The author and screenwriter Larry McMurtry has died. He was 84. McMurtry is best known for his sprawling old west novel, Lonesome Dove. Released in 1985, it won the Pulitzer Prize and was adapted into a multi Emmy-award winning TV mini-series in 1989 – and remains much loved to this day.
McMurtry’s other great novels include The Last Picture Show, Texasville, Terms of Endearment and Horseman, Pass By – all of which were adapted into acclaimed films. McMurtry was prolific penning some 30 novels, at least a dozen non-fiction titles and working as a screenwriter, including collaborating on the adaptation of Brokeback Mountain.
We was a poet of the west. And he was also a rare-book scout, setting up a used bookstore business, at his peak carrying around a half-million titles.
His son James McMurtry is a sometimes actor and singer/songwriter. One of the great joys of my conversation with James – when I interviewed him about 15 years ago – was getting to spend some time talking about the impact of Larry McMurtry’s work. James spoke lovingly of his father as both a good man and a towering literary influence; acknowledging the shadow cast – over not just his own work but American letters.
I loved so much of McMurtry Senior’s work on the page and as adapted for the stage and screen. I just recently finished rewatching Lonesome Dove, maybe TV’s greatest mini-series. And that’s sent me down the path of wanting to reconnect with the books I loved and the ones I’ve missed. And those films – especially The Last Picture Show – had such an impact too.
My favourite thing about Larry McMurtry, when thinking about his towering presence and literary achievements, was just how low-key he was in the scheme of things; how dedicated he was to books too, to caring for them and promoting them. His life in service to the printed word.
R.I.P. Larry McMurtry