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“Honest, warm, humane, and at times shocking, As Good as Gone is an achievement of empathy and dignity.” —Smith Henderson, author of Fourth of July Creek

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.


“There’s a plainspoken toughness to this writer—nothing of the lofty soliloquizing of Ivan Doig or the verbal dash of Thomas McGuane—that has led to him be overlooked in the large herd of fine Montana novelists. As Good As Gone is the latest of his books to forge satisfying drama from the intersection of Western mystique and middle-class reality. Mr. Watson points up some grubby truths behind the archetypal Western tale of the loner who comes to town and dispenses rough justice. It’s typical of this thoughtful novelist that the ending of As Good As Gone is nuanced rather than explosive, and its traces of heroism are found not in violence but in a show of restraint.”

—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,

“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

Meet The Author

Larry Watson was born in 1947 in Rugby, North Dakota. He grew up in Bismarck, North Dakota, and received his BA and MA from the University of North Dakota and his Ph.D. from the University of Utah. Watson has received grants and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Wisconsin Arts Board.

He is the author of Montana 1948, White Crosses, Orchard, American Boy, Let Him Go, and other novels, as well as the fiction collection Justice, and the chapbook of poetry Leaving Dakota. Watson’s fiction has been published in more than a dozen foreign editions, and has received prizes and awards from Milkweed Press, Friends of American Writers, Mountain and Plains Booksellers Association, New York Public Library, Wisconsin Library Association, and Critics’ Choice. Montana 1948 was nominated for the first IMPAC Dublin international literary prize, and Let Him Go was nominated for the same prize in 2014.

His short fiction and poetry have been published in Gettysburg Review, New England Review, North American Review, Mississippi Review, and other literary magazines. His essays and book reviews have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Washington Post, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, and other periodicals. His work has also been anthologized in Essays for Contemporary Culture, Imagining Home, Off the Beaten Path, Baseball and the Game of Life, The Most Wonderful Books, These United States, and Writing America.

Watson taught writing and literature at the University of Wisconsin/Stevens Point for twenty-five years and presently teaches at Marquette University. He has also taught at Warren Wilson College and Colorado College. He has been a featured writer at conferences in Colorado, Illinois, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Texas, Vermont, Wisconsin, and in St. Malo and Caen, France. Watson has given readings and presentations at many libraries, colleges and universities, and has also served as a judge and panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts. Ripon College awarded him an honorary doctor of letters, and the High Plains Literary Festival, the Wisconsin Library Association, and the Mountains Plains Library Association have given him lifetime awards for his body of work. Watson’s novel, Montana 1948, has been selected for more than thirty community reads programs, and it’s taught in high schools and colleges throughout the United States, Great Britain, Australia, and New Zealand.

He and his wife Susan live in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. They have two daughters and two grandchildren.