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The Good Old Boys

4.27  ·  Rating Details  ·  410 Ratings  ·  39 Reviews
Hewey Calloway has a problem. In his West Texas home of 1906, the land of the way of life that he loves are changing too quickly for his taste.

Hewey dreams of freedom--he wants only to be a footloose horseback cowboy, endlessly wandering the open range. But the open range of his childhood is slowly disappearing: land is being parceled out, and barbed-wire fences are spring
Paperback, 320 pages
Published April 15th 1999 by Forge Books (first published March 12th 1982)
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Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtryTrue Grit by Charles PortisBlood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West by Cormac McCarthyBury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee BrownAll the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy
Best Westerns
55th out of 701 books — 937 voters
Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtryThe Time It Never Rained by Elmer KeltonThe Road by Cormac McCarthyMolly Ivins Can't Say That, Can She? by Molly IvinsThe Last Picture Show by Larry McMurtry
Texas Authors
20th out of 340 books — 143 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 695)
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Jan 28, 2010 Waven rated it it was amazing
The truth inside stories is what makes them good, in any genre, and I think Kelton did a wonderful job with this book. Close to his own heart, and based in part on his own family and experiences, Kelton's story of the Calloways is one of the best westerns I've ever read. (The movie of the same name with Tommy Lee Jones and Sissy Spacek was very good, too, and stays quite true to the book.) There aren't a lot of unexpected plot twists or blazing shoot-outs, no lovely rancher daughters in distress ...more
Mar 04, 2009 Tere rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own
One of the men this book is dedicated to was very special to me during my childhood. He made a big impact on my life. During the drought of the 1950s, my Daddy left to go work in the oil patch leaving my Mom at home with 3 little girls. Raymond Glasscock stopped by every day to check to be sure we were all OK.
Mr. Kelton worked with him on the McElroy ranch....
I picked up my copy at one of Mr. Kelton's book signings held at the Cactus Bookstore in San Angelo, TX.
Apr 01, 2008 Jeff rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Kelton's story of the clash between the old and new ways is set in early 1900's west Texas, but the themes he raises are relevant today. Hewey Calloway, the old time cowpunching hero of the novel, decides to visit his brother on his farm after a winter on a New Mexico ranch. During his travels and visit, he encounters officious lawmen, barbed wire, and rules and conventions that go against his free roaming philosophy. While successfully avoiding the traps that the new ways of doing things have l ...more
Rodney Haydon
Jun 08, 2013 Rodney Haydon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sometimes you read a book at just the right time for it to be most impactful. This is my time for this book.
When Hewey speaks to Eve about them still belonging to the old century, I can understand that now in a way I wouldn't have been able to if I had read this when it came out in 1978. It is much more personal, and much more powerful with the current change in one's surroundings, in one's country, in one's own self.

But if I had read it then, I would still have found this to be a great story, w
Mary Lou
Jun 26, 2008 Mary Lou rated it it was amazing
The only Kelton book made into a movie. I often wonder why, perhaps because there is not enough sex and violence for hollywood in the true to life stories written by this very talented author.
Sep 24, 2013 Deborah rated it really liked it
A sentimental book about the life in West Texas at the turn of the 20th Century... written from stories the author's father told him as the elder was recovering from a stroke. It's about a man to whom freedom means everything, even more than love. And about a woman who recognizes if she married the guy, he wouldn't be the same person.

Things are might up to date in San Angelo. I’ll be you they’ve got half a dozen automobiles around there by now.

Eve frowned. “San Angelo’s a big place. I’ve heard
Sep 27, 2009 Mike rated it it was amazing
I had never heard of Elmer Kelton until about a month ago when he died at age 90. There was a long write up about him in the Dallas Sunday newspaper by a TCU professor. The afterword in this book was written by U of Texas professor.
The Western Writers Association voted him the best western writer of all time. But this book had no violence except one fistfight. (compare to the Sopranos) None of the major characters carried guns.

This book is very funny, although I'm sure not intended as comedy. I
Brad Lyerla
Aug 28, 2014 Brad Lyerla rated it liked it
My former father in law has impeccable taste in books. He persuaded me to try Elmer Kelton, an acknowledged master of the American western. THE GOOD OLD BOYS is Kelton's attempt at a humorous novel.

A footloose cowboy is forced to settle down for a season and act with unaccustomed responsibility to bring in the crops and save his brother's ranch in 1906 west Texas. I bet you can guess whether he manages to pull it off.

Part of the fun is the predictability and this book is fun. But it's not my thi
Frank Goode
Jun 10, 2015 Frank Goode rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One man trying to hold onto his life style in the face of changing times early in the 20th Century. As always with Kelton, the narrative focuses on an "ordinary" man trying to hang on to his values and way of life.
Richard Ward
Jun 28, 2015 Richard Ward rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Fans of the author or of the genre; readers open to reading a western.
Western set in West Texas, Elmer Kelton's favorite setting for his books. The time is 1906, later than most of us expect a western to be set, with characters discussing the newfangled automobile that may or may not replace the horse, depending on who you ask. Change from the old to the new is one theme, but perhaps not the book's most central theme. Instead the book is mostly about the contrast and conflict between people who want a settled life and those who want to roam, AKA "the good old boys ...more
Kalub D Duggins
Jul 26, 2014 Kalub D Duggins rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Extremely well written book

