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Dead Man's Walk
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52 of 53 people found the following review helpful
This book in the Lonsesome Dove series in the first, in chronological order. Gus and Call, called 'young pups' by their elders, have joined the Texas Rangers, hoping for some adventure (and for Gus, a little brothel action and card playing). Soon after their expedition begins, they discover they are in way over their heads. The Commanches are, literally, on the warpath, and hate white people (with good reason, considering the way the white men treated them). They are also very smart, very fast, very skilled in riding and fighting, and VERY bloodthirsty. The main Chief, who even the most hardened soldiers are scared of, is Buffalo Hump, and he is introduced in an unforgettable lightning storm on the prarie, in one of the most vivid, terrifying scenes in the entire series (and if you've read the series, you know things can get VERY ugly). The men in charge of the expedition are either crazy, stupid, drunk, have a very short fuse, or all of the above. The trek starts out rather confident, looking forward to the challenges to come, but soon realize they are no match for the Indians. The Commanches set up a variety of clever, deadly, devastating traps, and soon their ranks are halved, then quartered, then...then it gets REALLY ugly.
This book was a page-turner, and had all the entertaining characters a reader comes to expect from the series. All of the books treat death as an everyday thing, but I think this is one of the most cold-blooded; do not read if you're sqeamish. There's not just one or two nasty scenes, either, they count many and come fast. This is an entertaining book, one that I couldn't put down, but not especially pleasant. A good read, don't get me wrong, but one that is emotionally gruelling.
I guess if you wanted to read the books in chronological order, this would be the one to start. I had planned to do that originally, after I read LD, but have found reading them in the order they were written is actually more satisfying; backstory is filled in, and you get a better perspective.
If you loved LD, read this and the other books in the series. If you're just starting out, read LD first; it may be the strongest, but it will give you an idea of just what a treat you're in for. No ccomplaints here-I put the bok down after reading the last page, and promptly walked right over to my new copy of Commanche Moon (I wisely bought them at the same time) and started in.
This author was born to write.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on June 25, 2001
Having read the first two books in the Lonesome Dove series (both of which come chronologically after this one), I knew the main characters would survive. This is, however, no more of a hindrance to enjoying this book than it is in any saturday serial movie. The joy is in seeing how the author can get the heroes out of the mess they're in. For the vast majority of the novel, McMurtry delivers saturday afternoon thrills, while still showing just how these young characters evolve into the ones we're all familiar with from Lonesome Dove. Unfortunately, after the Mexican prison scene, the novel comes to a precipitous and ludicruous ending. It is as if McMurty simply got tired or bored with the project and decided just to end the book the fastest way he could Not even a yarn should be tied up this quickly.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon March 29, 2002
In McMurty's prequel to Lonesome Dove, we see the young Gus McCrea and Woodrow Call at the beginning of their Rangering days. It is interesting because both characters are clearly the men they will become in Lonesome Dove, yet without the assurance and confidence that carried them so easily through that book's trials. The author does a good job of portraying them as believable youths rather than as copies of their later selves in younger bodies.
This is a roaming tale. There are three trips which encompass the book. The first is a brief and futile foray against the fearsome Comanche Buffalo Hump. The second, a long and futile expedition to capture Spanish Gold in New Mexico that is thwarted by the elements and a Mexican army. The third, a march in captivity through a desolate country that will prove to be a more ruthless enemy than the Indian or the sons of the conquistadors.
I will warn the reader, the ending is a little bizarre and seems out of place with the rest of the book (and the preceding two) -- it really lost the Western feel for me.
This journey is much less purposeful and more fantastic than that portrayed in LD or Streets of Laredo. This tale feels at times a bit forced, with something exciting fitted neatly into every chapter. On the whole however, it is a good yarn that captures a flavorful frontier West before the Civil War. McMurty remains a gifted storey teller who is able to drive the reader through his pages with gifted dialogue and excellent descriptions.
I'm already digging into McMurty's last book of the Lonesome Dove series, Comanche Moon.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
HALL OF FAMEon June 6, 2000
