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FICTION : THE MAN WHO RODE MIDNIGHT by Elmer Kelton (Doubleday: $16.95; 261 pp.).

September 06, 1987|David Dary

This is not a shoot-em-up Western. It is set in present-day West Texas. It is realistic, and it ignores the conventions and cliches that clutter the landscape of all too many novels labeled as Westerns. It is as fresh as a West Texas breeze.

Texas novelist Elmer Kelton tells the story of Wes Hendrix, an aging, ailing and rather stubborn fiddle-playing rancher, who doesn't want to sell his ranch to land developers seeking to build a recreational lake that will give the nearby town of Big River an economic shot in the arm.

As a young man Wes Hendrix successfully rode a rodeo bronc named Midnight, hence the novel's title.

Kelton's characters include Wes Hendrix's grandson, Jim Ed Hendrix, a college student from Dallas, who arrives for a ranch visit and meets a neighboring ranch girl named Glory Beth Dawson, who dresses and works like a cowboy.

Kelton's themes are the love of the land, what an old man values, the harsh reality of changing times and young romance.

Kelton, who gave us "The Day the Cowboys Quit," "The Wolf and the Buffalo," "The Good Old Boys" and "The Time It Never Rained," among others, proves again that he is a fine novelist.

Readers will be pleasantly surprised by this delightful book from a writer who deserves more recognition.

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