Dead Man's Walk

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Dead Man's Walk
LarryMcMurtry DeadMansWalk.jpg
First edition
Author Larry McMurtry
Country United States
Language English
Series Lonesome Dove series
Genre Western
Publisher Simon & Schuster
Publication date
September 1995
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages 488 p. (hardback edition) & 488 p. (paperback edition)
ISBN ISBN 0-684-80753-X (hardback edition) & ISBN 0-7528-2778-2 (paperback edition)
OCLC 32625743
813/.54 20
LC Class PS3563.A319 D38 1995
Preceded by Streets of Laredo
Followed by Comanche Moon

Dead Man's Walk is a 1995 novel by Larry McMurtry. It is the third book published in the Lonesome Dove series but the first installment in terms of chronology. McMurtry wrote a fourth segment to the Lonesome Dove chronicle, Comanche Moon, which describes the events of the central characters' lives between Dead Man's Walk and Lonesome Dove. The second novel in the "Lonesome Dove" series was the 1993 sequel to the original, called Streets of Laredo.

Plot introduction[edit]

Dead Man's Walk details the earliest adventures of the young Augustus McCrae and Woodrow Call as they join up with the Texas Rangers on a fictional expedition based loosely on the historical Santa Fe Expedition of 1841.

Plot summary[edit]

In this first prequel to Lonesome Dove the reader finds McCrae and Call as young additions to the Texas Rangers. The two young Rangers are introduced quickly and brutally to the rangering life on their first expedition, in which they are stalked by the Comanche war chief Buffalo Hump. After a narrow escape, the rangers return to civilization, only to quickly join an expedition to capture and annex Santa Fe, part of New Mexico (the part east of the Rio Grande) for Texas. The expedition, led by pirate and soldier of fortune, Caleb Cobb, is ultimately a failure; of the 200 initial adventurers, only about 40 survive, falling to starvation, bears, and Indians (in one memorable chapter, the Comanche ignite the grasses surrounding the ranger camp, forcing rangers to jump over the edge of a canyon to escape the flames), only to be swiftly arrested by the Mexican authorities. Those survivors are forced to march the Jornada del Muerto ("Dead Man's Walk") to El Paso, and many, Mexican and Texan alike, die along the journey. The Texas contingent is reduced to ten persons when the captives panic after they observe cavalry drilling and are slaughtered in a blood lust as they flee. At their destination, the ten are forced to gamble for their lives by drawing a bean from a jar - a white bean signals life, a black bean death. Call and McCrae are among the five survivors. The last Rangers then return to Texas, escorting an Englishwoman and her son, who have also been held captive by the Mexicans.

During the course of this book, three other familiar and important characters are introduced. At a general store, Augustus McCrae meets Clara Forsythe, later to marry Robert Allen and become Clara Allen, Augustus's old flame in the original novel. In the same town, Call meets a prostitute named Maggie, later to become the mother of his illegitimate son, Newt. On their journey, they are tracked by the notorious Comanche warrior Buffalo Hump, future father of Blue Duck, whom they will hunt during their later days as Texas Rangers and during the Montana expedition chronicled in Lonesome Dove.

Characters in "Dead Man's Walk"[edit]

The names in parentheses are the names of the actors who portrayed the specified character in the movie.

Allusions/references to actual history, geography and current science[edit]

Although the exact time frame of the story is not given, the historical context of the events occurring sometime in the early 1840s is authentic. The Republic of Texas did indeed attempt to annex part of New Mexico, in what historians refer to as the Santa Fe Expedition. As seen in this story, it was a failure. The incident involving the drawing of beans to decide who would be spared, however, is actually loosely based on the fate of the so-called Mier Expedition prisoners, in which the historical Bigfoot Wallace was, in fact, a participant. Bigfoot Wallace, though, died over 50 years later in 1899, unlike this fictional story's character of the same name.

The characters of the novel briefly encounter an individual who identifies himself as "Charlie Goodnight," who warns them against continuing their expedition based on his superior knowledge of the terrain and geography. The non-fictional Charles Goodnight was one of the most famous cattle ranchers in Texas history and is sometimes called "the father of the Texas Panhandle." The historical Charles Goodnight, however, was a young boy at the time of the events portrayed in the novel, having been born in 1836.

Major Randall Chevallie, who appears in the first part of the novel, may be loosely based upon Major Michael Chevallie, an actual leader of the Texas Rangers who led "Chevallie's Battalion" in the Mexican-American War and who participated in the Battle of Monterrey. Although the book suggests the fictional Major Chevallie died in San Antonio, Texas shortly after the events recounted in the early part of the novel, in actuality, the historical Major Chevallie lived until 1852 and died in Stockton, California.

The two Indian scalpers who appear in the book -- James Kirker and John Glanton -- are likewise actual historical figures. John Glanton is perhaps best known for his central role in Cormac McCarthy's own famous American novel about the Indian scalping trade, Blood Meridian.

In her attempt to unnerve the Comanches by playing to their superstitions, Lady Carey sings Verdi arias. She also claims to have studied singing under Verdi. In 1841, Verdi was 28, and his first major success, Nabucco, was a year in the future. The author is apparently stretching the truth to make the clever ending possible.

Film, TV or theatrical adaptations[edit]

It was later made into a miniseries starring David Arquette as Augustus McCrae and Jonny Lee Miller as Woodrow F. Call.

External links[edit]