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Author Larry McMurtry dies at age 84

by Paul McDonnold
Posted 3/26/21, 10:09 pm

Texas novelist Larry McMurtry died Thursday of heart failure. He was 84. He was born in 1936 in a ranch house near Archer City, Texas. The home contained no books, with the possible exception of a Bible. But on the front porch or around the fireplace in the winter, family and friends drew from a deep well of oral stories. For two generations his ancestors had moved cattle from rural Texas to populated areas. He spent much of his life herding books the other direction.

How did he get started? McMurtry received a master’s degree in English from Rice University in Houston in 1960. The next year he published Horseman, Pass By, which became in 1963 the Paul Newman movie Hud. That began a pattern of successful novels adapted into major Hollywood films, including The Last Picture Show (1971), Terms of Endearment (1983), and Texasville (1990). McMurtry’s 1985 Western epic Lonesome Dove won a Pulitzer Prize and became a successful television miniseries. It was, by his own reckoning, an attempt to demythologize the Old West that ultimately only added to the mythology.

He also had a prolific career as a used book dealer. At its height, his Booked Up outlet in tiny Archer City held more than 400,000 volumes.

McMurtry wrote and published into the 21st century, most recently with the comic novel The Last Kind Words Saloon (2014), but sold most of his Booked Up inventory in 2012. The auction drew a large crowd to his hometown. He remarked that he would never again see so many people lined up in Archer City.

In 2011 McMurtry married Norma Faye Kesey, widow of writer Ken Kesey. She, along with a son and grandson from his first marriage, survive him.

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  • Steve Shive
    Posted: Sat, 03/27/2021 06:18 am

    I never heard of him, but have heard of those movies. Makes me want to read the books which I suspect are better than the movies. Which would make them very worthwhile reading. I like, but am also curious about, the line, "an attempt to demythologize the Old West that ultimately only added to the mythology." I hadn't really thought about this on a cognitive level before but it sounds like a general truism of sorts.