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The Brave Cowboy: An Old Tale in a New Time
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The Brave Cowboy: An Old Tale in a New Time

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  1,498 ratings  ·  109 reviews
Jack Burnes is a loner at odds with modern civilization. A man out of time, he rides a feisty chestnut mare across the New West a once beautiful land smothered beneanth airstrips and superhighways. And he lives by a personal code of ethics that sets him on a collision course with the keepers of law and order. Now he has stepped over the line by breaking one too many of ...more
Paperback, 297 pages
Published April 1st 1992 by Avon Books (first published 1956)
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Average rating 3.90  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,498 ratings  ·  109 reviews

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Diane Barnes
5 stars because:

Because of the horse, and the sheriff.
Because of friendship.
Because this is a story I won't forget.
Because Jack Burns is a man I won't forget.
But mostly, because we will always need cowboys.
Planes, trains and automobiles . . . Gas stations, supermarkets and parking meters. What’s a cowboy to do? Stay true to who he is and what he does, for starters. The year is 1949. The setting is Duke City, New Mexico. 29-year-old Jack Burns rides his ornery chestnut mare named Whisky into town and eventually across all four lanes of Route 85 (yes, on horseback, in 1949) to reach the home of his friend Paul Bondi. Jack has read that Paul was sentenced to two years in prison for refusing to ...more
Jun 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Esacape artists; Chase thriller enthusiasts;
Recommended to Still by: Goodreads Friend Edwin's (and others) reviews in "Westerns" group
I'm stunned.
I have seen the movie at least a dozen times since I was 15 but I lived through this book.

There is a majestic poetry throughout this book.
The descriptions of the New Mexico landscape give the desert, the mountains, the rocks and sand a sanctity not afforded human beings.
Abbey has a reverence for the parts of America remote and untainted by the touch of man.

"The Cowboy" - John W. Burns or "Jack" to his friends - is too noble for this world. An anachronism, living life as a cowboy
Sep 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
I knew after reading a little bit about the author that the descriptions of the landscape would be beautiful. Most of this book is heavy and serious but Abbey gives us a little breathing room with the introduction of the Sheriff. He gives us suspense where it’s hard for the reader to set the book aside. My first Abbey but I plan to read more of his works in the future.

Note:found this book when reading World, Chase me Down.
Apr 17, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Never doubt the universality of the basic premise here--there is inescapable tension between the needs of the individual and the requirements of living in relationship.

The plot elements are well-conceived; it's a great story. The setting is spectacular, colorful, rich, a character all its own, described in detail.

Unhappily, Abbey has a greater feel for the character of the place than he has for the character of the people. The story bogs down because the focus constantly shifts away from the
Oct 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
I have always loved cowboys, this one the most.
Eugene Miya
Jun 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
I saw the B&W film "Lonely Are the Brave" more than a decade before I heard the name Edward Abbey. Kirk Douglas wrote that this was his favorite film, ever. If one needs a comparison name it's Cowboys meet the Modern World. The film started not only Douglas but Bill Bixby (My Favorite Martian), Walter Mattheu, George Kennedy, Gena Rowlands, Carroll O'Connor (Archie Bunker) as the truck driver with an ending the only Ed could write and one Ed Abbey as a police man/deputy, oh and the Sandia ...more
I grabbed this new edition when I learned it was written by Edward Abbey. I read The Monkeywrench Gang decades ago when I was a rebellious teen who had friends working for Greenpeace. The plot and characters were quite engaging.
Jack Burns is equally interesting, if not more so. Here is the last cowboy, doing his damndest to live off the grid and maintain a lifestyle and worldview that only exists in Western movies and books. He lives by the "Code"--meaning an internal moral and ethical
May 26, 2010 rated it really liked it
Edward Abbey writes a fine story about the cowboy Edward Burns and his loathing of government and the restrictions that law places on man's free will. Taking place in the New Mexican desert, the tale follows Burns' purposeful arrest, his attempt to spring his companion from the clink, his own subsequent escape and the chase that the law gives him into the mountains, where he eventually evades his pursuers and...well, you're just going to have to read to find out. 4 stars because, even though I ...more
Dayamati Hayes
Sep 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
Abbey wrote his MA thesis on the topic of justifications of violence in the anarchist movement. The philosophy department at University of New Mexico awarded him the MA in 1956. Abbey spent the rest of his life working on the theme of his thesis. The theme of independent men trying to live in a world being undermined by corporate greed and dim-witted governance appears in this novel no less than in "Fire on the Mountain" and "The Monkey Wrench Gang." As in all his writing, the vivid descriptions ...more
Jun 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: western
Abbey really knows how to convey a strong sense of place. Truly a modern classic of the clash of the old and new west.
Jan 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Love the book and also the Kirk Douglas movie, Lonely are the Brave, which is based on the book.
Apr 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Basis for the movie Lonely are the Brave. Jack Burns, the anachronism, travels to town to break his buddy out of jail. Unfortunately this is mid-20th century Albuquerque, and cowboys breaking their buddies out of jail just don't have much luck. His friend is in for helping illegal immigrants - not a typical cowboy crime. Jack remains true to the code that says you stick with your buddies and family to the end, tries breaking his friend out, fails, and then runs for the hills and Mexico beyond. ...more
Maya Day
Mar 04, 2016 rated it it was ok
I'm thoroughly surprised I got through this book omg it's so monotonous which surprised me cuz it's Ed Abbey and it's about an anarchist cowboy?? And like I know I should take in account that it was published in 1956 but it was absurdly racist and the boring plot wouldn't let me overlook that so... I did like parts of it and still like Abbey as an author but it was overall disappointing and cheesy like.. Wow. Hard to get through.
Jan 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
I read this in the cutest old western edition (thanks Steve!). And it's a cute old western. Except written by Edward Abbey, and so has a loveably heavy handed ending relating to the demise of the American west, and a certain kind of man. The characters are all fully told, which is refreshing in a chase novel.
Jun 16, 2009 rated it really liked it
I loved this one. Kept it to read again. Abbey has a cool style.
Apr 16, 2013 added it
Eh, I've loved Abbey books, both fiction and non- but this one was lacking the gritty humor and brazen environmentalism I'm use to. Barely finished it, and the ending was tragic but predictable.
Rick Bavera
May 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: western
A "western" that is out-of-the-norm for me: I actually liked it. Maybe in part because I enjoy the writings of Edward Abbey, who was originally from a little town in Western Pennsylvania near where I live. The name of the town: Home, PA

