Streets of Laredo takes place years after the Hat Creek Outfit establishes a cattle ranch in Montana, the collective dream of Call and Gus and the men who work and tag along with the pair of close friends. I enjoyed Lonesome Dove immensely and looked forward to reading Streets of Laredo soon after completing the previous novel. Streets of Laredo is structured in a similar fashion to Lonesome Dove--in three parts--with the addition of an epilogue, and told with the narrative voice of Larry McMurtry--an empathetic, omniscient storyteller. And since Lonesome Dove is a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, it's difficult to read Streets of Laredo without looking through the lens of the previous novel.
That being said, a couple of things become glaringly apparent very quickly. 1) Call and Gus were a jovial pair in Lonesome Dove and their banter and friendship was a highlight of that novel. Their pairing was that of an odd-couple: Call the quiet yet strong straight-man and Gus the inquisitive, romantic, and funny one. Without the presence of Gus in Streets of Laredo, we follow Call without his "better half" and his absence is truly felt. We do get a new sidekick in Brookshire, a Yankee, "salaried man" sent to hire and accompany Call to capture the young train robber Jose Garza. But Brookshire is a sorry replacement for Gus and his lack of history with Call hampers their camaraderie. 2) Without the collective dream of Call and Gus and the Hat Creek Outfit, Streets of Laredo narrows its scope to Call pursuing Garza, both of whom lack any apparent desire for their roles and McMurtry doesn't explain any motivation for either character to be where there are in this place and time.
Call's straight-man demeanor is not compelling without his sidekick Gus. Garza's "cold eyes" and hatred for his mother are the only pieces of information we are given about this cruel train robber, who comes off more like an evil caricature than a young man motivated to step out of his poor, adolescent circumstances. Why we are following this good guy / bad guy dynamic is not fully fleshed out, leaving us with the tropes and clichés of the typical Western genre, which is a shame following the greatness of Lonesome Dove.
About a third of the way into the novel, the narrator summarizes Call's feelings in a certain dilemma, which goes, "What mainly amused Call was the contemplation of how amused his old partner, Augustus McCrae, would be if he could see the crew he was riding out with on this manhunt. [Gus] had a well-developed sense of humor, too well developed, Call had often felt. Yet he missed [Gus's] laughter as much as he missed anything else in his life. Gus enjoyed the predicaments of his fellowmen, and would have laughed long and hard at the spectacle of Call, Brookshire, and lanky Ted Plunkert." I couldn't help but miss Gus, too, and he is a specter over the entire novel. All I could think about while reading Streets of Laredo was, "At least there's Lonesome Dove." Maybe I'll try reading two of the other novels with Call and Gus in their younger years: Dead Man's Walk and Comanche Moon.
great book and excellent followon novel to lonesome dove. Looking forward to the time to read the last of the series.
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