By Larry McMurtry
is the final book in the magnificent Lonesome Dove series, which is a real
shame. All four books are excellent, with Lonesome Dove by far the
best, and Streets of Laredo by far the worst.
Simon & Schuster, 752 pp, 1997
This book’s predecessor, Dead
Man’s Walk, chronicled the early adventures of Augustus McRae and
Woodrow Call, then teenage greenhorn Texas Rangers. This book takes place
about ten years later. Gus and Call are still rangers, and we meet future
Lonesome Dove characters such as Jake Spoon, Pea Eye Parker, Clara
Forsyth, Maggie Tilton and her son, Newt (Maggie, though, never makes it
to Lonesome Dove).
McMurtry’s strengths as a novelist, in
my humble opinion, are his vivid and memorable characterizations. Gus and
Call are likeable but suitably flawed heroes, and McMurtry creates a
wonderfully despicable villain in Ahumado, a South American bandit who
kidnaps travelers who wander through his territory and tortures them to
death in cruel, imaginative ways. Like slicing off a man’s eyelids and
staking him out in the hot summer sun until he goes insane.
The plot itself is compelling enough but
nothing special. Gus and Call spend the book tracking down Comanches like
Buffalo Hump and Blue Duck. Gus pines for Clara but ultimately loses out
to another man. Call continues his affair with Maggie, the whore, but
refuses to be a father to their son. We see in a young Jake Spoon the
seeds of discontent that will blossom into the disreputable figure in the
future. Pea Eye is Pea Eye.
McMurtry does create another memorable
character in Captain Inish Scull, the leader of the Rangers. Indians steal
his prized horse and take it to Mexico to give to Ahumado, and Scull
abandons his men and trails them. He ends up in Ahumado’s stronghold,
captured and tortured, but survives. I won’t give away anything else.
Suffice to say, his story and character, not to mention his wife, may be
the most entertaining part of the novel.
However, as good as this book is, I do
have a few criticisms.
Why in the world would you start a
four-volume series in the middle (Lonesome Dove) and then end in
the middle (Comanche Moon)? Any suspense is gone. Those who have
read Lonesome Dove know what happens to nearly all the characters
in this book. There is no suspense, no great expectation of a surprise
Speaking of the ending, this one just
ends abruptly, leaving you with the urge to turn the page and read more.
I’ve only read the Lonesome Dove books, and I have to wonder if
McMurtry’s other novels end in such a disappointing fashion.
All that being said, the Lonesome Dove
saga has to go down as one of the great literary achievements for any
genre of writing. If you haven’t read them yet, you’re in for a treat.