Sunday, January 13, 2008

Comanche Moon

I've mentioned before (probably several times) how much I love Larry McMurtry's Lonesome Dove and how high it is on my list of all-time favorite books. I intend to read the book again in 2008 for what will be the fourth time, in fact, because every time that I read the book I feel as if I've taken the time to visit old friends Gus McCrae and Woodrow Call. It's like I've known them forever although I only met them in 1985 when I luckily stumbled on a copy of Lonesome Dove on the first day that it hit bookstore shelves.

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.

Or simply their desires.
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.


  1. I am planning to read this whole chronologically in the next little while as well. Previously I have only read Lonesome Dove, but I am looking forward to the others.

  2. Thanks for the head's up on the miniseries. I really loved Lonesome Dove, although I haven't read any of its sequels. I should read it chronologically as well - maybe next year...

  3. Cool, Marg. I never imagined that anyone else might be planning to read the four books in chronological order this year. I'm already wondering if I'll "learn" anything new this way.

  4. Susan, the first two hours were a bit disappointing to me (and I now remember why I don't watch network TV: COMMERCIALS). The Indian characters and the evil Mexican from the book just don't come off with even a fraction of the pure evilness with which the book portrays them. They don't scare me at the book they terrified me.

  5. If you had never read Lonesome Dove (which I haven't), would you start by reading the series in chronological order or the order in which the books were written?

  6. Lonesome Dove is one of my all-time favorite books. I will also be re-reading it in '08 in my ongoing effort to read more Pulitzer Prize winners.

    I missed the recent mini-series, but I hope to see it available via Netflix in the near future.

  7. Syndi, I think that I would read "Lonesome Dove" first and then follow-up with the others in chronological order. I think you should get the impact of "Lonesome Dove" just the way that McMurtry intended it...with no pre-knowledge of his characters.

  8. The series ended last night, Crissy, and I was sorry to see it end. My only complaint is that Buffalo Hump came across as way too nice a comparison to Blue Duck, his son, he was, but not as nice as the movie made him out to be.

    It was a good series and, I think, a fitting end, to the Lonesome Dove saga on television.