Whatever you think of McMurtry as a writer, it’s worth reflecting on this plain fact: No other writer has ever had a career remotely like his, and no writer ever again will have such a career. The bookshops, the Hollywood screenplays, the novels pounded out on a manual typewriter — and a single dominant theme, something he recognized early on:
In their youth, as I have said, my uncles sat on the barn and watched the last trail herds moving north — I sat on the self-same barn and saw only a few oil-field pickups and a couple of dairy trucks go by. That life died, and I am lucky to have found so satisfying a replacement as Don Quixote offered. And yet, that first life has not quite died in me — not quite. I missed it only by the width of a generation and, as I was growing up, heard the whistle of its departure. Not long after I entered the pastures of the empty page I realized that the place where all my stories start is the heart faced suddenly with the loss of its country, its customary and legendary range.
And that is a theme no writer will ever again have, either.
“It’s always a good idea to go to Texas, if you can’t think of anything else to do.” — so says Winfield Gohagen, in McMurtry’s novel Somebody’s Darling. Sage advice. I took it myself.