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#5 Rendezvous With A Writer OutWest

February 26, 2021

#5 Rendezvous With A Writer OutWest

Welcome to this week's Rendezvous With A Writer OutWest featured book round-up. Find these books, and many more like them, on our separate book website We've curated book lists representing the complicated, compelling, and engaging culture, history and diversity of the American West. This week's featured book selections were posted on our OutWest Shop Facebook daily post February 21 - February 27, 2021. Discover titles about this month's Birthday Boys - George Washington,  Levi Strauss, Buffalo Bill Cody, Johnny Cash, and John Steinbeck and...more.

                     Mad At The World: A Life of John Steinbeck by William Souder

FEBRUARY 27...MAD AT THE WORLD is William Souder’s thought-provoking new biography of John Steinbeck. Did you know that Steinbeck wrote seven newspaper stories about the Dust Bowl migrants before tackling “The Grapes of Wrath”? What he saw in the California camps and reported on in “Harvest Gypsies” haunted and inspired him. The hard times and strife that Steinbeck wrote about resonate today. 

Alexander C. Kafka, in his Washington Post review, states that Steinbeck “. . . captured quintessentially American moments in indelible literary hues, from the demonic to the hopeless to the unstoppable. And Souder, in his own humble style, has brought a deeply human Steinbeck forth in all his flawed, melancholy, brilliant complication.” Today we honor this California native and Nobel Prize winner on his 119th BIRTHDAY.
---Post by Book Guide WENDY

National Steinbeck Center
                                        National Steinbeck Center
A move from the East Coast to California enabled us to explore areas, like Monterey and Salinas, for the first time. We fell in love with the Monterey Bay Region answering its call to return again and again. Prior to our visits, I can't say I was a "Steinbeck Fan" having read only one or two titles in high school. That all changed when we explored "Steinbeck Country" visiting the places he wrote about and lived. Being "museum groupies" we were eager to visit the National Steinbeck Center, located at One Main Street, in the heart of historic Oldtown Salinas, the birthplace of this Nobel Prize-winning author. Currently closed to the public, due to Covid-19, the website is worth a visit. Put the Monterey Bay area - and the National Steinbeck Center on your "must visit" list!
         John Steinbeck Book Shelf
          John Steinbeck Novels Courtesy of the National Steinbeck Center
“Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream.” – John Steinbeck, Cannery Row ---Additional Post by Book Guide BOBBI JEAN

FEBRUARY 26 ... “MY NAME IS SUE! HOW DO YOU DO?” My dad and I couldn’t help but laugh when we heard the smile in Johnny Cash’s voice on the car radio in 1969 as we commuted to school and work together. We would have chuckled to learn that Shel Silverstein, who wrote “A Boy Named Sue”, was inspired by a friend of his who had been humiliated by his “girl’s” name - Jean Shepherd. Shep (“A Christmas Story”) was our favorite radio raconteur!

               Johnny Cash Book Cover

When I was sampling books about Cash I was taken with Alan Light’s fascinating JOHNNY CASH: THE LIFE AND LEGACY OF THE MAN IN BLACK because it is rich in family photographs, clippings and memorabilia. One image brought me up short; a page from a notebook Cash kept on family history. It included this comment he had made about his own birth. “J.R., born Feb. 26, 1932, on Buffalo Bill’s birthday. Mr. Cash wanted to name the boy Buffalo Bill.” 

Buffalo Bill? BUFFALO BILL? Just imagine that deep voice uttering “HELLO, MY NAME IS BUFFALO BILL.”

So there you have it. February 26. Three birthdays, three American icons: Levi Strauss, Buffalo Bill, and Johnny Cash. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ALL!

One book on Johnny Cash is never enough. Find more on these Book Lists: 
Country Music
---Post by Book Guide WENDY

   Johnny Cash Quote

Join hosts Jim Christina and Bobbi Jean with their guest, songwriter and author DAVE MUNSICK. Known as "The Songteller" Dave is an award winning western performer, educator and writer.

