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Larry McMurtry Papers

Identifier: 1970-006

The Larry McMurtry Collection contains multiple typescript manuscript drafts of the novels Leaving Cheyenne, The Last Picture Show, Moving On, Somebody's Darling, Cadillac Jack: A Novel, The Desert Rose, Lonesome Dove, and Texasville, plus manuscript notes and publisher's copies related to some of these works. The collection also contains the typescript manuscripts and first galley proofs for the book of essays In a Narrow Grave.

The McMurtry Collection includes a screenplay for Hud (the film adaptation of McMurtry's Horseman, Pass By), and the screenplay for the John Cougar Mellencamp film project Falling from Grace (titled Ridin' the Cage and Indiana Moon in these drafts). Also in the collection are scripts for the cable television movies Montana and Memphis (titled September, September in these drafts), which was adapted from a novel by Shelby Foote and co-written with Cybil Shepherd. Many scripts are included which have not been produced, such as Cantrell and Somebody's Darling, which credits Diane Keaton as co-writer in some drafts.

The collection includes a large amount of correspondence. There are three major sections of correspondence –- from McMurtry to his friend and Bookman store owner Grace David, from McMurtry to his friend Mike Kunkel, and from Harper and Row editor John Leggett to McMurtry. The Leggett correspondence concerns changes to the manuscripts for Horseman, Pass By and Leaving Cheyenne. Other correspondence includes that from McMurtry to book dealer Miles Karpilow.

A wide-ranging collection, the Larry McMurtry Papers also includes short prose and poetry, numerous literary reviews written by McMurtry, news articles about his books and films, notes on projects considered, transcriptions of taped interviews used as research for The Desert Rose, scripts which McMurtry worked on as an advisor without receiving credit, photographs, and other miscellaneous documents.

The collection is organized into six major series: McMurtry’s Writings, Correspondence, Other Projects, Works by Other Authors, Photographs, and Miscellaneous. The first series, McMurtry’s Writings, contains the bulk of the collection contents. This series is divided into three sub-series: Novels, Scripts, and Other Writings. Most individual works are given their own sub-series, and these are arranged alphabetically. The Correspondence, Other Projects, and Miscellaneous series have also been subdivided.

Additional manuscript material of Larry McMurtry is held at the University of North Texas in Denton, Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos, and Rice University in Houston. The Texana Collection of the Willis Library at the University of North Texas contains some of McMurtry's student literary submissions and papers, plus typescript manuscripts of Horseman, Pass By and Leaving Cheyenne. The Southwestern Writers Collection at the Alkek Library of Southwest Texas State University includes the screenplay and many other materials from the television mini-series Lonesome Dove, and a typescript of the 1972 screenplay Streets of Laredo, on which the Lonesome Dove novel was based. The Woodson Research Center of Fondren Library at Rice University has two collections of papers documenting McMurtry’s collaboration with Diana Ossana. These collections contain drafts, correspondence, and related materials.


  • 1955-1986


Conditions Governing Access:

Open for research.

Conditions Governing Use:

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29.00 linear feet

Biographical Information:

Larry McMurtry is one of the most well-known writers to have emerged from Texas in the twentieth century, appealing to both critics and readers with his novels of the contemporary and historic American West. His trail-drive saga Lonesome Dove earned McMurtry the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1986, and many of his books have become national bestsellers. Lonesome Dove was turned into a highly-acclaimed television mini-series, and several of his novels have been made into films, most notably Terms of Endearment and The Last Picture Show, which garnered McMurtry an Academy Award nomination for the screenplay.

Larry McMurtry was born in 1936 and grew up in Archer City, Texas. His father and grandfather were cattle ranchers. He completed his undergraduate studies at the North Texas State University, and received his M.A. in English from Rice University in 1960.

In 1961 he released his first novel, Horseman, Pass By. That novel and the two which followed, Leaving Cheyenne (1963) and The Last Picture Show (1966), were set in the imaginary town of Thalia, and explored small town life and the changes taking place in the rural West. Between 1963 and 1969, McMurtry also taught creative writing at Rice University.

In 1969 McMurtry moved to Washington D.C., where he became co-owner and operator of a rare book store called Booked Up. While living in Washington, he wrote three novels about turbulent relationships that were primarily set in Houston – Moving On (1970), All My Friends Are Going to Be Strangers (1972), and Terms of Endearment (1975). His next three novels are generally considered less successful, transitional novels.

1986’s Lonesome Dove was a departure for McMurtry, a rambling story set in the West of the 1870s. Since writing Lonesome Dove, he has been equally prolific in two types of books –- contemporary novels such as Texasville (1987) and Evening Star (1992) which revisit characters from earlier works, and historically based novels like Anything for Billy (1988) and Buffalo Girls (1990) which tell the stories of legendary figures such as Billy the Kid and Calamity Jane. McMurtry has also released three more novels featuring characters from Lonesome Dove, the 1993 sequel Streets of Laredo, the 1996 prequel Dead Man’s Walk, and the 1997 prequel Comanche Moon. Like Lonesome Dove, these novels were made into television mini-series.

McMurtry has continued to write novels, with the latest from the Last Picture Show series, Rhino Ranch, being released in 2009. In 2005, McMurtry won the Academy Award for his screenplay of the movie Brokeback Mountain, which he co-wrote with Diana Ossana.

In addition to novels, McMurtry has also published books of essays, film criticism, short stories, and several volumes of memoirs. He has one son, James Lawrence, and currently lives in Archer City, Texas, where he owns a rare book store.

Acquisition Information:

A large portion of the collection, which included typescripts, essays, and screenplays, was purchased in 1985. Other materials in the collection were acquired from a variety of sources, beginning in the mid-1960s and continuing through 1986. For more information, please contact the collection curator.

Processing Information:

Processed by Artis Bernard, 1987-1990. Reprocessed by Julie Grob, 2002, and Valerie Prilop, 2010-2011.

Note on Harmful Language

In describing archival materials, Special Collections aims to respect individuals and communities represented in the collections in our care.

In the 2021 Special Collections reparative description project, staff decided to maintain potentially harmful language from original folder descriptions or titles in this finding aid to preserve the historical context of materials.

Guide to the Larry McMurtry Papers
Julie Grob and Valerie Prilop
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the University of Houston Libraries Special Collections Repository

University of Houston Libraries Special Collections
MD Anderson Library
4333 University Drive
Houston TX 77204-2000 USA