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Custer Hardcover – November 6, 2012

195 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Pulitzer Prize winner McMurtry continues to be an outstanding chronicler of western legend and lore. He has retained a long fascination with the myths surrounding General Custer and the Battle of the Little Big Horn. This book is neither a comprehensive nor a conventional biography of Custer. Instead, McMurtry offers a series of vignettes and musings about various aspects of Custer’s career, his personality, and the cultural milieu that led to his iconic status. Despite his interest in his subject, McMurtry often paints an unflattering and probably unfair portrait of Custer. He claims all of his officers despised him, which ignores his small but loyal core of supporters within the Seventh Cavalry. He suggests Custer lacked conscience, forgetting his principled but damaging (for him) testimony before Congress about corruption on Indian reservations. Still, newcomers to Custermania will find many of the tidbits very interesting, and that should encourage them to read more comprehensive biographies. --Jay Freeman


“A brief, breezy tour of the man and the conflict, complete with an astonishing variety of photographs and artistic renderings. . . . The reader is in good hands; it’s as if McMurtry invited a customer to the back of his Texas bookstore to spend an afternoon going through his collection.” (Timothy Egan The New York Times Book Review)

“The celebrated novelist offers . . . fresh insights on the Custer story. . . . The distilled perceptions of a lifetime of study, beautifully illustrated.” (Kirkus Review)

“Pulitzer Prize-winner McMurtry continues to be an outstanding chronicler of Western legend and lore.” (Booklist)

“One of America’s great storytellers.” (The Wall Street Journal)

“Larry McMurtry has the power to clutch the heart and also to exhilarate.” (The New Yorker)

“Few authors match McMurtry’s voice of unsentimental authority.” (Chicago Tribune)

“McMurtry has reminded us that, in the hands of a maser, entertaining, old-fashioned storytelling rooted firmly in uniquely American experiences and landscape is pretty darn hard to beat.” (The Washington Post)

“McMurtry’s book does what dozens of others on Custer have not. It cuts through many of the myths. . . . It’s entertaining and educational at the same time.” (USA Today (3.5 out of 4 stars))

“It is plain speaking that McMurtry delivers . . . the same laconic, whimsical voice that makes his novels so entertaining and readable. The effect is as if one is sitting in a small lecture hall, listening as McMurtry tells his stories from a few notes in a rambling style . . . often revealing and insightful as well as wry and funny.” (The Star Tribune (Minneapolis))

“Larry McMurtry, chronicler of the American West, takes on the controversial figure of Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer in his newest book . . . to contribute to the canon with a short biography that would help bring the complex man into focus.” (The Wall Street Journal)

“Thoroughness wasn’t Larry McMurtry’s aim when he set out to write this brief treatment. . . . What McMurtry has produced is indeed appealing, with vivid images of Custer, his family and his battles. . . . Despite the lengthy consideration that the author has obviously given his subject. . . this is no hagiography.” (Smithsonian Magazine)

“The foremost chronicler of the American West adds new perspective to our understanding of the frontier experience with this coffee-table-format biography of George Custer.” (The Sacramento Bee)

“It’s a keeper. . . . If you’re into Custerology or if you’re a history buff, there’s one word to remember when asked what you want this gift-giving season: ‘Custer.’ Because it’s truly impressive.” (Pryor Daily Times (Oklahoma))

"Entertaining and educational at the same time . . . McMurtry's book does what dozens of others on Custer have not. It cuts through the myths, including what was actually said at the battle on June 25, 1876." (The Chicago Sun Times)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (November 6, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1451626207
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451626209
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 1.1 x 10.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (195 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #401,102 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Larry McMurtry is the author of twenty-nine novels, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning Lonesome Dove. His other works include two collections of essays, three memoirs, and more than thirty screenplays, including the coauthorship of Brokeback Mountain, for which he received an Academy Award. His most recent novel, When the Light Goes, is available from Simon & Schuster. He lives in Archer City, Texas.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

292 of 308 people found the following review helpful By Ethan VINE VOICE on November 6, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
0 out of 5 (shameful)

"Custer," by Larry McMurtry, promises to bring the complexity of George Armstrong Custer to life by illuminating his difficult marriage and his glory-seeking in an assessment of Custer's fame and the power of his personality while redefining the common understanding of the American West. This title is published by Simon & Schuster, ISBN: 978-1-4516-2622-3 as an ebook.

The author begins by explaining that his work will cut through much of the irrelevant guesswork that is common in most of the writing on Custer. For example, he seriously questions the necessity of discussing why one corpse was found with 105 arrows in it. It's irrelevant, he argues. However, in chapter 30, the author expressly raises that very question. After considering CPT Tom Custer's death, the author is puzzled as to why 105 arrows were found in a body and that this fact should really fascinate "students of mutilation".

