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Lonesome Dove (McMurtry)

Lonesome Dove 
Larry McMurtry, 1986
Simon & Schuster
864 pp.
ISBN-13: 9781451606539


Summary

Winner of the 1986 Pulitzer Prize

Bestselling winner of the 1986 Pulitzer Prize, Lonesome Dove is an American classic. First published in 1985, Larry McMurtry's epic novel combined flawless writing with a storyline and setting that gripped the popular imagination, and ultimately resulted in a series of four novels and an Emmy-winning television miniseries. Now, with an introduction by the author, Lonesome Dove is reprinted in an S&S Classic Edition.
Lonesome Dove, by Larry McMurtry, the author of Terms of Endearment, is his long-awaited masterpiece, the major novel at last of the American West as it really was.

A love story, an adventure, an American epic, Lonesome Dove embraces all the West — legend and fact, heroes and outlaws, whores and ladies, Indians and settiers — in a novel that recreates the central American experience, the most enduring of our national myths.
Set in the late nineteenth century, Lonesome Dove is the story of a cattle drive from Texas to Montana — and much more. It is a drive that represents for everybody involved not only a daring, even a foolhardy, adventure, but a part of the American Dream — the attempt to carve out of the last remaining wilderness a new life.

Augustus McCrae and W. F. Call are former Texas Rangers, partners and friends who have shared hardship and danger together without ever quite understanding (or wanting to understand) each other's deepest emotions. Gus is the romantic, a reluctant rancher who has a way with women and the sense to leave well enough alone. Call is a driven, demanding man, a natural authority figure with no patience for weaknesses, and not many of his own. He is obsessed with thedream of creating his own empire, and with the need to conceal a secret sorrow of his own. The two men could hardly be more different, but both are tough, redoubtable fighters who have learned to count on each other, if nothing else.

Call's dream not only drags Gus along in its wake, but draws in a vast cast of characters: 

  • Lorena, the whore with the proverbial heart of gold, whom Gus (and almost everyone else) loves, and who survives one of the most terrifying experiences any woman could have...
  • Elmira, the restless, reluctant wife of a small-time Arkansas sheriff, who runs away from the security of marriage to become part of the great Western adventure... 
  • Blue Duck, the sinister Indian renegade, one of the most frightening villains in American fiction, whose steely capacity for cruelty affects the lives of everyone in the book...
  • Newt, the young cowboy for whom the long and dangerous journey from Texas to Montana is in fact a search for his own identity...
  • Jake, the dashing, womanizing exRanger, a comrade-in-arms of Gus and Call, whose weakness leads him to an unexpected fate...
  • July Johnson, husband of Elmira, whose love for her draws him out of his secure life into the wilderness, and turns him into a kind of hero...

Lonesome Dove sweeps from the Rio Grande (where Gus and Call acquire the cattle for their long drive by raiding the Mexicans) to the Montana highlands (where they find themselves besieged by the last, defiant remnants of an older West).
It is an epic of love, heroism, loyalty, honor, and betrayal — faultlessly written, unfailingly dramatic. Lonesome Dove is the novel about the West that American literature — and the American reader — has long been waiting for. (From the publisher.)



Author Bio
Birth—June 3, 1936
Where—Wichita Falls, Texas, USA
Education—B.A., North Texas State University; M.A., Rice
   University; studied at Stanford University
Awards—Pulitzer Prize, 1986
Currently—Archer City, Texas


Back in the late 60s, the fact that Larry McMurtry was not a household name was really a thorn in the side of the writer. To illustrate his dissatisfaction with his status, he would go around wearing a T-shirt that read "Minor Regional Novelist." Well, more than thirty books, two Oscar-winning screenplays, and a Pulitzer Prize later, McMurtry is anything but a minor regional novelist.

Having worked on his father's Texas cattle ranch for a great deal of his early life, McMurtry had an inborn fascination with the West, both its fabled history and current state. However, he never saw himself as a life-long rancher and aspired to a more creative career. He achieved this at the age of 25 when he published his first novel. Horseman, Pass By was a wholly original take on the classic western. Humorous, heartbreaking, and utterly human, this story of a hedonistic cowboy in contemporary Texas was a huge hit for the young author and even spawned a major motion picture starring Paul Newman called Hud just two years after its 1961 publication. Extraordinarily, McMurtry was even allowed to write the script, a rare honor for such a novice.

With such an auspicious debut, it is hard to believe that McMurtry ever felt as though he'd been slighted by the public or marginalized as a minor talent. While all of his books may not have received equal attention, he did have a number of astounding successes early in his career. His third novel The Last Picture Show, a coming-of-age-in-the-southwest story, became a genuine classic, drawing comparisons to J. D. Salinger and James Jones. In 1971, Peter Bogdonovich's screen adaptation of the novel would score McMurtry his first Academy award for his screenplay. Three years later, he published Terms of Endearment, a critically lauded urban family drama that would become a hit movie starring Jack Nicholson and Shirley MacLaine in 1985. A sequel, Evening Star, was published in 1992 and adapted to film in 1996.

That year, McMurtry published what many believe to be his definitive novel. An expansive epic sweeping through all the legends and characters that inhabited the old west, Lonesome Dove was a masterpiece. All of the elements that made McMurtry's writing so distinguished — his skillful dialogue, richly drawn characters, and uncanny ability to establish a fully-realized setting — convened in this Pulitzer winning story of two retired Texas rangers who venture from Texas to Montana. The novel was a tremendous critical and commercial favorite, and became a popular miniseries in 1989.

Following the massive success of Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry's prolificacy grew. He would publish at least one book nearly every year for the next twenty years, including Texasville, a gut-wrenching yet hilarious sequel to The Last Picture Show, Buffalo Girls, a fictionalized account of the later days of Calamity Jane, and several non-fiction titles, such as Crazy Horse.

Interestingly, McMurtry would receive his greatest notoriety in his late 60s as the co-screenwriter of Ang Lee's controversial film Brokeback Mountain. The movie would score the writer another Oscar and become one of the most critically heralded films of 2005. The following year he published his latest novel. Telegraph Days is a freewheeling comedic run-through of western folklore and surely one of McMurtry's most inventive stories and enjoyable reads. Not bad for a "minor regional novelist."

Extras
McMurtry comes from a long line of ranchers and farmers. His father and eight of his uncles were all in the profession.

The first printing of McMurtry's novel In a Narrow Grave is one of his most obscure for a rather obscure reason. The book was withdrawn because the word "skyscrapers" was misspelled as "skycrappers" on page 105. (From Barnes & Noble.)



Book Reviews
(Books prior to the internet have few, if any, mainstream press reviews online. See Amazon and Barnes & Noble for helpful customer reviews.)

Weaves a dense web of subplots involving secondary characters and out-of-the-way places, with the idea of using the form of a long old-fashioned realistic novel to create an accurate picture of life on the American frontier.... The Great Cowboy Novel.
Nicholas Lemann - New York Times


If you only read one western novel in your life, read Lonesome Dove.
USA Today



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