Happy Birthday, Larry McMurtry

Today is the 75th birthday of Larry McMurtry, one of the most talented and prolific modern writers working in the western genre and born in Archer City, Texas.

Larry McMurtry was born into Texas cattle ranching, but forsaked that life for one as a writer. After receiving his M.A. at Rice University, McMurtry joined Wallace Stegner‘s creative writing program at Stanford University. Stegner, who had written several highly successful western novels, recognized McMurtry’s talent and encouraged his ambitions to write about the modern West.

While McMurtry developed his skills in writing, he opened two bookstores, one in Archer City, which was the model for the town, Thalia, present in many of his novels. The other is located in the Georgetown area of Washington, DC. His shops, named Booked Up, are the largest sellers of used books in the country with over 400,000 titles.

McMurtry’s early works showed the progression of the Old West becoming a more modern west, where ” cowboys on horseback confront wealthy oilmen in Cadillacs; where the sons and daughters of ranchers prefer the glitter and flash of the movie palaces to a hard life living off the land.” He was enamored of the influence modern society had on the time-honored traditions and standards of the American West. More heroic than McMurtry’s earlier novels, Lonesome Dove (1985) nonetheless defies the conventions of the traditional western novel with its often starkly realistic and brutal portrait of life in the Old West.

McMurtry is likely best known for his novels adapted for screenplays such as: Horseman, Pass By on which the movie Hud was based; The Last Picture Show; Terms of Endearment which won five Academy Awards; and Lonesome Dove which was adapted for a television miniseries. He also co-wrote the screenplay for Brokeback Mountain. McMurtry has written 29 novels, two collections of essays on western cultural life and western films, three memoirs, and more than thirty screenplays for film adaptation.

In more recent news, Larry McMurtry has been co-writing the screenplay for the film adaptation of his 2000 novel, Boone’s Lick. On April 29, 2011, McMurtry married Faye Kesey, widow of Ken Kesey (author of One Flew Over a Cuckoo’s Nest), in a civil ceremony in Archer City, Texas.

Happy 75th Birthday, Larry McMurtry! We wish you many more healthy and successful years!

I hope you enjoyed this bit of biographical history on one of our great authors.

“You expect far too much of a first sentence. Think of it as analogous to a good country breakfast: what we want is something simple, but nourishing to the imagination.”  Larry McMurtry
What is your favorite Larry McMurtry novel?As always I love hearing from you. If you aren’t already receiving notices of new posts in your email, please subscribe today!



4 thoughts on “Happy Birthday, Larry McMurtry

  1. McMurtry was my favorite writer for close to a decade, from the mid-1980s through the mid-1990s. I anticipated each new book with a sense of anticipation I’ve felt for only one writer before him (James Michener) and one writer since (Ruth Rendell). But it all went wrong in the mid-90s, after his bypass surgery, when his books became increasingly bleak – I think it really started with the unexpectedly savage ending of SOME CAN WHISTLE, but THE LATE CHILD in 1995 finished me for McMurtry, for a long time, at least as far as his fiction goes (I have read most of his essay collections and the three book memoirs) – it was such a poorly-written and unnecessary sequel to THE DESERT ROSE that I actually found myself asking why he even published it. He must have had bills to pay from his surgery. After enjoying the essays and memoirs, I’ve tried returning to his fiction, but it just doesn’t click for me anymore – couldn’t get into TELEGRAPH DAYS, and I practically flung LOOP GROUP away in complete disgust at the scene in the therapist’s office. But I still treasure a signed, handwritten note I received from McMurtry in February 1987 in response to a fan letter I wrote to him: “Dear Mr. Swan: Thanks for the good long letter. I’m very glad you enjoy my books.” I keep it in my first edition of LONESOME DOVE.

    • Hi Philip! Thanks for joining me here. And thanks for such a heartfelt comment. I haven’t read his later works, but I understand how you must have felt…almost betrayed. When you come to love an author and his work, it’s so hard to see it decline in quality, or at least change in style. For most of us, life experiences can completely change our views and our inner voice, so it isn’t really surprising that his writing changed, just sad. I appreciate your visit and hope to see you again.

  2. Hi Damian! You should try one! Have you ever seen one of the film adaptations? Lonesome Dove was an awesome miniseries. Thanks for stopping by! Come by again sometime!

  3. A good friend said she always enjoyed a McMurtry novel, and I promised myself I would read one someday. Haven’t yet, maybe I’ll add it to the list for the next library trip….

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