Dave Munsick Songteller: Notes From The Road Book Cover

I’m somebody who’s always on the lookout for a good story. When I’m lucky enough to hear a song hiding inside one, I write and sing what I hear. I also try to tell the stories that my songs tell me. When you’re a singer/songwriter who tells stories about his own songs I guess you’ve earned the right to be called a songteller.
The Songteller Album by Dave Munsick

As I’ve played and sung my songs over the years and around the country, I’ve noticed that listeners really like to hear about the birth of a song; how it was created, how it evolved and how it became strong enough to stand on its own two feet. The way you sing it helps and the way you play it helps but the real secret lies in the telling of the story behind the song – especially real-life songs that come from real life stories. I call these song stories about story songs backlines. They found me – now they’re finding you.
---From Dave Munsick's Website

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FEBRUARY 25 ...“IMAGINE SOMEONE ASKED YOU, ‘CLOSE YOUR EYES AND THINK OF THE OLD WEST. Now tell me what you see?’” According to author Kellen Cutsforth, most of those enduring images have been shaped by one man. He was America’s first international celebrity and creator of our idea of the Wild West. WILLIAM FREDERICK CODY was born in Iowa on FEBRUARY 26 in 1846. He mounted the spectacle that bore his nickname in 1883: BUFFALO BILL'S WILD WEST.

DO YOU CONNECT to this piece of American history? His troupe toured every state and thirteen countries. Download the file “Did Buffalo Bill Visit Your Town?” at to check. We have a few "connections" in our family.
Our sister-in-law, whose parents collected antique glass, inherited a beautiful deep blue hollow sphere, a target ball like the ones Annie Oakley shot out of the air. Our cousin and the Americus Brass Band, the recreation of a Civil War band which he directed, received a grant to record as Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Cowboy Band. In 1893 our great-grandmother visited the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Did she see Buffalo Bill’s Wild West? It performed just outside the fairgrounds. Maybe she tapped her foot to the Cowboy Band and gasped as Annie Oakley hit target after target, marked by feathers or silk ribbons floating in the air.
                  Buffalo Bill Book Cover
Many books have been written about William F. Cody. Here are a few.
BUFFALO BILL AND THE BIRTH OF AMERICAN CELEBRITY by Kellen Cutsforth “will look at the influences, relationships, and moments that led Cody to create his most well-loved and well-remembered enterprise.” Pre-order now for shipping April 1.
                       Blood Brothers Sitting Bull and Buffalo Bill Book Cover
BLOOD BROTHERS: THE STORY OF THE STRANGE FRIENDSHIP BETWEEN SITTING BULL AND BUFFALO BILL. “Foes in ‘76, Friends in ‘85” was the advertising slogan of the day. Deanna Stillman’s book is “. . . a thrilling and elegantly written saga. . . . A landmark achievement of American history.” - - Douglas Brinkley, historian

                                 The Life of Honorable William F. Cody Book Cover
Cody wrote his autobiography, THE LIFE OF HON. WILLIAM F. CODY, KNOWN AS BUFFALO BILL, when he was thirty-three. This Bison Books edition includes many photographs, documents, and other additional material. h
                         Buffalo Bill Coloring Book
Dramatic advertising posters are reproduced in BUFFALO BILL’S WILD WEST COLORING BOOK. Put on some stirring music and lose yourself in the past.

For more on Buffalo Bill check out these museums:
Buffalo Bill Center Of The West
The Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave
---Post by Book Guide Wendy

                          Buffalo Bill Quote

FEBRUARY 24...“THE SECRATT OF THEM PANTS IS THE RIVITS,” wrote Jacob David to Levi Strauss, his future business partner and co-patent holder. Levi Strauss, whose jeans are worn worldwide today, was born in Germany on FEBRUARY 26, 1829. He came to the United States in 1847 to join his brothers in business. By 1854 he was a citizen and opened a dry goods business in San Francisco. The famous patent was issued in 1873. Work clothes and fashion have never been the same. Slip into your favorite jeans and open these books to learn more.
               Blue Branded Book Cover
BLUE BLOODED: DENIM HUNTERS AND JEANS CULTURE. Fabulously beautiful and detailed. “... a hybrid telling that fluctuates between study, story and an encyclopedic accounting of everything you ever want to know about denim...” - - Jeffrey Felner, New York Review of Books 
             Denim Branded Book Cover
DENIM BRANDED from Schiffer Publishing “deconstructs every element that goes into branding a pair of jeans.” From those first Levi rivets to contemporary design - patches, pockets, buttons and more are shown in photographic detail. 
                   Levi Strauss Co. Book Cover
LEVI STRAUSS & CO. A photographic history written by Lynn Downey, the company’s first historian and archivist. Scroll down for a story about a special presentation made by Lynn Downey my sister, Bobbi Jean, attended. 
                      Mending Matters Book Cover
MENDING MATTERS: STITCH, PATCH, AND REPAIR YOUR FAVORITE DENIM & MORE. Katrina Rodabaugh inspires and teaches you how to preserve your wardrobe. 
Browse our FASHION BOOK LIST for more. 
---Post by Book Guide Wendy

