Writers to honor Larry McMurtry with literary tribute

Photo by Adam Muhlig — Used with permission from James McMurtry & the estate of Larry McMurtry

Royal Theater to host outdoor screening of The Last Picture Show

      Writers from across the country will gather in Archer City, Texas, the hometown of Larry McMurtry, to pay tribute to the prolific and revered author who died March 25, 2021, in Tucson, Arizona.

      In addition to the literary tribute, the Royal Theater will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the release of The Last Picture Show, the Peter Bogdanovich film made from McMurtry’s third book, with an outdoor showing of the film.

      The Literary Tribute to Larry McMurtry will begin at 7 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 9, at the Royal Theater in Archer City. Nationally recognized writers will speak about the influence of McMurtry’s works and work ethic on their writing lives through their experiences of reading his books, their interactions with him, or how his love of books fed their own love of books.

      “Everyone knows that Larry McMurtry and Texas literature are indivisible,” said former Archer City Writers Workshop director George Getschow. “What isn’t so well known is the enormous impact Larry has had on prominent writers in Texas and across the country.” Getschow is co-founder and former writer-in-residence for the University of North Texas’ Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference and taught at UNT’s Mayborn Graduate Institute of Journalism.

      Although the final list of participants is still being determined, authors Carol Flake Chapman, Elizabeth Crook, Geoff Dyer, Stephen Harrigan, W.K. Stratton, Sherry Kafka Wagner, and Getschow are among those scheduled to speak. South Carolina author Erik Calonius will serve as host. Archer County writers taking part include Larry’s brother Charlie McMurtry; Archer City native and author Jim Black; and Midwestern State University Associate Professor of English Greg Giddings, also an Archer County native.

      Students from Clay County’s Midway School will tell of reading Lonesome Dove when McMurtry died. The students planned a day of cowboy events capped with a Larry McMurtry Cattle Drive.

      Getschow said that hosting the tribute in McMurtry’s hometown was critical because place was a crucial element of McMurtry’s writing.

      Essays by those speaking at the tribute and by many others commissioned for this occasion will be compiled in a collection to be published by the University of Texas Press. Writers contributing to the essay collection include McMurtry’s writing partner Diana Ossana, Sarah Bird, Bill Broyles, Mark Busby, Alfredo Corchado, Kim Cross, Greg Curtis, Dagoberto Gilb, Skip Hollandsworth, Stephen Graham Jones, Beverly Lowry, Bill Marvel, Michael J. Mooney, Scott Parks, Dianne Solis, Dave Tarrant, Cathy Booth Thomas, Sergio Troncoso, and Katy Vine.

      Getschow said the essay collection will become among the first serious and thorough evaluations of McMurtry’s work and his influence on generations of writers. “When an important literary figure like Larry McMurtry dies, it’s important for the literary community to do a serious and thorough assessment of his life and his work. His stature will become evident through the pieces in this collection. That’s the intent and purpose of the book.” Getschow said.

      Geoff Dyer, author, critic, and writer-in-residence at the University of Southern California, wrote “Ranging Around Texas” after reading Lonesome Dove for the first time. “I was not reading a book. There was no book and no reader. There was just this world, this huge landscape and its magnificently peopled emptiness,” he states in the essay.

      On McMurtry’s famous work ethic of writing five pages a day, award-winning Texas author and screenwriter Stephen Harrigan writes, “Few novelists have ever been able to match Larry McMurtry’s work ethic, let alone his towering popularity and influence. For many Texas writers, particularly those of my generation working from the first in the shadow of his achievements, his career was both intimidating and inspiring. We could never hope to measure up, but we could dare to press on, because he showed us how.”

      In addition to the literary tribute, the Royal Theater will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the film, The Last Picture Show. The film was made in and around Archer City and released Oct. 22, 1971. The showing will be outside the theater immediately after the literary tribute, at approximately 9:15 p.m. Seating will be on the lawn area east of the theater. Bring lawn chairs and blankets. Food trucks will be on site.

      Admission for both events is free, donations welcome.

About Larry McMurtry

      McMurtry was the author of 29 novels, including the Pulitzer-Prize winning Lonesome Dove. He also wrote three memoirs, two collections of essays, and many screenplays. He grew up in Archer City and in addition to keeping his home there, he opened the Booked Up bookstores.

      The 1963 film Hud starring Paul Newman was based on McMurtry’s first book, Horseman, Pass By. Other films based on his books are Lovin’ Molly (1974, based on 1963’s Leaving Cheyenne), Terms of Endearment (1983), and Texasville (1990).

Attendees are strongly encouraged to wear facial coverings inside the theater.

This event is made possible by a grant from the Wichita Falls Area Community Foundation – Royal C. Bingo” Kinder Advised Fund and sponsored by the Archer City Writers Workshop, the Royal Theater, and the Archer County News.