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4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 29 December 2000
"Dead Man's Walk" is one of those books that kept me glued to its pages, and there aren't many of such books. It is not one of those predictalbe - a cowboy rode into town, killed a few men, won the girl stories. It is a brilliant book probably as close to the truth as any, although at times the descriptions of scalping and torture make it a little bit gory. But it is also very sentimental, aspect which is represented by Matty Roberts and her growing feelings for old Shadrach. Often you cannot feel anything but sympathy for the characters, as they go from one hardship to another. The individual descriptions of each incident as they took place, evoke, I think the exact emotions which they are supposed to. When Woodrow and Bigfoot are forced to drink horse urine to survive, you know they have to, but you still feel just as disguisted with this act as the characters do. When Bigfoot is selected to be executed, one can only feel sorry for him and say out loud, that 'It's not fair! He's been with them from the beginning, he has to live!'. Gus McRae, when he wonders off whilst on duty, makes me angry for his disobedience, and all I could say when he got lost was 'Serves you right, for not listening to.' Both Caleb Cobb and Chevallie are poor examples of leadership, hell bent only on what they can achieve from these expeditions. Cobb's cool blood can be commendable, under some circumstances, yet I cannot but feel that he should have been hunged a long time before he had a chance to organise an expedition to Santa Fe.
Although I knew that the two main characters will have to survive their adventure, since they are the subjects of three further tales, at times it was hard to believe that they would. The suspense in some instances, e.g. who will draw the white colour bean, was immense. It was impossible to tell what was going to happen next, as all the characters are as unpredictable, as the thoughts of Larry McMurtry. Above all it was very good to know how the lives of the two friends were thrown together. Also to see what has made Gus and Woodraw become the men they were in Lonesome Dove, and how the hardships they have faced on those very first treks across the Comancheria has changed them, and helped them to face the 'real world' of the wild west.
I was most impressed with McMurty's portrayal of Comanche Indians. They are human beings leading lives so much unlike their white counterparts, and they are presented as such. Even though the descriptions of scalping and torture curdle the blood in my veins just reading about them, thanks to McMurty it is possible to understand why Comanches, and indeed Native Americans, behaved in such way, and even to forgive them for such behaviour. I have a great admiration for Native American's, and "Dead Man's Walk" has provided me with some of the better descriptions of what it was like to be a Comanche in 1840s. One only has to close one's eyes to see the skill with which Buffalo Hump hunts his pray. The talent which Kicking Wolf possesses to steal horses literally from under the enemy's nose, is beyond comprehension, however well it is pictured in the book. Although it would be unheard of to give a young boy a gun to fight in a white world, Indian's taught their children to fight from very early ages, and that is represented by Buffalo Hump's son, killed by corporal Call. Overall I think "Dead Man's Walk is a great book, and I recommend it to anyone interested in reading about the wild west, but also to those knew to this genre of writing. Most of all I will praise Larry McMurtry for his representation of the relationship between the Native American's and their white nemesis. The way in which he incorporated the real character of Buffalo Hump into the story, is definiteyly something to be proud of, for although a great deal might be known about his life, no one can account for every day of it. Furthermore, the descriptions of places like Llano Estacado, had me reaching for the atlas and history books, and deep down I'm hoping that perhpas such two people like gus and Woodrow really did exist and live through those adventures. They are definitely not the typical cowboys you see in western movies, these can only be real people.
Larry McMurtry is truly a gifted writer. There is magic coming from every page, not allowing the reader to put the book down, one simply has to know what will happen next. I laughed and cried with the characters, and now I shall go on to read so that I can see how their adventures finished.
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on 24 June 2002
This book completely strips away the Wild West as we know it, thanks to all those Hollywood spaghetti western movies. It's a gruesome read in parts, but it's a gripping story of survival against the odds and the tragic waste of lives that was involved in what at times must have seemed a futile struggle to claim the West from the native Indians.
Forget reality TV, this book and it's sequels are the story of real survivors, ordinary men and women in search of the better lives promised to them in the new world, and the Indians trying to defend their homeland from the invaders. They were a pretty brutal bunch but one can't help feeling a certain sympathy towards them. They were not without their dignity and the white man who was not afraid of them was a fool.
McMurtry has a 'can't-put-it-down' style of writing with no frills attached. Read this book.
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VINE VOICEon 14 July 2015
I've have decided to read the entire Lonesome Dove saga in chronological order which means I kick off with Dead Man's Walk which was actually the third book published following Lonesome Dove (chronologically the third book) and Streets of Laredo (a direct sequel to Lonesome Dove and chronologically the fourth and final book in the series) . I'd previously read the Pulitzer Prize winning, Lonesome Dove but the rest of the series were new to me, though I had seen all the TV movies based on the book. And to be honest now that I've read Dead Man's Walk I can say that the TV mini-series was pretty damn faithful with only a few cosmetic changes.

To clear things up the order of publication for the series:

Lonesome Dove (1985)

Streets of Laredo (1993)

Dead's Man's Walk (1995)

Commanche Moon (1997)

Though in chronological order the series goes:

Dead Man' walk

Commanche Moon

Lonesome Dove

Streets of Laredo

Dead Man's Walk then gives us the very early years of Gus McCrea and Woodrow Call and depicts how the boys first became friends and of how they joined the Texas Rangers. The book starts with Gus and Woodrow signed on as rangers with a road scouting expedition led by the inept Major Chevallier. During the expedition they are repeatedly attacked by Indians led by a deformed commanche called Buffalo Hump. During this early section of the book we get to know the important characters, especially Gus and Woodrow - their personalities are sketched out over a number of brilliantly written set pieces, usually involving the war chief, Buffalo Hump. Gus is the talkative, whore loving easy to get along with type, which his best friend, Woodrow is solid, dependable, serious minded and not all together likable. When Gus visits a whore he is in love with her and treats her with genuine affection, while when Woodrow visits he gets his business done and then gets out of there without a wasted word. The two men are polar opposited but they live and breath as real people on the page and the chemistry beteen them is excellent.

