CowboySpirit.com – The Berrybender Narratives are not something you can jump into. While McMurtry is incapable of writing badly, this series is best read from the beginning, as it is most definitely a sequential narrative. FOLLY AND GLORY begins with the Berrybenders under a forced yet luxurious house arrest in Santa Fe, Mexico. The mood of the party, particularly Tasmin Berrybender’s, is somewhat subdued due to the murder of Pomp Charbonneau at the hands of a deranged Mexican Army captain. The party as a whole, however, passes the time in relative comfort. Their somewhat idyllic incarceration is abruptly ended, though, when it is learned that the Mexican authorities plan to arrest them — for real this time — and, in all probability, execute the entire party. Lord Berrybender plans to proceed to Texas, and the party effects a hurried exit out of the compound. Danger and death await at every turn, not only from pestilence but also from a party of slavers.
Meanwhile, Jim Snow has as his wont been absent more than present, guiding a wagon train and procuring a weapons shipment for the always overbearing and self-centered Lord Berrybender. When an attack by the slavers results in the death of two members of the party, Jim Snow becomes The Sin Killer once again, exacting a dark and terrible but fitting vengeance upon the slavers. Snow’s action also indirectly results in a complication that will affect his wife Tasmin and the rest of the company, forcing Tasmin to make a decision regarding her future and that of her offspring.
FOLLY AND GLORY may well be the best of The Berrybender Narratives. McMurtry is perfect here, capturing the feeling of danger and casual brutality that was part of the everyday existence of the frontiersmen in the mid-19th century. FOLLY AND GLORY also neatly weaves its way through one of the major historical events of the period, while a number of real-life figures make brief but important cameo appearances. FOLLY AND GLORY is, ultimately, the capstone of what may well be McMurtry’s penultimate work in a career that has been marked by creative summits.