Horseman, Pass By (Thalia, Texas #1) by Larry McMurtry

 ‘Granddad was an old man then, and he worked hard days.’

Set in the small ranch country of Texas in the 1950s, the narrator is seventeen-year-old Lonnie Bannon.  Lonnie lives with his granddad Homer, his grandma Jewel (Homer’s second wife) and Jewel’s son Hud. Helmea is the housekeeper and cook, and there are a couple of hands who work on the ranch.

Times are already changing but things become worse for Homer Bannon and his family when one of his cattle dies of foot and mouth disease and the entire herd needs to be shot.  Hud, a totally despicable character in the novel, is a heartless opportunist.  Halmea, the centre of the household, leaves after a brutal assault.  Jewel, the grandmother, fills the space she occupies with complaint and loud radio.  Homer, overtaken by life and then betrayed, represents a way of life and a courtesy that is vanishing.  And Lonnie?  He sees and appreciates the land but is restless in the way all teenagers must be if they are to become adults.

I watched the movie ‘Hud’ a few nights ago, and then sought out a copy of this novel.  I have read some (not all) of Mr McMurtry’s novels, but I had not previously heard of this one, which was his first.

The movie was held my attention, but the novel has crept into my mind.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith