McMurtry returns to reliable form in this follow-up to Dead Man's Walk (1995) that serves as a second prequel to his Texas epic Lonesome Dove (1985). As the great Comanche warrior Buffalo Hump slowly succumbs to weakness and old age, a younger generation both of Texans and Comanches rises to power. Buffalo Hump's son, Blue Duck, breaks away from his father to form a band of renegades who prefer the Texans' guns to the bow and arrow and their own whims to traditional ways. Events are set in motion by the theft of a great warhorse belonging to Harvard-educated adventurer and Texas ranger, Captain Inish Scull. The thief, a Comanche, resolves to undertake a mad display of heroism by presenting the animal to the Mexican warlord Ahumado (the "Black Vaquero") renowned for the creative methods of torture he visits on anyone foolish enough to cross him. Captain Scull, unhinged by the incident, sets off in pursuit and falls into Ahumado's hands. A brutal Comanche raid on Austin at the same time spurs the rise of two tough, bright, experienced young rangers: affable, whiskey- and whore-obsessed Augustus McCrae, who's nevertheless steadfast in his devotion to Clara Forsythe, an independent-minded shopkeeper who breaks his heart by marrying a more stable man; and dour, sensible, lethal Woodrow Call, who can't quite bring himself to acknowledge his illegitimate son or marry the sweet-natured prostitute with whom he has a longstanding relationship. The two battle-hardened friends sort out their troubles with women, tangle with the Comanches and Ahumado, and quietly become (reluctant) legends on the frontier. While the last third turns workmanlike in its efforts to set up the opening situation of Lonesome Dove, McMurtry nevertheless delivers a generally fine tableau of western life, full of imaginative exploits, convincing historical background, and well-rendered people.