I recently started reading an author by the name of Terry C. Johnston. He is a well known western writer whose novels cover the 19th century rocky mountain fur trade and U.S. indian wars. Johnston is a fine writer and meticulous researcher. If you are interested in the history of the opening of the west, but don't want to plow through the more dry versions offered by history books, these are the works for you. Johnston's splendid series about the Old West, peopled with actual characters and several fictional ones, blends into some relentless and exciting adventures. Plenty of real events and people, the research is top notch and the characters are compelling and fleshed out. While reading his books is a great way to learn about western history, they must be read with a grain of salt. Especially, in Johnston's Plainsmen Series, which covers the Indian wars period, fictional characters are put in that truly muddle the true account. (A renegade confederate general who has teamed up with Sioux warriors is just one example). Overall, however, Johnston's books provide a clear history of events. I have found that a good way to explore the events of his novels is to first read his books, then go back and read non-fiction about the event. Doing this allows you to engage into a "dryer" history book and still understand the general outline of what is happening and why. He is a good engaging writer and I will no doubt be reading more of his novels.