Saturday, June 3, 2017

Birthday Books of the Day: A wander through the West with Larry McMurtry.


Larry Jeff McMurtry (1936-   )
Author, screenwriter, essayist
Winner, Golden Globe and Academy Awards for Best Adapted Screenplay, Brokeback Mountain (2006)

The Writer’s Almanac nicely sums up McMurtry’s life:

“It’s the birthday of a novelist who said, “Being a writer and a Texan is an amusing fate.” That’s Larry McMurtry, born in Archer City, Texas (1936). Archer City was a small town, and his parents and grandparents were cattle ranchers; he said, “I grew up in a bookless town, in a bookless part of the state.” When he was six years old, his cousin stopped through on the way to enlist in the Army and left behind a box of 19 books, and McMurtry’s love of reading began.
“He knew that cattle ranching was not for him, and eventually he went to Rice University. He said, “When I stepped into a university library, at age 18, the whole of the world’s literature lay before me unread, a country as vast, as promising, and, so far as I knew, as trackless as the West must have seemed to the first white men who looked upon it.” At Rice, McMurtry began writing stories. He published a few in the student magazine, but he felt that most of them weren’t very good, and he destroyed more than 50 stories. After graduation, he set out to write a novel, and he returned to one of the stories he had liked best: a story about a herd of cattle infected with hoof-and-mouth disease. He wrote a long novel that he revised over and over, eventually trimming it down to 245 pages. He was just 25 years old when it was published as Horseman, Pass By (1961). His first novel was well received and won an award from the Texas Institute of Letters. A couple of years later, it was made into the film Hud (1963) with Paul Newman. McMurtry wanted to challenge the romanticism of the West. He said: “I’m a critic of the myth of the cowboy. I don’t feel that it’s a myth that pertains, and since it’s a part of my heritage I feel it’s a legitimate task to criticize it.’’
“He wrote 10 books, including The Last Picture Show (1966) and Terms of Endearment (1975), both of which were made into successful movies. He was still not particularly famous; he liked to wear a sweatshirt that someone had given him, which was stenciled with the words “Minor Regional Novelist.” Then he decided to write a novel that would help him understand his own father and grandfather better, an epic novel that drew on all the characters and myths of the Old West. He used the landscape of his grandfather’s ranch, with its house on a hill looking out at the plains. He said: “It’s still such a strong landscape for me. I can’t escape it in my fiction. I can work away from it, but I always start here. And whatever place I’m writing about, I’m still describing this same hill.” When he published Lonesome Dove (1985), the book was a huge best-seller: it sold 300,000 copies in hardback and 1.2 million in paperback, and won a Pulitzer Prize. It was also made into a hit miniseries.
“McMurtry moved to Washington, D.C., and opened up a bookstore of rare and used books called Booked Up. Then he had a heart attack and underwent quadruple bypass surgery, and afterward he suffered from terrible depression. He said: “I faded out of my life. Suddenly I found myself becoming an outline, and then what was within that outline vanished.” He could barely get up from the couch for a year. He didn’t even want to read, but the one thing he continued to do was write, for an hour or two each morning. Finally that writing turned into a book, Streets of Laredo (1993), a sequel to Lonesome Dove. When his depression got better, he moved back to Archer City and opened another rare bookstore there.
“He has written more than 30 novels, including Leaving Cheyenne(1963), Buffalo Girls (1990), Sin Killer (2002), and The Last Kind Words Saloon (2014).”
In honor of Larry McMurtry’s birthday, Henry Bemis Books is pleased to offer a number of first editions of his works:


McMurtry, Larry, Horseman, Pass By (Texas A&M Press, 1st ed., 1985). ISBN 0-89096-241-3. First in the Press’s Southwest Landmarks series. 5.75” x 6.5”. Hardcover, unclipped dust jacket, very good condition, 179 pp. When it was published in 1961, this novel marked a sharp new direction in Western fiction, and was made into the equally memorable Paul Newman film, Hud (1963). HBB price: $35.


McMurtry, Larry, Texasville (Simon & Schuster, 1st ed., 1st printing, 1987). ISBN 0-671-62533-0. The sequel to The Last Picture Show, Texasville returns to Thalia, Texas in the oil boom of the 1980s. Hardcover, unclipped dust jacket, very good condition. HBB price: $50.

 buffalo girls.jpg

McMurtry, Larry, Buffalo Girls (Simon & Schuster, 1st ed. 1st printing, 1990). ISBN 0-671-68518-X. McMurtry’s fictional take on the life of Calamity Jane. Hardcover, unclipped dust jacket, very good condition. HBB price: $40.

McMurtry, Larry, The Evening Star (Simon & Schuster, 1st ed. 1st printing, 1992). ISBN 0-671-68519-8. Aurora Greenway, copes with a new passel of family troubles in the sequel to Terms of Endearment. Hardcover, unclipped dust jacket, very good condition. HBB price: $50.

 the evening star.jpg

McMurtry, Larry, Comanche Moon (Simon & Schuster, 1st ed., 1st printing, 1997). ISBN 0-684-80754-8. The final volume in the Lonesome Dove series. Hardcover, unclipped dust jacket with small tear at top of front cover. Very good condition, HBB price: $25.


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1 comment:

  1. I vividly remember "The Last Picture Show" from my freshman year at college, as it was required reading as well as the movie. When the local theater showed it, we were all put on a bus and toted downtown to see the film. As is usual with films based on books, I preferred the book.


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