2016: 54. Lonesome Dove

“When Augustus came out on the porch the blue pigs were eating a rattlesnake — not a very big one.”

Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry

This was my second attempt at a Western novel.  Not set in Arizona, but it ranges from Texas to Montana, and really gives a sense of cowboy life (I think it’s set in about the 1880’s).  And though I was a little dubious (since I usually do not like Cowboy movies unless they are directed by the Coens), and it was 858 pages, I really, really enjoyed it.  It’s both well-written and a page turner, and though I didn’t like the ending one bit, I appreciated that it was a “good” ending.  Just not what I wanted to happen.

Anyways, it’s the story (as McMurtry says in the brief introduction to this edition I wish I hadn’t read), of two famous ex-Texas Rangers, Captain Cal, “a Stoic” and Augustus, an Epicurian.  The two have been partners for years, and are currently running the Hat Creek Cattle Company, in Lonesome Dove, Texas, a two-bit town with nothing going on.  Cal is silent, and works all day, Augustus is talkative, and mostly doesn’t, but the two are a pair, and they travel together.

One day, an old friend, Jake Spoon, arrives, and with a few words convinces Cal that they should go start the first cattle ranch in Montana.  It’s a ridiculous plan, but Cal is bored of his life, and decides they should do it. And despite reservations, Augustus of course comes along.  And the rest of the book is the grueling trip - plus all these great subplots about Cal’s unacknowledged son, and a prostitute named Lorena, and Augustus’s former love, Clara, and of July Johnson, the sheriff chasing down Jake Spoon for a murder he committed in Arkansas.  And it’s really about the West, and how life was nastly, brutish, and short, but filled with beauty, too.  It’s great.

One of the things I particularly like was, although the Western is such a male genre, what a gorgeous job McMurtry does creating real women - with flaws and real desires, and not just reflections of the men.  Clara and Lorena were two of my favorite characters.  Them and Gus. I just love, love, love Gus.  Enough to read the two prequels, just to get more of him.  Plus, McMurtry is great.  

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017