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_Comanche Moon_ (1997) by Larry McMurtry
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Author:  crossada75 [ Sat Feb 20, 2016 11:23 pm ]
Post subject:  _Comanche Moon_ (1997) by Larry McMurtry

Here's a funny thing. I have never been a particularly big fan of the Western genre as such, either on the page or on the screen. There have been a handful of Westerns I've liked, but most of those were not typical Westerns. As often as not they "subverted" the genre in some way, or several ways.

I remember back in 1989 when the television miniseries Lonesome Dove first aired. I hadn't read the book it was based on, and I wasn't that interested. I think I watched it mostly just because I had met and had a few drinks with one of its cast members (William Sanderson as "Lippy" the saloon piano player) about a year before, under unhappy circumstances.

Soon after his cousin, a barmaid in the place where I met him, told me he was working on a new project, an epic Western, which turned out to be Lonesome Dove. She kept me updated with reports and complaints about the miserable working conditions of the on-location filming.

So when it was broadcast I watched it, mostly for his sake, and it was kind of okay. Some parts of it were *really* good, but other parts kind of bored me, or even offended me. There was a certain underlying something in parts of it that disturbed me. I still can't exactly explain what.

Years later I saw it again a few times, and, as has happened with some other movies and shows I didn't especially care for on the first viewing, such as _Excalibur_ (1981), it grew on me with repeated viewings.

But, unlike the case with some other movies I liked or learned to like, it didn't cause me to go out and read the book, or any other books by the same author.

Until just a few nights ago, when something led me to a prequel to _Lonesome Dove_ by the same author, Larry McMurtry.

This was _Comanche Moon_, set in the period roughly 1856 to ~1865 (roughly 20 years before the events of _Lonesome Dove_, which begins soon after Custer's death at Little Big Horn in 1876).

I found it was possible, with effort, to read most of it online, and I did. All I can tell you is that's one of those things that are hard to tell anyone about if they haven't read it. It made a strong impression on me, stronger than the filmed version of _Lonesome Dove_ did.

I still haven't read the book _Lonesome Dove_, so I can't say what that's like. I gather there was another TV miniseries based on _Comanche Moon_ released in 2008, but I haven't seen that either.

There are several reviews of _Comanche Moon_ (the book) online. None of the reviews I've read did anything like justice to this thing, which is almost in a class of its own, and not just as a Western either. But I'll try to choose one and provide a link to it.

This thing is not simply a Western. It straddles several genres. For one thing, a big part of it is just straight-up horror fiction, easily as gruesome and ghoulish as anything in _The Texas Chainsaw Massacre_ or anything Stephen King ever wrote. I would even say it out-Kings King in places.

There are very strong suggestions of the supernatural in it as well. Many or most of the principle characters take the literal existence and potency of spirits and witches, ghosts and (pagan) gods, completely for granted. And it is not at all clear that any of them are mistaken.

http://www.thatinscrutablething.com/201 ... urtry.html

Author:  crossada75 [ Sat Feb 20, 2016 11:28 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: _Comanche Moon_ (1997) by Larry McMurtry

Another review.

https://www.nytimes.com/books/97/12/07/ ... lomot.html

Author:  crossada75 [ Sat Feb 20, 2016 11:29 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: _Comanche Moon_ (1997) by Larry McMurtry

The first chapter. It gets better.

https://www.nytimes.com/books/first/m/m ... -moon.html

Author:  crossada75 [ Sat Feb 20, 2016 11:30 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: _Comanche Moon_ (1997) by Larry McMurtry

' "We don't even own the horses we're riding. All we own are our guns and our clothes."

"And the saddles," he added. "We do own our saddles."

The comment depressed Augustus to an unusual degree. He liked to think of himself as prosperous, or at least prospectively prosperous--but the fact was he was just short of being a pauper. All he owned was three guns, a fairly well made saddle, and some clothes.

He had no house, no land, no wife, no livestock. He had ridden all day in the blazing sun, through thorny country, threatened by dangerous bovines and possibly even wild Indians, and for what? A paltry salary that would scarcely see him through a month of whoring and imbibing.'

Author:  crossada75 [ Sat Feb 20, 2016 11:32 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: _Comanche Moon_ (1997) by Larry McMurtry

'Old Ahumado walked over then. He did not smile.

"The cage or the pit?" he asked. "The snakes or the birds?"

"If I were you I would take the pit," Tudwal said. "It's warmer down there. There's some big rats you could eat, if they don't eat you first. Or you could eat a snake."

Three Birds was watching the dusk fill up the canyons to the south. He felt he was in the sky, where the spirits lived. Perhaps the spirits of his wife and children were not far away, or the spirits of his parents and grandparents, all dead from the shitting sickness. They were all in the high air somewhere, where he was. It might even be that Kicking Wolf was dead, in which case his spirit would be near.

"Choose," Ahumado said. "It is almost dark. It is a long way back down to the pit, if you want the pit."

"Don't you have a better cage to put me in?" Three Birds asked. "This is a filthy cage. It has parts of that dead man sticking to it. I don't think I will be comfortable in such a filthy cage."

Tudwal was astonished. He gave a nervous laugh.

"It is the only cage we have," he said. "Maybe it will rain and wash away some of that blood."

"It isn't the only cage you have," Three Birds pointed out, in a calm reasonable voice. "There are three more cages down there. You showed them to me."

"They are full," Tudwal said. "There's that vaquero who's still alive, and two dead men."

