Ten Modern Westerns to Binge-Read if You Love ‘Yellowstone’ on Paramount+


Welcome to the wild, wild west.

Whether it’s the appeal of the picturesque mountains or the sense of rugged individualism and the triumph of the human spirit against challenging and untamed landscapes, readers have been picking up Westerns since books first started being printed. Even today, the vast, sweeping vistas of the frontier continue to serve as a backdrop for stories of resilience, courage, and the pursuit of justice. And whereas other genres rely on unreliable narrators or over-the-top action, Westerns typically provide a clear moral framework, where right and wrong are sharply defined, and heroes will stop at nothing to save the day.

Even outside of books, the Western genre has proven to be a versatile canvas for storytelling, allowing filmmakers to delve into various genres within its framework. Whether it’s a classic tale of revenge, a gripping mystery, or a poignant exploration of human relationships, Westerns offer a rich tapestry upon which a multitude of narratives can unfold—and nobody has taken advantage of everything the Western has to offer quite like the forces behind Yellowstone, the number one show on Television which has quickly became a cultural phenomenon and an important part of pop culture today.

Whether it’s co-creator Taylor Sheridan’s sharp writing or the superb acting performances turned in by Kevin Costner, Cole Hauser, Kelly Reilly, Luke Grimes, Wes Bentley, Kelsey Asbille, and Jefferson White, Yellowstone has skyrocketed in popularity, reaching highs not seen since HBO’s Game Of Thrones was in its heydey.

Now, all eyes are on Sheridan and the cast as we away the final season, but in the meantime, I thought maybe this was as good a time as ever to talk about a few books that embody most of the themes people love about Yellowstone. There are a lot of talented authors working today who’ve captured the struggle for justice, the spirit of adventure, and the timeless appeal of memorable characters, all while navigating the complexities of our modern world against the irrisistable Wild West backdrop to entertain and create an escape on par with the hit Paramount+ show.

So, without further ado, here’s 1o modern-day Westerns to read if you love Yellowstone.



1.) The Disappeared by C.J. Box

G.P. Putnam’s Sons


Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett has two lethal cases to contend with in this electrifying #1 New York Times-bestseller from C. J. Box.

Wyoming’s new governor isn’t sure what to make of Joe Pickett, but he has a job for him that is extremely delicate. A prominent female British executive never came home from the high-end guest ranch she was visiting, and the British Embassy is pressing hard. Pickett knows that happens sometimes–these ranches are stocked with handsome young cowboys, and “ranch romances” aren’t uncommon. But no sign of her months after she vanished? That suggests something else.

At the same time, his friend Nate Romanowski has asked Joe to intervene with the feds on behalf of falconers who can no longer hunt with eagles even though their permits are in order. Who is blocking the falconers and why? The more he investigates both cases, the more someone wants him to go away. Is it because of the missing woman or because he’s become Nate’s advocate? Or are they somehow connected? The answers, when they come, will be even worse than he’d imagined.

From TRBS: The undisputed king of the modern-day Western, there is no better storyteller alive today than C.J. Box, whose Joe Pickett series, which is now twenty-four books long, has helped to shape and define the genre in the modern age. Joe, a Wyoming game warden, is honest, maybe even to a fault. He’s a good man who loves his family and is never afraid to brag about his girls. He’s an everyday man, someone readers can identify with. But at the same time, when the situation calls for it, Joe is unflinching in his pursuit of justice. Not in the Jack Reacher kind of way, though. Joe isn’t 6’5 and able to pound people into the ground (although, he does run with an outlaw named Nate who fits that bill, a character used brilliantly by Box). Instead, he fights with truth and honor on his side, willing to risk it all to help save the day—something he’s done over and over again, and he now has the scars to prove it. In this book, a wealthy British woman visits a Wyoming ranch hoping to get the full cowgirl experience but instead winds up missing.  Joe is tasked with looking into things, but almost as soon as he starts asking questions, people try to silence him and put an end to his investigation. When that doesn’t work, things get violent . . . and once things get western’, there’s no turning back. Simply put, there’s no better franchise in print today, and with over twenty books to dive into, Box’s series will certainly help bridge the gap as we await the final season of Yellowstone.



