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Analysis of Larry McMurtry’s Novels

Larry McMurtry’s (1936 -) best fiction has used the Southwest as its location and the characters typical of that area for its subjects. In the early years of his career, he dealt with life in the dying towns and decaying ranches of North and West Texas, often using boys on the brink of manhood to provide perspective on a way of life that had reached a stage of corruption and betrayal. His trilogy, following these early novels, dealt with the tangled relationships among somewhat older characters and reflected McMurtry’s own move from Archer City to Houston. Later, he invested the Western novel with new vigor in two novels, his classic Lonesome Dove and the satiric Anything for Billy, which holds the legend of Billy the Kid up to ridicule.

Larry-McMurtryMcMurtry has shown the ability to change his locales and his subject matter when he feels the need for novelty, and he has been willing to revive characters from earlier novels to suit new purposes. He has been most successful in exploring the past and present of his native Texas, a state and a state of mind that provide seemingly inexhaustible material for his special blend of satire, romance, and tragedy.

McMurtry has used a variety of styles, from the elegiac to the rapid narrative, from the hilarious to the mournful. He has shown an unusual ability to depict interesting and sometimes outrageous characters, especially women. Although his fictional locales moved away from Texas for a time, in his later works he has gone back to the settings and sometimes the characters of his earlier works. A regional writer, he has transcended the usual limitations of regional writers and attracted a broad audience.

Horseman, Pass By

McMurtry himself eventually said that Horseman, Pass By, published when he was only twenty-two, was an immature work. This first novel, a story of ranch life, narrated by a seventeen-year-old boy whose grandfather’s livelihood and life are ended when his herd of cattle must be destroyed, sets many of McMurtry’s themes: the ease with which people learn to betray others, in this case the old man’s betrayal by Hud, his stepson; the mental and physical wear inflicted by the harsh Texas land; and the importance of the affection an older woman (in this case the Bannon family’s black cook, Halmea) can give to a young man. This novel and McMurtry’s next, Leaving Cheyenne, are clearly preparations for the success of The Last Picture Show.

The Last Picture Show

McMurtry’s third novel is set in the small, dying North Texas town of Thalia (there is a town with that name in Texas, but its geography does not fit the fictional town, which is clearly modeled on Archer City). Its central characters are Sonny Crawford and Duane Moore, two boys in their last year of high school. Neither is in fact an orphan, but neither lives with his surviving parent; they rent rooms in the town’s rooming house, support themselves working in the oil fields, and hang out at the town’s pool hall, run by their aging friend and mentor Sam the Lion. In the course of about six months, Duane and Sonny learn hard lessons about life and love.

Sonny is the more sensitive of the two. He falls into a passionate affair with Ruth Popper, the frustrated and lonely wife of the high school athletic coach—a stock figure whose latent homosexuality is masked by an aggressive masculinity in the presence of his athletes. Ruth begins the affair in desperation and is startled by the depth of her feeling for Sonny, while the boy is surprised and gratified by the experience. Both realize that the affair cannot last, but Ruth is devastated when Sonny leaves her at the invitation of the town’s reigning beauty, Jacy Farrow.

Jacy has been Duane’s girlfriend, a monster of selfishness who plays games with both Sonny and Duane, almost destroying their friendship. She keeps putting off Duane’s demands that she marry him and insists on seeing another young man and going with him to wild parties in Wichita Falls. When Duane leaves town to work in the oil fields, Jacy decides to take Sonny away from Ruth Popper. Duane finds out, fights with Sonny, and blinds his friend in one eye by hitting him with a beer bottle. Jacy persuades Sonny to elope with her as an adventure, arranging matters so that her father will stop them before they are actually married. Jacy’s wise and experienced mother, Lois, offers Sonny brief consolation and shows him that he must make peace with Ruth Popper.

