His situation had improved dramatically. He had a knife and a gun and five bullets. On the other hand he was in a flimsy cage, on top of a 500-foot cliff, and he was naked." There in a wink is the cactus-dry wit and prairie-size imagination of Larry McMurtry, imperiling one of many heroes in this saga of mid-19th-century Texas Rangers, the Comanche warriors (and women) they chase and Ahumado, a Mexican chief who is so nasty he makes Darth Vader look like Ralph Nader.
Comanche Moon, the fourth and final volume of McMurtry's Lonesome Dove series, is a joy even if you haven't read the previous books. Those quarrelin' buddies Woodrow Call and Augustus McCrae are back, but they're upstaged by one of the Texas author's most delightful creations: the Harvard-trained, Demosthenes-quoting Capt. Inish Scull, who, with his slovenly ways and oversexed wife, is a cross between Teddy Roosevelt and Al Bundy.
At one level this is a dime novel, but even if it costs 285 dimes, it has enough interesting tortures, eloquent scenery and breath-depriving feats to fill as many books. McMurtry is one of our finest storytellers, and he's at his best here. (Simon & Schuster, $28.50)