Jack Schaefer’s book, Shane, has been classified in many sub-genres, but to me, it will always remain my favorite western romance.

Current bantam edition cover

Romance?  Shane?

This story cannot have a truly happy-ever-after ending for all the principal characters, so it normally wouldn’t make it to my “Top Ten” list for that very reason.  But the story itself is so compelling, so riveting, that there is no choice once you’ve read page one—you are going to finish it.  And it’s not just a story about a very odd love triangle, but also about Shane discovering that he is worthy, and a good person, despite what he’s done in his past.

Shane is the perfect hero—a drifter, a loner, and no one knows why.  He plans to keep it that way.  If only his pesky conscience didn’t get in the way, he might have stopped briefly at the Starrett’s homestead, then moved on.

But from the beginning of the book, we know there is something different about Shane.  The story is told through the eyes of Bob Starrett, the young son of Joe and Marion.  Bob is about ten years old, and his account of the people and action that takes place are colored with the wonderment and naivete of a child who will be well on his way to becoming a young man before the story is over.

The book starts with tension, as Bob is watching the stranger, Shane, ride in.  Shane comes to a fork in the road. One way leads down toward Luke Fletcher’s, the cattle baron who is trying to force the homesteaders out of the valley.  The other branch of the fork leads toward the Starretts, the homesteaders who will ultimately force Fletcher’s hand. Shane chooses that path, toward the Starretts, and the die is cast.

He would have looked frail alongside father’s square, solid bulk.  But even I could read the endurance in the lines of that dark figure and the quiet power in his effortless, unthinking adjustment to every movement of the tired horse.

He was clean-shaven and his face was lean and hard and burned from high forehead to firm, tapering chin.  His eyes seemed hooded in the shadow of the hat’s brim.  He came closer and I could see that this was because the brows were drawn into a frown of fixed and habitual alertness.  Beneath them the eyes were endlessly searching from side to side and forward, checking off every item in view, missing nothing.  As I noticed this, a sudden chill, and I could not have told why, struck through me there in the warm and open sun.

In a nutshell, Shane drifts into the Wyoming valley, and is befriended by the Starretts.  Once there, he is quickly made aware of the brewing trouble between the homesteaders and the powerful local cattle baron, Luke Fletcher, who is set on running them all out of the valley.  Shane is firmly committed to helping Joe Starrett and the homesteaders who want to stay.  Fletcher’s men get into a fistfight with Shane and Joe in the general store, and Fletcher vows his men will kill the next time Joe or Shane come back into town.

Fletcher hires Stark Wilson, a well-known gunhawk, who kills one of the homesteaders that stands up to him.  Joe Starrett feels it is his duty, since he convinced the others to stay, to go kill Fletcher and Wilson.

Shane knocks Joe out, knowing that, though Joe’s heart is in the right place, he’s no match for a hired gun like Wilson.  There’s only one man who is—Shane himself, and that’s going to set him back on the path he’s so desperately trying to escape.

Shane rides into town and Bob follows him, witnessing the entire battle.  Shane faces Wilson down first, and then Fletcher.  Shane turns to leave and Bob warns him of another man, who Shane also kills.  But Shane doesn’t escape unscathed—Wilson has wounded him in the earlier gunplay.

Shane rides out of town, and though Bob wishes so much that Shane could stay, he understands why he can’t.  No.  Bob does not utter one of the most famous lines in cinema history—“Shane! Come back!” There’s good reason for this.  In the book, Bob’s growth is shown because of what he learns from Shane.  To call him back would negate that growth process.

He describes Shane throughout the book, and in many ways, with a child’s intuition, understands innately that Shane is a good man and will do the right thing, which is proven out time and again. So, he also realizes that there is no place for Shane there in the valley, now that the trouble has been handled.

Bob witnesses the conversation between his mother and Shane, as well, where so much is said—and not said.  It’s one of the major turning points in the book, though Bob, in his telling of it, doesn’t realize it—but the reader is painfully aware of it.  If Shane really is a good man, he will have no recourse but to leave.

This happens as the novel is drawing to a close, when Marian, Bob’s mother, asks Shane if he’s going after Wilson just for her.  He has knocked her husband out to keep him from going after the gunman.

Shane hesitated for a long, long moment. “No, Marian.” His gaze seemed to widen and encompass us all, mother and the still figure of father huddled on a chair by the window and somehow the room and the house and the whole place.  Then he was looking only at mother and she was all he could see.

“No, Marian.  Could I separate you in my mind and afterwards be a man?”