There are several other secondary characters who are equally well drawn - Matty, known as the Great Western, is the whore who throws snapping turtles at them men and generally allows them a poke on tick, Bigfoot Wallace is a mountain man with a fine line in storytelling, Shadrach is another mountain man, an aged character in the final years of his life. Then we have Long Bill Coleman and Johnny Carthage, two everyman types who provide one or two moments of comic relief as well as several truly poignant scenes.

A truly excellent book with a story that is richly drawn and truthful to the period - there is much cruelty that the author doesn't avoid in order to build up this very real story.
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on 23 August 2016
Prior to reading Lonesome Dove, I don't think I had ever read anything in the Western genre, but it appeared in so many 'must read' lists, that I thought I needed to give it a try. I have reviewed it elsewhere, but needless to say, it met all my hopes, so I was equally unsure about reading the other books in the series, as they were all written as prequels or sequels. But I have succumbed! This is the first book in the series chronologically, and introduces us to the young Gus and Call as they take their first tentative steps as Rangers.
The style is very much more of the same; realism, brutality, atmosphere, matter-of-fact story-telling. The writing is quite sparse; no long descriptive passages, but the author skilfully draws us into their world, filling the pages with the odd phrase here and there that allows you to build a really detailed picture of the characters and their environment.
Obviously, prequels have their problems; the main characters have to survive, so no tension there, but McMurtry has drawn them perfectly. If you have read Lonesome Dove, then the younger versions of Gus and Call are completely believable.
Criticisms? Well, the book is a bit episodic, and at times, things resolve themselves in the turn of a page, particularly at the end of the book, which, for me, was disappointingly unreal. But I would certainly recommend this book, whether you have read it's more famous cousin or not.
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I came to this book with some apprehension as I had already read the wonderful "Lonesome Dove". While it lacks the full power and maturity of the later novel, it was far from disappointing. It introduces Gus McCrae and Woodrow Call,but as in the later novel has its own cast of wonderful secondary characters, presented with colour and conviction and yet with the same restraint that is a powerful feature of "Lonesome Dove". The storyline draws the reader in, subjects him to some harrowing experiences but never relinquishes a tight hold on him. There is tension, pain, humour, sickening brutality alongside simple decency and humanity. A fine novel in its own right and an enticing introduction to its even finer sequel. A superior western. Thoroughly recommended.
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on 17 December 2015
Usual McMurtry fodder eminently readable, nasty violence, boring when he spends to long on the thoughts and motivations of various characters. Don't know if the book reflects the real world of that time and place but it's McMurtry's slant on it and that's o.k. because he is an excellent descriptive writer. I suppose that "Lonesome Dove" is the best known and for me the best read of the quartet and having read that you will be very interested in "Gus" and "Woodrow" the main characters. This is the story of their earlier adventures and how they became Texas Rangers, a motley bunch if ever there was one! There is a wealth of other characters, some stayers some fall by the way but all interesting. Like the other books in the series this is a 'meaty' read and not to be undertaken lightly by the casual but for others well worth the effort.
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on 26 October 2014
Glorious novel as all of the Larry McMurty novels on the Lonesome Dove theme are,as one who never cared for the cowboy/ western genre I'm a convert.The characters are fascinating,the descriptions of the territory make you feel the heat & taste the dust. In all a marvellous adventure.
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on 10 September 2015
As a great fan of Lonesome Dove, both book and DVD I have to admit to being disappointed with Dead Man's Walk. Unlike Lonesome Dove I found large parts of the story to be stretching the imagination a little too far. Whilst appreciating it is just a fictional account of the 'Wild West' it has to be to some extent believable and large parts of this story simply are not, unlike Lonesome Dove. Will give other books in the series a go and hope they are more realistic.
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on 27 July 2015
Having read Lonesome Dove years ago and finding it to be one of the best evocations of what I believed the west would have been at that time rather than what Hollywood had presented us with over the years( before The Outlaw Josey Wales, Dances With Wolves, Open Range and others redressed the balance) I was unsure abut a Prequel. I had avoided the other books featuring the same characters because I thought surely they could not be as good and what else could they add to the original without repeating much of the first book. However having just finished Dead Mans Walk I will now seek out the rest of the quartet of books, yes there is some repetition in themes from Lonesome Dove in this book but this does not detract from the marvellous writing. Mr McMurtys prose and descriptive writing is both illuminating and moving the characters strong and believable also the story itself is thrilling. To meet the characters when they are so much younger and see the traits in them that represent what the characters had become in Lonesome Dove is entertaining. Above all this book emphasises what all novels should be a very good read. Highly recommended.. Highlyrecommended.
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on 14 June 2013
This novel by Larry McMurtry depicting the Texan military expedition from Austin to Santa Fe, with disastrous consequences to the participants, is one that could be read by anyone who loves a well told story that is both descriptive of the times and has characters that will make you wonder how people survived in those days, as well as making us think what easy lives we lead today but lacking, in most cases, the wonderful experiences these pioneers experienced figuratively but not practically.

I could hardly put the book down and felt all the hardships and moments of wonderment the characters went through, with the writing capturing brilliantly the harshness and beauty of the countryside and life in general.

It is a wonderful read, even for those not interested in the American West and after reading the book, i thoroughly recommend the film of the same title that faithfully brings the book to life on the screen.
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