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"Write out of love, write out of instinct, write out of reason. But always for money."
Louis Untermeyer


Comanche Moon

By Larry McMurtry
Simon & Schuster, 752 pp, 1997

Comanche Moon 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.

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 ending.

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.

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