Anyway: The story of a modern-day cowboy (the book was written in the 1950s) who likes the wide open spaces, and doesn't like government.

The cowboy "breaks into" jail (commits a "crime" and gets arrested) so that he can break himself and a friend (who is in jail
My American Novel professor culled the works we studied that semester from a larger list of novels he felt strongly reflected American literature and, more specifically, captured the role liminal spaces play in that genre.

Several years later, I've almost read my way through that larger list. Each of the works has been a gem. It took me a long time to get to The Brave Cowboy because, for whatever reason, it was hard to track down a library copy. Thanks to ILL I managed to snag it, and chum I'm
Oct 08, 2019 rated it liked it
A story of two men’s inability or unwillingness to conform and follow the rules of the modern world. The anarchist, Paul Bondi, and the cowboy,Jack Burns. Products of the choices they make. One both brave and foolhardy and the other a bonafide coward. Both will leave victims in their wake.

For me, most of The Brave Cowboy was as dull as the dirt in the arroyos Jack Burns rides through on his horse named Whisky. However, the last couple of parts speed up a notch and the ending took me by surprise.
Emanuele Malpezzi
Dec 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The best parts of the book, that are really a are a piece of art, are the ones where the typical models and actions of western literature are contrasted by the elements that belong to our contemporary society. Unfortunately, the reading gets kind of chunky in the central part, with all the social and philosophical brooding that, albeit interesting, slows too much the narrative. That said, it is one of the best western novels that I've ever read.
Ben Dutton
Jul 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019-reads
I’ve always loved the film version of this and have delayed reading the novel for almost two decades. Turning 40 I thought it was time - and my God, what a novel. I adored every page of it. I always knew Edward Abbey was a great writer; this not only confirmed it for me, but thrust him into the stratosphere for me. The missing link between Thoreau and McCarthy. I will read this again; only this time I won’t wait 20 years!
Nov 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
I don’t know if this is sacrilege, but I found this book to be much more well-written than The Monkeywrench Gang, and with a clearer and less heavy-handed message. The plot was almost excessively simple but enjoyable, and the characters here seemed a bit less goofy that in TMG, and as usual Abbey’s love of all things natural comes through in the best way possible.
Abigail Kirby
I enjoyed the story, but there was too much emphasis on descriptions and not enough on the actual building of the character. There were a lot of details that seemed irrelevant and confused the reader instead of aided in understanding. It is a sad hero’s journey that I feel is a grand farewell to the age of cowboys.
Feb 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An incredible story overall. Only problem was although the description of the world was incredibly detailed and so lovely, sometimes it was just too much and I found myself a little bored, which is the reason I can't rate it higher. Definitely a tale that will stick with me for a long time though, definitely recommend it.
Johnny Stevenson
Nov 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Wow - Edward Abbey wrote fiction too! And it's every bit as good as his non-fiction. An excellent picture of real, old-fashioned, American and Western values (not the Colorado Springs kind!). Full of inspiration to keep fighting the good fight against the government and modernity, hopeless as it is in the end.
Randy Mcbride
Apr 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read a large number of books, and this is among the best. The world is changing around Jack Burns, a good hearted cowboy that is out of step with the world. The Kirk Douglas movie Lonely Are the Brave follows the book fairly close. Warning though, it is not a feel good book.
Jul 09, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: americas, hayduke
I love Ed Abbey. This particular early one shows all the signs of the greatness yet to come in the future. The descriptive abilities are already in place, and the angry iconoclast is beginning to appear. Reading Abbey is a joyful experience, already from the beginning!
Oct 30, 2017 rated it liked it
Rather slow, painful descent into hopelessness - for the reader that is, as the main character never gives up. I found the book way too accuratly depressing to enjoy it - like someone sticking a finger in a core wound.
Mar 16, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
A story only Abbey could tell. Written in his lyrical prose, with long descriptions of the natural world in the Southwest. An odd story about a cowboy avoiding/resisting the government and civilization. I wouldn’t recommend it as your first Abbey fiction but for fans of his.
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Edward Paul Abbey (1927–1989) was an American author and essayist noted for his advocacy of environmental issues, criticism of public land policies, and anarchist political views.

Abbey attended college in New Mexico and then worked as a park ranger and fire lookout for the National Park Service in the Southwest. It was during this time that he developed the relationship with the area’s environment
“I shall never sacrifice a friend to an ideal. I shall never desert a friend to save an institution. I shall never betray a friend for the sake of the law. Great nations may fall in ruin before I shall sell a friend to preserve them. I pray to the God within me to give me the power to live by this design.” 3 likes
“The black rock was sharp-edged, hot, and hard as corundum; it seemed not merely alien but impervious to life. Yet on the southern face of almost every rock the lichens grew, yellow, rusty-brown, yellow-green, like patches of dirty paint daubed on the stone.” 2 likes
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