by Jack Schaefer
Released in 1963, this novel is about the end of an era and the loss of an old west icon, the great American cowboy. In its way, MONTE WALSH is a tragedy filled with hope and humor. Monte is a cowboy, proud of his craft, set in his ways, and coming to the end of an age as he watches his world fade into the western sunset. His way of life is dying, and he knows it, but chooses not to go quietly into that good night.
In my youth, I knew men of his ilk, men who could not or would not keep up with the changes around them. So must have the author, Jack Schaefer, for he captures their will and mindset wonderfully, drawing vivid characters from his plot while disclosing their personalities as sharply as if they were etched in glass. Between the chapters are delightful anecdotes on the dubious benefits of progress, or Monte's stand against it, including his first encounter with roller skates.
Many years ago this novel was released as an excellent motion picture starring Lee Marvin as Monte and Jack Palance as his friend, Chet. It was produced again a few years ago with Tom Selleck in the title role. Quite simply, as is most often the case, the book is better.
MONTE WALSH is more than just a tale of an end of a way of life. It is an observation on the inevitable that will come to each of us with time and a celebration of resistance. It comes with a promise, too. The promise that the "chink" of a spur when a bootheel strikes the boardwalk will never be completely lost.
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