McMurtry, Larry

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Larry Jeff McMurtry was born in Wichita Falls, Texas, on June 3, 1936. His father and grandfather were cattle ranchers and McMurtry grew up near Archer City, Texas, traveling between the small town and his grandparents’ ranch, and witnessing the end of an era of cattle ranching. Drawn toward books more than the physical life of ranching, McMurtry enrolled at Rice University in Houston, Texas, after graduating from high school in 1954. He soon transferred to North Texas State College in Denton, Texas (now the University of North Texas) and studied literature.

McMurtry earned a B. A. degree from North Texas in 1958, and then returned to Rice for an M. A. degree. In July of 1959, he married Jo Ballard Scott with whom he had a son, James Lawrence McMurtry, before divorcing in 1966. After completing his master's degree in 1960, McMurtry accepted a fellowship to study at Stanford University and published his first novel Horseman, Pass By (1961), which won the 1962 Texas Institute of Letters Jesse H. Jones Award.

McMurtry taught creative writing and literature courses at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas, from 1961 to 1962 and at Rice in 1963. He published two more works, Leaving Cheyenne (1963) and The Last Picture Show (1966), focusing on the decline of small town, west Texas life also portrayed in his first book. He received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1964 and pursued a passion for book collecting while living in Houston in the mid-1960s, working as a book store scout and dealer.

In 1969, McMurtry moved near Washington, D.C. and taught for a short time at George Mason University and American University. He wrote a second trilogy of novels, Moving On (1970), All My Friends Are Going to Be Strangers (1972), and Terms of Endearment (1975), all set in Houston and marking a move in his work from rural to urban settings. While living near Washington, McMurtry purchased a rare and used book store in Georgetown, which he renamed Booked Up. He later opened branches in Archer City, Texas; Houston, Texas; and Tucson, Arizona.

McMurtry served as president of the American Center of PEN from 1989 to 1991, leading efforts by the organization to support author Salman Rushdie after a fatwa was proclaimed against him in February of 1989. He has continued to write numerous novels, essays, and other books, some reprising characters and stories from earlier works. Many of his books, including the Pulitzer Prize winning Lonesome Dove (1985), have been made into acclaimed feature films and television movies, and McMurtry has worked on film adaptations of his own and other works. He shared an Academy Award for the screenplay of Brokeback Mountain in 2006.

McMurtry currently lives in Tucson, Arizona.

From the guide to the Larry McMurtry Collection, 1960-1976, (The University of Texas at Austin, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Larry McMurtry Collection, 1960-1976 Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
creatorOf McMurtry, Larry, 1936-. ALS, n.d. [1962-1964], Houston, Texas, to Mr. Edward J.[?] a Texas collector. Copley Press, J S Copley Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Direct Relationships
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Place Name Admin Code Country
Western stories--Fiction
Novelists, American--20th century


Birth 1936-06-03





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SNAC ID: 36644319