Ox-Bow Incident

Clark, Walter Van Tilburg. The Ox-Bow Incident. New York: Signet Classic, 1968.

The Ox-Bow Incident was first published in 1940 but its premise could have been about modern mob mentality. It is the story of a rumor and what happens when a community is whipped into a frenzied need for self-righteous justice. In Nevada someone has been rustling cattle. When two men are pinned for the crime the mob cries for retaliation. Then they find out one of their own has been murdered. Now, they want the men lynched. While this is a western it could take place anywhere a collective group of angry people let their emotions get the better of them. It’s the story of what happens when this group takes the law into their own hands. Clark’s character development is brilliant. Each man in the story is a study in emotion. The tension that builds due to violence and bred by hate and suspicion rings true.

Lines I liked, “Whenever Gil gets low in spirit, or confused in his mind, he doesn’t feel right until he’s had a fight” (p 15), “There is a kind of insanity that comes from being between walls and under a roof” (p 50), and “He’d got beyond me again, chasing his own hate” (p 103).

Reason read: For some reason July is the best time to go to a dude ranch. Not sure why. This doesn’t take place on a dude ranch but it’s a western so…

Author fact: Clark was born in Maine but became Nevada’s best known writer of western fiction.

Book trivia: The Ox-Bow Incident was made into a movie in 1943.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Western Fiction” (p 240).

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