On January 25, 2009 my husband, Jim, and I attended the most engaging fashion show we'd ever attended. Hosted by the Autry Museum, there wasn't an available seat in the Wells Fargo Theater -a sold out crowd. Lynn Downey, the historian for the Levi Strauss Co., was the main speaker and she came with both a riveting and entertaining presentation on the history of the company and...with the most expensive pair of jeans in their collection! She shared the behind the scenes story of how they were discovered and added to the company's extensive collection and her nervousness packing them into her travel bag so she could share them with us! What a story!

The second half of the evening was a fashion show presented by students of Los Angeles Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM). Each one received a bolt of untreated denim with simple instructions - "design and make something from this bolt, is must be able to be worn in a fashion show on January 25." The designs were amazing - coats, dramatic capes, even a bikini -we gasped and applauded as each came down the aisle and crossed the stage. Some designs were modeled by the student designers, others by friends.

But it was the stories behind each design that were memorable. Designers spoke of the challenges working with untreated denim, of bleeding fingers and dashed design dreams because of the thickness and toughness of the material. One student admitted to taking the fabric to his Mom's and running it through her washing machine hour after hour to no was still as stiff as a board! The bikini designer shared, out of frustration, she cut the material into thin strips and crocheted it into the bathing suit design - the balance of the bolt was designed into a stiff, short jacket worn as a bikini topper. Imaginations ran wild and we were entralled!
Happy Birthday Levi Strauss!
---Post by OutWest Shop Buyer Bobbi Jean

                     Four Hundred Souls Book Cover
FEBRUARY 23 ... “I WANT YOU TO WRITE AN ESSAY.” Do you remember this from your English classes? I sure do. We wrote one every week in eighth grade. Sometimes we could write about anything; more often we were given a topic. I was reminded of these assignments when I started reading a remarkable new book.

Ninety writers contributed essays and poems to FOUR HUNDRED SOULS: A COMMUNITY HISTORY OF AFRICAN AMERICA, 1619-2019. In each of ten chapters eight essays and a poem cover a forty year time period. Each writer focuses on five years within the forty. The range of topics is broad, the writing styles varied, and the voices personal and electrifying. An eye opening look at a history that was inadequately taught when I was in school, FOUR HUNDRED SOULS is particularly relevant to the issues we face today as a nation.

“... this seamless collection crackles with rage, beauty, bitter humor, and the indomitable will to survive.” - - Booklist

----Post by Book Guide Wendy

The need for change bulldozed a road down the center of my mind.
---Maya Angelou - Writer, Poet, and Activist
I had no idea history was being made. I was just tired of giving up.
---Rosa Parks - Civil Rights Activist

FEBRUARY 22...“GEORGE WASHINGTON SLEPT HERE.” Really? We had no idea, having moved from Minnesota to New Jersey. Turned out that Washington spent a lot of time in the state during the Revolutionary War when he commanded the Continental Army.

The weather this February has been brutal, but the winter of 1779-80, which Washington and his army spent in Jockey Hollow and Morristown, New Jersey, was the worst of the century. 28 snowstorms, six of which were blizzards, made life nearly unendurable for the starving and poorly clothed soldiers.
We visited the historic sites as a family. I remember the Tempe Wick House. Every fourth grader in the state knew the story of the girl who hid her horse in a bedroom to keep it safe from mutineers. Was that the indent of a hoof print I saw in the floor?

