The Last Kind Words Saloon -- a novel by Larry McMurtry, Liveright '14, $24.95, 196 pages, ASIN #0871407868.
I've been told that as a human ages, so does his energy diminish. One could say the same about Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Larry McMurtry as he enters his late 70s. When he wrote his signature work, Lonesome Dove, 30 years ago, he was clearly up to the task of penning a doorstop volume exceeding 1,000 pages. His latest, even with larger type, weighs in at less than 200 pages.
But that doesn't mean that McMurtry has lost anything on his fastball -- not on your life. For the 48-year-old McMurtry couldn't have written The Last Kind Words Saloon; he just didn't have the richness of experience gained from introducing and nurturing a posse of Wild West characters. He now displays that richness as he reintroduces such nonfictional and fictional characters as Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, Charlie Goodnight, and Nellie Courtright, in what could be a career curtain call for McMurtry, although he shows no public inclination to call it a literary day.
The Last Kind Words Saloon begins in Long Grass, TX, where we come upon the taciturn Wyatt Earp and his buddy, dentist-turned-gunslinger Doc Holliday ("more adept at poker than extracting teeth.") "Wyatt and Doc are living out the last days of a way of life that is passing into history," writes the author, "two men never more aware of the growing distance between their lives and their legends." Can you see Larry McMurtry wince a bit as the analogy to his own career resonates?
In any event, in Long Grass, we meet such memorable characters as Lord Ernle, an English baron; and the exotic courtesan San Saba, "the most beautiful whore on the plains." But soon it's time to migrate to Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show in Denver, then on to Mobetie, TX; and finally to Tombstone, AZ, ending with the famed gunfight at the O.K. Corral.
And towards the end, we realize the aging analogies don't end with Earp and Holliday and even McMurtry but with the fading Old West itself. "With the buffalo herds gone, the Comanche defeated, and vast swaths of the Great Plains being enclosed by cattle ranches, Wyatt and Doc live on, even as the storied West that forged their myths disappears," according to McMurtry.
Born and raised in Texas, Larry McMurtry is an award-winning novelist, essayist, Oscar-winning screenwriter, and avid book collector. He lives in Archer City, TX.
William Henry Harrison and the Conquest of the Ohio Country -- Frontier Fighting in the War of 1812 by David Curtis Skaggs, Johns Hopkins UPress '14, $44.95, 303 pages, ASIN #1421405466. Index, essay on sources, notes, b&w images sprinkled through text.
A brief excerpt from the Preface:
"About William Henry Harrison many Americans know only two facts: he campaigned for the presidency under the slogan 'Tippecanoe and Tyler too,' and he was in office the shortest time of any president. While some will tell you that 'Tippecanoe' refers to a battle with the Indians (or was it the British?) fought somewhere in the Midwest, few can list any other episodes in his life, and fewer still recognize his military contributions to the early republic.
"Many others confuse him with his grandson, Benjamin Harrison, and assume he fought in the Civil War and was one of those hard-to-distinguish-between bearded men ascanding to the presidency in its aftermath.
"William Henry Harrison deserves better than this. He is the subject of two biographies that describe his military career but do not analyze it. They also lack the perspective of nearly three-quarters of a century of scholarship and the microfilm publication of the Harrison papers. Recent studies by Robert M. Owens and Adam Jortner on his dealings with the Indians and Henrdik Booraem's psychological study of his youth and young manhood add significantly to our understanding of an emerging political figure in the Old Northwest. Yet his military career remains little studied."
This deficit historian David Curtis Skaggs sets out to remedy in William Henry Harrison and the Conquest of the Ohio Country. Harrison, the author writes, was of a type -- the citizen-soldier on the Ohio frontier in the days when white men settled on the western side of the Appalachian Mountains at their peril.
Among the military exploits Skaggs limns are the Fallen Timbers campaign in which Harrison served on Major Gen. Anthony Wayne's staff and a description of how in that day, the military and its leaders performed in the age of a small standing army and part-time, Cincinnatus-like forces.
Author David Curtis Skaggs is a professor emeritus of history at Bowling Green State University and is author or co-author of 12 books.
Brothers Forever -- The Enduring Bond Between a Marine and a Navy Seal That Transcended Their Ultimate Sacrifice by Tom Sileo and Col. Tom Manion, USMC (Ret.), foreword by Gen. John Allen, USMC (Ret.). DaCapo Press '14, $25.99, 278 pages, ASIN #0306822377. Index, notes, two groupings of b&w glossy images.
Readers may recall President Obama's 2011 Memorial Day address, in which he told the nation that the friendship between U.S. Marine 1st Lt. Travis Manion and U.S. Navy LT (SEAL) Brendan Looney was the embodiment of "brotherhood," "sacrifice," and "love of country."
"In 2007, after Travis was killed while shielding his fellow Marines from enemy fire in Iraq," write the authors, "Brendan, who was training to become a navy SEAL, knew his brother in arms was still there in spirit, watching over him and pushing him to keep going. When Brendan was killed in Afghanistan three years later, both military families came together to lay them side by side and forever preserve their legacy."
About the authors: Tom Sileo, a nationally-syndicated columnist, lives in Marietta, GA. Col. Tom Manion, USMC (Ret.) is chairman emeritus at the Travis Manion Foundation. He lives in Doyleston, PA.