Boot Scootin’ Favorite Book

“Yesterday’s gone on down the river and you can’t get it back.” -Lonesome Dove

One of my favorite books is Lonesome Dove, which was made into a TV mini-series.  Written by Larry McMurtry, Lonesome Dove is about two retired Texas Rangers, “Gus” McCrae and “Woodrow” Call who drive a herd of cattle from Texas to Montana.  

 The Pulitzer Prize-winning story is loosely based on the true story of Charles Goodnight’s and Oliver Loving’s cattle drive from Texas to Montana. Goodnight and Loving were close friends. Before Loving died, he asked that his body be returned to Texas.  He did not want to be buried in a “foreign land.”  Charles Goodnight and Loving’s son, Joseph, carried the metal casket 600 miles back to Texas.

In Lonesome Dove, Gus dies and Call (played by Tommy Lee Jones) hauls his friend back to Texas as promised.  If this doesn’t make you cry, I don’t know what will.  

“I guess this’ll teach me to be careful about what I promise in the future.”

McMurtry originally wrote the story as a short screenplay named the Streets of Laredo.  It was supposed to star John Wayne as Call.  But Wayne dropped out and the project was abandoned. 15 years later McMurtry saw an old bus with the phrase “Lonesome Dove Baptist Church” on it.  He rushed home to revise the book into a novel and changed the name.  (Ah, inspiration.)

The book went on to win a Pulitzer Prize. The mini-series also won many awards, including a Golden Globe.  It was cheated out of the Emmy for best mini-series by War and Remembrance.  Considered the “Gone With the Wind” and “Godfather” of Western movies, Lonesome Dove has sold more DVDs than any other western.

“It’s been quite a party ain’t it?”

It’s hard to imagine anyone but Robert Duvall as Gus, but he was actually offered the role of Woodrow Call, and turned it down.  His wife had read the book and told him, “Whatever you do, don’t let them talk you into playing Woodrow F. Call.  Gus is the part you should play.”

James Garner was also considered for the role, but he had to turn it down because of health problems. 

McMurtry said that he wrote Lonesome Dove to show the real hardships of living a cattleman’s life vs. the romantic life many think they lived. Some think he failed in this regard. Instead, many readers and critics see Lonesome Dove as a celebration of frontier life. 

What is your favorite western book, movie or TV show?

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Margaret has published more than 46 books and is a N.Y. Times Bestselling author and two-time Romance Writers of America Rita Finalist. She writes historical novels set--where else?--in the Old West! She has written for a day time soap and is currently working on a new series. Not bad for someone who flunked 8th grade English. Just don't ask her to diagram a sentence.

27 thoughts on “Boot Scootin’ Favorite Book”

  1. It had been so long since I’d read the book or seen the movie that I’d forgotten the plot! You’ve just added one to my TBR pile. Margaret.

    My favorite western book was by another by McMurtry – Horseman Pass By. It reminds my of my father-in-law – my very own true Western hero.

  2. I will have to fin Lonesome Dove and watch it again, it has been a few years since I watched it. I can’t say I really have a favorite book or movie any more because I usually enjoy anything that is western.

  3. I love the movies “The Man from Snowy River,” and the sequel “Return to Snowy River.” The movies may not be categorized as westerns per say, but they did have have cattle and horses on set. Give me a western any day be it in a book or movie. I love reading historical western romance. Although I enjoy reading other genres, my heart lies in the historical read. I loved the history and reminder you brought today of how awesome Lonesome Dove was. What an awesome film!

  4. My all time favorite western tv show was the Guns of Will Sonnett. I also loved Lancer, Big Valley, Gunsmoke, Dirty Sally, and Alias Smith and Jones (the ones with Pete Duel).

  5. One of my favorite books is Owen Wister’s The Virginian. The copy I have is a hand-me-down from my dad’s older cousin and is copyrighted 1906. The story is classic and the book itself is an example of how novels were published in the early twentieth century. It has pictures and illustrations in several places throughout the book. The story is very different from the tv series.

    Lonesome Dove is a great book but as my brother-in-law said after reading it, it is very depressing. Maybe that is because it is so realistic. James Garner did play Call in Streets of Laredo a sequel to Lonesome Dove.

      • I believe it is but it has been read many times and I decided it was more valuable to our family with a nonprofessional repair. Heavy duty clear tape on the spine has made it possible for another generation to read it.

  6. Margaret, I love your thoughts and description of Lonesome Dove. I have not read it, nor have I seen the movie. But I will now, and I’ve got it on my TBR. I just started reading and enjoying Western Historical novels. It all started with mail-order brides stories which I still love! (Although, I have always loved John Wayne and his Westerns.)

    My favorite Western book is Shane by Jack Schaefer. It’s the story of a solitary wanderer who wants to give up his guns and live a peaceful life, but in the end he turns to violence as the only way to save the defenseless homesteaders. Shane is fearless and honorable, and when he has finished with the necessary killing, he heads back into the mountains, sacrificing himself to loneliness.

    My favorite Western TV show is Gunsmoke, and my favorite Western movie is The Shootist. Shane too, it’s a beautifully filmed movie with an outstanding cast.

  7. I enjoyed Lonesome Dove. Another mini-series that came out years later was Into The West, 4 DVD’s long. It showed just how difficult it was for everyone on the wagon trains heading West and also looked at it from the Native American side of things. It was gritty and certainly didn’t glamorize any of it. It followed an extended family heading West as well as a native family showing the impacts and interactions of them all.

  8. A piece of my heart will always belong to The Young Riders, especially the Kid. Besides being my teenage crush, it was a welcome distraction during some rough years after my dad passed away suddenly. Now, I adore the Magnificent Seven TV show that aired in the 90s as well. There’s a wonderful fanfiction following for it and I’ve read some terrific stories.

  9. My favorite western book is Throw the Devil from the Train. My favorite western movie is John Wayne ‘s McKlintock. My favorite western TV show is How the West Was Won.
    That said I have truly enjoyed your books as well.

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