Extremely well written book

This book takes you back to another time where it seems that life was simpler. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes to look back and how times have changed. there are many like lessons in this book that makes me remember have life used to be.
Jeff Dickison
Nov 08, 2013 Jeff Dickison rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Just a great story of the old west meeting the 20th century. Hewey Calloway has never met a part of the country he doesn't like, but he wants to go home to see his family. However, his fiddle-footed ways make it hard for him to stay, even when he falls in love with the new school marm. Highly recommended.
Wallace Kaufman
Apr 03, 2010 Wallace Kaufman rated it it was amazing
Not your cowboy movie West but the West that lies beneath and still shapes the culture and politics and economics of today's Texas. Also a damn readable story about a character who is larger than most life, but well within the boundaries of real people.
Ike Standifird
Jul 22, 2013 Ike Standifird rated it it was amazing
This is a great Cowboy read,historical fiction, extended family and is a great read. Not your classic dime store novel, I have enjoyed many of those but this is at least a cut above.
Nov 13, 2008 Bill rated it it was amazing
Kelton is a master at depicting the life and times of his stories. This paints vivid picture of life during the decline of the American cowboy.
Jun 11, 2014 Libby rated it it was amazing
I grew up in Midland in the 50s. It is hard to imagine making a living farming in that part of the world.
Jan 06, 2015 Megargee rated it really liked it
This is the the second of the three novels in Kelton's turn of the 20th century trilogy about footloose itinerant cowboy Hewie Calloway. Unfortunately, I read the third novel, The Smiling Country first. I would have enjoyed both these books much more had I read them in the proper chronological order and watched Hewie age from his wild youth to his (for a cowboy) old age, coping with modernity and the increasing demands of society for conformity. Knowing what was in store for Hewie in book 3 det ...more
Emma Jane
Feb 04, 2016 Emma Jane rated it really liked it
I loved it! Just as much as the movie -- maybe even better.
Raymond Fleer
Dec 12, 2011 Raymond Fleer rated it it was amazing
it was a great book
Feb 01, 2014 Amy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great cowboy story from a West Texas literary legand. If you're looking for some crazy Hollywood-esque tale of bank robbers and rustlers, this is NOT your book. But if you want a realistic portrayal of cowboy life at a pivotal point in the history of this area, and no doubt there are similar stories in other late frontier areas of the West, you will enjoy this book. Since it is based on stories told to the author by people who lived and breathed this life, it is very realistic. Being from West T ...more
Sep 05, 2013 Patricia rated it really liked it
The western genre is not in my usual eclectic group of genres. However, in looking for an audiobook, I decided to give this a try. Right up to the last chapter--no, right up to the last paragraph (which I did not know was the last paragraph because this was an audiobook), this was pretty much a five-star book and I was going to read more of Kelton's books (even though reviews said this had more humor than others by Kelton and that was one factor I loved about this book and I doubted whether I wo ...more
Nov 10, 2010 Anna rated it liked it
Shelves: bookcrossing, 2010
Pretty entertaining western with enough humor and enjoyable characters for it to work.
(Funny how one ends up having to go from Texas to Finland to find a Texas Western... joys of bookcrossing)

I did enjoy the characters and the story, and figured it would make a good movie too so no surprise it's been made as a movie too. Many of the characters are pretty timeless too so they could easily be transplanted to the world 100 years later, fighting against all the other type of changes, running and esc
Lauren Smith
Nov 22, 2010 Lauren Smith rated it liked it
My very first western, chosen for a reading challenge where two participants get each other to read a genre the one enjoys and the other avoids. I wasn't entirely sure what to expect, other than an encounter with the lone ranger archetype, easily defined good guys and bad guys, and quirky language I'd come across in the movies. This turned out to be pretty accurate. Hewey Calloway, a classic commitment-phobic, freedom-loving cowboy returns to his brother Walter’s home to visit the family he’s be ...more
Jul 14, 2015 Amy rated it really liked it
Fun read, especially if you've ever been swept away by a vast expanse of open land, even from the interstate, and even if you don't typically like Westerns. You can almost taste the west Texas dust.
Oct 16, 2012 kelley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really liked The Good Old Boys a story about Hewey Calloway--one of the last (albeit fictional) real life honest to goodness cowboy's. I liked how the author caught the attitude of a free roaming cowboy and the differences between them, ranchers and farmers. I like how Hewey's way of life collided with the industrial age. It's hard for a man to change when two such different worlds come together. the story is Hewey's struggle to decide if he should remain a cowboy--one of "the good old boys"-- ...more
May 24, 2014 Sue rated it liked it
I don't usually read western but this was a good story about the love of family and friends, it ends differently than I expected and I'm not sure I liked that, but over all it was an enjoyable book.
Nov 08, 2014 Laura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow. I've loved all Kelton's books I've read, and this one is no exception. It is supposed to be a comedy, and it is, but there is a sadness to it too. Love.
Sandy Neal
Mar 09, 2014 Sandy Neal rated it really liked it
Good. Hewey and Walter after Walter is married.
Aug 31, 2013 Anafalz rated it really liked it
This is my first excursion into Elmer Kelton's work. I am usually a reader of Louis L'Amour westerns, so this was a change of pace foe me. I entered it unbiased as I have yet to see the movie based on the book. Overall, it was a good book.

I only gave it four stars because at times it got long in the tooth and bogged down. But after working through these areas, it picked up. The characters and setting we so believable you can picture them in your mind.

I would recommend this to most anyone. And
Jul 07, 2014 Barbara added it
Shelves: fiction
Very different genre for me, but I thought it was time to read my first western. So far, I'm finding it surprisingly entertaining.
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Elmer Kelton (1926-2009) was award-winning author of more than forty novels, including The Time It Never Rained, Other Men’s Horses, Texas Standoff and Hard Trail to Follow. He grew up on a ranch near Crane, Texas, and earned a journalism degree from the University of Texas. His first novel, Hot Iron, was published in 1956. Among his awards have been seven Spurs from Western Writers of America and ...more
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