McMurtry, Larry

McMurtry, Larry Jeff, 1936–2021, American novelist, b. Wichita Falls, Tx., grad. North Texas State Univ. (B.A., 1958), Rice Univ. (M.A., 1960). The West, particularly the more desolate sections of Texas, forms the major setting of his books, and his themes frequently concern the disparity between the romantic, mythical Old West and the often grim real West, both old and new. Set on a Texas ranch, his first novel, Horseman, Pass By (1961, filmed as Hud, 1963), contrasts frontier values with modern mores. It was followed by more than two dozen novels and numerous other books. Another notable early novel is The Last Picture Show (1966, film 1971, Academy Award for screenplay), which explores adolescent rites of passage in a small, isolated Texas town in the 1950s; its characters and setting were revisited in Texasville (1987, film 1990), Duane's Depressed (1999), and When the Light Goes (2007).

Lonesome Dove (1985; Pulitzer Prize), which centers on a late 19th-century cattle drive, was followed by a sequel, Streets of Laredo (1993), and a prequel, Dead Man's Walk (1995); each was made into a TV miniseries. His other novels include Leaving Cheyenne (1963, filmed as Lovin' Molly, 1974), Terms of Endearment (1975, film 1983), Anything for Billy (1988), Comanche Moon (1997), The Berrybender Narratives (2002–04), Loop Group (2004), and The Last Kind Words Saloon (2014). McMurtry wrote a number of screen- and teleplays based on his novels, and he and Diana Ossana won an Academy Award for adapting E. Annie Proulx's “Brokeback Mountain” into a motion picture (2005). He also wrote short stories, essays (e.g., the collection Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen, 1999), and a biography of Crazy Horse (1999).

In 1988, McMurtry transformed the small town of Archer City, Tx. (the model for The Last Picture Show) into a six-building antiquarian bookstore called Booked Up; in 2012 he sold off most of his inventory, reducing the store’s footprint to a single site. In 2014, he was awarded the National Humanities Medal.

See his memoirs Books (2008) , Literary Life (2009),and Hollywood (2010); studies by T. Landess (1969), R. L. Neinstein (1976), C. D. Peavy (1977), C. Reynolds, ed. (1989), M. Busby (1995), and J. M. Reilly (2000).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2023, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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