The boys’ adventures have been made possible by the wise counsel and care of Sam the Lion. He has taught them about life, given them parental refuge, and shown them the limits of behavior by closing them out when they are involved in the mistreatment of his mentally disabled ward, Billy. The safety of their world is shattered when Sam dies suddenly, leaving his pool hall and restaurant in the care of Sonny. The young man is forced to face the cruelty of the world when Billy, sweeping the streets of Thalia in his customary way, is hit and killed by a passing truck. The boys are reconciled when Duane leaves to join the Army and fight in Korea.

The Last Picture Show, named for the film theater that is forced to close, symbolizing the decay of Thalia, is a compound of nostalgia, harsh realism, and tragedy. It deals with the almost inevitable loss of innocence of its central characters and with the hard realities of injury, loss, and death. It is frank about sex (Australian authorities banned the novel at one time), but it makes clear the price Sonny and Ruth Popper pay for their affair. At the same time, its depiction of adolescence is often amusing and colorful; the boys take off on a wild adventure south through Texas and into Mexico, they enjoy playing bad basketball for an increasingly frustrated Coach Popper, they enjoy earning their own livings. With the exception of the incident involving the joke played on Billy, they do harm only to themselves.

The Last Picture Show shows the meanness of the people in a small town: Ruth Popper is scorned for loving a boy much younger than herself; the sheriff and other observers are callously indifferent when Billy is killed; Sam the Lion has had to live without the love of his life, Lois Farrow, because of the mores of the town; the coach, despite his poor teams and his general ignorance and stupidity, is looked up to and admired by most of the town. Duane, the more conventional of the two central figures, is sometimes a bully and sometimes a fool.

There is a kind of soft quality to the novel, nevertheless. Most of those the boys encounter are sympathetic to them, including the waitress in Sam’s café, the woman who is forced to close the theater, Ruth Popper, and Sam himself. They have no parents, but there are plenty of surrogates to guide and care for them, and they seem always to be forgiven by those they have hurt. Billy carries no grudge against either of them, Sam eventually shows that Sonny has done his penance, and even Ruth forgives Sonny for leaving her. Duane is hard enough not to need forgiveness.

Texasville

McMurtry revived Thalia, Sonny, and Duane in Texasville, a comic look at Thalia after it has experienced the boom of high oil prices and then been hit by the oil depression of the early 1980’s. In Texasville Sonny recedes into the background, a forgetful and lonely middle-aged man who seems to suffer from something like premature Alzheimer’s disease. The focus is on Duane, whose oil business has gone to pot, whose marriage to Karla (a new character) is in deep trouble, and whose love life and civic responsibilities provide material for comedy. His life is further complicated by the return to Thalia of Jacy, thrice-married film starlet, mother of three children, saddened and made more human by the death of her young son. Texasville is longer, more comic, and more complicated than The Last Picture Show, but it is less affecting. Only the episode in which Sonny wanders off and is found sitting in the wreckage of the old theater recalls the tone of the earlier novel.

The Last Picture Show was McMurtry’s sometimes bitter, sometimes nostalgic farewell to the North Texas setting of his early work. The next stage in his career focused on young people in the Houston area, beginning with Moving On, a long depiction of the damage wrought by a marriage that is falling apart, and a sad picture of university life and the lives of traveling rodeo performers. This second phase of McMurtry’s career ended with Terms of Endearment, the story of a lively widow and her troubled daughter, who eventually dies of cancer.

larry-620x350All My Friends Are Going to Be Strangers

Typifying this second stage is All My Friends Are Going to Be Strangers, a novel held together only by the central character and narrator, Danny Deck, who was introduced in Moving On. Danny’s experience is to some extent based on that of his creator. Early in the book, while he is a graduate student at Rice, Danny’s first novel is accepted for publication. In the euphoric mood that follows, he leaves Rice and marries Sally, a beautiful and sexy young woman who holds no other interest for Danny and who proves to be a monster. Her former lover accompanies them part of the way to California, leaving after they survive a flash flood in West Texas. After the couple moves to San Francisco and Sally becomes pregnant, she relieves her boredom by engaging in an affair with a blind musician and pushes Danny out of her life. Danny goes downhill, lives in a rundown hotel, and finds himself unable to do satisfactory work on his second novel.

