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
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).
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