Charles Portis

Charles Portis' "True Grit" is the focus of Hopkins County Reads.

 Fans of The Duke, John Wayne, along with lovers of Westerns in general in both book and movie form, will want to look at all the activities Sulphur Springs Public Library has scheduled as part of the Hopkins County Reads program. 

Hopkins County Reads is a community-wide, year-long event presented by the library. 

"Just as the new Downtown Plaza connects people to each other, Hopkins County Reads can connect our community by fostering an appreciation of books and promoting literacy through reading the same book," Library Director Hope Cain said. "True Grit" by Charles Portis is the book to read now. 

To accompany and support the reading of the book, the library will have several related special events.

First up is a showing of the 1969 John Wayne version of the "True Grit" movie. This will be a special Movie on the Square event and will play at 6 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 3. Cain said the library will be signing up people for Hopkins County Reads during the movie. 

"I don’t think we have had a community-wide read here before. The steering committee believes that Hopkins County will embrace the notion of civic unity through the reading of literature," she said.

"The development of our downtown plaza lends opportunity for citizens to discuss ideas that are important to them," she said.

After that, the library will host two guest speakers about the book. Ken Hanushek, who has made other presentations for the Hopkins County Genealogical Society, will talk about the historical background setting of the book in Fort Smith, Ark. Cain said this event is not specific to the book and is not a book discussion. The event will have Hopkins County Reads sign-ups and book giveaways. Hanushek will speak at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 13.

People who like to bookmark calendars well in advance can circle Jan. 10, 2019, as well. Jim Ainsworth will discuss the book and both versions of the movie. He will cover what is fact or fiction in all three items, which movie version is better and truer to the book, and other historical information. This too will include Hopkins County Reads sign-ups and book giveaways.

"'True Grit' was our choice for the first community-wide read for a few reasons," Cain said. "The 50th anniversary edition of the classic novel has just been published on the heels of the 2010 movie remake, and it has been used successfully at other community reads. We believe in the book’s ability to create a shared experience of reading among a wide spectrum of people."

Cain said the book will be widely available throughout the year by checking out the book, audiobook or eBook from the library, or attending programs and scoring a free book copy to read and pass on to friends or family.  

“We anticipate books will be available at supporting businesses at various times throughout the year," Cain said.

"True Grit" was written by Portis in 1968 and adapted into a movie a year later, with a second adaptation in 2010. It is written from the viewpoint of Mattie Ross, recounting when she was 14 years old and seeking retribution for the murder of her father by a man named Tom Chaney. She eventually hires U.S. Marshal Reuben J. "Rooster" Cogburn for that purpose. She decides he, among all the U.S. Marshals she sees at Fort Smith, Ark., has the "grit" to get the job done. She insists on accompanying him. Eventually, they meet a Texas Ranger named Le Bouef, who is also seeking Chaney, in this case, for the murder of a Texas state senator.

Because Fort Smith borders what was then Indian Territory, many U.S. Marshals were based in Fort Smith. Marshals served as day-to-day law enforcement in areas that did not have organized government, so they would pursue fugitives into places like the Indian Territory. Fort Smith has been chosen as the site for the United States Marshals Service National Museum.

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