Larry McMurtry

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Larry McMurtry
Born Larry Jeff McMurtry
(1936-06-03) June 3, 1936 (age 79)
Archer City, Texas, U.S.
Education University of North Texas
Rice University
Occupation Novelist, screenwriter, essayist
Years active 1961–present

Larry Jeff McMurtry (born June 3, 1936) is an American novelist, essayist, bookseller and screenwriter whose work is predominantly set in either the old West or in contemporary Texas.[1] His novels include Horseman, Pass By (1962), The Last Picture Show (1966) and Terms of Endearment (1975), which were adapted into films earning 26 Academy Award nominations (10 wins). His 1985 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Lonesome Dove was adapted into a television miniseries that earned 18 Emmy Award nominations (seven wins), with the other three novels in his Lonesome Dove series adapted into three more miniseries earning eight more Emmy nominations. McMurtry and co-writer Diana Ossana adapted the screenplay for Brokeback Mountain (2005), which earned eight Academy Award nominations with three wins, including McMurty and Ossana for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Early life[edit]

McMurtry was born in Archer City, Texas, 25 miles from Wichita Falls, Texas, the son of Hazel Ruth (née McIver) and William Jefferson McMurtry, who was a rancher.[2] He grew up on a ranch outside Archer City, which is the model for the town of Thalia that appears in much of his fiction. He earned degrees from the University of North Texas (B.A. 1958) and Rice University (M.A. 1960).

McMurtry states in his memoir that he spent his first five or six years in his grandfather's house on a ranch without books. but his extended family would sit on the front porch every night and tell stories. It wasn't until 1942 when his cousin Robert Hilburn on his way to enlist for WWII stopped by the ranch house and left a box containing 19 books that he began to read. The books were standard boys' adventure tales of the thirties and he read them to tatters. The first book he read was Sergeant Silk: The Prairie Scout.[3]



McMurtry has won the Jesse H. Jones Award from the Texas Institute of Letters on three occasions; in 1962, for Horseman, Pass By; in 1967, for The Last Picture Show, which he shared with Tom Pendleton's The Iron Orchard; and in 1986, for Lonesome Dove. He has also won the Amon G. Carter award for periodical prose in 1966, for Texas: Good Times Gone or Here Again?.[4][5]

In 1960, McMurtry was also a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, where he studied the craft of fiction under novelist Wallace Stegner and alongside a number of other writers, including Ken Kesey, Peter S. Beagle, Robert Stone, and Gordon Lish. McMurtry and Kesey remained friends after McMurtry left California and returned to Texas, and Kesey's famous cross-country trip with his Merry Pranksters in a day-glo painted school bus 'Further' included a stop at McMurtry's home in Houston, described in Tom Wolfe's New-Journalistic book The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. At the time (1964), McMurtry was also a Lecturer in English at Rice University. His students were entertained with stories of Hollywood and the filming of Hud for which he was consulting.

In 1964 he was awarded a Guggenheim grant.

McMurtry described his method for writing novels in Books: A Memoir. McMurtry says that from his first novel on he would get up early and dash off five pages of narrative. At the time of publication of the memoir in 2008, he stated that it was still his method, although by then he was up to dashing off ten pages a day. He also writes ever day ignoring holidays and weekends.[6]

McMurtry has been a regular contributor to The New York Review of Books[7] and is a past president of PEN.[8][9][10]

In 1986, McMurtry received the Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author Award. The Helmerich Award is presented annually by the Tulsa Library Trust.

Used bookstore businesses[edit]

While at Stanford he became a rare-book scout, and during his years in Houston managed a book store there called the Bookman.

In 1969, he moved to the Washington, D.C. area, and in 1970 with two partners started a bookshop in Georgetown which he named Booked Up.

In 1988, he opened another Booked Up in Archer City, which is one of the largest single used bookstores in the United States, carrying somewhere between 400,000 and 450,000 titles. Citing economic pressures from Internet bookselling, McMurtry came close to shutting down the Archer City store in 2005, but chose to keep it open after an outpouring of public support.

However, in early 2012 the decision was finally made to downsize and sell off the greater portion of his inventory. He made the decision as he felt the collection was a liability for his heirs.[11] The auction was conducted on August 10 and 11, 2012, and was overseen by Addison & Sarova Auctioneers of Macon, Georgia. The books that were sold were those being stored in Buildings 2, 3, and 4; Building 1 will remain open with books for sale to the general public for the foreseeable future. This epic book auction sold books by the shelf, and was billed as "The Last Booksale," in keeping with the title of McMurtry's award-winning novel The Last Picture Show. Dealers, collectors, and gawkers came out en masse from all corners of the country to witness this historic auction. As stated by Mr. McMurtry on the week-end of the sale, "I've never seen that many people lined up in Archer City, and I'm sure I never will again."

One of McMurtry's bookstores in Archer City, Texas
Just one of the dozens of aisles of books at Booked Up in Archer City, Texas
Leo the store cat at Booked Up in Archer City, Texas, March 29, 2010


He is perhaps best known for the film adaptations of his work, especially Hud (from the novel Horseman, Pass By), starring Paul Newman and Patricia Neal; the Peter Bogdanovich–directed The Last Picture Show; James L. Brooks's Terms of Endearment, which won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture (1984); and Lonesome Dove, which became a popular television mini-series starring Tommy Lee Jones and Robert Duvall.

