Montana in the 1960s is an environment that is quickly changing and almost unrecognizable to Calvin Sidey. He is estranged from his family and living off the grid. When his son entreats him to come and look after his grandchildren while their mother has surgery, Calvin reluctantly agrees. He barely knows his son Bill, much less 11-year old Will and 17-year old Ann. He moves into a house and a town that remember him all too well. Calvin takes charge of his grandchildren and dispatches certain problems in a violent but efficient manner. This is a compelling novel about a man who is unable to let go of his past or move on with the times that he lives in.
— Sharon K. Nagel
July 2016 Indie Next List
“After the death of his wife, Cal Sidey abandoned his children for the life of a solitary ranch hand in Montana. Years later, in 1963, his son Bill asks his father to return home to look after his grandchildren, while Bill tends to a family emergency. The powerful story of Cal's visit is a tragedy of narrowly missed moments as he attempts reentry into a world that no longer has any place for his old-fashioned and violent ways. The prose is clear and lovely, every character is strongly drawn, and Cal Sidey captured my heart while breaking it. Watson has given us a grand Western tragedy, spare and harrowing.”
— Kathi Kirby (E), Powell's Books, Inc, Portland, OR
Calvin Sidey is always ready to run, and it doesn’t take much to set him in motion. As a young man, he ran from this block, from Gladstone, from Montana, from this country. From his family and the family business. He ran from sadness, and he ran from responsibility. If the gossip was true, he ran from the law.
It’s 1963, and Calvin Sidey, one of the last of the old cowboys, has long ago left his family to live a life of self-reliance out on the prairie. He’s been a mostly absentee father and grandfather until his estranged son asks him to stay with his grandchildren, Ann and Will, for a week while he and his wife are away. So Calvin agrees to return to the small town where he once was a mythic figure, to the very home he once abandoned.
But trouble soon comes to the door when a boy’s attentions to seventeen-year-old Ann become increasingly aggressive and a group of reckless kids portend danger for eleven-year-old Will. Calvin knows only one way to solve problems: the Old West way, in which scores are settled and ultimatums are issued and your gun is always loaded. And though he has a powerful effect on those around him--from the widowed neighbor who has fallen under his spell to Ann and Will, who see him as the man who brings a sudden and violent order to their lives--in the changing culture of the 1960s, Calvin isn’t just a relic; he’s a wild card, a danger to himself and those who love him.
In As Good as Gone, Larry Watson captures our longing for the Old West and its heroes, and he challenges our understanding of loyalty and justice. Both tough and tender, it is a stunning achievement.
About the Author
—Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal
“…Watson evokes Big Sky Country as well as Montana writing legends like Ivan Doig, Jim Harrison and Norman Maclean. And like those authors, Watson is a naturally gifted storyteller, plainspoken and unpretentious. Watson is excellent at building suspense, and As Good as Gone is frequently exciting in a cinematic sense. (Just try not picturing Sam Elliott as Calvin Sidey.) …Watson is a generous writer, and his love of the West and the people who live there shines through.”
—Michael Schaub, NPR.org
“In the virile, enigmatic character of Calvin, Watson both indulges in and reworks the romantic myth of the American cowboy in ways reminiscent of Edward Abbey’s “The Brave Cowboy” or Larry McMurtry’s “Horseman, Pass By.” The wistful territory covered here will be familiar to Watson’s fans. A repressed little town on the plains, uncomfortably poised between the old West and the new. Shameful secrets and penned up passions that flash like heat lighting on the horizon of a brooding sky. A master of spare, economical storytelling, Watson sweeps us up in a captivating family drama that departs as quickly as it came, leaving us gratified yet hungry for more.”
—The Seattle Times
“Whether Watson is describing the inside of a 1952 Ford Tudor, a homey tree-lined street in Missoula, an afternoon branding a herd of cattle, or a pair of elderly strangers making love as spontaneously as a prairie thunderstorm dropping from the big sky, he writes evocatively and with great persuasion. This book is vintage Watson: laconic, dramatic and tough as a dry Montana stream bed.”
—Minneapolis Star Tribune
A “beautifully written story. Author Larry Watson (Montana, 1948) is one of the West’s finest novelists, and As Good As Gone proves it. …finely honed and written with compassion and understanding. As novels go, As Good As Gone is as good as it gets.”
“…a suspenseful and evocative novel with stunning prose, painting strongly drawn characters facing daunting emotional, social and family conflicts.”
A “remarkable novel. It is like watching the sunrises over the prairies of Montana about which Watson writes so eloquently. But as with the reward of the lavender- and golden-hued sky to come, the ultimate effect of this novel is well worth the time spent watching.”
—New York Journal of Books
“Fans of Larry Watson (Montana 1948, Let Him Go) will recognize his mastery of foreshadowing in his 10th novel, As Good As Gone: here's an ordinary family in a nondescript small town, but something's simmering. And when it erupts, readers are in for a heart-pounding read. Watson keeps readers speculating until the end of this tense, fast-paced story of family drama as modern times clash with Old West mores.”
“The powerful story of Cal’s visit is a tragedy of narrowly missed moments as he attempts re-entry into a world that no longer has any place for his old-fashioned and violent ways.”
—The Columbus Dispatch
“[A] stunning novel…Having received numerous awards for his fiction, Watson (Montana 1948) is sure to win more praise for his powerful characterizations in the manner of Kent Haruf and Ivan Doig. Readers won’t get a novel any better than this.”
—Library Journal, starred
"From Montana 1948 (1993) through Let Him Go (2003), Watson has written rich, sometimes heartbreaking novels, often set in the middle of the twentieth century and featuring resolute men and women whose very strength of character—the product, to some extent, of contending with the forbidding if starkly beautiful landscapes of the American mountain states—has left them ill-equipped to deal with emotional turmoil. So it is for Calvin Sidey.... Calvin is trapped on a cultural and emotional fault line, the ground shifting beneath him as he realizes that the only tools he knows how to use won’t unlock the secrets to life in a new world... . Fine writing in the grand western tradition of William Kittredge and Mark Spragg."