Jill, a brilliant film cartoonist he meets on a brief excursion to Hollywood, pulls Danny out of his slump and lives with him for a while, setting his life in order. Temporarily he thinks that he has found the love of his life, and his writing is stimulated by an idea she has provided. Jill, however, has lost interest in sex (which seems to be Danny’s chief interest), and their relationship deteriorates until she leaves him to return to Hollywood and Danny sets out for Texas.

The episodic nature of All My Friends Are Going to Be Strangers continues when Danny returns to Texas. He pays a visit to his Uncle L, providing a satiric picture of an old-time cowboy gone eccentric; he returns to Houston and makes love to various women, including Emma, the wife of his best friend, and Jenny, who had been his landlady; he goes through a nightmarish experience signing copies of his book at a bookstore; he has a horrible, violent encounter with Sally’s parents, who prevent him from seeing his newborn daughter; he is harassed and cruelly beaten by two Texas Rangers who take a dislike to his long hair. He goes for several days without any real sleep. In the end he walks into the Rio Grande, pushing the manuscript pages of his new novel under the water and possibly intending to commit suicide by drowning; that is never clear.

Danny’s experiences are intended to show the dislocating effects of early success on a young man who has cut himself off from his roots and has become unable to establish real connections with any other human beings. He falls in love easily enough, but neither Sally nor Jill can return his love in the way he needs, and he has no way to extend his brief affair with Jenny. His encounter with Emma can lead only to guilty feelings for both of them.

Danny is just as much at sea in the other kinds of life he experiences. The editor of his publishing house takes him briefly into a world of authors and sophisticates in which he feels himself to be totally out of place. His brief experience in Hollywood exposes him to people who mystify and amaze him, but for whom he has no respect. He twice pays brief visits to the Stanford campus where McMurtry spent two years, but what he gets from those experiences is the knowledge that he enjoys taking drugs and that he is no scholar. Uncle L shows him that there is nothing for him in ranching life, and the professor from whom he took Sally in the beginning makes it clear that the professorial life is dull and unrewarding.

All My Friends Are Going to Be Strangers is a depressing book. Danny Deck is neither admirable nor particularly amusing. The book is saved by two things. One is McMurtry’s undoubted skill as a writer, which enables him to describe scenes as disparate as the flash flood, Uncle L’s encounter with his wife, and a literary party in a posh San Francisco suburb vividly and entertainingly. The other is the presence of several interesting minor characters, from Wu, the exiled Chinese writer who admires Danny’s work and plays table tennis with him, to Mr. Stay, the formercommunist bookstore owner and sonnet writer who hosts the book-signing party. Several of the women, including Jill, Emma, and Jenny, are memorable and distinctive. The novel suggests, however, that McMurtry’s Houston years did not provide the material or the inspiration for his best fiction.

Some Can Whistle

In a much later work, Danny Deck proves not to have killed himself: McMurtry brings him back in Some Can Whistle as a successful middle-aged writer who has chosen to live in relative isolation. He finds the daughter he has never known, T. R., and brings her and her two children to live with him. She is lively, engaging, and interesting; for a while she seems to be able to revive Danny’s wish to be in closer touch with other human beings, but in the end, when T. R. is suddenly killed, the habits of his lifetime are too strong. He has not changed enough from his earlier self.

McMurtry, in the group of novels that followed All My Friends Are Going to Be Strangers, seemed to be trying to demonstrate that he could write successful novels that had nothing to do with Texas or with the life of a writer. The brief satiric glimpse of Hollywood given in All My Friends Are Going to Be Strangers was expanded in Somebody’s Darling, whose central character is a film director trying to cope with her early success and the demands of two men she loves. The world McMurtry entered as a bookstore owner is reflected obliquely in Cadillac Jack, whose protagonist is an itinerant antique dealer and whose chief setting is Washington, D.C. The entertainment industry comes under further examination in The Desert Rose, which has as its heroine an aging topless dancer in Las Vegas. Each of these novels is entertaining and well written, but none did much to enhance McMurtry’s reputation.

