I LOVE a good western. Movie or book, it doesn't really matter. One of my favorite western movies is "Open Range" with Kevin Costner and Robert Duval. The story was adapted from a book written by Lauren Paine (a guy!) so I decided to read the book as well. VERY good decision! The book was even better than the movie, it moved at a nice even pace, never rushing the story, and when the eventual confrontations take place they are swift and sure, almost leaving you breathless.
I am not so much an action fan as I am a fan of character development and the resulting clash with forces of inevitable doom. The classic struggle of good over seeming inevitable evil, "High Noon" being a prime example. That also is probably why I liked "The Lord Of The Rings" "Gladiator" and "Braveheart".
But back to the book I just finished...it is called "The Good OLd Boys", written by Elmer Kelton, and is set in west Texas in 1906. Know, I KNOW there are some Texans out there so you all probably know the history of the state better than most, and about west Texas before the oil boom.
The main character is Hewey Calloway, a 38 year old cowboy, footloose and honest as can be. Hewey is beginning to feel his age, especially as he sees his kid brother, Walter, marry and raise two boys on a hardscrabble 4 section piece of dust and weeds, trying to meet his financial obligation before the bank takes everything away.
Hewey is proud of his freedom to go wherever he likes, whenever he wants, but he is cornered by the consequences of his own recklessness by being responsible for his brother's broken leg, resulting in Hewey promising to work his brother's property to stave off the bank note coming due.
Further complicating things is the growing affections of the school teacher, Spring Renfro, and Hewey. He struggles to come to terms with what a woman wants (security) and what he can actually deliver. How he settles thes conflicts is the crix of the whole book.
As in "Open Range" the pacing is leisurely, but it never drags. It is full of colorful characters and interesting language, such as "It seems like he comes from a long line of batchelors", and "The pictures above the saloon mirror were of pretty women, barefoot from the soles up".
Does Hewey overcome his wandering ways? Does Spring Renfro get her man? Does the banker finally forclose on Walter's farm? Read it and find out!
A word about Elmer Kelton: Aside from Louis Lamour, Elmer is, perhaps, one of the most authentic of western writers, having himself, cowboyed, rough necked and travelled as much as any west Texan could. Here's what he said about writing this book:"The Good Old Boys is probably the closest I have ever come to writing from sheer inspiration. Hewey Calloway and the other characters took hold of the story like a cold-jawed horse grabbing onto the bit, and about all I could do was hang on for the ride."--Elmer Kelton
He's a gem!