The narrative then launches into a lengthy comparison of Fremont, a man who was once employed as a topographer. This rather long section seems to be more of a set up for character assassination than it does with serious historical engagement. The reader is informed that Custer abandoned his men, like Fremont. Custer was court-martialed, like Fremont. Custer wanted to be president, like Fremont. Fremont is not relevant to the purpose of the book. We never really find out why Fremont matters in the first place.

Many of the illustrations are carelessly mislabeled and most of the photographs have no contextual significance. One picture bears the text "Custer with his horse, Comanche" yet it is not a picture of Custer (it's Gustav Korn) and it's not Custer's horse (it belonged to CPT Keogh). The picture itself was taken long after Custer's death.
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122 of 134 people found the following review helpful By LovesToReadBooks on November 6, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
An unbelievably disappointing book with more pictures (140+) than text & which asks questions like "Did Custer give Libbie an STD & is that while they remained childless?" Without ever revealing with whom Custer supposedly had affairs. Discusses virtually everyone and everything except Custer And The Battle of The Little Bighorn, but all in a cursory fashion. You'll laugh out loud at the paragraph about Mary Tyler Moore & the Mary Tyler Moore Show, which, in case you hadn't guessed, have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with Custer. Come to think of it: neither does this ridiculously overpriced book. Demanding a refund. Too bad I can't get back the 20 minutes of my life it took me to read the entire thing, including the picture credits (you've seen them all before & none can be resized in the ebooks version so some are hard to see) and the bibliography, where McMurtry kindly tells readers what books to get if they want to actually read about Custer, his Life, his career, his marriage, or the infamous battle for which he is remembered. Sophmoric & pedestrian.Shameful for a writer of McMurtry's talent, reputation & stature. Not even worth one star.
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111 of 123 people found the following review helpful By Doctor Dale on November 6, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The UPS driver delivered my copy of Custer today, Nov 6,2012. What a major disappointment. I expected a nice big, juicy book on the scope of Lonesome Dove and others. What I got was a poorly written, badly printed and cheaply bound coffee table book that I would be ashamed to put on any coffee table of mine. I bought the book on the strength of McMurtry's name and a review in U.S.A. Today. Both let me down.

Dale W. Merriam, PhD
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46 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Kenneth J Hawley on November 7, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Look to the other 1-star reviews for details about the many ways this book disappoints. Let me focus on McMurtry. What could he have possibly been thinking? Did he dictate and transcribe this thing with no editing at all? Did he throw his notecards down the stairs, gather them, and publish? I know the man can write elegant prose, even beautiful prose on occasion. I have read some of it. This is amateurish, conversational (and not in a good way), disjointed, almost schizophrenic in its subject jumping, non-sequiturs, childish insertions, and lack of a coherent line of thought. The chapter divisions make no sense. It's almost as though someone said, "well, that's six pages, time for a new chapter." One wonders by turns about dementia and simple greed.

The pictures are very nice, although another reviewer tells us that they are incorrectly labeled. Simply astonishing the level of incompetence demonstrated here. Rated 1-star only because of the illustrations and there is no 0-star option.
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46 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Richard Masloski on November 11, 2012
Format: Hardcover
The first clue is the cover of the book. Emblazoned above the title CUSTER is the name of the world famous, highly esteemed, critically lauded author Larry McMurtry. Custer as a literary topic always sold - and McMurtry's many acclaimed works have always sold. So in combining the two names one would think that this much heralded book would be something to reckon with. Well, it ain't. It is a steaming pile of buffalo chips, that's what it is. But you can't get no heat from this mound!

On the Bibliography page our self-esteemed author actually has the audacity to write: "There is a vast subculture...about Custer - most of it peculiar and most of it cranky." Read that again, it's a beauty, written with unwarranted arrogance and damnable ignorance. This god-awful book is what is truly "peculiar" - and because of its utterly amateurish and slip-shod nature it might rightfully so make ANY Custer buff - or ANY person interested in the integrity of history - cranky over such bilge.

How dare a book like this be foisted on the public! I knew about the imminent release of the book months ago - and am so-o-o- glad I didn't pre-order it. If I had, I would have vehemently requested a refund.

Someone said this would make a great coffee table book. Yes, it would - but only if one ran out of coasters and used it to rest their coffee cups on. The book has many, many pictures - but all of them have been circulating forever. There is not one image that is fresh or new. Payments for the use of copywritten illustrations was certainly of no concern to the author and his publishers. One less headache, that's all! Just scour the public domain and bank on the promise of more money in the till!
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