10 August 2014

Streets of Laredo


Synopsis from Goodreads: In the long-awaited sequel to LONESOME DOVE, Larry McMurtry spins an exhilarating tale of legend and heroism. Captain Woodrow Call, Augustus McCrae's old partner, is now a bounty hunter hired to track down a brutal, young Mexican bandit. Riding with Call are an Eastern city slicker, a witless deputy, and one of the last members of the Hat Creek outfit, Pea Eye Parker, now married to Lorena -- once Gus McCrae's sweetheart. Their long chase leads them across the last wild stretches of the West into a hellhole known as Crow Town, and finally, into the vast, relentless plains of the Texas frontier.

Stats for my copy: Hardback, published by Simon & Schuster,1993; bought.

First line: “Most train robbers ain't smart, which is a lucky thing for the railroads,” Call said.

My thoughts: LONESOME DOVE is one of my all time favorite books. It took me awhile to get into it, but once I did I was mesmerized until the last page, and was still thinking about the book and missing the characters weeks later.

STREETS OF LAREDO also took me a bit to really get into, and while I enjoyed it, I wasn't completely mesmerized until about the last quarter of the book. Gus McCrae of course was a very big part of Lonesome Dove, and of Woodrow Call's life, and traveling along with Call without Gus took some adjusting to. Gus and Call complemented each other so well in the first book, and without Gus Call seems even more morose.

A large span of time has passed since the first book ended. Lorena is now married to Pea Eye and they have several kids, ranging from an infant to a fifteen year old. They've settled on their own ranch in Texas, and Lorena is also the local schoolteacher. It was good to find out that Lorena had found a future with a man she loves and a family she cherishes. Call, on the other hand, is just an old man who seems to have nothing much beyond his memories. He still has a legendary reputation, has been hired by the railroad to track down and kill Joey Garza, a young Mexican boy who's built up quite a reputation of his own as a train robber and cold blooded murderer. When Call telegraphs Pea Eye to join him on the hunt, Pea is unhappy about it, but his loyalty to the Captain won't let him refuse. Pea is very happy in his life with Lorena now, and he hates leaving the farm more with every summons from Call.

There are plenty of new characters - Brookshire is an accountant sent by the railroad to accompany Call and keep up with expenses. Having been born and raised in the East, traveling throughout Texas and Mexico with Call is a serious culture shock for him. It starts out as an adventure, with Call looking down on him somewhat, but Brookshire manages to hold his own, earning the Captain's respect and friendship. Deputy Plunkert is eager and excited when Call rides through his town and asks him to joint the hunt, leaving behind a young pregnant wife. Neither Brookshire or Plunkert have any idea of the heartache this trip will cost each of them. And then there's Maria, Joey Garza's mother, and her two young children. Maria has had the hardest life of any of them, and she's desperate to protect Joey from Call, even though Joey hates her and steals from her.

The narrative weaves back and forth between Call and his men hunting down Garza, Lorena setting out to find Pea and take him back home, and Maria, hoping every time she sees Joey that he'll have gone back to being her loving son. As in the first book, the narrative flows from one character's point of view to another, and even minor characters are vividly drawn. The violence is sometimes a little overwhelming, and overall it's rather depressing, as so many characters seem to be filled with regrets or doubts, and live such hard, miserable lives. If you go into this story with a romanticized view of the old west, that will quickly be knocked right out of your head.

While Streets is a sequel, it pretty much reads as a standalone. It's not quite as outstanding as Lonesome Dove was, but a close second. 

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