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A Respectable "Prequel" to the Great LONESOME DOVE

  • Jan 9, 2000
This is a harsh tale of the earliest partnership between Woodrow Call and Gus MaCrae, the marvelously heroic anti-heroes of LONESOME DOVE. In this tale the two, as young men, stumble into the early Texas Rangers, drawn by the naive love of adventure which rangering promises the two youths. But they soon find that they and the rangers they lucklessly attach themselves to are no match for the harsh country they confront. The Commanches and the Apaches are harder and smarter in the ways of the wilds and the Mexicans are more numerous and better prepared. The Texans are bunglers, led by charlatans and self-interested adventurers. Worst of all, none of them, from the lowliest ranger, to the officers, to the whores who trail along behind them, know what they are letting themselves in for. It is a hellish passage which they undertake, rife with the sudden violence and grotesqueries which characterize McMurtry's vision of the west. There is the oversized whore, Mattie, who alternately mothers and fornicates with the young rangers she finds around her; the simpering easterner who has set himself up as an officer in the rangers; the pirate turned soldier of fortune who leads his troop of adventurers into country he neither understands nor is prepared to encounter; the sudden lightning storms and tornadoes; the misshapen Commanche war-chief who hunts the white men like buffalo; the deadly Apache who culls the white herd in the night through a long and arduous desert death march; the overly proud Mexican army officer whose life, in the end, depends on the goodwill of his remaining captives; the old mountain man and the scout who travels with him; the brain damaged quarter master whose luck it is to live while other, more complete men must die. All of these rush blindly toward that strange fate which awaits them in the end and which will overwhelm those who will survive, in a moment of surrealistic beauty and dread which somehow wipes away the harshness and suffering which have gone before. In the end, MacCrae, the carefree instinctive man of action, and Call, the careful and thoughtful planner, are forced to see that they, as they have been, callow and inexperienced youths, are no match for the country and the people they have found in it. But, unlike most of their comrades, they miraculously survive their trek. And are changed and enlarged by it. Country bumpkins and veritable greenhorns at the outset, they are fast on the way to becoming the tough rangers we will meet once more, in the books which tell of their subsequent adventures, by the end of this tale. This one does not quite rise to the resonant strains of its precursor LONESOME DOVE, but it is a fitting prequel. We get to see how the country and the experiences of a harsh youth began to form the two men whose tale this ultimately is. And if there is not much plot here, there is a vividness in the description and the dialogue that make you feel like you are there with these men. True, the tale is so grotesque as to seem almost unreal. But McMurtry's writing is sharp and evocative and fresh so that, despite a certain predictability in the events, you want to stay with the characters, to experience this harsh and nightmarish world along with them. Not up to LONESOME DOVE. But that was a hard act to follow.The King of Vinland's Saga

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About the reviewer
Stuart W. Mirsky ()
Ranked #240
I'm a retired bureaucrat (having served, most recently, as an Assistant Commissioner in amunicipal agency in a major Northeastern American city). In 2002 I took an early retirement to pursue a lifelong … more
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In this prequel to McMurtry's 1986 Pulitzer Prize-winningLonesome Dove, Gus McCrae and Woodrow Call are invincible young bucks, Texas Rangers, full of youthful energy and, quite frankly, full of themselves. That is until they're utterly consumed by the vicious battlefield of the early-19th-century Wild West. Their journey takes them across barren deserts and raging rivers and through steep and snowy mountains, often on foot and with barely enough provisions and clothing to keep them from certain death. The constant threat of attack by Comanches keeps them awake nights, fearing for their lives--and for good reason. "Buffalo Hump reached down and grabbed the terrified boy by his long black hair. He yanked his horse to a stop, lifted Zeke Moody off his feet, and slashed at his head with a knife, just above the boy's ears. Then he whirled and raced across the front of the huddled Rangers, dragging Zeke by the hair. As the horse increased its speed, the scalp tore loose and Zeke fell free. Buffalo Hump had whirled again, and held aloft the bloody scalp."

This bedraggled group of adventurers--on their foolhardy expedition to seize Santa Fe from the Mexicans (who also prove to be formidable enemies)--includes a salty assortment of cowboys, scouts, fortune seekers, and a fat and sassy whore nicknamed "The Great Western." McMurtry's adept storytelling paints a portrait of the Wild West that at times is palpable. One can almost smell the campfires, the body odors, and the long-awaited ...

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ISBN-10: 0671001167
ISBN-13: 978-0671001162
Author: Larry McMurtry
Genre: Literature & Fiction
Publisher: Pocket
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