The Ford Mansion where Washington headquartered was much grander. Martha Washington joined her husband there for the winter. She befriended Elizabeth Schuyler who was visiting an aunt. Romance bloomed between the young woman and Washington’s aide-de-camp; she and Alexander Hamilton were engaged in April 1780 and married in December.
                      George Washington Book Cover

Where is the book in this? I haven’t read a Washington book in a long time, but I’m enjoying GEORGE WASHINGTON: THE POLITICAL RISE OF AMERICA’S FOUNDING FATHER, the new biography by David O. Stewart. Don’t be put off by the dry title; the book is a winner. 
Happy Washington’s Birthday!
---Post By Book Guide Wendy

Happiness depends more upon the internal frame of a person's own mind than on the externals in the world.
Check out more books on our Presidents, Heads of State & Diplomacy Book List

FEBRUARY 21...THE RATTLING OF THE BREAD DRAWER meant one thing - Grandpa was back from the bakery with sweet rolls! Never could I have imagined that one day I would work the pastry shift in an artisan bakery; rolling croissants, filling cheese danish, and brushing apricot glaze on raisin buns. My main job, for which I was totally untrained, was “oven man.” I proofed the pastries (watched them rise) and baked them off. “Proof them until they’re ready; bake them until they’re done,” the head baker told me. Not the most useful advice for a novice!

I am reminded of this intense time in my life because today is NATIONAL STICKY BUN DAY, and I was pretty successful baking this popular pastry. Sugar, honey, butter, raisins and pecans went into the muffin tins. A spiral of yeasted dough topped each compartment. Once baked, I flipped the tin onto a sheet pan. When the tin was removed, each warm roll was fragrant with cinnamon and sticky with its delicious crown of nuts and raisins.
You, too, can make your family happy with a batch of sticky buns. Here are several sources for great recipes.
                   The William Greenberg Desert Book
The Schnecken in THE WILLIAM GREENBERG DESSERTS COOKBOOK reminds me of the sticky buns we baked. The dough includes sour cream, the filling cinnamon sugar, and the topping butter, maple syrup, raisins and pecans.
                             Flour Cookbook
The FLOUR Sticky Sticky Buns are made with rich brioche dough, one of my favorites. Honey is a component of the “goo” that tops the roll, and pecans feature in both the filling and the topping. Chef Joanne Chang won Throwdown with Bobby Flay with this recipe.
                    Baking For Breakfast Book Cover
“I want you to be able to share the happiness of BAKING FOR BREAKFAST, with creative recipes that are easy to prepare and share,” writes Donna Leahy. She offers two variants of the sticky bun and many other baked delights from muffins and scones to coffeecakes and cobblers.

With all the yummy recipes here, plus a plate of eggs or a bowl of oatmeal, you’ll be celebrating NATIONAL HOT BREAKFAST MONTH for the rest of February.
--Post by Baking for Breakfast Enthusiast and Book Guide WENDY
             Breakfast Quote

“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,” said Piglet at last, “what’s the first thing you say to yourself ?”
“What’s for breakfast?” said Pooh. “What do you say, Piglet?”
“I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” said Piglet.
Pooh nodded thoughtfully. “It’s the same thing,” he said."
----A. A. Milne The World of Pooh

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                          Rendezvous With A Writer OutWest 
Who are we to be your guides? We are two sisters who grew up in a family that valued reading and encouraged an interest in history and the arts. Wendy spent her career with books. She worked as a children's librarian and as the buyer and manager of the children's department of an independent bookstore. A college major in literature introduced her to the classics of the American West.

Bobbi Jean and her husband, Jim, own OutWest Shop. She was the manager and buyer for a museum store before they started their own business. Bobbi Jean co-hosts The Writer's Block on LA Talk Radio, where she interviews authors of all types. The three other radio shows she hosts involve Western music and horses. Find podcasts of all her shows at OutWest Live!

We love sharing our book knowledge. You are not limited to the titles you find on our lists, though. Use the search box to rustle up any books that you want, and put them in your OutWest Book Shop cart!

Happy Reading! Remember, it's always a Great Day OutWest!

     Open Book courtesy of Pixabay
                              Image Courtesy of
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