Lonesome Dove • 1985 • Western novel by Larry McMurty


And now for something completely different: This Blog mostly reviews speculative fiction and associated non-fiction. Very seldom, I read something else. Here it comes, a Western novel.

Synopsis: Two elderly former Texas Rangers, Gus and Call, diverge from their settled life at the backwater village of Lonesome Dove. A former crew member Jack arrives and gushes about beautiful, green, and cool Montana. Call decides that he’s got enough of staying in one place, adventure is calling and he will lead a cattle treck there. They first steal some thousand cows and a hundred horses over the border in Mexico. Then, they recruit several cowboys.
Jack has promised the only whore in Lonesome Dove to get her to San Francisco, so she goes with him.
The treck is very dangerous, some cowboys die – stepping into a nest of water snakes, getting trampled after falling from the horse, and other accidents.
They meet Indians – some of them extremely dangerous, others just dumb, others friendly. A Sheriff from Arizona is seeking Jack who accidentally killed one from his town.
And all the time, a romance between Gus and the whore develops.

Review: Half a year ago, my GoodRead friend Peter Tillman wrote a raving review about this Pulitzer winning Western novel.
It‘s a doorstopper with more than 700 pages, but I loved every. single. page of it. Usually, some pages of a novel are not that great and can be skipped or glanced over. This is not how reading goes with this one: Every character introduced is interesting, their dialogues are easy, often funny, direct, and reflect the characters perfectly. The narration doesn’t indulge into landscape descriptions or cowboy romanticism.
The opposite is the case, as McMurty made a case of dangers and harshness of cowboys‘ daily life – sixteen hours of neck breaking work, night duties, standing storms, and swimming rivers could steal every boy‘s dreams of those Marlboro advertisements glories.
The only negative criticism could address the role of the Indians, as they are mostly dumb and brutal, seeking torture, raping, and killing. A word of caution: there is a (realistic) passage describing exactly that – it is predictable and can be easily skipped, though.

It‘s not often that I give five stars to a novel which doesn’t dive into philosophical topics. This book is enormous strong in characters and dialogue which carry a well-developed and satisfying plot. Are there comparable Western books out there?

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6 Responses to Lonesome Dove • 1985 • Western novel by Larry McMurty

  1. Ola G says:

    Hah! You seem to have enjoyed it a lot – such a generous praise from you is not something I see often 🙂 I will definitely consider reading this, though 700+ pages of Western is a tad beyond my comfort zone 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  2. pdtillman says:

    Glad you liked it! In Texas, I’m told that if a house has only two books, one will be the Holy Bible, the other Lonesome Dove.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andreas says:

      His next volume is on my tbr. This one was a great recommendation, but very hard to track down as a German translation (I started reading it in English but had a hard time with many terms). I‘ve got a hc from the 90s but it’s not on the market anymore.


      • pdtillman says:

        The sequels don’t (quite) reach LD’s level, but are all worth reading, I thought.
        I’m still annoyed with my 18yo clueless self. I could have had McM as my college English teacher at Rice in Houston! I didn’t even know who he was, at that point. Oh, well. He claims to have been not much of a teacher. But, the bragging rights!

        Liked by 1 person

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