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Writer Who Captured the 'American Experience' Dead at 84

Larry McMurtry won Pulitzer for 'Lonesome Dove,' Oscar for 'Brokeback Mountain' screenplay
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 26, 2021 1:40 PM CDT

(Newser) – He was a novelist, screenwriter, and nonfiction author, known for several books that ended up adapted for the big screen. Larry McMurtry, described by the Los Angeles Times as "one of the most acclaimed writers of the American experience," died at the age of 84 on Thursday at his home in Tucson, Ariz. His publicist notes he'd been fighting complications from Parkinson's disease. McMurtry won the Pulitzer Prize in 1986 for his novel Lonesome Dove, as well as a 2006 Oscar for the adapted screenplay he co-wrote for Brokeback Mountain with Diana Ossana. He also penned The Last Picture Show and Terms of Endearment, both of which were made into movies, as well as dozens of screenplays, novels, and nonfiction books over the course of his 60-year career. McMurtry's Lonesome Dove, an epic novel about a 2,500-mile cattle drive in the 1870s, was made into an Emmy-winning TV miniseries on CBS, per The Hollywood Reporter.

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McMurtry downplayed his role in the TV show, however, telling NPR in 2009, "I turned the key in the ignition. I didn't drive the car." The New York Times notes that McMurtry—born the son of a rancher in Wichita Falls, Texas—tried to "demythologize" the American West, instead striving to portray a more realistic version in his writings. "I'm a critic of the myth of the cowboy," he said in a 1988 interview. "I don't feel that it's a myth that pertains, and since it's a part of my heritage, I feel it's a legitimate task to criticize it." McMurtry was also an avid bookseller for five decades. Booked Up, his store in Archer, Texas, is one of the nation's largest. Survivors include his second wife, Faye, the widow of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest author Ken Kesey, and a son, singer-songwriter James McMurtry, from his first marriage. (Read more author stories.)

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