Duane Moore’s depressed and a little horny—but not as horny as the black rhinoceroses that have entered his increasingly complicated life.
Now in his late 60s, Duane has been with us since The Last Picture Show (1966). That was many volumes ago, McMurtry (Books: A Memoir, 2008, etc.) being a prolific chap, and Duane has had his ups and downs. This book catches him on a down. His friend Honor sums up his condition philosophically: “Many aging people feel marginal, to some degree. For decades they’re at the center of things, and then one day they’re not. They slip over to the sidelines.” Duane has ample justification for being bummed. His wife, Annie Cameron of the fantastically wealthy Dallas Cameron clan, has some dirty little secrets that unfold across the novel’s pages. The people he has grown up with are leaving the planet. He’s living in Arizona, which makes him an outsider when he returns to the xenophobic little burg of Thalia, Texas. Duane’s not as much of an outsider, however, as is K.K. Slater, another woman from Dallas with fantastic wealth (at least on paper) who has established a vast ranch in order to rescue the African black rhino from extinction. The sight of black rhinos brings out the peckerwoods, guns a-blazing; Satanists and South Africans also figure into the mix, as does an extremely compliant porn star and a few other odd ducks. The narrative gets a little, well, middling toward the middle; a couple of set pieces rely on setups just a little too convenient, even considering the smallness of small-town Texas. However, McMurtry ultimately ties up a whole skein of loose ends neatly, and the book closes lyrically with ineluctable sadness, life being in the end a succession of small tragedies and occasional triumphs.
A lovely, high-lonesome end to Duane’s saga that also offers the possibility of more books to come—which readers will certainly hope McMurtry delivers.