Browse any reader’s list of favorite Western novels and any one of several books by Elmer Kelton is likely to pop up pretty soon. The Day the Cowboys Quit. The Time it Never Rained. The “Lone Star Rising” trilogy. The Far Canyon. And on and on.
I have read many Kelton novels and enjoyed every one. Some so much that you’ll find them on my list of books to re-read and read again. While, at some level, comparisons become silly, The Good Old Boys is probably my favorite among favorite Elmer Kelton books.
For one thing, it’s lighthearted, even humorous at times. And, with a penchant for hyped-up action so common among Westerns, there aren’t nearly enough smiles in the genre. Beyond that, Hewey Calloway and Spring Renfro are people you’d like to know. So much so, in fact, you believe you do. They’re real right down to the core.
I had the pleasure to know Elmer Kelton. A finer, kinder, more considerate gentleman you’ll never know. While talking about writing one time I heard him say that he believed the opening line of The Good old Boys was the best he’d ever written. If it has slipped your mind, here it is:
For the last five or six days Hewey Calloway had realized he needed a bath.
He’s right. You can’t help but read on.