Friday, February 11, 2005

Book review: Comanche Moon by Larry McMurtry

Comanche Moon by Larry McMurtry – The second prequel to McMurtry’s LONESOME DOVE, this novel takes place a few years after the first book DEAD MAN’S WALK. This is supposed to be the fourth and last book in the LD series, which is unfortunate since McMurtry has created so many fascinating characters. There are several whose stories would certainly make for further novels.

We get to see Woodrow Call and August McCrae when they are a few years older, and still members of the Texas Rangers. The story starts at a time when rumors of a coming war between the North and South are still just that, continuing through the conflict and showing us Texas trying to recover as the era of Reconstruction begins. While Call and Gus themselves never take part in the conflict, some of those they know do and even in Texas the ramifications of the war are felt.

Even though our two rangers, soon to become captains, are central to the story, McMurtry takes time to introduce a number of other characters and the book jumps from chapter to chapter as a wide range of these characters have their own adventures. We get to see Gus’s old flame Clara once again, along with fellow ranger Long Bill, plus learn the fate of some of the others who we met in the first book. McMurtry once again has Buffalo Hump, the Comanche war chief going forth to raid and kill over thousands of miles, building a large war party of hundreds of warriors. We also get to meet Captain Scull, sent to lead the Rangers, but who goes off on an adventure of his own. This book also shows us the boy’s first trip to Lonesome Dove, the town featured in the best known novel.

Scull, leading the Rangers in a search for the Comanches led by Buffalo Hump, finds himself the target of the warriors he seeks. When his horse is stolen by Kicking Wolf, he travels with Famous Shoes, the Kickapoo scout into Mexico. His fate once he finds his horse is central to the rest of the novel. McMurtry, unlike in the first sequel actually brings some depth to the tribal members and we begin to understand why they do some of the things they have done. Buffalo Hump, who we originally see as a savage killer actually gains our sympathy as the story progresses.

I have to admit that initially I wasn’t as taken with this novel as I was with DEAD MAN’S WALK, but after the troop return to Austin the story begins to pick up pace and I was caught up from that point on. If you don’t mind a bit of a slow start and some confusion as to who all these characters are and how they relate, I think you’ll enjoy this as much as the previous book.
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