Lonesome Dove

That enhancement had to wait until McMurtry decided to write a novel in one of the oldest and most persistently popular of American fictional traditions, the Western. With rare exceptions, Western novels have not been treated by critics as serious literature, since they have tended to follow hackneyed patterns of characterization and action. Patterns established by such writers as Ned Buntline in the nineteenth century were passed on almost intact to more recent writers such as Zane Grey and Louis L’Amour. What McMurtry did in Lonesome Dove was to reinvent the Western novel by taking its basic elements and elevating them to the level of epic. Lonesome Dove has attained the status of a classic of Western fiction.

The characters in Lonesome Dove are familiar to readers of Western fiction, here given new names: the silent hero, Woodrow Call, who cares more for horses than for women and who leads other men by example and by courage; the other hero, Gus McCrae, talkative and easygoing, always ready for emergencies; the prostitute with a heart of gold, Lorena (Lorie) Wood; the evil renegade half-breed, Blue Duck; the naïve but courageous boy, Newt; the strong almost-widow, Clara Allen; the handsome but weak gambler, destined to come to a bad end eventually, Jake Spoon; the unimaginative but dependable sheriff, July Johnson; the comic deputy, July’s aide Roscoe; and a cast of thousands.

McMurtry’s achievement in Lonesome Dove is twofold. First, he puts his huge cast of characters into motion. Beginning with a run-down livery stable and cattle-trading business in a tiny Texas town south of San Antonio called Lonesome Dove, the former Texas Rangers Call and Gus put together a herd by rustling from Mexican ranches across the Rio Grande, hire enough cowboys to run the drive, and set out for Montana, where Jake Spoon has told them there is a world of grass unclaimed by white men. Their journey is difficult and tragic, lightened at times by comedy, but it is never dull or ordinary. Lorie, whose beauty has been the only relief to the boredom of Lonesome Dove, makes Jake take her along, to the great disgust of Call, the former Ranger captain who can see no use for women anywhere, much less on a cattle drive. She and Jake are not part of the drive, but they stay close to it; many of the cowboys, in love with Lorie, are kept in a state of agitation—especially the top hand, Dish, who desperately wants to marry her.

McMurtry’s approach to his material is leisurely. More than two hundred pages at the beginning, exceeding one-fourth of the long novel, are devoted to preliminary events in Lonesome Dove and the first stages of the drive: the arrival of Jake, a former Ranger on the run from a murder charge, with his news of Montana; Call’s sudden and uncharacteristic decision to go, after ten years of relative inactivity; the raids into Mexico to steal horses and cattle; the gathering of an outfit to supplement Newt, Pea Eye, and Deets, the Hat Creek crew; Lorie’s instant love for Jake, even though she quickly sees his weakness. Most of this material is humorous, largely because Gus is a man who refuses to take life seriously. The raid into Mexico is exciting and potentially dangerous, but even this adventure turns to comedy when the Hat Creek cowboys encounter two lost Irish brothers who left Ireland headed for Galveston and wound up missing their target by several hundred miles. The Irish brothers, despite their unfamiliarity with horses and cattle, are hired on.

The second major factor in McMurtry’s success in Lonesome Dove is his ability to take stock characters and humanize them by making them recognizable and distinctive human beings while at the same time elevating them to mythic proportions. Call is a projection of the strong but silent type of frontiersman, quiet, self-contained, but restless and capable of angry outbursts. Despite his abilities, he is emotionally strangled. Gus McCrae is almost superhuman. When necessary, he can fight more effectively than other men, but he is also warm and sympathetic to women and to young boys in trouble, such as Call’s unacknowledged bastard son, Newt. He brings Lorie out of her catatonic state and wins her love, but he is human enough to wish that he could have Clara instead. Newt Dobbs is the typical young man; subjected again and again to grief and strain, he grows and matures. The black scout, Deets, is everything a scout should be.

