The Western story, the editors assert, ``constitutes the single most important literary movement in the history of the United States.'' While that's debatable, it's clear, based on some of the 28 tales included here, that our fascination with the pioneer experience in the West has generated some robust, distinctive short fiction. There are numerous anthologies of Western writing, but this one stands out because of its emphasis on stories by women (including such talented, and now obscure, figures as B.M. Bower, Cherry Wilson, and Dorothy M. Johnson), and because it steers clear of the work of well-known literary writers, concentrating on the gaudier work produced by professional writers for a mass audience--most of the tales here originally appeared (over the past six decades) in popular magazines. Time has rendered some of the work quaint (in a reliance on stereotypical figures--the hard-bitten, taciturn cowboy, the resourceful rancher's daughter), and a few stories are uncomfortably one-dimensional (there's little sympathy in most of these pieces for the experience of Indians or other minorities). Still, there's enough strong work here (including Johnson's ``Virginia City Winter,'' Conrad Richter's ``Valhalla,'' and ``Deep in this Land,'' by Ernest Haycox) to make the collection a useful addition to the growing shelf of Western anthologies.