In Comanche Moon, Larry McMurtry has a deep sense of his characters and what they might do at any given moment. This often leads to scenes that ring true for the characters, but don't advance the narrative, or, indeed, subvert the narrative drive. This sprawling novel is not one of plot. It is one of detail, and character-driven meandering.
I like meandering, when it's done well. And this is.
Even though I did get a little annoyed once or twice when there was a
scene that did nothing to advance the narrative thrown in there to show
why one character would make a completely left-field decision that would
have no impact on the later story. Not too irritated, but a little. He
made it work, is all I can say.
Of course, to write a novel about
a sprawling cast of characters, and letting them lead the way, you have
to have good characters. And he does. Focusing on the Texas Rangers
Augustus McCrae and Woodrow Cull, this book also weaves around McCrae's
lost love, Cull's ignored woman, other rangers, the former leader of
their Ranger troop, Inish Scull, Comanche warriors who are being pushed
off their land, a Kickapoo scout for the Rangers, and a Mexican bandit
and slavekeeper who captures Scull.
Each follows their own
agendas, and they are frequently surprising and unexpected, but always
consistent with what we know. It takes place over huge swathes of time.
note: I was somewhat surprised to see that this book was dedicated to
Susan Sontag - on research, it seems she was a good friend of
None of the characters are cardboard, all have their
own desires, and with all good novels, those frequently conflict. The
women are well drawn and interesting. I don't have the knowledge to know
whether or not Native readers would feel the same way about the Native
characters, but they aren't caricatures, anyway. They are all complex
If you're looking for a novel with a driving
narrative, this is not the one for you. But as a character-driven look
at Texas as it changes, as more white settlers enter, as the Rangers
weather the Civil War and find themselves increasingly irrelevant to a
more settled society, it is very good.