The pace of the novel accelerates once the herd is on the trail. As soon as the drive begins, disaster strikes. Two days out, the herd is hit by a storm, and the riders must stay up all night to keep the cattle from dispersing. The next day, crossing a stream roiled by the storm, the younger and sadder of the Irish brothers stirs up a nest of cottonmouth snakes and is horribly killed. It is the first of several deaths the men will encounter on their long odyssey.

Only late in this initial section does McMurtry introduce another set of characters: July Johnson, the sheriff of Fort Smith, Arkansas; his unhappy pregnant wife, Elmira, a former prostitute; her son, Joe; and the deputy Roscoe. In Fort Smith, July’s brother, the town mayor, has been accidentally killed by a shot fired by Jake Spoon, and the mayor’s widow is urging July to track down Jake and bring him back to hang. July, recovering from jaundice and convinced that the shooting was an accident, is reluctant to go, but eventually he sets out, at Elmira’s insistence taking Joe along. Shortly thereafter, Elmira, pregnant with July’s child, leaves town on a riverboat to seek out her former lover, the gambler Dee Boot, and July’s sister-in-law insists that Roscoe track down July to tell him that his wife is gone.

All these characters, and others, eventually meet on the plains. Jake leaves Lorie to go to town to gamble, and while he is gone the Comanchero Blue Duck, a bitter, crafty, and resourceful renegade, kidnaps the terrified Lorie, takes her north to the plains, and keeps her barely alive only to sell her body to Kiowas and buffalo hunters, an experience that robs her of speech and very nearly of her sanity. She is rescued by Gus, but the cost of the rescue is high: July Johnson, still looking for Elmira, insists on helping Gus, and while they are dispatching the six Kiowas and two buffalo hunters who hold Lorie, Blue Duck sneaks into their small camp and murders Roscoe, July’s stepson Joe, and a young girl who has been traveling with Roscoe.

Jake, in the meantime, has become entangled with the three Suggs brothers, hard cases who are getting harder. Jake accidentally kills another man and goes along with the Suggses, who kill several more, including the rancher Wilbarger, who has earlier befriended Gus. Call and Gus track down the Suggses and hang all three brothers; reluctantly, they also hang Jake.

Many of the elements of the plot resolve themselves in the Nebraska frontier town of Ogallala. Clara Allen, the only woman Gus has loved and lost, lives there with her comatose husband and two daughters. Elmira arrives first, has her baby, and departs with her buffalo-hunter escort, both soon to be killed by Sioux. Her lover, Dee Boot, is hanged. July Johnson comes next, sees his son, whom Clara has kept, and stays on as a hand at Clara’s ranch. Gus and Call arrive with the herd, and Clara and Gus have a happy reunion, but she makes it clear that she will never marry him, even when her husband dies. Lorie finds herself welcomed by Clara, and she stays on when the herd moves north to Montana. Newt and the other young cowboys go to Ogallala and have their first experience with whores, and Newt decides to become a ladies’ man like Gus.

In the final section, the herd moves north to Montana and to encounters with stillviolent American Indians. Deets is killed by a desperate young warrior who fails to comprehend that Deets is not hostile. Gus and the cowboy Pea Eye, scouting ahead for a ranch site, are cut off by a roving band and attacked. Pea Eye gets away, but Gus is wounded. He escapes from the Native Americans but dies in Miles City after refusing to allow the doctor to amputate both of his gangrenous legs.

Call finds a spot for a ranch, and the men build a ranch house and corrals and spend a hard winter there. When spring comes, Call leaves Newt in charge of the remaining men and the cattle, tacitly acknowledging that he is Newt’s father, but he cannot bring himself to call the boy his son. He fulfills his promise to take Gus’s body and bury it in a Texas glen where Gus and Clara had picnicked years earlier. On his long and difficult journey, Call passes through Ogallala, where Clara’s husband has died and she and Lorie are mourning for Gus. Later, he pauses long enough to witness Blue Duck’s death. Call is shot and goes through numerous other trials, but he manages to bury Gus; as the end, he makes his way back to the deserted town of Lonesome Dove.

