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As Good As Gone by Larry Watson

as-good-as-goneCalvin Sidey is an old school cowboy and a loner.  Ever since he deserted his children years ago, he’s been eking it out on the high prairie of Montana.  Solitude suites him just fine.

His grown up son Bill comes from town needing a favor; his wife needs surgery in far-off Missoula and they need somebody to watch out for the kids.

At first, it’s hard to tell whether Calvin is miffed or bemusedly pleased that his son still considers him close enough to ask for this very personal favor.  Regardless of what, back into town Calvin comes.

Despite his laconic manner, the grandchildren respect Calvin, even though they’ve had little exposure to him during their growing-up years.  Ann is a teenager, has a job, and is responsible.  Will is a tender-aged eleven, a generally good kid who is a ball of confusion.  Ann has boyfriend issues, and Will has buddy issues.

Calvin is the type to dispense his own sense of justice then he has grievances; this may be the reason he left town abruptly so many years ago.  When he notices certain things – derelict tenants of Bill’s, a sinister car whose driver appears to be after Ann – Calvin is not hesitant to go after any perceived perpetrator.

Add to this the attentions of the widow next door and his disillusionment with town life, and Calvin is a ready powder keg.

As Good As Gone addresses how Old West values clash with 1960s suburbia, and how a grim isolationist manages to navigate himself into this strange (for him) new world, sometimes disastrously.

Calvin Sidey is the sort of character that I am not sure you will root for on all accounts.  He certainly has a sense of honor and doesn’t shirk from his role as protector.  But Calvin doesn’t bend for anybody and hasn’t had to do so for a long time, so he really is out of his element in the town environment.  He’s a quintessentially stubborn old cuss and in some ways a force of nature, but even Calvin hits his hurdles.

The author has written for years about the hardened natives of Montana and North Dakota.   A writer from the West, rather than a “Western” writer, Larry Watson is worth a shot if you like books set in this area of the country.  I read his previous novel Let Him Go, and liked it very much.

(William Hicks, Information Services)


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