Shane was Jack Schaefer’s debut novel, published in 1949.  It was honored in 1985 by the Western Writers of America as the best Western novel ever written—beating out other works such as Owen Wister’s The Virginian, Zane Grey’s Riders of the Purple Sage, and Louis L’Amour’s Hondo.

In 1963, Schaefer wrote Monte Walsh, a book that chronicles the passing of the Old West and the lifestyle of the American cowboy.

Though Schaefer never deliberately wrote for young adults, many of his works have become increasingly popular among younger readers.  Universal themes such as the transformation and changes of growing up, the life lessons learned, and rites of passage from childhood to becoming a young adult in his writing have been responsible for the upswing in popularity with this age group.

Though I consider Shane a romance novel, it’s a very different and memorable love triangle because of the unshakable honor of the three characters. I love the subtlety that Schaefer is such a master of, and the way he has Bob describing the action, seeing everything, but with the eyes of a child. If you haven’t read Shane, I highly recommend it—at less than 200 pages, it’s a quick, easy read, and unforgettable.

A gun is a tool, Marian; no better or no worse than any other tool: an axe, a shovel or anything.  A gun is as good or as bad as the man using it.  Remember that.  (Shane to Marian)


A man is what he is, Bob, and there’s no breaking the mold.  I’ve tried that and I’ve lost.  But I reckon it was in the cards from the moment I saw a freckled kid on a rail up the road there and a real man behind him, the kind that could back him for the chance another kid never had. (Shane to Bob)

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A native Oklahoman, I've been influenced by the west all my life. I love to write short stories and novels in the historical western and western romance genres, as well as contemporary romantic suspense! Check my Amazon author page to see my work:
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42 thoughts on “SHANE”

  1. hi Cheryl, wonderful post. I am mortified to admit I’ve seen the movie but not read the book
    🙁 That will change after reading the prose you excerpted. Thanks! oxoxox

  2. Like Tanya and Tracy, I haven’t read the book, Cheryl, but of course I did see the movie. Always loved it because the little boy reminded me so much of my son. Your wonderful blog makes me want to read the book.

  3. Hi Tanya,

    Thanks, Tanya. I see that part of the excerpts didn’t come out in italics as I had formatted them, but I’m sure everyone will realize that one paragraph that describes Shane is NOT MINE, but Bob Starrett’s. LOLLOL You know, I didn’t want to go into too much detail in the post, because the fight scenes are just so tense and well written that I didn’t want to give anything away. It’s a great book. You will be glad you read it.
    Thanks for commenting, Tanya! I know you are busy as heck.

  4. Oh, Elizabeth, I loved that movie so much. I have it on 2 or 3 DVD/VCR tapes, you name it. LOL Brandon DeWilde (think that’s the way you spell his name) was the little boy. He did a fantastic job. But the book is really something you won’t forget.

  5. I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one who has never read Shane.
    We have seen the movie many times, to the point that whenever anyone leaves the house it’s, “Shane, Shane, don’t go! Come Back.”
    Now, I must read what I’ve been missing all these years.
    And Monte Walsh! Now, that was a story. (The original movie with Lee Marvin, was the best.).

  6. Hi Mary,
    There are very few books that give me chills to read the sheer beauty of the words and the way they are put together, but Shane is one of those books. To Kill a Mockingbird is another. Though Shane is a lot shorter, I put them in the same class. And that’s saying something. LOL I do hope you find it and read it. I love my critical copy with all the notes in it. But just to read, buy a regular copy and just enjoy it the first time through.

  7. Mary J!
    When I teach a fiction writing class and we study something as a class, it’s always Shane or Conagher. LOL God help those people if they don’t like westerns and come to my class. LOLLOL Anyhow, I hope you do get a copy of it and read it. The funny thing is that that line has been so immortalized that’s what people associate with the book, and Bob never says it in the book. But if you have ever seen The Unforgiven, that’s a retelling of Shane in a way, even down to the line at the end where the girl runs after Clint Eastwood yelling “Preacher! Don’t go! We love you!”

  8. Cheryl, I’m wondering how in the world I’ve missed reading this classic. I can see why it was chosen as the best western novel every written. I did see the movie but now I’m itching to read the book. You made it sound so compelling.

  9. Hi Linda,
    It truly is just wonderful. I can’t imagine writing something as fantastic as that for a debut novel–well, really, EVER. LOL I do hope you pick it up and read it. I promise, you won’t be sorry–you will need tissues at the end, though.

  10. Okay, ashamed to admit it but I didn’t know there was a book–just the movie. I happened to love that movie though. If the book is like the movie, I will have to have a hankie with me. Books usually are so much better than the movie–more in-depth characters and meaningful story line. Now that I know there is a book, I will have to read it. Great blog, Cheryl.

