, such as those by Tim Cox. Others are more evocative and capture people and landscape and wildlife in mid-action with broad brushstrokes and whimsical colors, such as those by William Matthews. Then there are the splashes of primary colors used by cover artist Don Weller to capture cowboy life at work and play.
You may order this and other such books at Range magazine’s website, and while you are there grab a few copies of the “2016 Real Buckaroo Calendar” for stocking stuffers.
Now for something completely different, but also published just in time for Christmas, comes the second installment of what we hope will be many of the strange adventures of Matthew Hunter, antique book dealer, and his pistol-packing companion Chantal Stevens from the creative and slightly warped mind of long-time Nevada libertarian philosopher and writer Vin Suprynowicz, who spent a couple of decades penning newspaper columns and editorials for the Las Vegas newspaper.
“The Miskatonic Manuscript” novel picks up where last year’s “The Testament of James” left off. The book dares to imagine a world in which New England horror writer H.P. Lovecraft’s work was as much science as it was fiction and in which someone is actually fighting back in the War on Drugs. Think of it as Carlos Castaneda meets Edgar Rice Burroughs and H.G. Wells.
As in “Testament” the characters are quirky, literate and irreverent, engaging in dialogue that weaves in libertarian and free market ideals, dropping names like Hayek and Rothbard from the lips of a savvy chauffeur.
The humor can be subtle, such as when in the middle of an otherworldly scene wrought with imminent danger from prehistoric beasts in another dimension Chantal sarcastically asks Matthew if he has seen any armed gorillas on horseback, to which the inveterate book dealer replies, “No, that was ‘Planet of the Apes,’ Pierre Boule, a six-hundred-dollar first edition if the orange print on the jacket spine isn’t faded too badly.”
Vin managed to snag for the dust jacket an illustration from Boris Vallejo, who has made a career of depicting well-muscled, scantily clad heroines for fantasy and science fiction novels. This one, shall we say, befits the genre.
On page 214 he mentions the opera house in Eureka, so that makes it a Nevada book, right?
The hardback will be available for order by the end of this week from AbeBooks.com, search for author Vin Suprynowicz. An eBook version is also scheduled to be available for download at Amazon and Barnes & Noble and other online sources.
Rounding out the holiday shopping cart are uplifting books by two Nevadans about fellow Nevadans and others with fascinating stories.
Long-time Las Vegas newspaper columnist John L. Smith offers “Vegas Voices: Conversations with Great Las Vegas Characters,” a collection of interviews with diverse characters — wise guys to cops, dealers to showgirls, educators to musicians.
Former Las Vegas cop Randy Sutton gets in the act with “The Power of Legacy: Personal Heroes of America’s Most Inspiring People,” which looks at the differences certain people have made on our society and our future. Coming full circle, one of the people Sutton writes about is John L. Smith.
Their books are available in better bookstores and online. To order “Vegas Voices” send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thomas Mitchell is a longtime Nevada newspaper columnist. You may email him at email@example.com. He also blogs at http://4thst8.wordpress.com/.