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Welcome to Hard Times by E. L. Doctorow

Welcome to Hard Times (1960)

by E. L. Doctorow

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This is a very gritty Western. a small town, with all of its imperfections, is ravaged and then haunted by an ugly , very ugly incident. The narrator does what he can to repair the ravages and set the town back up, only to discover that one of the direct victims has been preparing a time-bomb. ( )
  DinadansFriend | Apr 20, 2014 |
The bad man from Bodie comes in shoots everyone in town (almost), burns down the town and leaves. Most survivors up and leave, but a few stubborn survivors bravely regroup and stay on to form a new town. Only to find, on the verge of real prosperity, the bad man from Bodie comes back, shoots everyone in town (almost), burns the town down and leaves.

Reminded me of mass killings in the USA. You know, the bad kid living in a video games comes into school with a semi-automatic and shoots everyone he can, and then turns the gun on himself ....and there are great lamentations and memorials and calls for change.... only to find time passes, everyone forgets until different day, different door comes in the same bad kid with a semi-automatic, and shoots everyone he can. How many times can you be surprised?

Not too often, not really, and not until the Bad Man from Bodie comes into *your* town, with his attitude and his gun...
( )
  grheault | Jan 30, 2014 |
This is a brutal story unlike any pioneer tale I've ever come across. The characters who represent honest hard-working idealized Americans, are helpless. Evil wins. If there is anything redeeming it is the knowledge, both of his own motivations and those of his adopted family, that is gleaned by the narrator.
  Cyss | Jun 10, 2013 |
E. L. Doctorow’s debut is a short, intense novel of the early frontier. The small town of Hard Times is attacked by outlaws, but the citizens rebuild, always with a wary eye out for the return of the outlaws. Welcome to Hard Times shows us the early promise of Doctorow’s award winning career.
( )
  hayduke | Apr 3, 2013 |
A western without a hero.

In High Noon Gary Cooper stands alone against a gang of outlaws, the town sheriff acting the classic role of hero. This is what audiences expect of westerns, especially westerns starring the likes of Gary Cooper.

But what if the small western town, alone on the prairie, has no hero to defend it? What if the bad man rides into a town with no one brave enough or able enough to stop him having his way? What damage could he do?

Welcome to Hard Times by E.L. Doctorow opens with the arrival of a Bad Man from Bodie, a loner who single-handedly destroys the small town of Hard Times, burning down two buildings, killing half its citizens. When the men of the town realize they are no match for the bad man, they hide out on the prairie waiting for him to leave.

Afterwards, the survivors try to rebuild. The narrator, Will Blue, takes in a now orphaned 10-year-old boy, Jimmy Fee. Together they nurse Molly, a prostitute and the sole survivor of the local saloon, back to health. Will becomes the de facto town mayor in his attempt to bring Hard Times back from oblivion. The nearby mine is still active, workers still come into town on Saturday nights looking for fun. Soon a new saloon opens, a shopkeeper arrives, a banner is hung across main street in the hopes that the state governor will build a road through town up to the mine. Things are looking good.

"Welcome to Hard Times."

But Molly holds a grudge. She blames Will for failing to stand up to the Bad Man from Bodie. Though he presents himself to the world as her husband, though he probably does love her and he wants to be a father to Jimmy Fee, she cannot hide her venom. He knows that she hates him in spite of everything, that she's waiting for the bad man to return so she can take her revenge, that she has convinced Jimmy Fee he should do the same.

Welcome to Hard Times is a meditation on evil, cowardice and revenge, all themes common to westerns, common to literature in general. This is Mr. Doctorow's first novel. It's scope is narrower in space and time than his later novels; the cast of characters is small, but the town of Hard Times and its handful of citizens provide room enough to keep the reader enthralled. They are a classic western cast: a reluctant hero, a former saloon-girl, an orphaned boy looking for a father figure. Mr. Doctorow takes this cast and subverts them: the hero is racked with guilt and cowardice, the saloon-girl has a heart of stone, the boy turns against the father figure. However, this subversion serves to make them all much more human than the classic tropes they are based on. They are more like us than we want to admit. ( )
  CBJames | Jul 17, 2011 |
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The man from Bodie drank down a half bottle of the Silver Sun's best ; that cleared the dust from his throat and then when Florence, who was a redhead, moved along the bar to him, he turned and grinned down at her.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0812978226, Paperback)

Hard Times is the name of a town in the barren hills of the Dakota Territory. To this town there comes one day one of the reckless sociopaths who wander the West to kill and rape and pillage. By the time he is through and has ridden off, Hard Times is a smoking ruin. The de facto mayor, Blue, takes in two survivors of the carnage–a boy, Jimmy, and a prostitute, Molly, who has suffered unspeakably–and makes them his provisional family. Blue begins to rebuild Hard Times, welcoming new settlers, while Molly waits with vengeance in her heart for the return of the outlaw. Here is E. L. Doctorow’s debut novel, a searing allegory of frontier life that sets the stage for his subsequent classics.

“A forceful, credible story of cowardice and evil.”
–The Washington Post

“We are caught up with these people as real human beings.”
–Chicago Sun-Times

“Dramatic and exciting.”
The New York Times

“Terse and powerful.”

“A taut, bloodthirsty read.”
–The Times Literary Supplement

“A superb piece of fiction.”
–The New Republic

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:38 -0400)

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