2.) Depth of Winter by Craig Johnson



“It’s the scenery—and the big guy standing in front of the scenery—that keeps us coming back to Craig Johnson’s lean and leathery mysteries.”
The New York Times Book Review

Walt journeys into the northern Mexican desert alone to save his daughter Cady, who has been kidnapped by the cartel

Welcome to Walt Longmire’s worst nightmare. Winter is creeping closer, but for Sheriff Longmire this one is looking to be harsh in a way to which he is wholly unaccustomed. He has found himself in the remotest parts of the northern Mexican desert, a lawless place where no horse or car can travel, where no one speaks his language or trusts an outsider, far from his friends and his home turf back in Wyoming. But desperate times call for desperate measures. Tomas Bidarte, the head of one of the most vicious drug cartels in Mexico, has kidnapped Walt’s beloved daughter, Cady. The American government is of limited help and the Mexican one even less so. Armed with his trusty Colt .45 and a father’s intuition, Walt must head into the 110-degree heat of the desert, one man against an army.

From TRBS: You cannot make a list about modern-day Westerns and not include Craig Johnson’s Longmore, one of the few characters who’s dominated in print and on the screen. Actor Robert Taylor portrayed Johnson’s beloved sheriff of Absoroka County for six seasons on the hit television show that first aired on A&E before eventually continuing on Netflix. The show is fantastic, no question about it, but once you’re done binge-watching that, Johnson’s books are a must. The series begins with The Cold Dish, but here, I’m highlighting the 14th book in the series because it’s one of my favorites. Depth of Winter really is Longmire’s worst nightmare, but it’s also one of Johnson’s best set-ups, and trust me, once you start . . . there is no stopping.




3.) Fields of Fire by Ryan Steck

Tyndale House Publishers


“You know Ryan Steck as the Real Book Spy. Now, get to know him as the author of Fields of Fire, his debut thriller featuring Marine Raider Matthew Redd in a battle that will leave you speechless and begging for more. Lock and load!” ―Jack Carr, Navy SEAL Sniper and #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Devil’s Hand

Waiting to be deployed on a critical mission, elite Marine Raider Matthew Redd stops to help a stranger and wakes up hours later to learn his team was wiped out in an ambush. Unable to remember anything, Redd can’t deny the possibility that he’s somehow responsible for the information leak that led to the massacre. He’s given a deal to avoid a charge of treason, but it means walking away from the Corps and the life he loved.

As he faces his loss, Matty gets a cryptic message from his adoptive father, J. B.: “Trouble’s come knocking. . . . Might need your help.” He points his truck home to rural Montana, only to discover that J. B. is dead and the explanation for his death is far from satisfying. Determined to dig up the truth, Redd uncovers a dark global conspiracy with his hometown at the center and no team at his back―except one he might find among past friends, old enemies, and new allies, if he can figure out who to trust.

From TRBS: There’s never really a good way to do this—so, full disclosure, I wrote this book. Though most of you know me as the Real Book Spy, I launched my career as a novelist with Fields of Fire back in 2022. A longtime fan of Westerns and heavily influenced by my favorite authors, Vince Flynn and C.J. Box, this story features a former Marine Raider named Matthew Redd, who returns to his hometown in Montana for the first time in over a decade to investigate the death of his adopted father, a cattle rancher named Jim Bob Thompson. But while trying to get his dad’s ranch in order, Redd accidentally uncovers a global conspiracy . . . one that only he can stop. Redd, who stands 6’3 and 265 pounds of muscle, is a sledgehammer in scalpels world. Though I wrote this before Yellowstone ever aired on television, it’s kind of funny because, in so many ways, Redd is a blend of Rip Wheeler and Kayce Dutton. He’s loyal and will stop at nothing to defend his ranch, but when it comes to coloring outside the lines, there are some things he just won’t do. Unless he’s pushed too far, and then all bets are off. Redd’s story continues in Lethal Range, and my forthcoming third novel, Out for Blood, which is available for pre-order here.



