Friday, January 20, 2017

The Long Night of Winchell Dear by Robert James Waller

My friend David DeWitt gave me this book in Los Angeles in 2009 where we had come to celebrate Errol Flynn’s centenary at filmmaker Jack Marino’s home. I began reading it on the flight back to Chicago. The Long Night of Winchell Dear is both a novella and a Modern Western, two categories that generally don’t elicit excitement. Waller’s blockbuster best-seller, The Bridges of Madison County, quickly made him a fan favorite of the literati, but the mainstream critics too often dismiss him. Waller has been criticized for being sentimental and romantic. Yes, he is, but why is that bad? Waller is a superb storyteller. His stories are compelling, the characters believable, and the prose is alive with the sights and sounds of the world around us. My only complaint about Robert James Waller is that he doesn’t publish enough which is a purely selfish criticism on my part. The Long Night of Winchell Dear is a really fine story. I know it sounds cliché, but I couldn’t put it down. A tale of the past, the desert and the intersecting lives of several people, I found myself captivated by Winchell Dear, a Texas gambler living in the desert. His life is suddenly connected to that of the Indian Peter Long Grass and a Mexican woman named Sonia Dominguez. Hurtling in their direction in a Lincoln Continental are two killers intent on their special mission. Something evil is blowing in on the night wind and Winchell Dear senses it. The prose is lush, charged with a foreboding sense of terror, and readers will be challenged to read this one slowly. I’ve read The Long Night of Winchell Dear twice now. Obviously I’m quite fond of this book. I recommend you check out some of Waller’s other books including Slow Waltz in Cedar Bend, Puerto Vallarta Squeeze and High Plains Tango. A tip of the Stetson to David DeWitt who traveled a long way himself to give me this book.

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