Larry McMurtry's Dead Man's Walk, the original perquel to Lonesome Dove, features that book's main characters when they were just youngsters and had first joined the Texas Rangers. Like Lonesome Dove, it is a big book with a lot of characters and a lot of action, but it differs significantly in that there is very little humor and the character's stories don't mesh into any coherent plot line or ultimate resolution. It is in essence a picaresque novel that kind of wanders around - as do the characters in the story. While Call and Gus are shown to have the beginnings of the personalities that would endear them to Lonesome Dove readers, they are also shown as having little depth and no experience. They really are clueless. And pitted against the merciless indians they face it is a miracle that they survive. Of course they have to for the sake of the story but it isn't any talent or savvy on their own part that makes survival possible.
Despite its limitations, this is still a very interesting book. The action is quite satisfying even if the characters are not.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on February 17, 2009
As stated in the title this is a review for those who have yet to read any of the Lonesome Dove novels. This is the first novel chronologically of the series and I am reading it as such. My reviews will be written with that in mind and with absolutely no comparison to Lonesome Dove, the Pulitzer Prize winning novel that is the center piece to this historic series. I have read a lot of the criticism of the books in this series that are not titled Lonesome Dove and that seems to be the biggest problem with them. Everybody compares them to Lonesome Dove and I find that criticism to be unwarranted.
Dead Man's Walk by Larry McMurtry introduces us to Gus McCrae and Woodrow Call (Gus and Call). These two young, impressionable rapscallions yearn to be part of the highly-regarded Texas Rangers. They long to roam the plains of the west and kill any Indian that gets in their way. Although these two are inseparable friends they could not be more different characters. Gus is a boozing, womanizing fellow who seems to be constantly drunk and in search of "working girls". When he meets a young, pretty gal working for her dad in a general store he becomes smitten and, although he still preferred the company of women (you should know what kind I am referring to), this does seem to be a turning point in his character. He becomes braver, more sure of himself. He will stop at nothing to return to his beloved woman and marry her. Call, on the other hand, is a tough respectable good-ole boy who keeps his nose clean and knows how to save a penny.
When these boys do join the Texas Rangers they underestimate the taxing journeys these men actually take. They also underestimate the ruthlessness of the Ranger's sworn enemy: the Indian. And in this case it's the Comanche, and specifically Buffalo Hump. Buffalo Hump is the war leader of the dreaded Comanche Indians; he is more viscous than all the other Indians together.
The Rangers now must find a way to New Mexico directly through Comanche territory. The arrogance of some of the Rangers quickly disappears when they get their first taste of the Comanche and Buffalo Hump. Also with the Comanche: Kicking Wolf, the world's greatest horse thief. He will take a horse when you are sleeping even if you have the reins in your hand. You will be left with nothing but a few feet of leather. So how will the Rangers survive the plains, while avoided the Comanche? Do they get to New Mexico alive? Of a camp that was made up of 200 how many will be walking to New Mexico? Do they want to get to New Mexico? What is the Dead Man's Walk? You will find the answers to these questions amid the pages of this wonderful cowboy-and-indian epic. I found the pages to turn very easily. The character development for the other characters not named Gus and Call is slightly lacking but who is this series really about? The only thing keeping me from reading Comanche Moon (the next novel chronologically) is this sentence.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on December 19, 1999
Shattering many of the old stereotypes recalling the "glory" of the Old West, McMurtry has actually created many new stereotypes of his own. Here, in this new tale, are the grotesques we have come to expect of him, the suddenly violent eruptions, the sense of utter despair. And yet the tale resonates, with its feeling of hopelessness, with all the aimless wandering and low-down betrayals and the angry, incomprehensible bloodiness of the Indians who understand the land better than the whites and yet are doomed to lose it to the ever swelling numbers of them as they trek west to encroach on the Indian lands. Neither side understands the other and so are brought together in nothing less than a bloody war of attrition. The harshness of the terrain in which they all travel imposes its bloody, dehumanizing regimen on these people. This tale is, finally, one of pointless wandering by men who seem to have nothing better to do. And, indeed, perhaps they haven't. Even more, it is a tale of the savage interplay between the peoples of this land as Indians brutalize whites and Texans brutalize Mexicans who, in turn, brutalize the Texans, each yielding to the baser impulses which the land elicits from them. There is not much plot here either, just the love of adventure of two young frontier boys on the way to becoming men which draws them into one foolhardy campaign after another, leading them to participate in, and witness, some of the meanest conditions living can offer, and some of the ugliest means of dying. It doesn't quite make men of them, to be sure, but it hardens them and teaches a bit about living in the harsh world in which they find themselves -- a world which, through good luck and some basically sound personal traits, they manage to survive in long enough to embrace.

