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The Brave Cowboy Paperback – Apr 1 1992

4.2 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (April 1 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0380714590
  • ISBN-13: 978-0380714599
  • Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 1.8 x 20.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 281 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #685,482 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


“The Thoreau of the American West.” (Larry McMurtry)

“Abbey is a fresh breath from the farther reaches and canyons of the diminishing frontier.” (Houston Chronicle)

“Abbey writes with fierce eloquence of landscape and city, of stunted souls and drunken despair. He can be funny and poignant at once” (Publishers Weekly)

“We are living… among punishments and ruins. For those that know this, Edward Abbey’s books remain an indispensable solace.” (Wendell Berry)

From the Back Cover

The classic novel that inspired the motion picture Lonely Are the Brave—a stirring and unforgettable tribute to the American hero and American West.

A classic of modern Western literature, The Brave Cowboy follows Jack Burns, a loner at odds with modern civilization. He rides a feisty chestnut mare across the New West—a once beautiful land now smothered beneath airstrips and superhighways. An “anarchist cowboy,” he lives by a personal code of ethics that sets him on a collision course with the keepers of law and order. After a prison breakout plan goes awry, he finds himself and his horse, Whisky, pursued across the desert toward the mountains that lead to Mexico and to freedom. With local law enforcement, the feds, and the military on their tails, the cowboy and his horse race toward their destiny.

“One of the best writers to deal with the American West.”—Washington Post

“The Thoreau of the American West.”—Larry McMurtry

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
When Jack Burns encounters a barbed-wire fence as he comes across the West Mesa (Albuquerque)on horseback he scans in both directions for a gate before he clips the wire to ride through. He wouldn't have cut it if it wasn't in his way, or if there'd been a gate nearby. Thus begins the book with a scene that tells much about the main character.
Burns is a man who doesn't merely cling to ideals of loyalty, privacy and individual freedom. His internal machinery accepts no alternative at any level. Jack Burns is a man who won't cut a fence unless it stands in the way of where he wants to go. He recognizes the existence of the creeping encroachments and compromises to his choices and ignores them. The modern acquiescence by the rest of society is foreign to him.
Burns descends the mesa into Albuquerque, encounters modern city life and is battered by it without 'losing' in the usual sense of the word, and leaves on the run from the legal instruments intended to keep us all on the straight and narrow. The end is inevitable.
Readers who know Albuquerque will enjoy the ride across the 'Volcans', the places in the Rio Grande Valley still recognizable despite the years since Abbey wrote the book, the harrowing climb up the Sandias pursued by the military and law enforcement community. Those who don't know Albuquerque or New Mexico will appreciate the type of individual Burns portrays: a man born too late, unable to compromise.
I haven't seen the movie mentioned by other reviewers. I also didn't see the shortcomings of the book mentioned by several. I saw only a writer who created a character much as Abbey saw himself, as many people today see themselves, and a plot that carried those traits through to the end. No one, I imagine Abbey would say, can dodge the steamroller.
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Format: Paperback
This is a novel about a man born into the wrong era. Jack Burns is a cowboy through and through--unaccustomed to having his freedom restricted and driven by a strong sense of loyalty and honor. The problem is he lives in post World War II America, and his old-fashioned values and desire to roam the country freely often clash with the modern society in which he lives. This causes many problems for Burns, some simple, some complicated: he has a hard time getting his horse to cross the highway, people don't respect him, he doesn't register for the draft (which was compulsory then). He is put in jail trying to help a friend, and it is here that the conflict of old and new really begins to unfold.

Without revealing too much of the plot, Burns tries to beat modern society with his old-fashioned ways. The final section of the book deals with the physical conflict between old and new, between horse and horsepower, and it is clear that Jack Burns simply does not belong in the era into which he was born. This novel details the struggle for disappearing values, the desperate attempt to hold on to the past (and the consequences this sometimes brings). Edward Abbey is an excellent writer, and his prose is vivid and descriptive. The Brave Cowboy is a classic work of American Western fiction.
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Format: Paperback
Edward Abbey's first-best book is, of course, "Desert Solitaire," that fictionalized non-fiction work that so eloquently celebrates the pristine Southwest wilderness and mourns its destruction at the hands of industry and politics.

"The Brave Cowboy" is known to many through its filmization with Kirk Douglas. Despite the inane title, "Lonely Are the Brave," it is an excellent movie. But the book is even more excellent.

If you see this work purely as social commentary -- the individual at odds with society -- you miss the point. That aspect of the book, while it is an impassioned message from one of this country's best nature writers, is almost too obvious to deserve mention. The message, and the beautifully detailed setting of Western plains and mountains, are the background.

The foreground is a character study of Jack Burns, a man in perpetual rebellion against authority and incapable of commitment to anything outside of himself. He is generous and caring, but he allows no one to penetrate his stubborn exterior. He refuses to be vulnerable to love or to any of the normal compromises that permit even the most hardened of us individualists to survive in the real world.

He is inevitably doomed by his own intransigence, and that is what makes the story more than just "sad": it is a genuine tragedy. And like all successful tragedies, it is uplifting. The book's triumph is that, even while we know the outcome, we envy Jack Burns.

This book is a youthful work. You won't find a Hemingway or a Fitzgerald in the writing style, or even a Jack London. It is a popular book, more like a best-seller than "literature." Nevertheless, the excellence of its story raises it above the main. It is simply a great, and greatly affecting, read.
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Format: Paperback
Q: What's your occupation? A: Cowhand, sheepherder; game poacher.
Q: Where's your papers?...Your I.D.--draft card, social security, driver's license? A: Don't have none. Don't need none. I already know who I am.
Edward Abbey is one of the patron saints of the modern Environmental movement; right up there with Rachel Carson. Desert Solitaire, his memoir of working in a National Park, is an impassioned statement of preservationist principles and his comic novel, The Monkey Wrench Gang, is a virtual primer for ecoterrorism. But my personal favorite of his books is the little remembered Brave Cowboy, the basis for the excellent but equally forgotten Kirk Douglas film, Lonely Are the Brave. It belongs on the shelf with the other uniquely American paens to independence and rugged individualism: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest(read Orrin's review), Cool Hand Luke, From Here to Eternity (read Orrin's review), All the Pretty Horses (read Orrin's review), etc.
Set in the mid 1950's, the novel tells the story of Jack Burns, a latter day cowboy, now reduced to working as a hand on a sheep ranch, who gets himself thrown into prison so that he can help his draft dodging friend escape. But when his buddy refuses to compromise the moral purity of his concientious objector status, Burns is forced to break out on his own, assuming that a vicious Mexican prison guard he has aggravated doesn't kill him first. In the meantime the authorities have realized that Jack too is unregistered and that while they were in college together, he helped his friend with some radical causes, however ineffectual. So when he does manage to escape, Jack ends up being treated as a dangerous fugitive, instead of as the fairly harmless eccentric that he is.
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