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Western storyteller Kelton (Cloudy in the West, 1997, etc.) returns for his fortieth-plus novel, a sequel to 1978’s The Good Old Boys that again features hang-loose Hewey Calloway, circa 1910, as his lovable old —Smiling Country— of West Texas fades into the automobile age. We first meet Hewey chasing a longhorn bull on the loose, an animal that symbolizes the breed of overmuscled, hardscrabble beasts soon to be phased out of beef production. In these animals, Hewey glimpses his own fate, as he herds his steers into pens at Alpine, Texas, for shipping by rail to Kansas City. When his boss, Old Man Jenkins, buys the Circle W outfit and asks Hewey to run it for him, Hewey at first passes up the promotion, not wanting to give orders and preferring to work for wages as a top hand. But after feeling some regrets about never having married Miss Spring Renfro and never having quite made his mark on the country, he accepts the Circle W job and its hundred square miles of wonderful smiling pasture. Hewey also takes his very young nephew Tommy under his wing when the boy joins the crew and learns to bust broncs. Hewey believes that he himself is still up to stomping some outlaw, extra-wild, fairly insane broncs—but when he does, he winds up with a broken arm, ribs, knee, and internal injuries. Still, he won—t surrender to trucks and automobiles, although eventually he gets around to struggling into and out of a passenger seat. By then even the sheepherders have moved in. The town livery stable may turn into a garage. . . . And just watching a bronc being busted gives Hewey a chill. Well, maybe he’ll ask for Spring Renfro’s hand (again). Old-timey dialogue, newly minted, rhetorical stretchers, and whopping good humor right out of Twain.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-312-86471-X
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Forge
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1998


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