ALL THE WESTERN STARS by Philip Lee Williams


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From the author of The Heart of a Distant Forest (1984): a novel about two old codgers who escape from a small-town Georgia nursing home and head out West to live out their cowboy fantasies--not wholly successful, but often hilariously laugh-out-loud funny. Jake Baker, a Mississippi-born former construction worker who once did a flip on a steel beam 46 stories in the sky above N.Y.C., is signed into a nursing home by his greedy niece. There he meets Lucas Kraft, a National Book Award-winning poet and novelist who hasn't written anything in years. Though the only poem Jake recalls reading is a dirty one about a girl from Nantucket, they find they have much in common: thirst, lechery, a hankering for risk and a little violence, and a desire for freedom. Specifically, they want to become Texas cowboys and live before they die. Their escape and picaresque journey west is a riot punctuated by pathos. (Lucas: ""Nobody much knows who I am any more."" Jake: ""Nobody's never known who I am."") In Texas, these geezers meet a rancher who loves Lucas' books. He lodges them in the bunkhouse with real cowboys, gives Jake a job helping the cook, and gives Lucas a typewriter and an order to get to work. Jake's down-home yet cranky voice telling the story makes even the most far-fetched events seem real--until the book gets more serious. Lucas tries to reconcile with the famous actress who was once his wife; Jake falls in love with the ranch's foulmouthed housekeeper and tries to find her estranged daughter, now a prostitute. As questions of love, friendship, honesty, and mortality become more explicit, credibility sometimes falters, and even the antics begin to seem forced. For the most part, though, these old boys are good company--you can't help but wish them well--and the novel is a hoot.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1988
ISBN: 093460147X
Publisher: Peachtree