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The Hi Lo Country by Max Evans
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The Hi Lo Country

by Max Evans

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Southern writing is inevitably compared to or associated with Twain or Faulkner, in the same way that Sherwood Anderson and Sinclair Lewis are with the Midwest or Phillip Roth and Tom Wolfe with New York. It is a sad state of affairs that has allowed Max Evans to go unnoticed in the cannon of Southwestern American literature, having been overshadowed by Edward Abbey, Willa Cather, Larry McMurtry, Rudolfo Anaya, and Cormac McCarthy. Save for a couple of film adaptations of his books, The Rounders and The Hi Lo Country, Evans would go all but ignored, even though his stories and characters capture the eccentricity of this strange land as well as any of the other more popular authors.

[The Hi Lo Country] is set in the high plains of New Mexico at a time when cowboy life was on the wane. Desperate living conditions, a World War, and the industrialization of agriculture had put the land and cattle owner on the cusp of extinction, and marginalized the generations of men and women who scratched their existence out of the dry, dusty land. Big Boy Matson, a hard living cowboy of the old West, and his ‘padna,’ Pete West, are men buffeted by the cold winds of inevitability. But they are more than that – they are symbols of a way of life that can no longer sustain itself. They live in a country that is named for its character, both high and low in the same breath, and among people who have learned to live in the ebb and flow of the place. Their friends – a Mexican who drives only in reverse when he’s drunk; a crazy inventor who thinks he can harvest gold from the ocean; a coyote hunter more at home with the wild than with people – all cling to life in the face of obscurity.

Pete and Big Boy fall in love with the same woman, Mona, the wife of a cattle worker who lied to her about his fortune. Mona chooses Big Boy because he is larger than life, and tames the world around him with the sheer force of his will. But Mona doesn’t refuse Pete, keeping him in line in the even that Big Boy finally loses his grip. The guilt over the dalliance with Mona and the betrayal of his best friend haunt Pete to the point that he begins to self-destruct, even as Big Boy self-destructs in the campaign to establish himself as the best suitor.

Rarely has the voice of the West been captured so vividly than in [The Hi Lo Country]. Rarely has the nobility of another time and way of life battling annihilation been described so evocatively. These are people sustaining themselves on notions of loyalty and honor that no longer carry currency. These are people who will be viewed nostalgically, but dismissed as obsolete within their own lifetimes. They stand for a civilized manner, albeit it one carved out jaggedly from a heartless and deadly land. And Evans crystalizes them in amber for us to marvel at from afar.

Bottom Line: A faithful rendition of a time and a people that have passed, nostalgic only in our own yearnings to recapture a little of what we lost with them.

4 ½ bones!!!!! ( )
  blackdogbooks | Nov 28, 2014 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0425168077, Mass Market Paperback)

Now a major motion picture from Gramercy Pictures starring Woody Harrelson, Billy Crudup, and Patricia Arquette. They were two cowboys out of the New Mexico dust. Cowpunchers and manpunchers, they hit hard, lived raw, and rode the beautiful Hi-Lo country as best friends and comrades. Until one night, when they fell in love with the same woman--a beautiful, irresistible, married woman.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:56 -0400)

Two cowboy friends, Pete and Big Boy, fall in love with the same beautiful, but dangerous, married woman.

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