Two of the most cheering books on my shelf are Charles Portis’ “True Grit” and Paulette Jiles’ “News of the World.” Set in Texas in 1873 and 1870 respectively, both are short books about long journeys, beautifully written, filled with adventure, and leavened with humor. They present a Wild West version of the hero and the maiden — only the “heroes” are old codgers and the “maidens” tough as nails. Portis gives us Marshal Rooster Cogburn, “an old one-eyed jasper that was built along the lines of Grover Cleveland,” and Mattie, a stubborn 14-year-old girl out for revenge and justice for her father’s death.

Jiles serves up 71-year-old Capt. Kidd, who reads big-city newspapers to small-town paying audiences, and resourceful, self-assured 10-year-old Johanna, “redeemed” from four years of Indian captivity. These are stories of growing friendship, gratifying comeuppance and happy endings.



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