Thursday, July 28, 2016

"The Last Kind Words Saloon" by Larry McMurtry

After Emma Jane reviewed this on her blog a couple weeks ago, I got it from the library because it's been a long time since I ready anything by Larry McMurtry -- like probably 15 years.  I read a couple of his books in college because one of my apartmentmates sophomore year gave me a copy of Dead Man's Walk for my birthday, and then I read another one of his books after that, I think Comanche Moon.  Been a long time, and I disremember exactly what it was.

I did enjoy The Last Kind Words Saloon somewhat, but not entirely.  I'd forgotten how casually dirty his books can be sometimes, and sometimes that did bother me.  However, what kept me from really digging this book was a highly personal, subjective matter of taste:  I don't like books and movies about "the end of the old west."  I don't want to see the wild west pass away and get replaced by modern life.  This is a huge part of why I don't like The Wild Bunch (1969) AT ALL.  Kind Words is gentler and less depressing than that, but still... just not something I like.

The Last Kind Words Saloon is a fictional fable about Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday and all the folks that get tangled up with them in various towns across the west, ending in Tombstone.  It is by turns funny, profane, riotous, melancholy, and scandalizing.

I had fun trying to decide which of the movie Wyatts and Docs I've seen would best match these, and I've concluded that probably James Garner and Jason Robards from Hour of the Gun (1967) would work the best, though their Wyatt and Doc in that film are FAR different from those portrayed here.  Still, they have the same weariness, at least.


I thought I was going to save this book for reviewing for Legends of Western Cinema Week, which begins on Monday, but since I didn't like it gobs and gobs, I decided to go ahead and toss it here.  I DO have another book review in store for that week, though!

Particularly Good Bits:

"Now, Doc, don't be yanking teeth out of tourists," Wyatt said, turning pale again at the mere suggestion of dentistry (p. 5).

San Saba herself was looking at nothing; and certainly, on the vast windy plain, there was plenty of nothing to be looked at (p. 29).

Wyatt didn't answer.  Nine out of ten statements Doc made were nonsense, but it was dangerous to stop listening because the tenth statement might be really smart (p. 119).

If This Was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  R.  Lots of sexual references and mature scenes, quite a bit of non-explicit violence, and a sometimes astonishing amount of bad language.  I may, when I've considered it longer, be a bit disappointed in myself for reading all of it.


  1. Uh....yeah. ;-P I didn't know if you'd like it that much. I really like Larry McMurtry's writing style, but I agree, the way he casually throws in nasty language or stupid sexual references is bothersome just the same. That's why I don't read a lot of his books at a time. But the stories, and the characters, are just too fascinating for me to leave them alone altogether.

    Now that I think about it, some of my favorite westerns are about the *end* of the Old West...which is kind of ironic. Maybe because I'm such a sentimental and slightly gloomy person?

    All the same, I enjoyed your review. :-)

    1. Emma Jane, I actually can't say that I disliked it. I loved the pacing, and it really made me want to read his books about Nellie, actually. I think he's just going to remain an author I only read in small doses, and only occasionally. Like this!

      How interesting that the passing of the Old West draws you in! What others do you like that take place then? I do like Big Jake fairly well, and that has the old-meets-new vibe going on. And, really, The Magnificent Seven is about gunfighters who've almost outlived their day, but that one I adore anyway.

    2. Telegraph Days, the book about Nellie Courtwright, though it has dirty parts is absolutely HILARIOUS.

      Well, one of my favorite books/movies is The Good Old Boys, which is about a roaming cowboy who's seen his day. And even Lonesome Dove is a lot about that too. It may be just a coincidence, because that element is not what I mainly love about either of those, just part of it.

    3. Alas, my library system only has Telegraph Days as an audio book. I will have to find a copy some other way, when I'm ready for more McMurtry.

      Coincidences to happen -- I mean, I like several movies that happen in very hot places like deserts, but I myself can't stand deserts, so that's not what makes me like the movie. So I get that.


What do you think?

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