True Grit - An Exclusive Novel

Even if Westerns are not your genre, True Grit is a novel that will totally turn you around and make you enjoy every bit of the wild frontiers of American West. Published first in 1968, this cult novel had once inspired the classic John Wayne film by the same name but sadly, since then, had disappeared from public eye. Once read along with great classics as Nathaniel Hawthorne and Mark Twain, thanks to Bloomsbury that it is now back in print and widely available.

Sure to be gripped right from the title and the bull's eye opening sentence, the reader is bound to instantly open up to the exceptionally characterized Mattie Ross, the fourteen-year-old heroine of the novel. Also the narrator, Mattie is the astonishingly mule-headed girl from Arkansas, a dogged eccentric and not without spunk. She leaves her grief-stricken mother at home with her younger siblings driven by one aim: to catch and bring to justice Tom Chaney, the coward who had killed her father for a horse, $150 in cash and two Californian gold pieces. Mattie having survived her youthful adventure is recounting her story as an old woman.

Having traveled to claim her father's body and upon finding that the authorities are doing nothing to find Chaney, young Mattie Ross prepares herself to go down into the heart of the badlands. But Chaney has joined up with a band of outlaws, the Lucky Ned Pepper gang, and ridden out into the Indian Territory, which is under the jurisdiction of U.S marshals. Mattie wants someone who will shoot first and ask questions later. And so joins her in this perilous journey into the dark and dangerous Choctaw Nation is Rooster Cogburn, the one-eyed ruthless marshal whose presence sheds quite a few humorous and memorable moments in the story. Rooster, a man, she's told, who has grit is most reluctant to let her accompany him into the wild terrains, yet Mattie being Mattie follows him into it on her black pony. Cutting into the chase also is the Texan sergeant LaBoeuf (“whose name is pronounced 'LaBeef'”) who wants to team up with Rooster to bring Chaney to Texas to hang for shooting charges. The dandy LaBoeuf easily convinces Rooster into slipping away into the territory without Mattie because “this ain't no coon hunt”, and no place for a child. But as hard as they ride they cannot lose her. Finally when they cannot get Mattie to turn back, they accept her: first, in anger, as a worrisome tagalong; then grudgingly as someone almost their equal; and at last, as she stands among them and proves herself, a relentless force in her own right. The three strangers ride together into an unforgettable journey where suspense and humour roll forth as they dig deeper into the wild frontiers, bumping into mishaps of various sorts, including chance meetings with robbers and rattle snakes, hidden corpses and shoot-outs that erupt in the most unexpected places yes, a generous dose of the wild west scene that moves the story along brusquely and in every way entertaining.

What obviously is most impressive is the narrator's voice. The spoken idioms of South have never before captured as artfully. Mattie's voice is naïve, hard-headed and unintentionally hilarious. She never cracks a smile when recounting the undignified and ridiculous situations she finds herself in. A true soldier, she is gifted with a shrewd business sense, “I would not allow a thief in my mouth to steal my brains”, she says coolly to the drunken Rooster. A great part of True Grit's charm is in Mattie's blasé view of frontier America. Shootings, stabbings and public hangings are recounted frankly and flatly. The blunt and unsentimental voice echoes through other characters to a richly comic effect, as when Rooster remarks of a young prisoner he has brought back alive: “I should have put a ball in that boy's head instead of his collarbone. I was thinking about my fee. You will sometimes let money interfere with your notion of what is right”.

True Grit begins where chivalry meets the frontier, where the old Confederacy ebbs into the Wild West. Mattie Ross of Arkansas is here to stay like Huck Finn. A story for all ages, this one is a rare delight!

Book Quote:

"As entertaining and original as any fiction of recent times." -- St. Louis Dispatch

"Charles Portis is perhaps the most original, indescribable sui generis talent overlooked by literary culture in America." -- Ron Rosenbaum, Esquire


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