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Bookmarks Issue: 
43-Nov-Dec-2009
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A-Rhino RanchLarry McMurtry is the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Lonesome Dove (1985) and an Oscar-winning screenwriter for Brokeback Mountain. Rhino Ranch is the fifth, and final, book in his long-running Duane Moore series, which includes The Last Picture Show (1966), Texasville (1987), Duane’s Depressed (1999), and When the Light Goes (2007).

The Story: In the sleepy little town of Thalia, Texas, retired oilman Duane Moore struggles with loneliness, sickness, and aging. His flighty young wife, Annie Cameron, has abandoned him. A near-fatal heart attack has left him weaker than he could have ever imagined, and old friends are dying off at an alarming rate, leaving Duane to ponder his own mortality at various funeral gatherings. But the arrival of K. K. Slater, an eccentric billionairess who moves into the neighborhood with a herd of endangered black African rhinos, gives Duane and Thalia just the shake-up they need.
Simon & Schuster. 288 pages. $26. ISBN: 9781439156391

Christian Science Monitor 4 of 5 Stars
"Rhino Ranch moves at a deceptively contemplative mosey, but by novel’s end, McMurtry has wrapped up a substantial number of characters’ story lines. … The novel will also come as a welcome relief for fans who felt that his fourth novel about Duane, 2006’s When the Light Goes, wasn’t the send-off for which they were hoping." Yvonne Zipp

Minneapolis Star Tribune 4 of 5 Stars
"McMurtry gives us a parade of new characters who show how much Thalia has changed since the 1950s, when the movie theater showed its last picture show and closed: meth heads, Satanists selling T-shirts on a country road, a refugee from the killing fields of Cambodia and a ‘billionairess’. … Rhino Ranch is funny. It’s sad." Chuck Haga

San Antonio Exp-News 4 of 5 Stars
"McMurtry’s sharp sense of humor resurfaces throughout this dialogue-driven novel. … It was a long saga … and a worthwhile one." David Hendricks

Seattle Times 4 of 5 Stars
"This remarkable series has been, by turns, funny, affectionate, poignant, and elegiac—or a supple blend thereof. McMurtry’s skill with bemused and amusing characters (especially the women) is as strong as ever; so are his gifts for comic timing, dialogue and emotional insight." Adam Woog

Washington Post 3.5 of 5 Stars
"McMurtry is good at elegy, whether for the ways of western life or a petered-out oilman. But Duane’s diminishing world would be more affecting if McMurtry didn’t write about him as if everybody’s read the other novels in which he appears." Tim Gautreaux

Critical Summary

Forty-three years have passed since McMurtry, the quintessential Western writer, first introduced readers to Duane Moore, then a young, virile Texan coming of age in the fictional town of Thalia. Fast forward to Rhino Ranch, which critics described as a melancholy, wistful, and occasionally hilarious final entry in the popular series. Critics, several of whom grew up alongside Duane, were extremely grateful the series didn’t end with When the Light Goes, characterized by the San Antonio Express-News as "trashy, single-minded, and X-rated." Although the Washington Post cautioned new readers not to view this title as a stand-alone (yes, you should start at the beginning), the overwhelmingly enthusiastic response confirmed that all’s well that ends well.