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The Brave Cowboy Paperback – April 1, 1992

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“The Thoreau of the American West.” (Larry McMurtry)

“Abbey is a fresh breath from the farther reaches and canyons of the diminishing frontier.” (Houston Chronicle)

“Abbey writes with fierce eloquence of landscape and city, of stunted souls and drunken despair. He can be funny and poignant at once” (Publishers Weekly)

“We are living… among punishments and ruins. For those that know this, Edward Abbey’s books remain an indispensable solace.” (Wendell Berry)

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7 1.5-hour cassettes --This text refers to the Audio Cassette edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (April 1, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0380714590
  • ISBN-13: 978-0380714599
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #248,580 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Edward Abbey was born in Home, Pennsylvania, in 1927. He was educated at the University of New Mexico and the University of Edinburgh. He died at his home in Oracle, Arizona, in 1989.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Ronald Scheer on August 8, 2004
Format: Paperback
It was one of Edward Abbey's regrets that he was appreciated more for his nature writing ("Desert Solitaire") than his fiction. And it was another regret that he was mostly forgotten as the author of the story on which the movie "Lonely are the Brave" was based. However, after reading "The Brave Cowboy," I'd have to vote with those who find his nonfiction far more inspiring and satisfying. It's a novel that still rewards the reading, but almost 50 years after its publication in 1956, it seems somewhat dated, while "Desert Solitaire" remains as fresh and relevant as if it were written yesterday.

Abbey was still in his twenties when he wrote this novel, and its point of view is that of a young man full contradictory passions and attitudes. The brave cowboy of the title, a prototypical figure on horseback, is the central character in maybe half the pages of the novel. A younger college friend, imprisoned for refusing to register for the draft, is another character. The local sheriff gets a large section to himself. The novel also follows the progress of a long-haul truck driver across the country. The lives of these four characters intersect in the narrative, while each of them also represents a different perspective. And they don't all quite converge in a single point of view. But that was Abbey, an outspoken man who wasn't afraid to contradict himself.

To its credit, the novel can be read on more than one level. It uses the cowboy to represent free-spirited, libertarian ideas set in conflict with brute ignorance and repression. It decries urbanization and celebrates the limitless, stark beauty of the mountains and desert (the novel is set in northern New Mexico).
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Jack Purcell on June 9, 2004
Format: Paperback
When Jack Burns encounters a barbed-wire fence as he comes across the West Mesa (Albuquerque)on horseback he scans in both directions for a gate before he clips the wire to ride through. He wouldn't have cut it if it wasn't in his way, or if there'd been a gate nearby. Thus begins the book with a scene that tells much about the main character.
Burns is a man who doesn't merely cling to ideals of loyalty, privacy and individual freedom. His internal machinery accepts no alternative at any level. Jack Burns is a man who won't cut a fence unless it stands in the way of where he wants to go. He recognizes the existence of the creeping encroachments and compromises to his choices and ignores them. The modern acquiescence by the rest of society is foreign to him.
Burns descends the mesa into Albuquerque, encounters modern city life and is battered by it without 'losing' in the usual sense of the word, and leaves on the run from the legal instruments intended to keep us all on the straight and narrow. The end is inevitable.
Readers who know Albuquerque will enjoy the ride across the 'Volcans', the places in the Rio Grande Valley still recognizable despite the years since Abbey wrote the book, the harrowing climb up the Sandias pursued by the military and law enforcement community. Those who don't know Albuquerque or New Mexico will appreciate the type of individual Burns portrays: a man born too late, unable to compromise.
I haven't seen the movie mentioned by other reviewers. I also didn't see the shortcomings of the book mentioned by several. I saw only a writer who created a character much as Abbey saw himself, as many people today see themselves, and a plot that carried those traits through to the end. No one, I imagine Abbey would say, can dodge the steamroller.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Orrin C. Judd VINE VOICE on December 18, 2000
Format: Paperback
Q: What's your occupation? A: Cowhand, sheepherder; game poacher.
Q: Where's your papers?...Your I.D.--draft card, social security, driver's license? A: Don't have none. Don't need none. I already know who I am.
Edward Abbey is one of the patron saints of the modern Environmental movement; right up there with Rachel Carson. Desert Solitaire, his memoir of working in a National Park, is an impassioned statement of preservationist principles and his comic novel, The Monkey Wrench Gang, is a virtual primer for ecoterrorism. But my personal favorite of his books is the little remembered Brave Cowboy, the basis for the excellent but equally forgotten Kirk Douglas film, Lonely Are the Brave. It belongs on the shelf with the other uniquely American paens to independence and rugged individualism: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest(read Orrin's review), Cool Hand Luke, From Here to Eternity (read Orrin's review), All the Pretty Horses (read Orrin's review), etc.
Set in the mid 1950's, the novel tells the story of Jack Burns, a latter day cowboy, now reduced to working as a hand on a sheep ranch, who gets himself thrown into prison so that he can help his draft dodging friend escape. But when his buddy refuses to compromise the moral purity of his concientious objector status, Burns is forced to break out on his own, assuming that a vicious Mexican prison guard he has aggravated doesn't kill him first. In the meantime the authorities have realized that Jack too is unregistered and that while they were in college together, he helped his friend with some radical causes, however ineffectual. So when he does manage to escape, Jack ends up being treated as a dangerous fugitive, instead of as the fairly harmless eccentric that he is.
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