Today: April 16, 2024

True Grit’s A True Gem

Most of us know the film, in which John Wayne gives a roaring performance as the drunken Wild West lawman, Rooster Cogburn. Some of us will also be familiar with the Coen Brothers’ revisionist take on the same tale, which saw Jeff Bridges step into Big Leggy’s monumental size nines. But few of us will probably know the book which inspired them both: Charles Portis’ True Grit. And that’s a crime, because this is a book unlike any other. With its rich language and iconic characters True Grit was is rightly regarded as a classic.

Thankfully a new edition from the Folio Society gives fans a chance to read for themselves one of the greatest first-person narratives in American literature. A taut, tense and unflinching tale, in the tradition of Lee, Steinbeck and Twain, True Grit is beautifully written and epic in scale.

Author Charles Portis plays with the classic revenge scenario by pitting the wits of a teenage girl against gun-toting outlaws. However, it isn’t long before this becomes irrelevant, as she holds her own in the badlands of 1870s Arkansas.

Single-minded and unyielding, fourteen-year-old Mattie Ross is a typical western protagonist in everything but gender. When she hires Rooster Cogburn, a one-eyed US Marshall with a taste for whisky and a trigger-happy approach to law enforcement, to track down her father’s murderer he quickly picks up the killer’s scent and together they set out to apprehend him.

The edition marks The Folio Society’s first sortie into this rich but often underrated genre and it’s a joy to behold. With black and white frontis illustrations plus six colour interior arts, including two double-page spreads, the illustrations, by Juan Estaban Rodríguez, are soaked in sepia hues and western nostalgia, making a fitting companion to Portis’ dramatic and thrilling tale.

All illustrations ©2019 Juan Estaban Rodriguez from The Folio Society edition of True Grit.

True Grit
By Charles Portis
Introduced by Donna Tartt
Illustrated by Juan Estaban Rodriguez

Is available exclusively from The Folio Society –

Price: UK £34.95 | US $54.95 | Can $65.00 | Aus $69.95

Paula Hammond - Features Editor

Paula Hammond is a full-time, freelance journalist. She regularly writes for more magazines than is healthy and has over 25 books to her credit. When not frantically scribbling, she can be found indulging her passions for film, theatre, cult TV, sci-fi and real ale. If you should spot her in the pub, after five rounds rapid, she’ll be the one in the corner mumbling Ghostbusters quotes and waiting for the transporter to lock on to her signal… Email:

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