A love story, an adventure, an American epic, Lonesome Dove embraces all the West—legend and fact, heroes and outlaws, whores and ladies, Indians and settiers—in a novel that recreates the central American experience, the most enduring of our national myths.
Set in the late nineteenth century, Lonesome Dove is the story of a cattle drive from Texas to Montana—and much more. It is a drive that represents for everybody involved not only a daring, even a foolhardy, adventure, but a part of the American Dream—the attempt to carve out of the last remaining wilderness a new life.
Augustus McCrae and W. F. Call are former Texas Rangers, partners and friends who have shared hardship and danger together without ever quite understanding (or wanting to understand) each other’s deepest emotions. Gus is the romantic, a reluctant rancher who has a way with women and the sense to leave well enough alone. Call is a driven, demanding man, a natural authority figure with no patience for weaknesses, and not many of his own. He is obsessed with the dream of creating his own empire, and with the need to conceal a secret sorrow of his own. The two men could hardly be more different, but both are tough, redoubtable fighters who have learned to count on each other, if nothing else.
Lonesome Dove sweeps from the Rio Grande (where Gus and Call acquire the cattle for their long drive by raiding the Mexicans) to the Montana highlands (where they find themselves besieged by the last, defiant remnants of an older West).
It is an epic of love, heroism, loyalty, honor, and betrayal—faultlessly written, unfailingly dramatic. Lonesome Dove is the novel about the West that American literature—and the American reader—has long been waiting for.
Larry McMurtry, in books like The Last Picture Show, has depicted the modern degeneration of the myth of the American West. The subject of Lonesome Dove, cowboys herding cattle on a great trail-drive, seems like the very stuff of that cliched myth, but McMurtry bravely tackles the task of creating meaningful literature out of it. At first the novel seems the kind of anti-mythic, anti-heroic story one might expect: the main protagonists are a drunken and inarticulate pair of former Texas Rangers turned horse rustlers. Yet when the trail begins, the story picks up an energy and a drive that makes heroes of these men. Their mission may be historically insignificant, or pointless—McMurtry is smart enough to address both possibilities—but there is an undoubted valor in their lives. The result is a historically aware, intelligent, romantic novel of the mythic west that won the 1986 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.