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A country and western pairing perfect for Christmas

"Willie Nelson: American Icon" by Andrew Vaughn (Sterling Publishing, 207 pages, in stores) and "Wild West" by Elmer Kelton (Forge, 366, in stores)

I have a couple of book suggestions for last-minute Christmas gifts for any country and western fan on your gift list.

First, any Willie Nelson fan will love the coffee table book released in October, “Willie Nelson: American Icon.”

Nelson has been the subject of several books but this one is a great summary of his career, movies, music and personal life. The book has very cool photos of Willie, including ones with him and other artists such as Merle Haggard, Bob Dylan, Elvis Costello, ZZ Top, Neil Young and more.

Written by music journalist Andrew Vaughn, the book contains more than 100 photographs and page designs that are colored to look aged, vintage so to speak, like Nelson himself.

It is the kind of book that you can just pick up for a few minutes and enjoy scanning without reading from cover to cover or spend hours reading. The book also contains two-page spotlights on other icons in the country music industry, including Hank Williams, Bob Wills and Patsy Cline.

Some pages are devoted solely to information about popular and critically-acclaimed Nelson albums with track listings and back stories, and the author provides a list of recommended albums for Nelson fans.

A Willie Nelson album along with the book would make a nice package for Christmas gifts, although Vaughn doesn't list my favorite Nelson album, "Willie and Family Live," which was released in 1978.

Now for the Western part of the country and western tandem. There is a good chance the country music fan on your list also is a fan of Western stories, and released last month was the book “Wild West” by Elmer Kelton.

It is a collection of short stories by Kelton, a seven-time Spur Award winner from the Western Writers of America. Kelton, who died in 2009 at age 83, was one of the best Western writers in the business. His stories were often set in the modern West about ranchers and cowboys and not mythical Old West heroes and outlaws.

His 1973 historical novel, “The Time It Never Rained,” is exceptional. It is the story of the worst drought in Texas history and the plight of many ranchers. His 1978 book “Good Old Boys” became a made for television film starring Tommy Lee Jones in 1995.

“Wild West” is a collection of short stories that Kelton wrote early in his writing career from 1950 to 1957. Most of them appeared in Ranch Romances, a pulp magazine that mixed Western stories with tales of romance. Kelton sold 34 stories to Ranch Romances.

“Wild West” contains eight of them along with two Kelton tales that originally appeared in Triple Western and another that was published in Six-Gun Western. This is the first time the stories have appeared in book-form.

Nelson and Kelton are both Texans who are icons in the music and publishing industries, so a Christmas package involving them seems ideal. Of all the Nelson collaborations in his career, this may be the most unique.

— Ed Godfrey, The Oklahoman

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Ed Godfrey

Ed Godfrey was born in Muskogee and raised in Stigler. He has worked at The Oklahoman for 25 years. During that time, he has worked a myriad of beats for The Oklahoman including both the federal and county courthouse in Oklahoma City for more... Read more ›

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