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Book Review: 'Dead Man's Walk'

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In Dead Man’s Walk, Augustus McCrae returns from the dead and Woodrow Call bounces back from multiple-amputee old age to hit the trail once again in this buddy prequel to McMurtry’s megahit, Lonesome Dove. The time is the boisterous, lawless years of the 1840s, when the brash new Republic of Texas launched four filibustering expeditions bent on seizing Santa Fe from Mexico. McMurtry plays fast and loose with the facts. In the Mier Expedition of 1842, for example, Mexican officers forced captured Texans to draw white and black beans to see who would live or die. One of the lucky ones was legendary frontiersman Bigfoot Wallace, but McMurtry has Wallace pick a black bean. Bye-bye Bigfoot, so long history. And McMurtry relocates the event to a leper colony near El Paso. As if this weren’t completely over-the-top, McCrae, Call, and a handful of survivors escape sure death from a band of merciless Comanche when their English traveling companion, a lady leper, strips off her clothes, sings Italian opera, and frightens the fierce Indians back into the mountains. So that’s how the West was won. B-