In Lonesome Dove McMurtry is at the height of his powers. The disparate strands of the plot are handled skillfully, as the story moves easily from the herd to July Johnson to Jake Spoon to Elmira and then back to the herd. McMurtry’s ability to depict action comes into play often, in the violent scenes of the young Irishman’s death, Gus’s explosion into the Kiowa camp where Lorie is held, the sudden thunderstorms that batter the cowboys and scatter the herd, the sudden descent of a plague of grasshoppers, and many other scenes. He is equally skilled at depicting character, not only the major figures such as Call, Gus, Clara, and Lorie, but also young Newt and such minor characters as the cook Po Campo, Roscoe, Wilbarger, and Elmira. There is a leavening of humor, some of it hilarious, not only in the early sections of the novel but also throughout. At the same time, there is no attempt to downplay the violence and hardship of the lives of these men and women; the long journey is marked by one violent death after another. The hard life of the frontier is represented not only by Lorie’s terrible experience in the hands of Blue Duck and the sudden deaths among the cowboys, but also by Clara’s loss of three sons and a husband to the harsh conditions of life on the prairie.

It is entirely fitting that the ending is grim. The most powerful scene in the final section is Clara’s condemnation of Call when he returns to Ogallala with Gus’s body, bringing the final notes the dying Gus wrote to Clara and Lorie. Her scathing denunciation of his single-mindedness and the human sacrifice and misery the trip caused raises disturbing questions about the meaning of the heroic journey the men have accomplished. The surviving hands are left on the isolated ranch in Montana. Clara and Lorie remain on the ranch outside Ogallala, with July hoping to marry Clara and Dish hopelessly in love with Lorie. Call has no idea where to go after the trip back to Lonesome Dove is ended.

Anything for Billy

The tone of McMurtry’s next novel about the frontier, Anything for Billy, is very different. This book is a satiric retelling of the story of Billy the Kid, seen from the perspective of an easterner who has been addicted to dime novels of the West. The combination of humor and violent action that marked Lonesome Dove is present in the later novel but without the tragic undertone that gives Lonesome Dove its special power.

Streets of Laredo, Dead Man’s Walk, and Comanche Moon

McMurtry’s besetting weakness has clearly been his penchant for reviving characters and using them in sequels to novels that seem to have been sufficient in themselves. Most of his novels can be classified as parts of trilogies, sometimes widely separated in their dates of publication. For example, Duane’s Depressed, published in 1999, returns to the setting and characters introduced in The Last Picture Show and updated in Texasville. The pattern is stretched even further in the Lonesome Dove cycle. That very long novel, which fittingly concludes in tragedy and pathos, has since become the basis for a virtual library of sequels and prequels. In Streets of Laredo, Dead Man’s Walk, and Comanche Moon, the leading Lonesome Dove characters of Augustus McCrae and Woodrow Call, as well as lesser figures, are revived.

Adding to the confusion, the order of publication of the three later novels in the cycle does not follow the chronological stages in the characters’ lives. Streets of Laredo is a true sequel, following the career of Woodrow Call after he has returned Augustus McCrae’s body to the nearly deserted village of Lonesome Dove. It ends with a crippled Call, minus an arm and a leg, dependent on Pea Eye and his wife Lorena and their many children. Dead Man’s Walk jumps back in time to the years between the Mexican War and the Civil War when McCrae and Call are about twenty years old and are new recruits to the Texas Rangers. It takes its title from the Spanish phrase (jornada del muerto) describing a barren stretch of land in what is now central New Mexico, where much of the action of the novel takes place. Comanche Moon takes the heroes through the years of the Civil War to their decision to leave the Rangers and settle in the village of Lonesome Dove.