  11. Hi Sarah!
    Well, it looks like you are in good company as far as not having read the book yet, but if everyone goes out and gets it and reads it, I’ll feel great about writing this blog. LOL I loved the movie, but I love the book even more. You are right about showing the depth of the characters even stronger in the book than the movie. I think you will really enjoy the book. Thank you for coming over–I know you are busy!

  12. Hi Cheryl, back again. TKAMB is one of the best books ever written, style-wise, too. So with Shane in the same class, I’m off to read it. I hope it’s on Kindle LOL…although True Grit wasn’t. oxox

  13. Cheryl, “Shane” as a movie is an icon even to those who don’t read books (as unbelievable as the concept of not reading is to us). Great post.

  14. Tanya,
    Too bad it’s not on Kindle! But Tanya, you may rather have the paper copy of this one anyhow. I can’t believe TG wasn’t on Kindle! Boy, they are missing some sales! Let me know what you think of Shane. I know you will love it.

  15. Hi Caroline,
    You can’t believe the people that come through my class and when asked what they like to read reply, “Oh, I don’t read. I don’t have time.” It’s amazing to me. Why would anyone want to write if they don’t read? LOLLOL Yes, everyone knows Shane, don’t they? What a great movie. Thanks for coming over and commenting!

  16. One afternoon I saw Shane on AMC (I think it was that channel) and thought it was pretty good, considering I don’t generally like Westerns. The exception is Last of the Mohicans with Daniel Day-Lewis (wow – that was good).

    I picked up the novel from the library shortly after seeing the movie and thought the plot was a little slow. I don’t recall much about the book except that Shane called pancakes ‘flannel cakes’ – at least that’s what I recall about the book. I thought that was such an odd name.

    In high school, I read The Virginian and Ramona for my English lit class. I did enjoy both of them, especially Ramona. What a sad/tragic tale.

  17. Hi Tina,
    Oh, yes, Daniel Day-Lewis in Last of the Mohicans…SEXY.LOL Yes, Ramona was really sad. I really (dare I say it) wasn’t that crazy about The Virginian, but I did read it. Thanks for coming over and commenting–I know you’ve got a ton of stuff going on right now, too!

  18. CHERYL–I could not pass this up. I read and loved every word. Of course we all saw the movie, but the book? I didn’t even know it was a book. I’ll see if our library has it. It’s a real classic, a prototype, really of the Western man, whether he is a cowboy or a gunman.
    I’m writing a story for the anthology, and my hero has been such a man but gave it up to move West and start over. But a woman needs his help, so for the price of a kiss, he stays to help her save her ranch from the powerful man on the next ranch. It’s a typical plot, with a few other twists, and now I realize it’s like Shane, the book that started it all.
    Thanks for making my day, Cheryl. It was a wonderful post. Celia

  19. CELIA!
    So glad to see you here. I’m soooo glad you enjoyed the post so much. Yes, you will love the book, I promise. It is one of those that just stays with you, because of the way we see it through Bob’s viewpoint. Oh, I cannot WAIT to read your story you’re working on! It is going to be wonderful with that plot you’ve got going. Thanks for coming by and commenting. I’m so glad I made your day–that’s what friends are for!

  20. For pitysakes! I, too, am caught with my drawers around my ankles which apparently tripped me up from reading SHANE. How the heck did I miss it all these years? I love Monte Walsh. In fact, the latter was just on TV less than a week ago. And you can bet your sweet bibby I’m off to get a copy of SHANE into my Nook sooner rather than later. I did love the move though.

  21. Hi, Cheryl — I had the privilege of “meeting” Jack through an editor friend of mine, and we shared some great letters. He was a very private man, and very humble about his talent, dismissing it by saying he was simply a story-teller from a long line of story-tellers. I have a nephew and a friend’s child who were named after the title character, and Jack autographed books to both boys; and not just some general “regards, blah, blah, blah”. He made a point to ask about them and addressed that in the autographs: a great gesture from a great man.


  22. Cherlyl, I really enjoyed this and I must confess I am not a Western fan. But I see what I’ve been missing. I do adore this kind of hero. So count me a new convert! I like this blog also. My first time here. Linda

  23. Hi Cheryl, Embarrassing admission . . . I haven’t read “Shane,” but I love the movie. The hero in my current project is named Shane. It’s a tip of the hat to true honor. Thanks for sharing!

