December 1, 1998
by Dee Entrekin
Larry McMurtry spent the first eighteen years of his life in Archer City, which he says was at that time utterly bookless. It was not until he left to attend Rice University that the world of books opened to him. His love of books was fostered in Rice's Fondren Library, resulting in his becoming one of America's foremost writers.
After earning a master's degree from Rice, McMurtry received a Wallace Stegner Fellowship at Stanford and was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for creative writing in fiction. While in San Francisco, he scouted books for book dealers in that area.
When McMurtry returned to Fort Worth to teach at Texas Christian University and later at Rice, he became more involved in the book business. First, he managed a bookstore in Houston, then opened his own shop called Booked Up. He opened another Booked Up in Dallas. Later, after moving to Washington, D.C. in 1969, he and a partner opened yet another bookstore under the same name in Georgetown. His partner still runs the Georgetown store. McMurtry closed his Dallas and Houston stores.
McMurtry is now concentrating his efforts on making his hometown a Texas version of Wales' famous Hay-on-Wye. Situated twenty-five miles south of Wichita Falls, he hopes one day to have the largest offering of books in the country. At present, Booked Up in Archer City fills four buildings with over 250,000 books, and McMurtry plans to double that number of books.
His goal is to attract other book dealers to Archer City. His stock includes fragments of fifteen to twenty antiquarian bookstores that have closed around the country. Unfortunately, the high rent in large cities have forced many of these great bookstores to sell out or close, some electing to sell through catalogs and the Internet. McMurtry thinks that "the only way to run an antiquarian bookstore, unless you're very wealthy, is in a small town."
In an article in the August issue of Bibilo, McMurtry says that his days of writing fiction are numbered. He plans to eventually focus on nonfiction projects, but right now, developing Archer City as a book town is his aim. He says: "Working in rare books and antiquarian books is a progressive thing. You don't always get better as a writer -- you get older, you get tired, you exhaust an original gift. In books you're dealing in knowledge. The older you get, the better you get. It's almost the opposite of being a writer."
McMurtry's books, Horseman, Pass By, and Leaving Cheyenne are included in A.C. Greene's Fifty Best Books on Texas. His book, Lonesome Dove, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1986. First trade editions of his books are widely collected.
The following are approximate retail prices for first editions in "Very Good" to "As New" condition.
Horseman, Pass By, Harper NY (1961) - $1,750
Leaving Cheyenne, Harper & Row NY (1963) - $1,250
The Last Picture Show, Dial NY (1966) - $500
In a Narrow Grave, Encino Austin (1968) - $400
Moving On, Simon & Schuster NY (1970) - $150
All My Friends are Going to be Strangers, S&S NY (1972) - $150
It's Always We Rambled, Hallman NY (1974) (no dustjacket) - $300
Terms of Endearment, S&S NY (1975) - $125
Somebody's Darling, S&S NY (1989) - $50
Cadillac Jack, S&S NY (1982) - $50
The Desert Rose, S&S NY (1983) - $50
Lonesome Dove, S&S NY (1985) - $150
Texasville, S&S NY (1987) - $25
Film Flam, S&S NY (1987) - $40
Anything for Billy, S&S NY (1988) - $25
Some Can Whistle, S&S NY (1989) - $20
Buffalo Girl, S&S NY (1990) - $20
Dee Entrekin owns Entrekin Book Center.