As is the case with the earlier cycles, the first book in the series is the most successful. One reason for this is that most of the salient facts are known. It is clear from Lonesome Dove that Gus never marries Clara Allen. The manner of his and Deets’s deaths is presented in the earlier book, as are many other references to events earlier in time. Almost inevitably, this causes an absence of suspense. More important, however, there is in the later books of the series a sense of strain and a feeling that the author is adding incidents and plot lines simply to provide excitement. This is especially true of Comanche Moon, in which there is no clear, dominant plot line. Instead there are several plots interwoven in brief chapters, and much of the information is superfluous. It is enough to know that Blue Duck is a brutal savage, for example; the details of his early life add very little to the character.

The strain is more evident in the invention of two major new characters, Inish Scull and his wife, Inez. Scull is a Boston millionaire and Harvard graduate who is the captain of the company of Texas Rangers in which McCrae and Call are enrolled. His relentless search for adventure leads him to enter Mexico on foot with only a Kickapoo scout for company. He finds his enemy, Ahumado, known as the Black Vaquero, but is taken prisoner. Subjected to a variety of tortures, climaxing with the removal of his eyelids, he manages to survive, although he temporarily goes crazy. Inez, while Inish is so engaged, is indulging her proclivities for young men and for spending Inish’s and her own money. Their role in the story ends in farce, back in Boston. Inez continues to beat her husband with a bullwhip, and Inish turns down an invitation from Generals Sherman and Sheridan to take command of the Western regiments that are crushing any remaining American Indian resistance. These exaggerated characters do not fit well into a realistic novel.

Duane’s Depressed

After McMurtry’s relative lack of success with the five historical novels that followed Lonesome Dove, he returned to a contemporary setting in Duane’s Depressed, which completes the trilogy begun with The Last Picture Show and continued in Texasville. Duane Moore, now on the brink of old age, is the mayor of Thalia. To the astonishment of the rest of the town, he abandons his pickup truck one day and begins to walk wherever he needs to go. His marriage in trouble again, he also breaks with convention by going for help to a young woman psychiatrist. Duane’s Depressed is not McMurtry’s finest novel, but it is fresher and less strained than the books that preceded it and is a clear improvement over its predecessor, Texasville.

Major Works
Long fiction
Horseman, Pass By, 1961; Leaving Cheyenne, 1963; The Last Picture Show, 1966; Moving On, 1970; All My Friends Are Going to Be Strangers, 1972; Terms of Endearment, 1975; Somebody’s Darling, 1978; Cadillac Jack, 1982; The Desert Rose, 1983; Lonesome Dove, 1985; Texasville, 1987; Anything for Billy, 1988; Some Can Whistle, 1989; Buffalo Girls, 1990; The Evening Star, 1992; Streets of Laredo, 1993; Pretty Boy Floyd, 1994 (with Diana Ossana); Dead Man’s Walk, 1995; The Late Child, 1995; Comanche Moon, 1997; Zeke and Ned, 1997 (with Ossana); Duane’s Depressed, 1999; Boone’s Lick, 2000; Sin Killer, 2002; By Sorrow’s River, 2003; The Wandering Hill, 2003; Folly and Glory, 2004; Loop Group, 2004; Telegraph Days, 2006.
Nonfiction
In a Narrow Grave: Essays on Texas, 1968; It’s Always We Rambled: An Essay on Rodeo, 1974; Film Flam: Essays on Hollywood, 1987; Crazy Horse, 1999; Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen: Reflections at Sixty and Beyond, 1999; Roads: Driving America’s Great Highways, 2000; Paradise, 2001; Sacagawea’s Nickname: Essays on the American West, 2001; The Colonel and Little Missie: Buffalo Bill, Annie Oakley, and the Beginnings of Superstardom in America, 2005; Oh What a Slaughter: Massacres in the American West, 1846-1890, 2006.
Edited texts: Still Wild: Short Fiction of the American West, 2000
Source: Notable American Novelists Revised Edition Volume 1 James Agee — Ernest J. Gaines Edited by Carl Rollyson Salem Press, Inc 2008.

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