Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Deadwood by Pete Dexter

I know there has been a hugely successful TV programme based on this book but it was one that passed me by, so I read Deadwood with no pre-conceptions and without any TV screen characters to compare I with.

Set in Deadwood, the novel reads more like a collection of interlinking short stories rather than a novel with a fast paced over-arching plot. Each chapter focuses on a particular character and contains its own mini story which often jumps rapidly forward in time. The dialogue and the study of the different characters personalities are given centre stage here rather than any huge gun battles or romances.

One of the main draws of Deadwood is the use of real life characters and events such as Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hicks which adds an historical feel and lifts it from being a solely 'western' novel. The town and the landscapes are well drawn as is the dialogue and the rapidly ageing characters. The friendships between the male characters are particularly touching and believable and the novel (as seems to be common in the Western genre) contains some good humour.

However overall this is a novel which I feel very indifferent to. It was worth reading and there were parts I enjoyed very much but the lack of plot direction and some of the relationships between the male and female characters stopped me ever really fully immersing myself into the whole atmosphere of the book. For quite a short book it contained quite a lot of sex which doesn't bother me but why put loads of it in when other plot elements seemed to go nowhere?

One for people who are interested in this period of history and want to read it for the historical details or are looking for a more literary western.

Posted by Jess


  1. Oddly, I don't remember much sex in it. I do agree with you about the male/male friendships being on of the strongest aspects of the book.

    I did see the television show which does echo the plot and overall mood of this novel, but I can find no evidence that the television show was based on Pete Dexter's novel. It could be that both were based on the same set of historical figures.

  2. Sometimes I wish I watched more TV. I never saw this show and know it is popular....need more hours in the day :)

  3. I didn't realize this book even existed. I think I'd actually really enjoy it, Deadwood fascinates me though I've never seen the show.

  4. Have you read any of Larry McMurtry's books? Lonesome Dove is amazing but he also wrote a hilarious series called the Berrybender Narratives, and a good one about the women of the West (Buffalo Girls I think?).

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  6. C.B. James - there probably isn't more sex in it than other books but I dunno, perhaps it was such a short book but there did seem alot.

    Diane - it completely bypassed me but then I dont think it was that popular in the UK.

    Ash - I ended up looking up loads about the actual town and I can see why it fasinates.

    thebookstop - I loved Lonesome dove (I read it at the end of last year) so thats for the rec for the other books, I will check those out.