Fans of Larry Mc Murtry are divided in their opinions of this book. Once you have written an epic like “Lonesome Dove,” some readers simply expect it to be duplicated.
This work is different than anything the prolific 74year old Mc Murtry has done so far.
He recently married 76-year old Norma Faye Kesey, the widow of Ken Kesey (“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”) whom he has known most of his adult life, so he may be busy being a new husband.
Although I do believe, like most artists, he is experimenting.
He calls it a ballad in prose and uses photos of the old west to illustrate the cowboy life, one of which was taken in 1902 on the Sherman Ranch in Genessee, Ellsworth County, Kan.
In the art world, artists change styles, and so too with writers who after all are word artists. Best-selling author, Dean Koontz, aptly stated in a New York Times Book Review interview on July 27 that, “If I had to write the same thing time after time, I’d become a plumber.”
So variety is the norm where artists are concerned.
Of course I am a fan and can only agree with the praise.
One prominent book reviewer with the Los Angeles Times said, “Mc Murtry can transform ordinary words into highly lyrical, poetic passages. He presents human dramas with sympathy and compassion that make us care about his characters.”
Doc Holiday and Wyatt Earp were mythic figures to be sure. Probably not the best shots in the West, but were feared for good reason. As John Wayne, fake cowboy and soldier who hated horses and was one of the few stars who did not join up during World War II, said in the movie, “The Shootist,” a gunslinger did not have to be accurate, he just had to be willing to die.
That is what made him and them so dangerous.
This ballad-novel is a character study that imagines the exploits of these friends in the evolving west ending up at the Dodge gunfight.
Readers also meet Buffalo Bill and noted cattle driver, Charles Goodnight, and, some of the women in these men’s lives.
Mc Murtry shows that unique understanding of women which first attracted me to his works in “Leaving Cheyenne.”
Mc Murtry see the wry humor in the ridiculousness of life and legend.
Consider your own life and when you happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and you will sympathize with his version of events leading up to the gunfight at the O.K. corral.
When visiting the ladies of the evening, a cowboy probably remembered the last kind words he would hear for a while before venturing out onto the peril filled plains, and thus the title.
A fey title it is, reminiscent of the “Precious Ramotswe “series by Alexander McCall Smith.
Thanks Mr. Mc Murtry; keep those stories coming in any form that suits your fancy.