Saturday, July 24, 2010

Sandhills Boy -- Elmer Kelton

This memoir is likely one of the last books we'll have from Elmer Kelton. Reading it made me sad for that reason, but it was a lot of fun otherwise. A word of warning. If you're looking for the story of how a young man who struggled to sell his early work became one of Texas's finest writers, you're not going to find it here. Kelton has little to say about that, though there's an unforgettable image that conveys a bit of what that struggle cost him. He says that he spend many nights with his back turned to his children and wife as he wrote on his typewriter at the table.

But don't think this isn't a book about how Kelton became a writer. It is. It's easy enough to see how his upbringing among the sandhills of West Texas, gave him the deep connection to the land that comes through in his work. And how his daily association with the working cowboys he grew up with influenced his writing in many different ways. This is a book full of great anecdotes, one after another. It covers his early life and his experiences in WWII, especially the meeting with his future wife in Austria. There's not as much about the period after the war, but there's enough to give you some idea of what it was like to be a reporter for livestock journals while trying to break into the western market.

This is a wise, funny book, recommended for anybody who likes good storytelling, whether you like westerns or not.


Travis Erwin said...

I'm about 3/4 way through this one myself.

Charles Gramlich said...

Sounds right down my alley. I can't get enough of these kinds of books by writers.

George said...

I'm looking forward to reading SANDHILLS BOY. Elmer Kelton was a born storyteller.

Ron Scheer said...

Fine book by a fine writer. I'd hoped to learn more about his career as a writer, but the book is dedicated more to the story of his courtship and marriage.

While growing up in a ranching family, he almost apologizes for not being much of a cowboy. As if being a top hand would have been better than being a top writer. Ironic.

Laurie Powers said...

I loved this book as well. I'm so glad I took a chance and bought it.