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The author of Stoner delivers something completely different but equally unique, skewering romantic notions of the Wild West with a brilliant, brutal tale of buffalo hunters that reverberates with understated power.


Will Andrews is no academic. He longs for wildness, freedom, hope and vigour. He leaves Harvard and sets out for the West to discover a new way of living.

In a small town called Butcher’s Crossing he meets a hunter with a story of a lost herd of buffalo in a remote Colorado valley, just waiting to be taken by a team of men brave and crazy enough to find them. Will makes up his mind to be one of those men, but the journey, the killing, harsh conditions and sheer hard luck will test his mind and body to their limits.


His Stoner is the book that has garnered the attention, but I prefer this earlier take on the Western genre…it has some gory, visceral passages that are not for the faint-hearted

Kate Atkinson, Irish Times

Shorn of sentimentality or decoration, the events and places [Williams] describes begin to feel inescapable, permanent, and rivetingly dramatic. This is language that seems to be carved into stone – into mountains... Stoner showed us a writer who had written a great book. To those of us who didn't know already, Butcher's Crossing reveals John Williams to be more than that: forgotten writer as he was, he was unquestionably also a great one

Archie Bland, Independent

Superbly understated

Rosemary Goring, Herald

One of the finest books about the elusive nature of the West ever written… It’s a graceful and brutal story of isolated men gone haywire

Time Out

Harsh and relentless yet muted in tone, Butcher’s Crossing paved the way for Cormac McCarthy

New York Times Book Review

Butcher's Crossing is like a western by Joseph Conrad...wonderful...beautifully written

David Nicholls

This story about the hunt of one of the last great buffalo herds becomes a young man’s search for the integrity of his own being…The characters are defined, the events lively, the place, the smells, the sounds right. And the prose is superb

Chicago Tribune

It is the novel's immense visual power and tangibility of material detail, its fully realized sense of time and place, its telling incidents, its nimble and subtle resonance with the Bible, and its fleshed-out characters, that make it a very great work

Boston Globe

John Williams's unsparing novels express a highly qualified though resilient optimism about our ability to salvage something of value from life's impossible conditions. Along with the necessary isolation of the artist, he conveys the sobering if startled recognition--perhaps with his own career in mind--of the transitory triumph of art

Times Literary Supplement

Butcher’s Crossing is remarkable for the accuracy of Williams’s prose

John Sutherland, The Times

Intense, unflinching lucidity

Peter Kemp, Sunday Times

[Williams] has produced something timeless and great’ ‘Butcher’s Crossing, written in 1960 and Williams’s first mature novel, is far removed from the time and place of Stoner. It may also be the better novel

Nicholas Lezard, Guardian

Had me on the edge of my seat... If you do not read another book all year, read this one. At the end, I was quite gasping for breath

Virginia Blackburn, Sunday Express

It is a novel of great beauty and power, and it deserves the same belated recognition accorded Stoner

David Evans, Independent on Sunday

From the author of Stoner, a western full of the same psychological intensity

The Times

supremely well-written and built to last

Adam Foulds, Spectator

Readers of Stoner will hopefully come to Butcher’s Crossing to get more of what Williams can provide: thoughtfulness, strong writing, powerful characterisation, involving drama and images and details that remain in the reader’s mind long after reading


The evocation of landscape is unforgettable

Boyd Tonkin, Independent

Williams's intense semi-skimmed prose – so different from [Herman] Melville's full-fat variety – has the same power to mesmerize... Likely to become a favourite of 2014

Times Literary Supplement

The tale of men struggling to survive in a brutal landscape is told in language so sparse that whole passages are made up of monosyllabic vocabulary that is powerfully immersive. You can only guess at the influence Williams may have had on Cormac McCarthy

Ben Felsenburg, Metro

Williams is a versatile writer: the story of Will Andrews couldn't be more different to the tale of William Stoner – and his depiction of the behaviour of men in extreme situations is masterful


A meditative cowboy yarn with a putative ecological message, it could not be more different from Williams’s [Stoner]; it is just as good

David Evans, 5 stars, Independent On Sunday

It is a sort of Dances with Buffaloes, and one of the most tense, gripping, tragic novels I have ever read

Giles Coren, The Times

Stoner...is a fine book but his western novel Butcher's Crossing is even better... Visceral, violent and chilling.

Barbara Taylor Bradford, Daily Mirror

A novel that turns upside down the expectations of the genre—and goes to war with a century of American triumphalism, a century of regeneration through violence, a century of senseless slaughter.

John Plotz, Guardian

A novel that turns upside down the expectations of the genre—and goes to war with a century of American triumphalism, a century of regeneration through violence, a century of senseless slaughter.

John Plotz, Guardian

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Formats & editions

  • EBook


    January 7, 2016

    Vintage Digital

    352 pages

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  • Paperback


    March 3, 2014

    Vintage Classics

    352 pages

    RRP $14.99

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