Ok, so first I have to come clean; I’m a fan of Lonesome Dove. I can recognize that the Last Picture Show is understated elegance where Lonesome Dove is over the top epic. But if I were to go back and re-read one, I’d pick up my used copy of Lonesome Dove.
That said, Telegraph Days is no Lonesome Dove. Where Lonesome Dove was a heroic journey that crossed and re-crossed the road from south Texas to Montana, Telegraph Days is a whirlwind through the legends of the Wild West. It’s as if someone dared Larry McMurtry to include Buffalo Bill, Wyatt Erp, the shoot out at the OK Corral, Billy the Kid, Jessie James, and the Yazzie gang all in one book. He’s done it and more.
We’re introduced to the entire cast through Nellie Cartwright, a young woman with a past that includes all of the above. Nellie is a wonderful story teller she’s got the right mix of exaggeration to make the stories interesting and that bit of authenticity to make her believable. That is, if you’re willing to believe one woman would have encountered every wild west celebrity that lived. Her stories move from flirtatious and sweet to raunchy and tough.
Nellie works as a telegraph lady for a small out post in the middle of no where. Her younger brother catches a lucky break and shoots down the Yazzie gang as they are riding through town. With true wild west spirit, Nellie sells her brother’s story to newspaper men and writes a small dime store novella. She catches the attention of Buffalo Bill, who later hires her to manage his estate. Her journeys carry her all over the west and finally to Hollywood where Nellie settles into old age writing western scripts for silent films.
This is not a book for you if you are looking for an insightful story or especially fine crafted storytelling. But if you enjoy a touch of camp with your reading, Nellie would kick Carrie Bradshaw’s but any day.