After the death of his wife, Cal Sidey abandoned his children for the life of a solitary ranch hand in Montana. Years later, in 1963, his son Bill asks his father to return home to look after the grandchildren while Bill takes his wife across the state for a medical operation. Cal returns even though "redemption isn't in his vocabulary." The powerful story of Cal's visit is a tragedy of narrowly missed moments as Cal attempts re-entry into a world that no longer has any place for his old-fashioned and violent ways. Every character is strongly drawn. The prose is clear and lovely. Cal Sidey captured my heart while breaking it. Larry Watson has given us a grand Western tragedy, spare and harrowing. Recommended By Kathi K., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
The American West is bestselling author Larry Watson’s forte, and in this, his tenth novel, he has created his most vivid, genuine antihero yet in Calvin Sidey, a man stuck in a myth.
Calvin Sidey, steely, hardened, with his own personal code, is one of the last cowboys. It’s the 1960s, and he’s living off the grid in a trailer on the prairie when his adult son, Bill, seeks his help. A mostly absentee father and grandfather, Calvin nevertheless agrees to stay with his grandchildren for a week. He decamps for his son’s house in the small town where he once was a mythic figure, and soon enough problems arise: a boy’s attentions to seventeen-year-old Ann are increasingly aggressive, and a group of reckless kids portend danger for eleven-year-old Will. Calvin only knows one way to solve a problem: the Old West way, in which ultimatums are issued and your gun is always loaded.
In the changing culture of the 1960s, Calvin isn’t just a relic; he’s a wild card. At the same time, his old-school ways exert a powerful effect on those around him, from the widowed neighbor, Beverly Lodge, who feels herself falling for him and wants to be part of his life, to his grandchildren. Ann and Will see in their grandfather a man who brings a sudden, if shocking, order to their lives, as Calvin terrorizes those who have often terrorized them.
With the crisp, restrained prose for which Larry Watson is revered, As Good as Gone is a story of a man increasingly at odds with the world. This is Larry Watson at his best.
Praise for Larry Watson:
“With rugged prose as biting as a northern plains wind . . . Watson writes of people universal in their flaws and virtues, a community that cannot be defined or limited to one region or genre.” —The Washington Post Book World
This excellent family drama from Watson (Let Him Go) centers on Calvin Sidey and his second chance to be a part of his family. Decades ago Calvin abandoned his son and daughter when his beloved wife Pauline died while visiting her native France. Since then he’s lived in the scrublands of Montana doing the occasional odd job and reading his father’s copy of Catullus. But in the heat of 1963’s summer his son David has come calling asking Calvin to watch over David’s children while David takes his wife Marjorie to Missoula for an operation. Calvin’s granddaughter Ann is 17 but she has a steady job and therefore can’t keep an eye on Calvin’s grandson 11 year old Will. Calvin receives unlooked for support and physical comfort from Beverly Lodge a neighbor but even she can see that he “is always ready to run and it doesn’t take much to set him in motion.” The challenges of his family may redeem Calvin or break him for good. This is a very well done novel in which every character faces an individual conflict resulting in a rich suspenseful read. Agent: PJ Mark Janklow amp; Nesbit Associates. (June)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved."
"Honest, warm, humane, and at times shocking, As Good as Gone is an achievement of empathy and dignity." --Smith Henderson, author of Fourth of July Creek
Calvin Sidey is always ready to run, and it doesn't take much to set him in motion. As a young man, he ran from this block, from Gladstone, from Montana, from this country. From his family and the family business. He ran from sadness, and he ran from responsibility. If the gossip was true, he ran from the law.
It's 1963, and Calvin Sidey, one of the last of the old cowboys, has long ago left his family to live a life of self-reliance out on the prairie. He's been a mostly absentee father and grandfather until his estranged son asks him to stay with his grandchildren, Ann and Will, for a week while he and his wife are away. So Calvin agrees to return to the small town where he once was a mythic figure, to the very home he once abandoned.
But trouble soon comes to the door when a boy's attentions to seventeen-year-old Ann become increasingly aggressive and a group of reckless kids portend danger for eleven-year-old Will. Calvin knows only one way to solve problems: the Old West way, in which scores are settled and ultimatums are issued and your gun is always loaded. And though he has a powerful effect on those around him--from the widowed neighbor who has fallen under his spell to Ann and Will, who see him as the man who brings a sudden and violent order to their lives--in the changing culture of the 1960s, Calvin isn't just a relic; he's a wild card, a danger to himself and those who love him.
In As Good as Gone, Larry Watson captures our longing for the Old West and its heroes, and he challenges our understanding of loyalty and justice. Both tough and tender, it is a stunning achievement.
About the Author
Larry Watson grew up in Bismarck, North Dakota, and received his BA and MA from the University of North Dakota and his PhD in creative writing at the University of Utah. He has received grants and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Wisconsin Arts Board. He is the author of the novels Let Him Go, Montana 1948, American Boy, In a Dark Time, White Crosses, Laura, Orchard, and Sundown, Yellow Moon; the fiction collection Justice; and the chapbook of poetry Leaving Dakota. Watson’s fiction has been published in many foreign editions, and has received multiple prizes and awards from, among others, the Mountain and Plains Booksellers Association, the Mountain and Plains Library Association, the New York Public Library, and the Wisconsin Library Association, and he has been awarded the Critics’ Choice Award and the High Plains Book Award. He has published short stories and poems in a range of journals. His essays and book reviews have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, the Chicago Sun-Times, and the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Watson taught at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point for twenty-five years before joining the faculty at Marquette University in 2003 as a visiting professor. He and his wife Susan live in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.