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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.
©1988 John Williams (P)2010 Blackstone Audio
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Critic Reviews

“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

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By Kathleen on 01-07-16


Perfect writing. Perfect narration. Devastatingly perfect story. There may be no better American west novel.

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4 of 4 people found this review helpful

By Ron on 02-12-17

Another prose painting by a master.

Williams is the true underappreciated American author in my opinion. His works stand as portraits of men and women whose still waters run endlessly deep. His work Stoner was a masterful character piece. A wordsmithed painting about the world of academia and affluent duty, stuck and dusty as it could be, yet in the almost daily silence, a complex man struggled ... Here, in Butchers Crossing, we read of a young stagnant protagonist Hell-bent on finding himself, someone, something, anything; set against a tumultuous and changing landscape. In such an immense and powerful way, that land, the ever-changing world of men, is the protagonist. It is the land whose literal waters run deep, whose challenges of time and quiet force bend its will upon the human mind.
I love this reversal of rolls between the two books! I saw myself in Stoner and also in young Will Anderson, of Butchers Crossing. What is so special, is the two characters couldn't be more opposite! One was a wellspring of feeling, bottled so tightly, that he nearly cracked and exploded on his world. The other, had to be cracked by the world; only then, could magnificent, if ever so small insights, seep in.
So it is with the genius of John Williams! The insightful life lessons that I know Williams is pouring profoundly out of himself at the end of the story are greatly worth the read!

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3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

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By Simon on 08-31-15

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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6 of 10 people found this review helpful

By James on 07-11-14

Another quietly compelling novel

This is a novel that sets its clock against the reader's world and insists you go with it, and that is appropriate for a novel devoted to the last moments of a vanished time. The ending, elegiac and moving, is its very point, and well worth reaching, and the novel's slowly involving pace is rewarding and, again, part of what this novel teaches us about time, how we use it and lose it. Williams's novels tell us what we have lost in an age where novels speak down to us and no longer ask us to reach and to adjust ourselves to what they have to say.

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3 of 5 people found this review helpful

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