Friday, August 21, 2009

Gone to Texas by Forrest Carter (unabridged audio book read by Ed Sala)

I'm a big proponent of judging an author by his work. Whatever ideals author Forrest Carter espoused, or whatever deceptions he perpetrated, during his life, you can't deny his powerful storytelling. A perfect example is Gone to Texas (filmed by Clint Eastwood as The Outlaw Josey Wales).

Gone to Texas is a sneaky kind of "sleeper" novel. At first it didn't seem to be affecting me, but before I knew it, it was over, and I was eager to revisit the characters. (The paperback is bound with the sequel, The Vengeance Trail of Josey Wales.)

Carter ensures that we sympathize with this feared outlaw (he seems to be notorious wherever he goes) by giving us some history. Josey Wales was a farmer and family man. But when he found his cabin and family burned black by red-leg raiders, he became one of the Missouri guerillas known as "Quantrill's Raiders" (another fictional Quantrill rider was Rooster Cogburn). Carter shows Wales's other aspects subtly in how he deals with other people: the young boy Jamie Burns; Lone, the Indian who becomes his "brother"; and the two women he saves from Comancheros and who ride with them.

Gone to Texas is not action-packed, though plenty happens. It's a portrait of a man not easily understood. Ed Sala reads the audiobook with a similar approach — seeming to not put too much of himself in the characters, in order to allow the listeners to put more of ourselves into their places. This is one of those novels that reveal more on subsequent readings, a modern classic.

1 comment:

Charles Gramlich said...

I was looking for a cover of Gone to Texas, which is the title under which I read the book. I have to say I disagree with your assessment though. I really didn't like the book at all, and that was long before I knew of his...peculiarities. Of course, different strokes for different folks. Maybe the audio book is better.

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