4.) Down Range by Taylor Moore

William Morrow


“A riveting thriller with a family in crisis at the core. It’s my kind of book.” —Brad Taylor, bestselling author of American Traitor

In this action-packed debut thriller for fans of C. J. Box and Jack Carr, DEA agent Garrett Kohl fights to protect his home on the Texas High Plains when a vicious criminal enterprise comes after his family

From a former CIA intelligence officer and consultant for the Department of Defense comes the first in a series following adecorated undercover DEA special agent. Garrett Kohl has traveled the world—and fought in most of it—but it’s the High Plains of northwest Texas he calls home and dreams of returning to one day. Kohl is in the middle of an assignment in Afghanistan when his commander orders him back to Texas on a short mission expected to take a week at most. But Kohl is unsettled to discover that he’s moved from one kind of war to another.

The once-peaceful ranching community he loves is under attack by a band of criminals who have infiltrated law enforcement, corrupted local businesses, and are now terrorizing Kohl’s own family. Hoping to prevent bloodshed, Kohl tries to resolve matters peacefully. But when the group strikes first, he has no choice but to go on the attack.

Unfortunately for the criminal crew, besides being an elite undercover officer for the DEA, Garrett Kohl is a battle-hardened Green Beret who spent the better part of his career hunting terrorists. Although outnumbered and outgunned, Kohl knows the wild and forsaken Llano Estacado region of Texas better than anyone. And like so many trespassers before them, these murderers will find out the hard way that the only thing tougher than this land is the people who call it home.

From TRBS: Taylor Moore is a special new talent who, after only three books, has already become one of the top new writers in the game today. Previously, Garrett Kohl made a career out of hunting down terrorists and working undercover with the DEA. All the while, he’s dreamed of coming home to the High Plains of northwest Texas. Now he gets that chance, but it’s not the homecoming he always imagined, and before long, Kohl finds himself knee-deep in some local drama that turns violent, forcing him to fight back in order to protect what’s his. I love this series, and I bet you will too.



5.) Texas Outlawes by James Patterson and Andrew Bourelle

Little, Brown and Company


To Rory Yates being a Texas Ranger is about justice, but all of that changes when he is brought to a small southern town to help uncover the mysteries behind a local woman’s death—only to discover corruption and lies.

Texas Ranger Rory Yates is not keen for hero status. But it’s unavoidable once his girlfriend, country singer Willow Dawes, writes a song about his bravery. Rory escapes his newfound fame when he’s sent to the remote West Texas town of Rio Lobo, a municipality with two stoplights. And now, according to the Chief of Police, it has one too many Texas Rangers.

Rio Lobo Detective Ariana Delgado is the one who requested Rory, and the only person who believes a local councilwoman’s seemingly accidental death is a murder. Then Rory begins to uncover a tangle of small-town secrets, favors, and lies as crooked as Texas law is straight.

To get to the truth before more people die, Rory is forced to take liberties with the investigation. The next ballad of Rory Yates may not be about a hero, but rather an outlaw song.

From TRBS: It was only a matter of time until Patterson, the most famous storyteller on the planet, tried his hand at writing a Western, which he finally did in 2018 with Texas Ranger to much acclaim in success. This is the second book in that series, and though it’s unclear if there will be a book three and beyond, I definitely recommend checking it out. Even though Rory Yates isn’t a ranch owner, he reminds me a little bit of John Dutton, the lead in Yellowstone who is of course portrayed by Kevin Costner. Overall, expect a fast-paced read as Patterson delivers an engrossing, hard-to-put-down story that explores the decisions of a man who is forced to color outside the lines in order to ensure that justice is served.



6.) The Far Empty by J. Todd Scott

G.P. Putnam’s Sons


“[So] good I wish I’d written it. The poetic and bloody ground of west Texas has given birth to a powerful new voice in contemporary western crime fiction.”—Craig Johnson, New York Times bestselling author of the Walt Longmire series

In this gritty crime debut set in the stark Texas borderlands, an unearthed skeleton will throw a small town into violent turmoil.

Seventeen-year-old Caleb Ross is adrift in the wake of the sudden disappearance of his mother more than a year ago, and is struggling to find his way out of the small Texas border town of Murfee. Chris Cherry is a newly minted sheriff’s deputy, a high school football hero who has reluctantly returned to his hometown. When skeletal remains are discovered in the surrounding badlands, the two are inexorably drawn together as their efforts to uncover Murfee’s darkest secrets lead them to the same terrifying suspect: Caleb’s father and Chris’s boss, the charismatic and feared Sheriff Standford “Judge” Ross.

Dark, elegiac, and violent, The Far Empty is a modern Western, a story of loss and escape set along the sharp edge of the Texas border. Told by a longtime federal agent who knows the region, it’s a debut novel you won’t soon forget.

From TRBS: Few authors working today write with the power, conviction, and smooth prose that J. Todd Scott displays in The Far Empty, the first book in his Chris Cherry series. Maybe a touch more crime thriller than Western, Scott is a former federal agent with the DEA, and he writes with a been-there-done-that authenticity that few in this genre can match. He’s also an incredibly diverse writer, with his latest book, The Flock, which follows a cult survivor who must confront her past in order to protect others, touching on topics few are bold enough to explore . . . and told in a way that almost nobody else could pull off. I’m a huge fan of Scott and his stuff. If you’re not already reading him, check him out.


7.) Nothing Short of Dying by Erik Storey



Hailed by bestselling writer William Kent Krueger as “the year’s best thriller debut,” this furiously paced ride into harm’s way features a drifter with lethal skills, whose mission to rescue his abducted sister pits him against a ruthless meth kingpin and his army of killers.

Sixteen years. That’s how long Clyde Barr has been away from Colorado’s thick forests, alpine deserts, and craggy peaks, running from a past filled with haunting memories. But now he’s back, having roamed across three continents as a hunter, adventurer, soldier of fortune, and most recently, unjustly imprisoned convict. And once again, his past is reaching out to claim him.

By the light of a flickering campfire, Clyde receives a frantic phone call from his sister Jen. No sooner has she pleaded with him to come rescue her than the line goes dead. Clyde doesn’t know how much time he has, or where Jen is located, or even who has her. All he knows is that nothing short of dying will stop him from saving her.

Joining Clyde in his against-all-odds quest is a young woman named Allie whose motivations for running this gauntlet are fascinatingly complex. As the duo races against the clock, it is Allie who gets Clyde to see what he has become and what he can still be.

Vivid with the hues and scents of Colorado’s backcountry, and thought-provoking in its exploration of how past, present, and future collide to test resolve, Nothing Short of Dying is, above all, a propulsive, action-driven race against the clock.

From TRBS: After Box and Johnson, it was Storey who kicked off the next wave of writers who would embrace the modern Western, myself included. And he did it before Yellowstone was a thing. Well, the show, not the national park. Obviously. Clyde Barr is one of my favorite characters, and while the series is only two books long, I cannot recommend them enough. Imagine Jack Reacher, but as a cowboy, working ranches and kicking ass. That is Barr, and Storey is one helluva talent.



8.) Cave of Bones by Anne Hillerman



Don’t miss the TV series, Dark Winds, based on the Leaphorn, Chee, & Manuelito novels, now on AMC and AMC+!  

A New York Times Bestseller

Anne Hillerman brings together modern mystery, Navajo traditions, and the evocative landscape of the desert Southwest in this intriguing entry in the Leaphorn, Chee, and Manuelito series.

When Tribal Police Officer Bernadette Manuelito arrives to speak at an outdoor character-building program for at-risk teens, she discovers chaos. Annie, a young participant on a solo experience due back hours before, has just returned and is traumatized. Gently questioning the girl, Bernie learns that Annie stumbled upon a human skeleton on her trek. While everyone is relieved that Annie is back, they’re concerned about a beloved instructor who went out into the wilds of the rugged lava wilderness bordering Ramah Navajo Reservation to find the missing girl. The instructor vanished somewhere in the volcanic landscape known as El Malpais. In Navajo lore, the lava caves and tubes are believed to be the solidified blood of a terrible monster killed by superhuman twin warriors.

Solving the twin mysteries will expose Bernie to the chilling face of human evil. The instructor’s disappearance mirrors a long-ago search that may be connected to a case in which the legendary Joe Leaphorn played a crucial role. But before Bernie can find the truth, an unexpected blizzard, a suspicious accidental drowning, and the arrival of a new FBI agent complicate the investigation.

While Bernie searches for answers in her case, her husband, Sergeant Jim Chee juggles trouble closer to home. A vengeful man he sent to prison for domestic violence is back—and involved with Bernie’s sister Darleen. Their relationship creates a dilemma that puts Chee in uncomfortable emotional territory that challenges him as family man, a police officer, and as a one-time medicine man in training.

