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Duel in the Sun by Niven Busch
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Duel in the Sun (1944)

by Niven Busch

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Those of you who have seen the movie starring Gregory Peck and Jennifer Jones are familiar with the story; the book is a bit more detailed and has a different ending.

Surly Senator Jackson McCanles, the despotic ruler of the Texas ranch Spanish Bit, gets a burr put under his saddle by the arrival of orphaned Pearl Chavez. The precocious 12 year-old is a poor distant relation to the long-suffering, secret drinking, mother to four sons, Mrs. Laura Belle McCanles.

The curvy half-breed girl, who is not modest about nudity, inspires an instant fixation in the handsome, spoiled, bad-boy second son, Lewt McCandles. The two become lovers when they are 15 and 17, respectively, and declare themselves affianced by breaking a dime in half. However, Lewt is full of teenage boy swagger and cowboy machismo and blows Pearl off.

When she is 19, Pearl becomes engaged to ranch foreman Sam Pierce, whom Lewt murders in fit of jealous rage the night before the wedding. For the next two years, Lewt lives as an outlaw, aided at first by the Senator’s money, then by a series of robberies and murders.

When Lewt sends a secret message to Pearl to join him in exile, so that they can continue their toxic relationship, the stage is set for a deadly showdown.

Busch works a lot of historical accuracy into this novel, capturing a slice of history - when the West was truly wild, before the arrival of the civilizing influences of towns and railroads. For example, the senator can no longer afford to finance Lewt’s outlaw lifestyle because of “The Great Die-Up of 1887”. I’m sure this book would be just as successful if published today, but the nudity and sex scenes would be more explicit.
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  memccauley6 | May 3, 2016 |
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A woman taken into the home of a wealthy rancher becomes the subject of a tug-of-war between his two sons.

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