Monday, April 6, 2009

Telegraph Days

Over the weekend I completed Larry McMurtry's Telegraph Days. This one was a pretty quick read due to its easy flowing style and first person narrative technique. Marie Antoinette "Nellie" Courtright narrates her own life story, most of it taking place in her 20's. Now I've read Lonesome Dove as well as the three companion volumes to that novel and this book is no Lonesome Dove. But that is not necessarily a bad thing. Lonesome Dove won the pulitzer prize for literature, presumably for the quality of the writing. My feeling is that it won for the sheer audacity of it. After all, it took the "Western" style of fiction away from the predictable cowboys and indian structure of Zane Grey and Louis L'Amour and steered it towards something completely new and different. Well, here we have another type of western novel that is different.

This novel seems to be purposefully over-the-top. By that I mean, Mr McMurtry cares little for realism this time around and focuses instead on the impossible-to-believe. Here we have a 22-year old young lady living at the end of the "Wild West" days that manages to meet, interact with, influence, and sleep with virtually all of the famous folk of the day. This includes Wild Bill Hickock, General Custer, Buffalo Bill Cody, Wyatt Earp and all of his brothers. Her journey (in just one book mind you) takes her from her western home in Rita Blanca (present day Oklahoma panhandle), to Dodge City, Nebraska, Arizona (where she witnessed the shootout at the OK Corral) and finally on to Arizona. She is vitally important to Buffalo Bill's Wild West show getting off the ground and she becomes a bestselling author of dime novels of the era. Unlikely? Yes. Enjoyable entertainment? Absolutely!

It seems many readers tend to dislike this book. The author will forever have his other work compared to Lonesome Dove, I suppose, and readers seem to expect that sort of book. I have also read all four of McMurtry's "Berrybinder Narratives" which is of the same nature as this one...storys filled with over-the-top, humerous situations and quirky characters. I enjoyed this novel as I think many would if they gave it a chance to stand on it's own and not try to cram it into a certain mold. Too often I think we get wrapped around the idea of what makes a quality novel and we forget that we can just sit back, relax, and enjoy it for what it is.

Next up, I'll be diving into The Nezovats in Despair, a fantasy book that was sent to me by the author in order for me to review it on Amazon. I'll let you know what I think here as well.

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Top 10 Books in no particular order (Well Known Authors)

  • "The Stand" by Stephen King
  • "Kane and Able" by Jeffrey Archer
  • "The Killer Angels" by Michael Shaara
  • "The Dark Elf Trilogy" by RA Salvatore
  • "Name of the Wind" by Patrick Rothfuss
  • "River God" by Wilbur Smith
  • "Mortalis" by RA Salvatore
  • "Ender's Game" by Orson Scott Card
  • "Centennial" by James A Michener
  • "The Repairman Jack" series by F. Paul Wilson

Top Books/ Series in no particular order (Lesser Known Authors)

  • "The Sculpter" by Gregory Funaro
  • "Power Down" by Ben Coes
  • "Revolution at Sea Saga" by James L. Nelson
  • "Black Rain" by Graham Brown
  • "Top Producer" by Norb Vonnegut
  • "Prairie" by Anna Lee Waldo
  • "The Wild Blue" by W. Boyne & S Thompson
  • "Unsolicited" series by Julie Kaewert
  • "Freedom" by William Safire