From TRBS: If you enjoy Yellowstone, it’s possible that while searching for similar shows, you’ve also come across and started watching Dark Winds, a series based on Hillerman’s books. If you haven’t checked it out yet, I highly recommend it. Obviously, a major storyline in Yellowstone is how ensuing events impact the Native Americans in the region. In some ways, this series might be a better fit for fans of Longmire, the show based on the novels written by Craig Johnson, which often featured tribal police officers working in tandem with the Absoroka sheriff’s department. But they’re terrific nonetheless and with the series now twenty-six books long, there’s a lot of material to keep you busy.



9.) Strong Enough to Die by Jon Land

Forge Books


Caitlin Strong is a fifth-generation Texas Ranger, proud to wear the badge of her father and grandfather—until a deadly shoot-out along the Mexican border causes her to question her calling.

Five years later, Caitlin is still trying to purge herself of guilt from the day that ended her Ranger career. But a shattering discovery will reopen old wounds, and Caitlin’s renewed investigation into the truth behind the bloody desert firefight uncovers a terrifying plot that reaches into every home and threatens the very core of the country.

Her only hope for success—and survival—is to team up with Cort Wesley Masters, a deadly outlaw who has every reason to want her dead. But he also holds the key to the truth she desperately seeks in the anguished brain of an amnesiac torture victim.

Caitlin’s tormented quest for redemption takes her to a dark world, ranging from Washington to Bahrain to the wastelands of Mexico, as she finds that the strength to live comes from learning how to die.

From TRBS: Probably more in line with the Four Sixes Ranch, Land’s Caitlin Strong series is a perfect fit for Yellowstone fans and those excited about the forthcoming spinoff, 6666. Here, readers will meet Strong, a fifth-generation Texas Ranger, who suddenly begins questioning whether or not she’s cut out for the job following a deadly shooting along the Mexican border. A big theme in Yellowstone is characters questioning their own callings, trying to make sense of their lives, and overcoming past trauma. So, if character-rich storylines are for you, Land’s series is a must. And the man can really, really write.



10.) Stay Hidden by Paul Doiron 

Minotaur Books


A supposed hunting accident becomes a dangerously complicated murder investigation in Stay Hidden, the intricately-plotted new thriller from Paul Doiron featuring Maine Game Warden Mike Bowditch.

A woman has been shot to death by a deer hunter on an island off the coast of Maine. To newly promoted Warden Investigator Mike Bowditch, the case seems open and shut. But as soon as he arrives on remote Maquoit Island he discovers mysteries piling up one on top of the other.

The hunter now claims he didn’t fire the fatal shot and the evidence proves he’s telling the truth. Bowditch begins to suspect the secretive community might be covering up the identity of whoever killed the woman, known as Ariel Evans. The controversial author was supposedly writing a book about the island’s notorious hermit. So why are there no notes in her rented cottage?

The biggest blow comes the next day when the weekly ferry arrives and off steps the dead woman herself. Ariel Evans is alive, well, and determined to solve her own “murder” even if it upsets Mike Bowditch’s investigation and makes them both targets of an elusive killer who will do anything to conceal his crimes.

From TRBS: Hunting “accidents,” or any potentially violent “accident” that suddenly twists and turns into a mystery ripe with nail-biting suspense and colorful characters, feels like a perfect match for fans of Yellowstone. The ninth book in Doiron’s Mike Bowditch series, this one can be read as a standalone if you’re new to the franchise, but honestly, I’d recommend getting ’em all. Doiron is a terrific writer, and while his books are a little different than the others on this list in that they’re not set in a traditional Western territory, Doiron’s books certainly embody themes you’ll find in Yellowstone and other modern Westerns.



Praised as “One of the hardest working, most thoughtful, and fairest reviewers out there” by New York Times bestselling author Lisa Scottoline, Ryan Steck has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). Steck also works full-time as a freelance editor and is building a growing community on Twitch. His debut thriller, FIELDS OF FIRE, which #1 New York Times bestselling author Jack Carr says “will leave you speechless and begging for more,” is now available. His second novel, LETHAL RANGE, is also in bookstores, and his third book, OUT FOR BLOOD, comes out on June 4th. For more information, be sure to follow him on Twitter and Facebook. To interact with other readers and talk about your favorite books and authors, join The Real Book Spy’s Discord server.


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