Lincoln's Westerner collects the western short fiction of journalist, editor, and novelist Noah Brooks (1830-1903). These stories, popular in Brooks's day, first appeared in a range of newspapers and magazines in the late nineteenth century.
Although now best known as a journalist and close confidant of Abraham Lincoln, Brooks played a number of important roles in the American literary scene. With writer Bret Harte he was a cofounder of the Overland Monthly literary magazine, he was the first editor and publisher of bestselling philosopher-economist Henry George, and he was one of Mark Twain's earliest editors. He was also a prominent editor at several newspapers, a bestselling author of children's books, a Washington correspondent during the Civil War, and a close friend of Abraham and Mary Lincoln who at times wrote private columns for the President to give him a better sense of the western mindset.
Brooks was also a writer of what he called "distinctively Californian" short stories. These stories, a long-lost mine for readers of Gold Rush fiction, have never before been collected into a single volume. Lincoln's Westerner includes nineteen short stories and five western sketches, all first published between 1860 and 1904. The stories are supplemented by explanatory endnotes and preceded by a long critical introduction exploring Brooks's life, fiction, and ties to the American west.
Brooks's skeptical, critical aesthetic is well matched to modern sensibilities. Many of his stories explore the idea of freedom, particularly the seeming paradox in which freedoms of the American west exist only because of the imperialist adventures of an earlier generation of conquerors. Using fiction to illuminate the past, the stories in Lincoln's Westerner remind readers that the history of the American west has long been a history of conquest.
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