I’ve seen the Lonesome Dove miniseries no fewer than 10 times and love it to death. And so when I read the novel, I was blown away by it and by the series again in terms of its adaptation. It’s not a perfect adaptation of what feels like a near perfect novel.
So learning much later that there were more books, I was initially thrilled. And then I read Dead Man’s Walk and I was like umm ok, I guess. And the same thing happens here.
This is a perfectly good novel that is grossly underserved by its connections to Lonesome Dove. What becomes clear reading this novel and Dead Man’s Walk previously, and later to be determined by Streets of Laredo (though I am also dubious there too) is that Lonesome Dove was most definitely never conceived of as part of a series. The characters’ of Gus and Woodrow are so cemented and portrayed and rendered perfectly in that novel, that to see them in other contexts feels arbitrary and false. These are characters, but they aren’t Gus and Call. And it becomes clearer and clearer throughout the novel that they’re not even the most interesting characters here, and so their presence becomes suspect.
The tone is also an issue throughout. It’s funny and there’s joke (just like in Lonesome Dove) but unlike in Lonesome Dove, there’s an issue with maintaining a consistent tone. There are parts in this novel that dip almost into the farcical, and that would be fine for say his Berrybender novels or in a novel like True Grit, but to have what feels almost farcical (as opposed to simply complex or humorous) undercuts the more serious scenes (and there are serious scenes). So it’s fine, but don’t go chasing dragons if you’re on the Lonesome Dove high.