Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

Hard Country by Michael McGarrity

Hard Country (2012)

by Michael McGarrity

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1067113,849 (4.02)2



Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 2 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
There are too few great Western novels, so I am glad to discover Michael McGarrity’s Hard Country. It begins with ruthless urgency with the death in childbirth of John Kerney’s wife Mary Alice and the murder of his brother and nephew by rustlers. His son Patrick is sent off in the care of his newly bereaved aunt Ida while John Kerney heads off in search of work and revenge.

However, never fear, this is no Outlaw Josey Wales or Revenant. This is not a revenge story, it’s a family story. John lives the cowboy life, traveling from ranch to ranch. His calm good sense earns him friends and respect that reward him all his life. One of them is Cal Doran with whom he buys a ranch while sending letters trying to track down his son who was left in the hands of a doctor and his wife after his sister-in-law died.

This is a story about ranching, about settling New Mexico, about the history of the West. It is rich in texture, with interesting secondary characters as well. I have an old leather-bound copy of Log of a Cowboy and Hard Country has that kind of authenticity.

In Hard Country, we get to know three generations of Kerneys. There is John, his son Patrick whose indomitable wife Emma is an inspiration, and Patrick and Emma’s sons C.J. and Matt. The story begins shortly after the Civil War and ends during World War One.

Hard Country is the first in a three-part family saga following the Kerney family, the ancestors of Kevin Kerney, the main character in a detective series I am adding to my For Later Shelf at the library. I have not read any of the Kevin Kerney novels and that has not been an impediment to being completely engrossed.

I liked Hard Country very much and am eager to read the sequels Backlands and The Last Ranch, which will be released May 17th. There is a strong sense of place, the ranch is a character as hard and enduring as the Kerneys. The author writes with subtly about the relationships between whites and Mexicans and the Apaches. One of the best things, though, is the people are by and large likable. Even the one who can be stupid and self-sabotaging, they are still likable. I cared about them, I cried with them and look forward to the next part of their journey.

https://tonstantweaderreviews.wordpress.com/2016/04/22/hard-country-by-michael-mcgarrity/ ( )
  Tonstant.Weader | Apr 22, 2016 |
One of the books for the 2016 Reading Challenge had to be at least 600 pages. Although this large print version was longer than that, the regular version has 624 pages.
Synopsis: Life in the west was hard, particularly for people trying to start ranches of farms. It was not surprising that James Kerney lost his wife in childbirth; that his brother and nephew were killed by rustlers was also not surprising. These two events frame the future of the Kerney family, producing three generations of stoic, yet responsible ranchers who value the land, their families, and their friends. The timeline of their story stretches from the Civil War to World War I, and although this shapes the characters, it isn't central to the tale.
Review: This book is the backstory for the Kevin Kerney mystery series and while there are several crimes committed, it is focused on the family rather than on the mysteries. Though it is well written with sharp characterization and descriptive settings, it is a traditional western with no surprises in the telling of the tale. The ending reminds me of the papers written by school children in which they simply put a period to the end of a sentence followed by 'The End', thoroughly unsatisfying. ( )
  DrLed | Feb 23, 2016 |
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Set in New Mexico at the end of the 19th century, the author has produced a fantastic history of the region. I have read many other books from this author, but found this book and hopefully the subsequent in the series to be wonderfully researched and a great read. I am really looking forward to the next two in the trilogy!! ( )
  CheryleFisher | Jun 3, 2014 |
Prior to reading Hard Country I was disappointed to learn that it was not another in his series of Kevin Kerney crime novels all of which I had read and enjoyed. I was certainly not disappointed once I read this truly wonderful epic novel of New Mexico history, its' unique landscape, and the colorful characters that settled the territory. Bravo, Mr. McGarrity! ( )
  Trudial | Nov 27, 2012 |
Michael McGarrity is known for his crime thriller/procedurals that follow Kevin Kerney, a throw-back western lawman from New Mexico. McGarrity was himself a sheriff’s deputy in New Mexico for a time before pursuing a career in writing. Since making the switch to full time novelist, McGarrity has published 12 Kerney books, and the first of those, [Tularosa], was nominated for the Anthony Award for mystery writers and novels.