  24. Mary,
    To Kill a Mockingbird is my fave book of all time too…tied with Shane. LOLLOL I will say that To Kill a Mockingbird is longer and therefore is able to go into more depth about more characters and so on, but for the length, yes, I do believe Shane is on the same level as TKAMB. Another similarity–they are stories both told through the eyes of children, who grow up during the story, but Scout has years to grow up in her story, whereas Bob has only a few weeks. I believe you will love Shane, Mary. It’s a different kind of book being a western, but the beautiful storytelling just gives me the same kind of chills that TKAMB does.

  25. Hi Joyce,
    I loved that movie, too! But when you read the book, you will see that Bob is a bit more mature in the book (still a child though) than in the movie, and I love being able to read his thoughts and opinions about things–can’t do that in a movie, and that is part of the beauty of this book. I’m so glad you are going to read it. I can’t say enough good about it. I love Monte Walsh, too.

  26. I actually have a copy of both the movie and book Shane. I have loved the movie since I was a little girl and just recently found a copy of the book. Both are good even with the differences between book and movie. Jack Palance is wonderful in the movie as is Alan Ladd. I need to dig both out, dust them off and read and watch again. Loved your review by the way.


  27. KIT!!! Congratulations on becoming a finalist for LONG RIDE TO LIMBO in the PEACEMAKER AWARDS!!! That is totally wonderfully AWESOME!!!!

    How wonderful that you met Jack Schaefer. Just from reading about him, I could tell he was a private man, and wrote from the heart. What a storyteller he was! And how great that he found out about your nephew and friend’s son and personally autographed the books for them. That is the mark of someone who really cares about his readers and how the books affects them.

    Again, congratulations, my friend. I’m hoping you WIN in July!

  28. Hi Linda,
    I am so glad that you came over and read the post and are now CONVERTED! LOLLOL Seriously, we love to hear that here at P&P because western romance can be so awesome, and there are many of us that write other subgenres as well as western. No matter what, if you love history, you will always learn something cool here at P&P. We are so glad you joined us today, and hope you come back often, Linda.

  29. Hi Vicki,
    Well, I know that Shane is not a typical “beach read” and it is pretty thought provoking. I hope you will read it when you get the chance–I know you are busy as all get out right now. How cool that your hero is named Shane though! I have always loved that name from the minute I watched the movie and read the book. That name has now come to exemplify honor to me.

  30. Hi Carole!

    Oh, yes, Shane is one of those books that needs to be re-read every so often. LOL And re-watched, as well. Jack Palance was wonderful as the hired gunman, wasn’t he? He only spoke 12 lines of dialogue in that movie, and was nominated for best supporting actor for that role.

    Thanks so much for coming over and commenting, Carole! Hope you’ll come back often.


  31. Cheryl thank you so much for this post. Shane is probably one of the first Westerns I ever read. I had a copy with the exact same cover as on your post. Sadly I lost it long ago, but having read it so many times I know it almost word for word, although I might treat myself to a new copy. I saw the film several times before I bought the book, and fell in love with Shane. (Love the film music too.)

    As you know, I write futuristic, although I love Westerns and was thrilled to find that ‘Shane’ appears in Arthur C Clark’s novel ‘A Fall of Moondust’ when the passengers read it on a crippled moon cruiser.

    Shane is probably my joint favourite Western novel – along with ‘Riders Of The Purple Sage’ (the sequel ‘The Rainbow Trial’ left me a little disappointed,although it’s a great book) closely followed by ‘The Viginian.’

  32. Hi Lyn!!!
    So good to see you over here at P&P!!! You know, I think no matter what sub-genre you write or normally even read, Shane is one of those books that appeals universally to everyone. How cool that the apssengers are reading Shane in Clark’s novel! I guess that just shows the regard he had for the book, too. Oh, Lyn, you should treat yourself to another copy of Shane. Happiness for $6.00.LOL Thanks so much for coming over and commenting! Hope you’ll visit again soon.

  33. Hey Cheryl, I’m not a big western reader and haven’t read this, but the more I hear you talk about it, the more I think I should. Might have to. 😉

  34. LK, it wouldn’t take you long at all to get through it. It’s very thought provoking, seeing everything through Bob’s eyes. It’s just a good story, whether you are a big western fan or not.
    Good to see you here!

  35. Another book that I have on my shelf that I haven’t read. I have a three bookcase library of western books, not including romances, which I have not yet read. One of these days I’ll get to them. Shane is at the top of the list.

  36. Oh Patricia, I do hope you start with Shane! It’s one of those books that you will finish before you know it. Then you’ll want to read it again. LOL At least you already have it, ready and waiting!

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