I love to read books that comprise a series. I enjoy being part of both the development of the characters in the story, and the development of the craft of the writer as s/he grows while writing. Consequently, I like to review books as the entire series, so that other readers like me will know whether or not they want to “get into relationship”, if you will, with the series.
I’ve wanted to read Lonesome Dove for years. I kept myself from watching the mini-series, because I always like to read the book before seeing the screen adaptation. Finally, this winter, I read the series. Before starting, I learned that McMurtry had written the books in reverse order, starting with the final book (Lonesome Dove) and then writing the prequels. I was a little worried that as I progressed through the series, I’d be regressing through the craft of the writer, and the best writing would be the first book I read.
That’s not how it worked for me. Reading the first in the series, Dead Man’s Walk, left me quite disappointed. Had I not heard so many good things about Lonesome Dove, I would have stopped reading right there. While I generally love all things “western” in books, and particularly love reading about anything to do with the great Comanche nation, this book left me disappointed at best.
But I slogged on through the second book in the series, Comanche Moon, and was delighted to see that the writing improved tremendously. While it was still not a book that I’d rate really high, it was good writing that I enjoyed. I was a little disappointed that the story line between the first book and the second was choppy and poorly connected.
After reading these first two books in the series, I was convinced that McMurtry had only written them under pressure from his publisher to try and leverage more revenue from the success of Lonesome Dove. It just didn’t seem like the writer’s heart was in it. Who am I to be so presumptuous? But this is what was left in my mind after reading them both.
Moving on to Lonesome Dove, I was delighted with the book as it stands by itself, but even further disappointed in the connections with the first two books. In some cases, (such as the history of location and timing of the relationship between Call and Newt’s mom), it was downright distracting. Not only was there not good character evolution from book to book, it’s almost as though different characters with the same names were being developed. Not in all cases, but enough of the time to be distracting to me.
Having said all that, I admit that I’m a bit of a detail weenie when it comes to things like character development, consistency, and evolution. It may be that many readers are not as distracted as I am.
Bottom line: I heartily recommend Lonesome Dove as a stand-alone book. It’s a great story, well-written, with excellent characters that were easy and delightful for me to connect with. However, I can only barely recommend Comanche Moon, and really there’s no reason to try and read it “before” you read Lonesome Dove. As for Dead Man’s Walk, it’s one I’d only recommend to a western and Comanche enthusiast like myself, and then just.