We join Texas Rangers August McCrae and Woodrow F. Call in their middle years, just beginning to deal with the perplexing tensions of adult life - Gus and his great love, Clara Forsythe; Call and Maggie Tilton, the young whore who loves him - when they enlist with a 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 joins the twenty-year time line between Dead Man's Walk and Lonesome Dove, as we follow beloved heroes Gus and Call and their comrades-in-arms - Deets, Jake Spoon, and Pea Eye Parker - in their bitter struggle to protect an advancing Western frontier against the defiant Comanches, courageously determined to defend their territory and their way of life.At once realistic and yet vividly imagined, Comanche Moon is a giant of a book - written by one of America's most honored and distinguished novelists - and the keystone to a mighty achievement of storytelling, unparalleled for its sweep, its meticulous re-creation of the past, its sheer energy, and its celebration of life: an epic adventure full of heroism, tragedy, cruelty, courage, honor and betrayal, and the culmination of Larry McMurtry's peerless vision of the American West.
Comanche Moon is a pretty good tale in its own right. In it, we meet most of the characters who achieved fame in the television miniseries of the earlier written Lonesome Dove. It is a long (752 pages) narrative that rarely drags. The principal characters, many of whom are Native Americans, are always interesting. McMurtry’s inhabitants (both red and white) of southwest Texas in the mid 19th century were extremely tough and often brutal. Nevertheless, some of them achieve a high level of dignity in McMurtry’s telling, even if they (the Comanches) are inclined to torture their captives or (the Texas rangers) hang their suspected criminal prisoners without trial.
When we enter the minds of the Indians (that’s what they were called in those days), we encounter spirits, witches, and omens. I don’t know whether the Indians back then actually thought that way, but the trope is useful as a way of emphasizing a very real difference in perception between them and their Texan enemies.
The meta-message behind the literal narrative is the end of the Comanche’s way of life as white settlers move in and drive away the great buffalo herds that were their primary source of food and clothing. Their great war chief, Buffalo Hump, leads one last great raid from the plains all the way to the Gulf of Mexico, but in the end even he realizes that not only he, but his entire culture, is dying.
A fine tale, well-told.
Neither man has been lucky in love. Gus's great love, Clara Forsythe, married someone else and moved to Nebraska. Maggie Tilton, the whore who loves Woodrow and bears his son, Newt, dies of tuberculosis while Woodrow and Gus are away on their final raid. Woodrow was never able to bring himself to marry Maggie or accept Newt as his son and he seems a much lesser man for that. Gus may be an alcoholic but at least he is capable of love and understands human emotion. I confess I didn't like Woodrow very much in this book.
I also found this book to dwell on brutality, especially the tortures of Ahumado, too much for my taste. I think I could have gotten the message that he was a bad man without quite so much detail.
However, I'm glad I have finally read this book as it ties together Dead Man's Walk with Lonesome Dove. I read Lonesome Dove years ago and my memory is not to fresh. I may have to go back and read it some day (as if there weren't enough books to read without re-reading ones I have already read!)
Although long and a little hard to get into I really did enjoy McMurtry's story and may eventually read one of the other books in the Lonesome Dove series. There were two reasons why it went slowly at first: the first short chapters were each about a different character or small group of characters and so the narrative seemed to be jumping around a lot until one got them all sorted out; then my husband found the video of the TV production at the library and wanted to watch it right away (mostly because Call was played by Karl Urban and McCrae by Steve Zahn). This was an interesting experience but I did slow down on the book until we had watched all three parts of the video. One thing I particularly noticed - most of the dialog was lifted straight out of the novel although there were some cuts and rearranging of some scenes.
Comanche Moon begins with Gus and Woodrow as Texas Rangers and follows their lives before and after the War Between the States. Much of their 'rangering' involves keeping the Comanches at bay and pushing them back in order to protect the settlers coming west. McMurtry also gives us the point of view of the Comanches through characters such as Buffalo Hump and Kicking Wolf. The descriptions of the Texas countryside and life in the city of Austin at that time were also very good. The novel became a real page-turner in both Part Two and Part Three and I would recommend it.