"You could throw the dead men out," Three Birds pointed out. "Maybe one of those cages would be cleaner."

There was silence on the cliff. Tudwal was disconcerted. What did this Comanche think he was doing? It was crazy to bargain with Ahumado--it would only cause him to think up something worse to do to the prisoner.

"He doesn't like our cage," Ahumado said. "Take him back down. We'll let Goyeto skin him."

Before Tudwal could reach him Three Birds took two quick steps, to the very edge of the cliff.

In only a second he could put himself beyond the reach of the old torturer and his blinking henchman.

He only had to step backwards and he would be gone forever, into the fine air where the spirits lived.

For a while he would fly, like the birds he was named after; then he would be where the spirits were, without having wasted any time in the dirty pit or the filthy cage.

Three Birds had always been a clean man; he was glad they had brought him to a high place, where the air was clean. In a moment he would go backward, into his final home in the air, but he wanted to speak to Ahumado and his henchman before he left them.

"You are stupid men," he said. "A child could fool you. Now Big Horse Scull is coming, and he is not a child. I imagine he will kill you both, and then you will not be skinning people and putting them in cages."

Three Birds saw, out of the corner of his eye, one of the dark men sneaking toward him along the cliff edge. The man was short, so short he must have thought no one could see him.

But Three Birds saw him and decided he had lectured the two bandits long enough--somewhere behind him in the air, the spirits hovered, like doves. He began to cry out his death song and stepped backward off the cliff.'

-- Larry McMurtry, _Comanche Moon_ (1997)

Author:  crossada75 [ Sat Feb 20, 2016 11:36 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: _Comanche Moon_ (1997) by Larry McMurtry

'The next morning it happened again. He woke to the smell of tortillas cooking--then the old woman rolled up a handful and lowered them to him in the jug that she used to bring him water.

Scull hopped up and began to quote Greek--one of Achilles' wild imprecations from the Iliad, he couldn't recall which book. The old woman did not seem startled or frightened by the strange words coming from the filthy, almost naked man in the pit. She looked down at him calmly, as if it were a normal thing for a white man in a pit in the Mexican mountains to be spouting Greek hexameters.

The old woman didn't seem to care what language he spoke, English and Greek being equally unintelligible to her; but Scull cared.

It wasn't merely damage done by the sun that was causing him to slip suddenly into Greek; it was the Scull dementia, damage from the broken seed. His father, Evanswood Scull, intermittently mad but a brilliant linguist, used to stomp into the nursery, thundering out passages in Latin, Greek, Icelandic, and Old Law French, a language which it was said that he was the only man in America to have a thorough mastery of.

Now the aberration of the father had reappeared in the son, and at a most inconvenient time. In the night he suddenly woke up twitching in the brain and poured out long speeches from the Greek orators, speeches he had never been able to remember as a boy, an ineptness that caused him to be put back a form in the Boston Latin School.

Yet those same speeches had been, all along, imprinted in his memory as if on a tablet--he had merely to look up at the old woman to ask for water to pour out, instead, a speech to the citizens of Athens on some issue of civic policy. He couldn't choke off these orations, either; his tongue and his lungs worked on, in defiance of his brain.

Scull began to try and curb himself; he needed to devise a way to get out of the pit before Ahumado came back, or, if not Ahumado, some other pistolero who would shoot him for sport. His tongue might soar with the great Greek syllables, but even that noble language wasn't going to raise him fifteen feet, to the pit's edge. He thought he might encourage the old woman to look around--maybe someone had left a length of rope somewhere. If she could find a rope and anchor it somehow, he felt sure he could pull himself up.

He was handicapped, though, by the insistent Scull malady. When he saw her old face above him he would try to make a polite request in Spanish, of which he knew a sufficiency, but before he could utter a single phrase in Spanish the Greek would come pouring out, a cascade, a flood, surging out of him like a well erupting, a torrent of Greek that he couldn't check or slow.

She'll think I'm a devil, he thought. I might yet get free if I could just choke off this Greek.

Xitla, for her part, leaned over the edge and listened to the white man as long as he wanted to talk. She could make no sense of the words but the way he spoke reminded her of the way young men, heart-stricken by her beauty, had sung to her long ago.

She thought the white man might be singing to her in a strange tongue he used for songs of love. He spoke with passion, his thin body quivering. ... she began to wonder if the white man was in love with her, as all men had been once.

Since Ahumado had run over her with the horse and broken her back, few men had wanted her ... '

Author:  Sockpuppy [ Sun Feb 21, 2016 7:57 am ]
Post subject:  Re: _Comanche Moon_ (1997) by Larry McMurtry

I haven't read anything by McMurtry, so I ought to give it a try. After all, I've read both King and Louis L'Amour, and a book that straddles different genres makes it more interesting, I think.


Good to see you post again, Cross. After all these damned spammers, it's a welcome relief. I may not always agree with you, but you're at least real, and capable of a real conversation.

Author:  crossada75 [ Sun Feb 21, 2016 8:05 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: _Comanche Moon_ (1997) by Larry McMurtry

Yeah, I don't understand the whole spam thing. I've been somewhere else doing something else lately. I just thought I'd pop in again briefly.

This is the only one of McMurtry's books I've read all the way through, so I don't know how representative it is. Just in the last couple of nights I've read bits and pieces of _Lonesome Dove_, and it seems to be pretty good too. It certainly has its share of brutal and grisly elements as well, but not as much as _Comanche Moon_.

Cross

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