“A superb novel.”
—Norman Mailer

“Perhaps the primary theme of the novel is that evil can only be resisted psychically: when the rational controls that order man's existence slacken, destruction comes... [Doctorow's] book is taut and dramatic, exciting and successfully symbolic. Taut, dramatic, and exciting.”
—The New York Times Book Review

“A forceful, credible story of cowardice and evil.”
—The Washington Post

“Terse and powerful.”
—Newsweek

“A taut, bloodthirsty read.”
—The Times Literary Supplement

From Welcome to Hard Times

"Every time someone puts a little capital into this Territory I’m called in by the Govenor and sent on my way. It doesn’t matter I suffer from the rheumatism, nor that I’m past the age of riding a horse’s back. If a man files a claim that yields, there’s a town. If he finds some grass, there’s a town. Does he dig a well? Another town. Does he stop somewhere to ease his bladder, there’s a town. Over this land a thousand times each year towns spring up and it appears I have to charter them all. But to what purpose? The claim pinches out, the grass dies, the well dries up, and everyone will ride off to form up again somewhere else for me to travel. Nothing fixes in this damned country, people blow around at the whiff of the wind. You can’t bring the law to a bunch of rocks, you can’t settle the coyotes, you can’t make a society out of sand. I sometimes think we’re worse than the Indians…What is the name of this place, Hard Times? You are a well-meaning man Mr. Blue, I come across your likes occasionally. I noticed Blackstone on your desk, and Chitty’s Pleadings. Well you can read the law as much as you like but it will be no weapon for the spring when the town swells with people coming to work your road. You need a peace officer but I don’t even see you wearing a gun. I look out of this window and I see cabins, loghouse, cribs, tent, shanty, but I don’t see a jail. You’d better build a jail. You’d better find a shootist and build a jail."

Excerpted from Welcome to Hard Times by E. L. Doctorow Copyright © 2012 by E.L. Doctorow. Excerpted by permission of Random House, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.