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Who is Larry McMurtry (Dies at 84)? Wiki, Bio, Age, Cause of Death & Quick Facts

Larry McMurtry

Larry McMurtry Wiki

                                                        Larry McMurtry Biography

Larry McMurtry, a prolific novelist and screenwriter who demystified the American West with his unromantic depictions of life on the 19th century frontier and in the contemporary small town in Texas, died Thursday. He was 84 years old.wikipedia

The death was confirmed by Amanda Lundberg, a spokeswoman for the family. She did not specify a cause or say where he died.

Larry McMurtry Early life Biography

Larry Jeff McMurtry was born in Wichita Falls, Texas, on June 3, 1936, the son of Hazel Ruth and William Jefferson McMurtry. His father was a rancher. The family lived in what Mr. McMurtry called a “bookless country house” on the outskirts of Archer City, and later in the city itself. Archer City would become the model for Thalia, a city that often appeared in his fiction.

He became a serious reader early on and found that livestock life was not for him. “Although he was passable on a horse,” he wrote in “Books”, his 2008 memoir, “completely lacked manual skills.”

He graduated from North Texas State University in 1958 and married Jo Ballard Scott a year later. The couple had a son, James, now a renowned singer-songwriter, before divorcing in 1966.

After receiving a master’s degree in English from Rice University in 1960, Mr. McMurtry went west to Stanford University, where he was a member of Stegner in a class that included future novelist Ken Kesey.

Thanks to his friendship with Mr. Kesey, Mr. McMurtry made a memorable cameo in Tom Wolfe’s new journalism classic, “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test” (1968). The book details Kesey’s drug-fueled journey across America, along with a gang of friends known collectively as the Merry Pranksters, on a painted school bus.

In the scene, Mr. Kesey’s bus, driven by Neal Cassady, stops at Mr. McMurtry’s house in suburban Houston, and a hairy, naked woman jumps out and snatches her child. Mr. Wolfe describes Mr. McMurtry “tentatively reaching up to her completely bare shoulder and saying,” Ma’am! Lady! Wait a minute, ma’am! ”

Larry McMurtry life Career in novels writing


For more than five decades, Mr. McMurtry wrote more than 30 novels and many books of essays, memoirs, and history. He also wrote more than 30 screenplays, including the one for “Brokeback Mountain” (written with his collaborator Diana Ossana, based on a short story by Annie Proulx), for which he won an Oscar in 2006.

But it found its greatest commercial and critical success with “Lonesome Dove,” an 843-page novel about two retired Texas Rangers leading a herd of stolen cattle from the Rio Grande to Montana in the 1870s. The book won a Pulitzer Prize in 1986 and became a popular television miniseries.

McMurtry wrote “Lonesome Dove” as an anti-Western, a kind of rebuke to the romantic notions of cheap novels and an exorcism of false ghosts in the work of writers like Louis L’Amour. “I’m a critic of the cowboy myth,” he told an interviewer in 1988. “I don’t feel like it’s a myth that I belong, and since it’s part of my heritage, I feel like it’s a legitimate task to” criticize it. ”

But readers raved about the vivid characters in “Lonesome Dove.” McMurtry himself ultimately compared it, in terms of scope, to a “Gone with the Wind” western.
Mr. McMurtry was the son of a rancher, and the realism of his books extended to the Texas he knew as a young man. His first novel, “Horseman, Pass By” (1961), examined the values ​​of the Old West when they came into conflict with the modern world. Reviewing the novel in The New York Times Book Review, Texas historian Wayne Gard wrote:

“Cow laborers ride horses less often than pickup trucks or Cadillacs. And at night, instead of sitting around a campfire playing guitars and singing ‘Go on, little dog,’ they are more likely to play in the pool room, drink beer and test their charms on any girl they find. ”

He added that Mr. McMurtry had “not only a keen ear for dialogue, but a gift of expression that could easily flourish in more important works.”

Larry McMurtry beginning career

From the beginning of his career, McMurtry’s books were attractive to filmmakers. “Horseman, Pass By” became “Hud,” directed by Martin Ritt and starring Paul Newman. McMurtry’s funny, elegiac and sexually frank coming-of-age novel “The Last Picture Show” (1966) was made into a movie of the same title in 1971 starring Jeff Bridges and Cybill Shepherd and directed by Peter Bogdanovich. The film from his 1975 novel, “Terms of Endearment,” directed by James L. Brooks and starring Shirley MacLaine, Debra Winger and Jack Nicholson, won the Best Picture Oscar of 1983.

McMurtry enjoyed the role of his literary outsider. He lived much of his life in his hometown of Archer City, Texas, two hours northwest of Dallas. He had the same mailbox for almost 70 years. When he took the stage to accept his Oscar for “Brokeback Mountain,” he was wearing blue jeans and cowboy boots under his tux. He reminded the audience that the script was an adaptation of a story by Mrs. Proulx.

