Western Novel Spotlight - Comanche Moon

CowboySpirit.TV - In our first Western novel spotlight, we take a look at the second book of Larry McMurtry's Lonesome Dove tetralogy, Comache Moon.

Texas Rangers August McCrae and Woodrow Call, now in their middle years, continue to deal with the ever-increasing tensions of adult life -- Gus with his great love, Clara Forsythe, and Call with Maggie Tilton, the young whore who loves him. Two proud but very different men, they enlist with the Ranger troop in pursuit of Buffalo Hump, the great Comanche war chief; Kicking Wolf, the celebrated Comanche horse thief; and a deadly Mexican bandit king with a penchant for torture. Assisting the Rangers in their wild chase is the renowned Kickapoo tracker, Famous Shoes.

"Comanche Moon" is described as the final volume of the "Lonesome Dove" saga although chronologically it is the second of the four novels, taking place between "Dead Man's Walk" and "Lonesome Dove". Readers of the other volumes in series will encounter familiar names here: Woodrow Call and Gus McCrae, of course, but also Jake Spoon and Pea Eye Parker and Deets of "Dove", Long Bill Coleman and Buffalo Hump of "Walk", Famous Shoes and Charlie Goodnight of "Streets of Laredo" and others.

As has become increasingly evident in his novels, McMurtry is not concerned with presenting a story of the West correct in all the minor historical details. For example, in "Comanche Moon" we find one character armed with a Winchester rifle 10 years before that weapon's introduction. Instead, his aim appears to be to create a story of about four parts gritty realism and one part romantic myth - and in "Comanche Moon" he achieves success. The novel abounds with characters more extravagant, larger-than-life personalities, yet these people are true to the story McMurtry is telling.

Captain Inish Scull of the Texas Rangers and his wife, Inez, and the "Black Vaquero" Ahumado are unlikely to have had close real-life models, but in "Comanche Moon" they are forceful, fascinating figures. As is usual, McMurtry's characters are driven by their own obsessions. If I might sum up the theme of this novel, and much else of McMurtry's fiction, I would say that it would be "times change, people don't" - and not just "people" in the larger sense, but people as individuals, holding true to their own particular, narrow view of how they should live their lives. Characters like Woodrow Call and Inish Scull and Buffalo Hump are admirable because of their great integrity, no matter what destruction they seed while pursuing their individual visions of what is right. In "Comanche Moon", McMurtry's Indian characters - the Comanche Buffalo Hump and Kicking Wolf and the Kickapoo Famous Shoes - are perhaps more finely drawn than in any of the other Lonesome Dove books. They are not merely white men wearing paint and feathers. They live and die by their own logic, as alien as that system of belief may seem to a late Twentieth Century reader.

Although any judgment must be subjective, I would rate "Comanche Moon" as at least the equal of "Streets of Laredo" and better than "Dead Man's Walk", although not so high as the magnificent "Lonesome Dove". I know that part of my enjoyment of the novel is my familiarity with several of the major characters, and my advice to any reader new to the "Lonesome Dove" saga would be to read the books in their order of publication rather than their chronological order of internal dates.

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