Paperback: 464 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster (October 17, 2000)
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This is the tale of the first adventures of Texas Rangers Gus McCrae and Woodrow Call. There are two main adventures within this story. The first tale involves the band of rangers running up against the great Commanche war chief Buffalo Hump. During the course of this adventure, our heroes learn what it’s like to go up against the Commanche’s, when a large part of their party is killed by Buffalo Hump and his men. Their second adventure finds them on an expedition to Mexico . This adventure gives rise to the title of the book. They are captured during the course of their expedition, and forced on a march through the long desert, on what is called “The Dead Man’s March” or “Jornado Del Muerto”. We also get the chance to meet some of the characters from Lonesome Dove for the first time. Gus meets Clara Forsythe and Woodrow meets Maggie, the prostitute, who later gives birth to his son Newt.
This was an enjoyable book. I found myself really liking the characters. McMurtry has a very good grasp of creating characters and situations that are realistic. The book is at times very gritty, dark, and very little humor. There are many violent scenes that may not be appropriate for younger readers.
One particular problem I had at times was with the strong language. It seemed to be put in too often, and wasn’t quite necessary in telling the story. The same story could have been told, in a more family-friendly style by leaving out the swearing. Now it’s not to say I’m a prude on this, but I’m used to Louis L’amour where there was very little swearing. I just prefer clean westerns that anyone can enjoy. However, McMurtry does have some strong female characters in his writing, which is probably pretty accurate to the period. I also thought the final conclusion fizzled after such a buildup. It just seemed to end kind of anti-climatic.
I definitely plan on picking up the next novel in this series. If you want a gritty, western with lots of action, pick this up and read it. You’ll probably enjoy it. You can discuss it here