Yet McMurtry was a plugged-in American man of letters. For two years, in the early 1990s, he was the US president of PEN, the august human rights and literary organization. He was a regular contributor to The New York Review of Books, where he often wrote on topics related to the American West. Among his friends was the writer Susan Sontag, whom he once took to a stock car race.

Six buildings, a bookstore

For some 50 years, Mr. McMurtry was also a serious antiquarian bookseller. His Archer City bookstore, Booked Up, is one of the largest in America. It once occupied six buildings and contained some 400,000 volumes. In 2012, McMurtry auctioned two-thirds of those books and planned to consolidate them. On leaving the business to his heirs, he said: “A store is manageable. Four stores would be a burden. ”

The private library of Mr. McMurtry alone had about 30,000 books and was distributed in three houses. He said compiling it is a lifetime’s work, “an achievement equal to, if not better, than my own writing.”


Mr. McMurtry wrote his first novels while teaching English at Texas Christian University, Rice University, George Mason College, and American University. However, he did not like teaching and left it behind as his career progressed.

He moved to the Washington area and with a partner opened his first Booked Up store in 1971, dedicated to rare books. He opened the much larger Booked Up in Archer City in 1988 and owned and operated it until his death.

In a 1976 profile of Mr. McMurtry in The New Yorker, Calvin Trillin observed his abilities to buy books. “Larry knows which shade of blue cover on a copy of ‘Native Son’ indicates a first impression and which does not,” wrote Trillin. “He knows the exact value of Robert Lowell’s books of poetry that Robert Lowell may now have forgotten to write.”

A gift for female characters

While much of McMurtry’s writing dealt with the West or his Texas heritage, he also wrote novels about Washington (“Cadillac Jack”), Hollywood (“Someone Loved”), and Las Vegas (“The Desert Rose”). There was a comic verve in his best books, along with an ever-present melancholy. He was praised for his ability to create memorable and credible female characters, including the self-centered widow Aurora Greenway in “Terms of Endearment,” played by Shirley MacLaine in the film version.

In the novel, Aurora is frank about her appetites. “Only a saint could live with me and I cannot live with a saint,” she says. “Older men are not dependent on me and younger men are not interested.”

“I think the only gift that led me to a career in fiction was the ability to invent characters that readers connect with,” Mr. McMurtry once wrote. “My characters move them, that’s why those same characters also move them when they meet them on the screen.”

His early novels were generally well reviewed, although Thomas Lask, writing about “The Last Picture Show” in The Times Book Review, said, “Mr. McMurtry is not exactly a typewriter virtuoso.” Other critics would pick up on that complaint. Mr. McMurtry wrote too much, some said, and the quantity exceeded the quality. “I jump 10 pages a day,” McMurtry boasted in “Books.”

Some felt that Mr. McMurtry clouded the memories of some of his best books, including “The Last Picture Show,” “Lonesome Dove,” and “Terms of Endearment,” by writing sequels to them, sequels that sometimes became tetralogies. or even quintets. . It was hard to remember, as he read his “Berrybender Narratives,” a frontier soap opera that spanned four books, the writer who delivered “Lonesome Dove.”

Mr. McMurtry near the Royal Theater in Archer City, Texas, a scene from the novel “The Last Picture Show.” His store, Booked Up, is also nearby.Credit … Mark Graham for The New York Times
Mr. McMurtry at times felt the sting of critical neglect. “Should I be bitter about the literary establishment’s long disinterest in me?” he wrote in “Literary Life,” a 2009 memoir. “I shouldn’t, and most of the time I’m not, although I do admit the occasional moment of irritation.” In the late 1960s and early 1970s, he liked to modify critics of him by wearing a T-shirt that read “Minor Regional Novelist.”

He spoke openly of the shadows that sometimes fell on his life and his writing.

After completing “Terms of Affection”, he entered what he described as “a literary sadness that lasted from 1975 to 1983”, a period in which he came to dislike his own prose. He suffered a heart attack in 1991, followed by quadruple bypass surgery. Following that surgery, he fell into a prolonged depression during which, he told a reporter, he did little more than lie on a couch for over a year.

That couch belonged to Ossana, whom McMurtry had met in the 1980s at an all-you-can-eat catfish restaurant in Tucson. They began living together and collaborating soon after: Mr. McMurtry typing on a typewriter, Ms. Ossana entering work into a computer, often editing and rearranging.

“When I first met Larry, he was involved with about five or six different women,” Ossana told Grantland.com in 2014. “He was such a womanizer. I was always really puzzled. One day I said to him: ‘So all these women are your girlfriends?’ And he said, ‘Yes.’ And I said, ‘Well, do you know each other?’ He said, ‘Nooo.’

According to reports, Mr. McMurtry had completed a draft of a memoir entitled “62 women”, about some of the women he knew and admired. He had an unusual arrangement in the last years of his life.

In 2011 he married Faye Kesey, Ken Kesey’s widow, and she moved in with McMurtry and Ossana. “I went up and drugged Faye out of Oregon,” he told her.


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