I am reluctant to invoke LONESOME DOVE here, the tale which started all this but, in fact, that is the obvious reason for this book, to show us how the two old Texas Rangers, Call and MacCrae, got to be the way we found them in the latter book. And yet it all works here without reference to that first book. This one reverberates with a real feeling of life, despite its lack of any real plot and the utter sense of despair which permeates the tale. And it holds you. It's not so much that you want to know what happens (I already largely did, having seen the TV movie previously), but that you want to be there with them, to experience the world which McMurtry so brilliantly conjurs up for Call and MacCrae. Sometimes it's not a matter of trying to guess what's around the next bend only but wanting to live it. And that's what McMurtry gives us here. And that's good writing.

SWM
author of The King of Vinland's Saga
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on October 6, 2005
This is the volume in Larry McMurtry's Lonesome Dove quartet (or as it really should be said, the three books he wrote to tie into Lonesome Dove) that is earliest chronologically. In this fast-moving novel, the teenaged Gus and Call meet as Rangers on a Texas frontier overrun with menacing Comanches. Texas is at the time in its last years as a nation, before its inclusion into the American union, and the stoical Scottish born Call, and Augustus, the raconteur from Tennessee, have just met one another. Although their start was slightly rocky, the two are, by the beginning of this book, strong friends. The pair survive an early encounter with Comanche, enlist on a fortune seeker's adventure to take part of Mexico for himself, and wind up making a forced march across one of the driest, hottest, most savage places in North America, the Llano Escatado. The pair survive this ordeal (not a spoiler, to be alive for Lonesome Dove thirty years in the future, it's obvious they do) and then embark on a return journey even more perilous. This book has a shocker ending that I personally found hilarious, and is certainly one I doubt anyone could see coming.

Dead Man's Walk stands on its own much better than did Comanche Moon, which is set about ten to twenty years after this volume, and is stronger in some ways than even Streets of Laredo, which wraps up the books nearly half a century after Dead Man's Walk concludes, but it is lacking through no fault of its own the familiar personalities of the Gus and Call we came to know in Lonesome Dove,. Here the two young men who will one day grow into the legendary pair, are just too raw to draw us in as completely as they do later on. There is also the matter of the author's inexplicable reworking of facts established elsewhere in the series' plot. I hate when he does that. He sacrifices continuity to push the story in the present volume along, and that's just a little weak. Dead Man's Walk is well worth reading and gives us a peek at the young Gus and Call (and a few others) that is enjoyable, but it and the other books in this quartet vary greatly in overall quality, with this being at the upper end, but nowhere nearly as good as Lonesome Dove.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on January 9, 2000
This is a harsh tale of the earliest partnership between Woodrow Call and Gus MaCrae, the marvelously heroic anti-heroes of LONESOME DOVE. In this tale the two, as young men, stumble into the early Texas Rangers, drawn by the naive love of adventure which rangering promises the two youths. But they soon find that they and the rangers they lucklessly attach themselves to are no match for the harsh country they confront. The Commanches and the Apaches are harder and smarter in the ways of the wilds and the Mexicans are more numerous and better prepared. The Texans are bunglers, led by charlatans and self-interested adventurers. Worst of all, none of them, from the lowliest ranger, to the officers, to the whores who trail along behind them, know what they are letting themselves in for. It is a hellish passage which they undertake, rife with the sudden violence and grotesqueries which characterize McMurtry's vision of the west. There is the oversized whore, Mattie, who alternately mothers and fornicates with the young rangers she finds around her; the simpering easterner who has set himself up as an officer in the rangers; the pirate turned soldier of fortune who leads his troop of adventurers into country he neither understands nor is prepared to encounter; the sudden lightning storms and tornadoes; the misshapen Commanche war-chief who hunts the white men like buffalo; the deadly Apache who culls the white herd in the night through a long and arduous desert death march; the overly proud Mexican army officer whose life, in the end, depends on the goodwill of his remaining captives; the old mountain man and the scout who travels with him; the brain damaged quarter master whose luck it is to live while other, more complete men must die. All of these rush blindly toward that strange fate which awaits them in the end and which will overwhelm those who will survive, in a moment of surrealistic beauty and dread which somehow wipes away the harshness and suffering which have gone before. In the end, MacCrae, the carefree instinctive man of action, and Call, the careful and thoughtful planner, are forced to see that they, as they have been, callow and inexperienced youths, are no match for the country and the people they have found in it. But, unlike most of their comrades, they miraculously survive their trek. And are changed and enlarged by it. Country bumpkins and veritable greenhorns at the outset, they are fast on the way to becoming the tough rangers we will meet once more, in the books which tell of their subsequent adventures, by the end of this tale. This one does not quite rise to the resonant strains of its precursor LONESOME DOVE, but it is a fitting prequel. We get to see how the country and the experiences of a harsh youth began to form the two men whose tale this ultimately is. And if there is not much plot here, there is a vividness in the description and the dialogue that make you feel like you are there with these men. True, the tale is so grotesque as to seem almost unreal. But McMurtry's writing is sharp and evocative and fresh so that, despite a certain predictability in the events, you want to stay with the characters, to experience this harsh and nightmarish world along with them. Not up to LONESOME DOVE. But that was a hard act to follow.The King of Vinland's Saga
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on June 2, 1997
After the amazing Lonesome Dove and the rather good sequel, Streets of Laredo, McMurtry hits us with a book that simply doesn't make the grade. It reeks of his editor saying, "You have got to write another book this year, why don't you use those two rangers again?". The book starts quite well, with some gritty scenes but quickly goes downhill from there, ending with one of the most ridiculously contrived endings I have ever had the misfortune to read. Not even, McMurtry's often brilliant style can save this book. Symptoms of the book being rushed are everywhere (e.g. Saying that McCrae is Scottish when in Lonesome Dove they comment on Call's Scottish roots).
All in all, a total disappointment.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on October 19, 2013
This book is flat out rotten. Lonesome Dove is possibly the greatest western novel ever written. It is a western epic. This book has the potential to be an amazing book - but McMurtry makes serious errors that suck the life out of this book and leaves the reader scratching his head with shocking disappointment over the ending.
**SPOILER ALERT**

