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The Time It Never Rained

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  1,268 ratings  ·  157 reviews
To the ranchers and farmers of 1950s Texas, man's biggest enemy is one he can't control. With their entire livelihood pegged on the chance of a wet year or a dry year, drought has the ability to crush their whole enterprise, to determine who stands and who falls, and to take food out of the mouths of the workers and their families. To Charlie Flagg, an honest, decent, and ...more
Paperback, 416 pages
Published May 15th 1999 by Forge Books (first published 1973)
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ELDEE At least 20 but full of important material AND entertainment
ELDEE This is the only one I've read so far but considering the subject matter and obvious research he did to write it I found it a learning experience and…moreThis is the only one I've read so far but considering the subject matter and obvious research he did to write it I found it a learning experience and not a threat at all . ( Well unless you are a lover of wet conditions which there are none - see NO RAIN!)(less)
Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtryTrue Grit by Charles PortisBlood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West by Cormac McCarthyAll the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthyBury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown
Best Westerns
965 books — 1,162 voters
Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtryMolly Ivins Can't Say That, Can She? by Molly IvinsThe Time It Never Rained by Elmer KeltonThe Road by Cormac McCarthyDead Man's Walk by Larry McMurtry
Texas Authors
632 books — 249 voters

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4.23  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,268 ratings  ·  157 reviews

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Elmer Kelton wrote in the prologue of The Time It Never Rained:

"Men grumbled, but you learned to live with the dry spells if you stayed in West Texas; there were more dry spells than wet ones. No one expected another drought like that of ’33. And the really big dries like 1918 came once in a lifetime.

“'Why worry?' They said. 'It would rain this fall. It always had.' "

“But it didn’t. And many a boy would become a man before the land was green again.”

The novel is set in West Texas during the 50’s
Sep 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spur, texas, 1970s, hf-usa
Selecting talking books for a friend. She's listening to Kelton's Wolf Buffalo book, her first by the author, and she wants more books by him. This one, 'Time It Never Rained,' is top quality. If you haven't read Mr Kelton, this would be a potential starting place ... It deserves the Spur Award it won.
The Wolf and the Buffalo
"Spur Awards are literary prizes awarded annually by the Western Writers of America (WWA). The purpose of the Spur Awards is to honor
David Cox
Jul 24, 2007 rated it it was amazing
The greatest American novel no one outside of Texas ever heard of.
Book Riot Community
I have this sweet situation going on where my partner has spent the last year reading only books I’ve recommended to him. As most book nerds can attest to, living with someone who takes every book suggestion you give them is a dream come true! So when he finally asked me to read something he loved I knew I owed it to him, but I’ll be damned if I wanted to do it. It took me a bit to get into it but once I did I was blown away by how touching and funny and lovely it was. Westerns aren’t typically ...more
Joseph Dorris
Mar 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
An incredibly sobering book. I could never live up to the example of Charlie Flagg, yet his character should give us all something to think about. I think this may have been Kelton's finest writing. He captures in a few words some incredibly deep struggles and realities. He doesn't force the politics of the time (and more overwhelmingly of today) on the reader, but shows the reader through stark reality the unintended consequences of a government's misguided good intentions. It helped me underst ...more
Wallace Kaufman
Apr 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Elmer Kelton is too often pigeon holed as a Western writer, cowboy writer, Texas regional writer. This book should rank with Faulkner's work as the local made universal. It is one of the very best works of fiction from which a reader can gain a valuable and usable insight into the dynamics of humankind and the natural environment. (Entirely unlike the Utopian, romantic, and idealistic stuff of so much environmental writing.) Great story, great insight.
Jul 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
In my youth I went through a phase when I read westerns all the time, it was all I read for a couple of years.......Max Brand, Zane Grey, Louis L'Amour but I never remember reading a Kelton book. I came across a list of great western novels and this popped up so I grabbed a copy from the library.
While not a traditional western genre book this was a marvelous story about a small to middlin' ranch owner in Texas during the fifties. I read reviews about nothing happening in the story and they are
Sep 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book more than all those Louis L'Amour books, including the one I had gone to the Western section to buy when I came out with this one. I don't know if it's Kelton or not, but this was a great book. Great characters, memorable setting and problems. I thought it was well-developed for what is often a formulaic genre.

I enjoyed the main character, particularly his stubborn refusal to buy into a government aid program. His insistence seems to have died with him somewhere decades ago.
Jun 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
If you want to understand the mentality of long time Texans, especially those of a previous generation and those living west of Ft. Worth, this is a remarkable book about a man of character, determination, and a love for the land. I have read this five or six times and have given it to many people. Kelton is a wonderful writer and this story of a Texas rancher during the drought of the 1950s is among his best.
Chris G Derrick
Jan 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: western
I read this book at the end of last year, and finished it in only a few days.
It was easy to imagine what living through such a dire situation would be like from Elmer Kelton's great descriptive use of words.
He also managed to create characters that you cared about. Which, for me, is also important in the enjoyment of a good novel.
It's a book that would be good to read again after a while.
All in all a great read.
Thoroughly recommended.
Eva M.
Jul 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Thanks to a recommendation I FINALLY read this wonderful, sad, memorable tale of West Texas rancher life. Not what I expected, and much more than I could have hoped for. Great characters, a narrative that moves well, and the environmental tragedy that continues.
May 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: history and western buffs
Recommended to ELDEE by: my husband
Shelves: western, 0wn, survival
The Time It Never Rained by Elmer Kelton

This writer presented his idea of the west from his past. As he admits he wasn't a cowboy but his ancestors were. Growing up in western Texas and with knowledge of what it takes to live that life, he writes an informative and mesmerizing tale of hard work, and struggling the early ranching families went through.
There were some depressing times and the work needed was never enough as a drought could happen at any time as well as disease or tragic events to
Jan 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: coffee-tea-books
A book club selection that a member had read years ago and loved, this book is more a character study than an action packed cowboy Western. It's the story of hardscrabble life during a horrendous drought in western Texas with a political bent.

