Before I buy a book, or even before I go through the trouble of obtaining a library book, I generally go on Amazon to see what kind of reviews the book has received. I don’t necessarily make my decision whether or not to read the book solely based on the reviews. But I find it interesting to read what people liked or didn’t like about a book, and then make my decision accordingly.
I didn’t do that prior to buying The Last Kind Words Saloon, the newest novel by Larry McMurtry. I didn’t do it for a few reasons. First, I loved the name of the name of the book. Second, the book was about Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday, and I, for whatever reason, love reading about those two historical schweinhunts. Finally, the author was Larry McMurtry. Can you say Lonesome Dove?
I had the book for a while before I opened it (it was an ebook). I was surprised to see that it only had 197 pages. It was at that point that I decided to take a look and see what others had said about the book on Amazon.
Wow. I have rarely seen a book so heartily disliked as The Last Kind Words Saloon. Out of 195 or so reviews, only 40 gave it four or five stars. Most gave it one or two stars.
Nevertheless, I delved into the book. It was only 197 pages, after all, and it was written by Larry McMurtry.
I’m glad I did.
Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t love the book. For one thing, I’m a fan of meatier stories. I like context and lots of dialogue. This book had neither. The writing is sparse, the dialogue is concise, but, I thought, rather funny. As I read the book, I got a strong sense of what it was like to live in the Old West, and to sit and drink whisky with Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday.
I find each character to be likeable and despicable at the same time. The relationship between Earp and his wife Jessie was complex and largely unpleasant. Holliday was an alcoholic and dying of TB. But the way McMurtry presented their outlooks on the life around them was funny and interesting. This really is a tale of life in the Old West through the eyes of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday.
The story leads up to the shootout at the OK Corral, but that event is over with in just a couple of pages, and presented from a little bit of a different perspective. This isn’t the book to read if you are looking for a lot of information or context about or surrounding these two famous Old West characters. But it will give you a snapshot at what life was like as that part of our country was being developed.
I can’t heartily recommend the book, but I enjoyed the quick read. If you are looking for a better story about the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday, read Doc: The Novel by Mary Doria Russell. I enjoyed it way more than this book. And if you’re looking for an incredibly good read about the West, read Lonesome Dove, McMurtry’s Pulitzer Prize winning book.
Buy The Last Kind Words Saloon at Amazon here.
Buy The Last Kind Words Saloon at Barnes and Noble here.