But this time around I'm going to read Lonesome Dove as part of the series that it grew into after all of its initial success as a Pulitzer Prize winner and well-respected television mini-series. McMurtry added to the Call-McCrae story with three more books about them. Book Two is a traditional sequel to Lonesome Dove called Streets of Laredo, the story of Woodrow Call's later years as a bounty hunter. Next came a prequel titled Dead Man's Walk in which McMurty, in a way, introduces McCrae and Call to the world as teenagers who have just joined their beloved Texas Rangers. Book Four, Comanche Moon, covers the missing "middle years" of my two friends and their little band of Texas Rangers, so in order to read the story in chronological order for the first time, I'll start with Book Three, and follow with Books Four, One and Two, in that order. And what a saga it is since the books total some 2,661 pages in the first edition hardcover versions that are on my shelves.
CBS Television will be giving me a little jump-start on my project tonight by showing the first episode of its brand new miniseries based on Comanche Moon.
"Comanche" delivers a solid story, though not an especially upbeat one. It's unblinking, melancholy, violent, frustrating, wistful, sometimes reassuring, sometimes funny, often troubling, almost never sentimental....
It locks in on the men and women who settled the American frontier and refuses to buy the myth that because in the end they stretched America from sea to shining sea, it was all good.
To McMurtry, whose four-book series spawned five separate miniseries, the sacrifices by the dead and the living are rarely noble. They're ugly, they're ragged, sometimes they're just plain stupid. Mostly they reflect the worst of human behavior, not the best.
Interestingly, several storylines and characters in "Comanche" strongly echo HBO's late, lamented "Deadwood" - which is worth mentioning because "Comanche," restricted by network content standards, sometimes seems tepid by comparison.
But "Comanche" can stand on its own as a perceptive view of how the West was tamed - a "victory" McMurtry portrays as the end product of clashes among a rotating cast of cultures whose commonality lay largely in the cruelty they inflicted in the name of their beliefs.
This is one of those rare times that I am actually looking forward to watching network television for something other than a football or baseball game. It's been a few years since that has happened. That probably means that I'll be disappointed, of course.
Or simply their desires.