Charlie Flagg is an tough, old, stubborn rancher who refuses to accept government subsidies as his fellow townsfolk do. He's determined to be in control of his property as well as his own destiny. During a prolonged drought his position causes numerous had
Laura Jean
I see why my patrons love Elmer Kelton so much. He obviously is a denizen of West Texas because he describes the area so vividly. He also creates characters that are multi-dimensional. Charlie Flagg has flaws as well as virtues, like any man. He is loyal but stubborn and in the 1950s when the book is set, he is part of a dying breed and aware of the fact.

I also liked that Kelton put forth all sides of the arguments for government assistance during the drought. It helped me better understand wha
Samuel Snoek-Brown
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing
The setting is a 7 year drought on a West Texas ranch in the 1950's. Kelton grew up on a West Texas ranch in the 20's and 30's and brings the culture and country vividly to life. The main character, Charlie Flagg, is, of course, a rancher of the old libertarian strain and is modeled on Kelton's father. He is a man of principles who won't accept government aid for the drought and, as it turns out, it didn't make any difference anyway. This book was written in 1973 and is sympathetic to illegal al ...more
Adam Bruns
Oct 21, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Ever read or watched Shakespeare's comedy "Much Ado About Nothing"? The funny misnomer of the title for the Shakespearean comedy was that there was a great deal happening in that play. To be blunt, I will from now on remember this Kelton novel as "The Time That Nothing Really Happened. Seriously." I had a hard time engaging this novel in the first 15 pages, but since this was a book to be read for a grad school course, I chugged on. The first 200 pages were incredibly boring. Anything interestin ...more
Aaron Shipman
Dec 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
This was a good book. It helped me to see how the people struggled with ranching during a drought in West Texas during the '50's. Charlie Flagg fought hard to hold on to what he had and did what he believed was right, but with each choice their is a cost. Charlie paid dearly. The only issue I hav with the book is that I was able to see though Tim's wife right from the get go. Guess I've been around too many of that type of people. With that said, this book also is a window into the human spirit. ...more
Sep 10, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I find myself annoyed at Elmer Kelton. This is well written, and covers the hardships of West Texas ranching well. Yet the protagonist Charlie Flagg gets into trouble by a six year plus drought, and never gets out. Life my be not be a bowl of cherries, but this is all pitts. When it does start to rain again, the books ends with just one more tragic event that removes practically all hope for the character. Several sub-plots are left unresolved. I wanted to like this book, but Kelton never let hi ...more
Aug 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing
listening to this one. I'm not a western fan but this is a great story. am on 4 th cd of 11
Finish and must say I will go on to read more of Kelton. This was a great listen with George Guidall who I just love to listen to. It was a tragic tail but not one that made you want to cry more one that made you want to think and to relish how we got to be a great nation. I would recommend the audio book very highly. it was hard to put down
Tate Shannon
Sep 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
Possibly one of the best books I've ever read. I knew Mr. Kelton before he died and he told me this is one of his favorite books. I can't believe it took me this long before I read it.
I could not give this book a higher recommendation. It perfectly embodies the life and spirit of the West Texas rancher.
Aug 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
One of the best book I have ever read. Great insight into the impact of Federalism in the modern west
Karleen Koen
Very spare, very well done, very West Texas
Steven Law
Aug 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
One of the best novels I have ever read. An American classic.
Aug 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Outstanding read!

If you seek the soul of the Western border state ranchers and dry farmers, you will find it very difficult to put this book down.
Linda Marie
Feb 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
The story started a bit slow, but that should be expected since it is a story about drought ridden West Tx in the 1950's. I enjoyed the book very much.
Charlie is a crabby farmer that don't like the government.
Aug 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One of the great American novels not widely known. Kelton writes of Western Texas in the 1950's during a 7 year drought. He understands the attachment to the land and the love of the life it allows. Nature can be cruel and unforgiving. Charlie Flagg is the old breed of ranchers, determined to take care of his ranch with no one's assistance. No government aid. He hangs on as long as he can as those around him are felled by debt and foreclosures. It takes a toll on his healrh, marriage, his relati ...more
Ann Rieth
Dec 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was an absorbing book, and it dodged the label of 'too depressing' because it had flashes of humor, a curmudgeonly charming and noble main character, and a powerful true story of insidious mismanagement of farming/ranching by the US government! Mostly, however, there was in this story a sense of hope in the face of horrible hardship! I've bought three copies to give to certain people for Christmas!
Linda Sherman
Apr 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is the best book I have read in a very long time! It is a novel but based on an actual event. The main character is so wonderfully developed. I can hear his voice and feel what he is going through.
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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
“A bad habit or two is good for a man or a beast. Did you ever know a man who didn't have any bad habits? I have, and I always hated the son of a bitch." -- Charlie Flagg” 13 likes
“I'll be riding rough horses when you are salted away in a box.” 9 likes
More quotes…