I learned that Larry McMurtry died today. Although he was a popular and most talented writer, I found Terms of Endearment and some of his other work unbearably sad, and didn’t want to read or watch more. No Lonesome Dove for me I saw The Last Picture Show and I remember my brother hiding my younger sister’s eyes for certain scenes.
The news clip I heard on NPR referenced his Archer City, Texas bookstore, which he opened because there was no local bookstore. I visited Archer City several years ago and bookstore does not begin to describe it. I was visiting my brother who was attending to business interests in Ardmore, Oklahoma, one of which is also a local independent bookstore, The Bookseller—shout out to manager Lois Proctor.
But anyway, we took a day trip to Archer City. Like many small towns, Archer City’s downtown was in decline. However, McMurtry had taken over buildings all around the square for book sales. There was a new book store, but also used book stores arranged by type of book in buildings all around the square. Each building was full to the ceiling with book shelves full of biographies or mysteries or non-fiction or children’s books or whatever. Shoppers were free to roam at will and bring any purchases to the main store. I remember buying a first edition book on foxhunting as well as a beautifully illustrated book on minerals and gems for my husband. Had I not been flying home in a few days, I’m sure I would have purchased much more.
When we arrived at the main checkout location, we saw the author himself out on the curb unloading books. A shopper asked him to sign one of his novels. He said, “We don’t do that, but there are signed copies for sale in that shop.”
We drove by the Dairy Queen and the local movie theater and someone pointed out the roofline of McMurtry’s modest home. McMurtry used his small- town background in rural Texas to tell stories of the West and portray the culture and relationships of several eras. His works became cultural icons in themselves. So, RIP Larry McMurtry, author and bookseller.