A Swede, an Easterner and a cowboy walk into a hotel in Stephen Crane’s “The Blue Hotel”. Card games, accusations of cheating and fighting ensues. Patrick Scully, the owner of the hotel, attempts a certain level of civility in a Wild West version of “the customer’s always right” – but it doesn’t last long.
The scene moves to a saloon where more fighting occurs. A small amount of philosophizing happens among the Swede and a gambler. Later, the Easterner and the cowboy find themselves sitting around a campfire discussing the events of the evening and how a small incident snowballed into something worse. This time, it’s the Wild West version of the Butterfly Effect.
I’ve heard that Stephen Crane was a precursor to Ernest Hemingway and some of the same themes of Hemingway’s stories can be found in this story; however, this story doesn’t really compare to most of Hemingway’s. If one is a huge fan of Stephen Crane, I would recommend this story (but a huge fan probably would have already read it). If one is just starting out with his work, I would recommend “The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky” which I’ve posted about here, or perhaps his more famous work The Red Badge of Courage which I still have not read.
Incidentally, this is the second story I’ve read in a row that takes place in Nebraska (Fort Romper to be exact). I wasn’t sure whether Nebraska counts as “West”, but it’s west of where I live and the style of this story had a western feel.