This book has excellent writing about Gus & Call and their dealings with inept officers, captains, and ranger troops. It has amazing encounters with Indians, and the Mexican army etc. It even has some real events that actually happened to real Texas Rangers with the black bean incident . . . then the end leaves you flat. McMurtry pulls the rug from under you.

Here is why the book is garbage:
A) Buffalo hump gets this amazing English rifle from the Captain at the parlay. That Henry (Edit: apparently it's a Holland & Holland - I must have forgot - but my sentiments are the same) rifle is like an ultimate weapon. Call wants a nice shiny new rifle through the book, as he is seriously lacking in the gun department as a new Ranger - and you as the reader are expecting him to injure/wound/kill Buffalo Hump in some way to obtain that Henry rifle - giving your main character status/power/equipment/honor etc. We all want this to occur. Does it happen? No. No mention of that awesome rifle ever again. STUPID!
B) Call & McCrae get to lead their first troop at the end of the book. The entire book - Call comments regularly on how he would do things differently if he were Captain of a Ranger squad. When he is finally leader of the squad... almost nothing is expounded upon regarding how he does things differently - or the different equipment he brings or strategies he uses to equip the Rangers for getting past Buffalo Hump and Kicking Wolf at the end.
C) The ending is a river of sewage. Instead of Call/McCrae outwitting/outshooting/outmaneuvering Kicking Wolf and Buffalo Hump - hence garnering some of the fame they have in Lonesome Dome... thus, giving you the reader some reasons that the people of Texas hold these men in awe - McMurtry - does none of that(river of sewage). He uses stupid superstition to allow the ranger troop to walk right past Buffalo Hump and Kicking Wolf with no major altercation at the end. The ending is: They walk past them, because they are afraid of a leper chick - the end. (Yup - you read that right - these fearsome Indians are afraid of a leper who is traveling with them - so they flee.) HORRIBLE! TOP 10 Worst endings of any book of all time.

Here is how the book should have ended:
When attempting to go through the pass guarded by Buffalo Hump, Kicking Wolf and their team of warriors - Call/McCrae should have employed some great shooting/tactics to drive away the Indians. Call should have wounded Buffalo Hump and in the melee - Buffalo Hump drops the Henry Rifle (that McMurtry made SUCH a big deal about - but did nothing with) and it becomes Call's rifle which is a badge of honor for him the rest of the books. It also gives some back story on why he uses a Henry rifle in Lonesome Dove when most people have switched out to different/modern guns. (then it makes sense and ties the books together) This makes them hero's and gets them promoted to Captains by the end of this book. It builds the animosity between them and the Comanche leaders and sets up a great 2nd book - Comanche Moon. McMurtry does none of this. This book deserves 1 star - but I give it 2 because it is awesome except for the horrible ending where it all falls apart. It seem's like he wrote the whole book and then fell asleep and some moron came and wrote the ending.

Truly the worst ending of all time - mine is way better. This should have been a 5 star book - it deserves 1 star, but I am giving it 2 stars on the merits of my love for the Call/McCrae characters. Don't even get me started on Comanche Moon. Go to that book to see my 1 star review of that heap of garbage!!!!!
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