This large, stately, and intensely powerful new novel by the author of Terms of Endearment and The Last Picture Show is constructed around a cattle drive--an epic journey from dry, hard-drinking south Texas, where a band of retired Texas Rangers has been living idly, to the last outpost and the last days of the old, unsettled West in rough Montana. The time is the 1880s. The characters are larger than life and shimmer: Captain Woodrow Call, who leads the drive, is the American type of an unrelentingly righteous man whose values are puritanical and pioneering and whose orders, which his men inevitably follow, lead, toward the end, to their deaths; talkative Gus McCrae, Call's best friend, learned, lenient, almost magically skilled in a crisis, who is one of those who dies; Newt, the unacknowledged 17-year-old son of Captain Call's one period of self-indulgence and the inheritor of what will become a new and kinder West; and whores, drivers, misplaced sheriffs and scattered settlers, all of whom are drawn sharply, engagingly, movingly. As the rag-tag band drives the cattle 3,000 miles northward, only Call fails to learn that his quest to conquer more new territories in the West is futile--it's a quest that perishes as men are killed by natural menaces that soon will be tamed and by half-starved renegades who soon will die at the hands of those less heroic than themselves. McMurtry shows that it is a quest misplaced in history, in a landscape that is bare of buffalo but still mythic; and it is only one of McMurtry's major accomplishments that he does it without forfeiting a grain of the characters' sympathetic power or of the book's considerable suspense. This is a masterly novel. It will appeal to all lovers of fiction of the first order.