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Friday, June 4, 2010

Dead Man's Walk

Dead Man's Walk is a book by Larry McMurtry that is part of his famous series about Augustus McCrae and Woodrow Call.  If you haven't read Lonesome Dove and Streets of Laredo go read them now, they're the best western novels ever.

As in the other novels about the duo of Texas Rangers, ranchers and plains warriors the two are swept into a series of adventures on the central plains of the United States, partially out of a sense of adventure and a desire for pay and partially because they are swept along by events that we now call history.  I love how McMurtry always makes the land and the times as much of a character and a force of his novels as the people he spotlights.  It's what makes his novels rise above being an entertainment and a distraction and become literary art.  McMurtry is almost a post modern artist in his portrayal of his characters, in many tragedies you have a lament from a main character and an awakening as to how the tragedy could be avoided.  McMurtry is wise enough to know that some tragedies are destined to happen by the forces of change outside anyone's control and he is just highlighting a story that happened along the way.

For example the Native Americans were going to be forced off the plains and forced to integrate as much as they could and compromise with the settlers who moved west.  The stories of the (in his novels fictional) native warriors who fought are fascinating.

This novel suffers a bit from an altogether improbable ending.  The thing I loved about Lonesome Dove and Streets of Laredo were the endings.  Somehow even though the endings were nontraditional and unexpected they fit into the mood of the story and everything important was resolved.   Dead Man's Walk's ending slipped over the edge to being contrived.  It seemed like the book ended because the page account that the publisher required was met, not because the story had evolved to a stopping place.  I guess that's why Lonesome Dove and Streets of Laredo have page counts much larger than the none too thin 450 or so that this novel had.  There is another novel set in time right after Dead Man's Walk that may resolve the lives of the young rangers in a more satisfying fashion.  I'll have to read it someday and find out.

I did enjoy the journey though and would highly suggest it for anyone who loves McMurtry, history or tales of the Southwest.

1 comment:

  1. What, no cowboy love affairs this time? You're slipping ;) As usual, a great review. Almost makes me want to read a western.


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