The Shootist (A Book Review)

By Nick Maker

This topic will discuss my opinion of the book I read by Glendon Swarthout and of course there will be a major spoil alert! I will discuss each section of the book by author style, characters, and story. I’m only going to give you a synopsis so that if you haven’t read it you can at least know what is about. Enough said, please enjoy the review.


The setting is about the end era of western time and takes place in Texas. A sheriff by the name of John Bernard Books has been diagnosed with cancer and he only has a few weeks to live. He then decides that he wants to die in the noblest and less painful way as possible.

Last chance: Spoiler alert!

Style of Writing

I enjoy Swarthout’s type of writing because it feels like each word is precisely detailed by the character’s personality, and I do enjoy the feeling of the western world and also Books’ character as he is the most strong in the story. Swarthout delivers the right kind of setting explaining Books’ strong tough guy act outside of Ms. Roger’s house, but at night he shows a very different character when he is in bed. Trying to show the character a two sided reaction of his disease and himself! Each line he delivers is memorable and you can feel the language and reaction of what Swarthoutis trying to deliver in his story.


John Bernard Books

He is one of my favorite characters in the entire story. He is the type of man that shows no fear toward others and he really shows that you don’t mess around with him at all! But one of the things I like about him is his way of showing judgment toward others. He is a sheriff after all and he needs to practice the law which in most cases means shooting people, almost similar to the movie Judge Dredd but western style.

Now it is obvious shooting people is wrong without giving his/her a proper trial, but he doesn’t kill people just for robbing a bank; rather, he sees criminals killing innocents and the police aren’t giving people the right justice, so he thinks the only way for true justice is by killing criminals. Now no one is perfect and not all he does is correct like his act of killing people, but I could see why he does this.

He also hinted to us that he probably is an atheist since Ms. Rogersaid to him once that only God can judge others fairly but Books responded to her saying: “God is doing a bad job considering he lets pain and suffering go through the town.” At night when John was going to get his medicine his pain was acting up again but this time worse than before. He howled and screamed in pain, and for the first time he realized the meaning of fear. He then blamed his disease on God saying, “What have I done to deserve this miserable excuse for a cancer!”

That shows this character’s actual human response, like the emotion of what we feel when we have a terrible headache! He shows actual reaction and understands death since he always seems the top game to others, but after hearing his doctor’s news about his cancer his chivalry and bravery becomes worry and fear for the first time! Not many books shows actual inner reaction to what a person would feel when someone is in a death bed.

Ms. Rogers

Another character that I liked, she is one of those caring strict mothers that you all recognize. She and John have a special connection between each other but never shows. Ms. Rogers it seems she does care about John’s health and wants him to live a little more but doesn’t tell him directly. The personality between John and Ms. Rogers is one of the memorable interactive moments in the story. She shows the attitude of a mom toward her son Gillom but fails to have a mother/son connection, because of her husband’s death for which her son has a special bond to his father. She’s funny when she’s with John but I also couldn’t help but feeling sad for her because of her difficulty with her son. She’s strict, caring, loving, and that’s what I love about her: she acts like an actual mother should feel like.

Minor Characters

I feel like all of the characters did a good job being as they were. The marshal feels that he has a responsibility to the town, Gillom being the struggling tough kid to his mother, but the only thing I don’t feel as much are the villains. I want the three big bad villains to have a little more talk to the sheriff rather than saying, let’s kill him to be famous. I want a small conversation witi the main character when they were at the bar as the last showdown.


I love the story; it shows many sides of the main characters and the supporting characters. It shows a moral saying that all of us don’t need to sell ourselves to impress one another, but to attain our figure and not spoil from others. John did a great job of not letting others ruin his figure of respect but he still obtained it and gained even more popularity! The only bad thing that I don’t like, and which is the only thing that keeps me from giving a perfect score, is Gillom.

Gillom is like the analogy of cancer! He starts acting like the trouble maker teen and you feel sorry for him, much like me in the same reaction. I thought later on he’ll change and be a good son again but no! He stole John’s money that he worked hard for to give it to Ms. Rogers’ for her financial trouble! He feels almost nothing for John at the last page of the book when John said to shoot me to end his life. He just said “sure thing” with no description of feeling remorse to John who had treated Gillom like a son figure. Finally after the last wish he just took the sheriff’s guns, walked out the door, and said to everyone the drinks are on me, and finally he walks away from the bar.

That is a very bad ending to Ms. Rogers and a horrible way it wraps it up to Gillom. John’s ending was perfect because he got his wish by killing the most wanted men in Texas, and that plan was the only way that if he lost he still won because he got his dignity. Gillom, on the other hand, just went to a path of a rogue ranger; he and his mother didn’t patch things through together which is why it is a good ending to the lone ranger, and bad on the rouge scoundrel. Another thing I feel is missing is a one last conversation with John and Ms. Rogers, because he seems he’s going to fight the criminals in the bar but doesn’t want anybody to know but it feels like he could have at least hinted to her that this is good bye. It just only feels like it was missing a page or two of a perfect last conversation of the odd couple.

4.7/5 stars. An almost perfect book, but not a complete happy ending.

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About Nick…
“I am a studious person who loves reading and loves researching about virtually anything! I play the piano and every year I have to give a performance in a church. I love video games – especially when it’s a puzzle and action game. I would like to become a programmer one day in the field of computer science. I love my family so much, even if we drive each other crazy sometimes, we’re still one big happy family.”

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