Lonesome No More

All literary genres have their loyalists, but few have more devoted—and querulous—readers than the Western. So when in the mid-1980's rumors began to circulate that Larry McMurtry, hitherto known for his angst-ridden tales of modern Texas, was at work on an epic oater, shoot-'em-up fans began looking for a noose, sure that the bespectacled belletrist would revise their Old West out of existence. He did; but McMurtry's Lonesome Dove went on to become one of the best-selling Westerns of recent times. Of course, diehard oatereaters had their day with it; they even convened a special panel at the 1985 Western Historical Association convention to squabble over why the mock-heroic cowboys who populate the novel needed to drive their cattle all the way to Montana when they would have hit a stockyard-bound railroad line in southern Kansas. In Lonesome Dove McMurtry took pains to strip away the legendary West, to discover a region plagued by genocide, random violence, failure, and frustrated dreams, a West where many lose while few gain, where people travel far to go nowhere.

Sequels never quite match up to their progenitors, and McMurtry's Streets of Laredo is no exception. Partly, this is the inescapable result of its setting. Texas has quieted down since the hellraising days of Augustus McCrae and Woodrow Call. In Lonesome Dove, the protagonists were retired from the Texas...

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