Wow. What a stinkeroo this turned out to be. In fact, it sadly confirms the suspicions I had of McMurtry while reading Lonesome Dove which is to say he has incredible skill in drawing you into a rich, realistic, dusty Old West atmosphere but lacks the ability to create a well-structured story. Also, contrary to popular opinion, I feel McMurtry -- at least in his Western novels -- paints some pretty one-dimensional characters.
This book triples the meandering of Lonesome Dove, which incidentally I really loved but for different reasons. Dead Man's Walk forms the first of two prequels to Lonesome Dove (the other being Commanche Moon) and attempts to build a solid back story to our two macho heros Gus and Woodrow. Lots of tension, to be sure. Tons of violence? You bet. Grisly, sadistic (and mostly unnecessary) torture? Yep. Not much point for being? Unfortunately, yes.
I slogged through Commanche Moon after this book but now, after reading three out of the four Lonesome Dove books, I have to admit defeat and leave Streets of Laredo (the series' last book, chronologically speaking) untouched. Probably just as well as that book is frequently talked about as the worst of the bunch.