Butcher's Crossing

  • by John Williams
  • Narrated by Anthony Heald
  • 10 hrs and 21 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

It is the 1870s, and Will Andrews, fired up by Emerson to seek ''an original relation to nature,'' drops out of Harvard and heads west. He washes up in Butcher's Crossing, a small Kansas town on the outskirts of nowhere. Butcher's Crossing is full of restless men looking for ways to make money and ways to waste it. Before long Andrews strikes up a friendship with one of them, a man who regales Andrews with tales of immense herds of buffalo, ready for the taking, hidden away in a beautiful valley deep in the Colorado Rockies. He convinces Andrews to join in an expedition to track the animals down.
The journey out is grueling, but at the end is a place of paradisiacal richness. Once there, however, the three men abandon themselves to an orgy of slaughter, so caught up in killing buffalo that they lose all sense of time. Winter soon overtakes them: they are snowed in. Next spring, half-insane with cabin fever, cold, and hunger, they stagger back to Butcher's Crossing to find a world as irremediably changed as they have been.


What the Critics Say

"Harsh and relentless yet muted in tone, Butcher's Crossing paved the way for Cormac McCarthy. It was perhaps the first and best revisionist western." (The New York Times Book Review)
"[This story] becomes a young man's search for the integrity of his own being....The characters are defined, the events lively, the place, the smells, the sounds right. And the prose is superb." (Chicago Tribune)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Come and witness the banality of an apocalypse

This is a writer that takes you places you do not want to confront, to memories that have no tinted glass or romanticized consequences, he takes you there and lets you steep yourself in the smell, the blood, the bones and the tendons of his subject, he takes you back to paradise describes it to perfection and shows you how we lost it, how we destroyed that which was not ours; for coins for pride and with not much extrapolation you can see we have learned nothing.

“It came to him that he had turned away from the buffalo not because of a womanish nausea at blood and stench and spilling gut; it came to him that he had sickened and turned away because of his shock at seeing the buffalo, a few moments before proud and noble and full of the dignity of life, now stark and helpless, a length of inert meat, divested of itself, or his notion of itself, swinging grotesquely, mockingly, before him. It was not itself; or it was not that self that he had imagined it to be. That self was murdered; and in that murder he had felt the destruction of something within him, and he had not been able to face it. So he had turned away.”
― John Williams, Butcher's Crossing

Few books dare confront its reader with unblinking truth, few books are as beautifully written as this book is, even fewer can describe so vividly and eloquently as John Williams, he builds in a few pages a West that is vivid and real with characters that walk off the pages and become as real as any man, nature is presented as a force that needs to be respected not just out of fear of its force but because it is also vulnerable to our abuse.

“Young people," McDonald said contemptuously. "You always think there's something to find out."

"Yes, sir," Andrews said.

"Well, there's nothing," McDonald said. "You get born, and you nurse on lies, and you get weaned on lies, and you learn fancier lies in school. You live all your life on lies, and then maybe when you're ready to die, it comes to you — that there's nothing, nothing but yourself and what you could have done. Only you ain't done it, because the lies told you there was something else. Then you know you could of had the world, because you're the only one that knows the secret; only then it's too late. You're too old."

"No," Andrews said. A vague terror crept from the darkness that surrounded them, and tightened his voice. "That's not the way it is."

"You ain't learned, then," McDonald said. "You ain't learned yet. . . .”
― John Williams, Butcher's Crossing

Perhaps I have emphasised what I think or feel this book is about too much, just read it as a western or an adventure and it will not disappoint but beware that westerns will not be the same after reading this book.

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- Wras "Kildonan by the sea"

Surprisingly Good

This novel is a slow-burner, and that is no bad thing. It's also a far cry from a standard Western novel. There are some moments of action that are well described but this is all about characters, their motivations and a rite of passage for the main protagonist. It's bleak, it's slow paced but it is also very well described and the narrative style fits perfectly.

If you're expecting a standard Western and are looking for John Wayne this isn't the best place but if you're looking for a heartfelt, well written book with strong characters then this should satisfy.
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- Simon "A man with a child in his ears - @shutterspin."

Book Details

  • Release Date: 23-07-2010
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.