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Max Evans, Author of Cowboy Novels ‘Rounders,’ ‘Hi-Lo Country,’ Dies at 95

Max Evans dead
AP Photo/Jake Schoellkopf

Max Evans, whose New Mexico cowboy novels “The Rounders” and “Hi-Lo Country” were made into movies, died on Wednesday in hospice care at the VA Medical Center in Albuquerque, N.M. He was 95.

His widow, Pat Evans, told the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper that her husband rode off to the “great mystery in the sky”: “He’s on a whole new adventure now.”

Evans also authored “Sam Peckinpah, Master of Violence,” a book about the making of the 1970 film “The Ballad of Cable Hogue,” and collaborated with Robert Nott on “Goin’ Crazy With Sam Peckinpah and All Our Friends.”

Evans, a native of Ropes, Texas, gained public notice with his 1960 novel “The Rounders,” about two modern-day cowboys foiled by an impossible-to-tame horse. Writer-director Burt Kennedy made a film version in 1965, starring Glenn Ford and Henry Fonda.

Evans was also known for his 1962 novel “The Hi-Lo Country,” a tale of two New Mexico cowboys returning home from combat service in World War II to find their town taken over by a corporation. The story mirrored Evans’ own experience of coming back home from World War II to a changed New Mexico ranching landscape as he found himself edged out of the ranching business by the end of the 1940s.

Stephen Frears directed the 1998 version of “The Hi-Lo Country,” starring Woody Harrelson and Billy Crudup. Frears won the Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival and Crudup won the breakthrough performance award from the National Board of Review. Evans said in interviews that he was proud of the movie because it was faithful to the book.

Evans also worked as a miner, and smuggled gold and bat guano. He collaborated with Slim Randles on the 2004 autobiography “Ol’ Max Evans: The First Thousand Years.” His sendoff catch phrase was always “Have fun!”

Evans’ other literary works include “The One-Eyed Sky,” “Faraway Blue,” “For the Love of a Horse” and “Bluefeather Fellini,” a collection of animal stories. His last novel, “The King of Taos,” was published by the New Mexico Press earlier this year.