Larry McMurtry, the iconic and celebrated Texas author who redefined the Western with his novel “Lonesome Dove,” died Thursday night of heart failure. He was 84.
Publicist Amanda Lundberg confirmed his death to the American-Statesman, part of the USA TODAY Network.
The author won a Pulitzer Prize in 1986 for “Lonesome Dove.” He also won an Academy Award in 2006 for his adapted screenplay of “Brokeback Mountain” written with Diana Ossana; it was based on the Annie Proulx story.
McMurtry was born June 3, 1936, to Hazel Ruth and William Jefferson McMurtry in Wichita Falls, a larger neighbor to the author’s longtime hometown of Archer City. His paternal grandparents settled in the area in the late 1800s, and McMurtry’s father was a rancher.
In Archer City, McMurtry’s massive used bookstore, Booked Up, was a travel destination. The town inspired McMurtry’s 1966 novel “The Last Picture Show.”; Archer City’s Royal Theater featured prominently in the film. He also co-wrote the screenplay for the 1971 film adaptation with Peter Bogdanovich, who directed the movie that starred Timothy Bottoms, Jeff Bridges, Ellen Burstyn, Cloris Leachman and Cybill Shepherd.
“Lonesome Dove” was famously adapted into an Emmy-winning 1989 TV miniseries, with the teleplay written by Bill Witliff and starring Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones. McMurtry’s other notable literary works, many of which also made their way to the screen, included “Horseman, Pass By,” “Leaving Cheyenne” and “Terms of Endearment.”
The Witliff Collections at Texas State University in San Marcos — named for Bill Witliff — holds the manuscripts to several of McMurtry’s works and also houses the “Lonesome Dove” miniseries production archive.
“Mourning the death of Larry McMurtry, we can hope to find solace in his legacy,” said Margaret Koch, director of the Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin, “his expert weaving of iconic narratives that went far beyond romanticism, truly reflecting our relationships with the land and its people — those elements which humanize and describe the depth and spirit of all that is Texas.”
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