Fourth Time’s the Charm

Since I started writing my first novel, my goal has been to expand my reading into other genres, as well as to read deeper into sci fi. I decided to try my hand at Westerns in honor of my friend Mike. He loved Louis L’Amour and Zane Gray.

I’d tried Riders of the Purple Sage, right after Mike’s passing, and it just wasn’t for me. When Hondo came up as a Goodreads deal, I bought it without a second thought.


It wasn’t my favorite – I didn’t find the characters to be as well developed as I’m used to, particularly the only female – but I stuck with so I could say I had read a Western. As soon as I said it, I realized I’d already read and loved one – True Grit.

True Grit

There had been one Western that was looming over me my entire adult life – a behemoth, Lonesome Dove.

Lonesome Dove

I find it only fitting that even at its smallest setting, the image of this book is much larger than its compatriots.

A friend of mine, the one that went with me to my conversion to Judaism, gave me a copy of Lonesome Dove in college. The story didn’t immediately grab me, and I gave up. The same thing happened when I tried again a few years later, and again last year.

Like with so many other books I couldn’t read on paper, I decided to give it one more shot, this time as an audio book. Our library didn’t have it, so I re-joined Audible and bought it there. All 36+ hours of it. The line in the sand had been drawn. I was going to finish it.

It took months. I really wanted to like this book, but I was ten hours in before I stopped dreading it. I wanted something to happen, other than everyone sitting around complaining about being hot, dusty, and sweaty. Once they started jumping to other story lines, then I got into it.

For me, once a main character dies with six hours left in the book (I hope that’s not too much of a spoiler, but it is a 30-year-old book), all the wind seemed to go out of the story for me. It dragged along, but at a slightly faster pace than the beginning. Then, after 945 pages, it didn’t have an ending. It felt like the author got tired and stopped and his editor didn’t push him to write the last two paragraphs that were needed to wrap it up. I felt the same way about Empire Strikes Back. I’m consistent on this point.

I am glad I read it. It is a part of our cultural heritage. I’m sure I’ve missed some pop culture references having not experienced it earlier.

Will I read another Western again? I’m sure I will, if I got a good recommendation for one with excellent character development and was not 1000 pages. Suggestions?

1 thought on “Fourth Time’s the Charm”

  1. I so agree with you about the ending of Lonesome Dove. After ” living with” those characters for 1,000 pages, reading of all the dangers that faced them, having the most likeable character written out of the book seemed like a betrayal on the part of the author. It seemed senseless, and McMurtry became one of the few authors that I no longer trust with my time.


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