After finishing the last novel, McGarrity pitched his editor on the concept of an Old West history of New Mexico centered around Kerney’s ancestors. Over the course of the series, McGarrity has provided quite a bit of color and back-story to Kerney with family stories about the family ranch in the Tularosa basin. But McGarrity wanted to explore those stories set on a deeper level and set against the backdrop of the history of the Old West in the New Mexico territories. [Hard Country], the first in a trilogy, is that story.

John Kerney, an Irish immigrant, settles on the gritty plains of West Texas. His wife dies in childbirth and his brother and nephew are murdered for their horses. John gives his new-born son to his sister-in-law to raise and sets out to New Mexico to work as a cow hand. When he receives word that his sister-in-law is working as a prostitute and threatening to give the child up to strangers, he scours the small cattle and mining towns for the boy. Once he finds the boy, Patrick Kerney, he carves out a horse and cattle ranch in the rugged mountains of the Tularosa Basin. Patrick grows into a troubled young man, tamed only when he marries an independent and free-thinking young woman, Emma. Patrick and Emma bear two children, CJ and Matthew, as they break against each other through a turbulent and passionate marriage. As the book closes, Patrick and Emma are on the verge of reconciliation, Patrick agreeing to live a more honorable and responsible life in exchange for a part in his youngest son’s life.

Through the epic story, covering the time between 1875 and the First World War, McGarrity sprinkles in much of New Mexico’s rich and complex history. Indian policy and displacement, range wars, and boom towns all play a part in the story. Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett make appearances. The mysterious and infamous murder of Albert Jennings Fountain, a prominent politician, and his son are featured. And the vast and colorful landscape of New Mexico is centerpiece to this Old West, hard-scrabble tale of blood and survival.

First the good, and there’s a lot of it here. McGarrity knows New Mexico intimately. Yes, the book is thoroughly and exhaustively researched to cover all of the important pieces of the development of the territory. But that’s not what I’m talking about. McGarrity knows the land, the landscape, and the people, down deep. Every character, every description, every line of dialog drips with an authenticity achieved only through breathing the same sweet, high-desert air, eating the same chili-infused food, and walking in the dusty footprints of the men and women who scratched this state out of the clay and granite. I defy you to read this book and not taste the dust in your mouth, not smell the sweet mesquite air after a rain, and not feel the sun baking every drop of moisture out of your body.

Next, the characters. These cowboys walked straight off the pages of Wister’s [The Virginian] and Schaefer’s [Shane]. This is a story of the Old West that isn’t prettied up with supernatural gun-play or cardboard cutout good vs. evil stories. These men and women are as complex and hard as the land they inhabit, capable of changing directions like a thunderhead crawling across the high plains. They are equal parts noble and dangerous, companionable and lonely. They are equal to the land they try to tame, even as it kills them day by day.

Finally, McGarrity has created a compelling and eminently readable story. This is the kind of book that you hope is re-producing as you read, so that there are as many pages yet to read as those you’ve just finished consuming.

The only criticism I have for the book is in wanting more. McGarrity is clearly capable of writing full characters and authentically evoking the land around them. But as rich as McGarrity as made his descriptions of New Mexico, he could afford to turn that same eye to the inward lives of his characters. Too often I closed the book wondering what the characters might be thinking or how they were motivated. Their actions and lives are never inexplicable but McGarrity is a little stingy with any such discussions. That said, even with less than fully realized inner lives, McGarrity’s stories and characters are a joy to read.

Bottom Line: A richly and extravagantly constructed authentic story of the Old West and New Mexico.

4 ½ bones!!!! ( )
  blackdogbooks | Sep 21, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
no reviews | add a review
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
First words
Last words
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English


Book description
Haiku summary

No descriptions found.

Struggling with the death of his wife in childbirth at the end of the nineteenth century, John Kerney gives up his Texas ranch to pursue the outlaws responsible for his brother's murder and participates in nearly half a century of turbulent history in New Mexico Territory.… (more)

» see all 3 descriptions

Quick Links

Swap Ebooks Audio
1 avail.
5 wanted

Popular covers


Average: (4.02)
2 3
3 1
3.5 1
4 10
4.5 2
5 7

Recorded Books

An edition of this book was published by Recorded Books.

» Publisher information page

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


About | Contact | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 119,446,387 books! | Top bar: Always visible