Margins: Lonesome Dove (409)

I’m beginning to feel pleased I persisted with Larry ‘Terms of Endearment’ McMurtry’s plains of Texas epic Lonesome Dove. Bought on a whim in Swindon’s only bookshop, the novel traces the fortunes of several loosely-connected folk as they wend their respective ways northward to Montana.

The problem is (or was) that both plot and penmanship are plodding, for at least the first hundred pages. McMurtry goes to great lengths – laborious really – to establish, in dull, sleepy smalltown terms, the characters, eccentricities and past dalliances of a host of ex-rangers, gamblers, hands, whores, deputies, boys and bandits. All of which detail gets consigned to the memorial dustbin once the journey (or journeys, rather) begin.

Once things get going, Larry’s on much firmer footing. The descriptions of life on the trail, replete with campfires, varmints, creeks, buffalo hunters, chance encounters (with villains, weirdoes, heroes and everyone in-between) and dramatic weather, are really atmospheric, and the characters which had once felt cut-out become lasting, charming and human.

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