In 2006, he was co-winner (with Diana Ossana) of both the Best Screenplay Golden Globe and the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for Brokeback Mountain. He accepted his Oscar wearing jeans and cowboy boots along with his dinner jacket and used his speech to promote books by reminding his audience that "Brokeback Mountain" was a short story by E. Annie Proulx before it was a movie. In his Golden Globe acceptance speech, he paid tribute to his Swiss-made Hermes 3000 typewriter.

Personal life[edit]

McMurtry's son, James McMurtry, and grandson, Curtis, James' son, are singer/songwriters and guitarists. His former wife Jo Scott McMurtry, an English professor, is also the author of five books. On May 5, 2011, The Dallas Morning News reported that McMurtry married Norma Faye Kesey, the widow of writer Ken Kesey, on April 29 in a civil ceremony in Archer City.[12]


[citation needed]

Standalone novels[edit]

Harmony & Pepper series[edit]

Follows story of mother/daughter characters Harmony and Pepper

  • 1983: The Desert Rose
  • 1995: The Late Child

Duane Moore series[edit]

Follows story of character Duane Moore

  • 1966: The Last Picture Show - adapted for film as The Last Picture Show
  • 1987: Texasville - adapted for film as Texasville
  • 1999: Duane's Depressed
  • 2007: When The Light Goes
  • 2009: Rhino Ranch: A Novel

Houston series[edit]

Follows stories of occasionally recurring characters living in Houston Texas area

  • 1970: Moving On (characters Patsy Carpenter/Danny Deck/Emma Horton/Joe Percy)
  • 1972: All My Friends Are Going To Be Strangers (Danny Deck/Jill Peel)
  • 1975: Terms of Endearment (Emma Horton/Aurora Greenaway) - adapted for film as Terms of Endearment
  • 1978: Somebody's Darling (Jill Peel/Joe Percy)
  • 1989: Some Can Whistle (Danny Deck)
  • 1992: The Evening Star (Aurora Greenaway) - adapted for film as The Evening Star

Lonesome Dove series[edit]

The Berrybender Narratives[edit]

As Editor[edit]

  • 1999: Still Wild: A Collection of Western Stories

Other Writings[edit]


  • 1968: In A Narrow Grave: Essays on Texas
  • 1974: It's Always We Rambled (essay)
  • 1987: Film Flam: Essays on Hollywood
  • 1999: Crazy Horse: A Life (biography)
  • 1999: Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen: Reflections on Sixty and Beyond
  • 2000: Roads: Driving America's Great Highways
  • 2001: Sacagawea's Nickname—essays on the American West
  • 2002: Paradise—South-Pacific travelogue/memoir
  • 2005: The Colonel and Little Missie: Buffalo Bill, Annie Oakley & the Beginnings of Superstardom in America
  • 2005: Oh What A Slaughter! : Massacres in the American West: 1846--1890
  • 2008: Books: A Memoir
  • 2009: Literary Life: A Second Memoir
  • 2011: Hollywood: A Third Memoir
  • 2012: Custer



  • 1977: The American Film Institute's 10th Anniversary Special (writer)
  • 1988: The Murder of Mary Phagan (mini-series based on story)
  • 1989: Lonesome Dove (mini-series based on 1986 novel)
  • 1990: Montana (original screenplay)
  • 1992: Memphis (teleplay)
  • 1994-1995 Lonesome Dove: The Series (based on the fictional universe of the 1986 novel)
  • 1995 Buffalo Girls (based on 1990 novel)
  • 1995 Streets of Laredo (based on 1993 novel)
  • 1995-1996 Lonesome Dove: The Outlaw Years (based on the fictional world of the 1986 novel)
  • 1996 Dead Man's Walk (based on 1995 novel)
  • 2002 Johnson County War (wrote teleplay)
  • 2008 Comanche Moon (based on 1997 novel)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hugh Rawson "Screenings," American Heritage, April/May 2006.
  2. ^ Larry (Jeff) McMurtry Biography (1936-) Early years
  3. ^ McMurtry, Larry (2008). Books: A Memoir. pp. 1–8. 
  4. ^ Texas Institute of Letters- what awards are for
  5. ^ Texas Institute of Letters Complete List of Winners Requires Adobe acrobat
  6. ^ McMurtry, Larry (2008). Books : a memoir (1st Simon & Schuster hardcover ed.). New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 49. ISBN 9781416583349. 
  7. ^ Page on the author, from the New York Review of Books website
  8. ^ "(web page from about "BOARD OF TRUSTEES HISTORY" for 1989-1990, showing that Larry McMurtry was the President of PEN at that time)". PEN American Center. Archived from the original on 2009-04-26. Retrieved 2009-04-26. 
  9. ^ "(web page from about "BOARD OF TRUSTEES HISTORY" for 1990-1991, showing that Larry McMurtry was the President of PEN at that time)". PEN American Center. Archived from the original on 2009-04-26. Retrieved 2009-04-26. 
  10. ^ the second-to-last paragraph of the "Biographical Sketch" section of the "Larry McMurtry Collection" web page at (Retrieved on 2009-April 26)
  11. ^ Lindenberger, Michael (August 15, 2012). "The Great Book Sale of Teas". Time. Retrieved 20 August 2012. 
  12. ^ Granberry, Michael. "Author Larry McMurtry marries Ken Kesey’s widow". The Dallas Morning News, May 5, 2011.

External links[edit]