First published in America by Doubleday in 1978.
I registered my copy of this book at Bookcrossing
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How I got this book:
Bought from the OXFAM shop in Torquay
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Hewey Calloway has a problem. In his West Texas home of 1906, the land and the way of life that he loves are changing too quickly for his taste.Hewey dreams of freedom - he wants only to be a footloose horseback cowboy, endlessly wandering the open range. But the open range of his childhood is slowly disappearing: land is being parceled out, and barbed-wire fences are springing up all over. As if that weren't enough, cars and other machines are invading Hewey's simple cowboy life, stinking up the area and threatening to replace horse travel. As Hewey struggles against the relentless stream of "progress, " he comes to realize that the simple life of his childhood is gone, that a man can't live a life whose time has passed, and that every choice he makes - even those that lead to happiness - requires a sacrifice.
Billed as western authored, this novel by Elmer Kelton is certainly set in that world but in the early 1900s - long past the cowboy heyday. I was reminded strongly of Kent Haruf's Plainsong trilogy by the nostalgic style and emphasis on strong characterisation over action. Despite being set at a different time, I think fans of those books would enjoy this one and vice versa. We follow a cowboy, Hewey Calloway, coming home to West Texas after years away to find his brother's smallholding practically bankrupt and his eldest nephew more interested in the combustion engine than the skills needed for a life on horseback.
The Good Old Boys is a lament for times gone by, but is in no way a sad or depressing book. Kelton weaves humour throughout the novel whether it is Hewey bickering with his sister-in-law, Eve, or attempting to rope an automobile as if it were cattle. I found the book an easy read and one from which I was loathe to tear myself away because I enjoyed spending time in Hewey's world. As a typical western, The Good Old Boys doesn't really do its cover justice, but as immersive historical fiction, this is an excellent and rewarding read.
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Books by Elmer Kelton / Westerns / Books from America