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The Last Kind Words Saloon: A Novel by Larry…

The Last Kind Words Saloon: A Novel (edition 2015)

by Larry McMurtry

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Title:The Last Kind Words Saloon: A Novel
Authors:Larry McMurtry
Info:Liveright (2015), Paperback, 224 pages
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The Last Kind Words Saloon by Larry McMurtry



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How many novels do you suppose have been written about Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday and the gunfight at OK Corral? Probably about as many as the movies made about these subjects. The last such novel I read was Richard S. Wheeler's excellent "Trouble in Tombstone." Mary Doria Russell's recent efforts ("Doc" and "Epitaph") still await my attention. Meanwhile there's Larry McMurtry's minimalist version, "The Last Kind Words Saloon" (2014).

The novel is just 196 pages long and has 58 chapters, plus an epilogue. This includes several blank pages and four two-page photographs. The famous gunfight itself takes up less than a half page. It's hard to believe this is the same Larry McMurtry who wrote such monsters as "Lonesome Dove" and "Texasville." But that was a younger McMurtry. The older McMurtry, now 80, writes small. Yet it is amazing how much story and how much character development he fits into these few pages.

The novel begins in the small town of Long Grass. Wyatt and Doc think it may be in Texas, but they aren't sure. They travel to Denver to appear briefly in Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, then back to Mobetie, Texas, and finally to Tombstone, Ariz. The Last Kinds Words Saloon, or at least the sign for that wandering saloon, travels with them. One of Wyatt's brothers, Warren, sets up a saloon business wherever he goes, and he goes wherever Wyatt and his other brothers go. Wyatt's wife, Jessie, tends bar in that saloon. For that reason, Wyatt does his drinking elsewhere. He doesn't mind his wife working, especially since working is not something he likes to do himself, but he doesn't like seeing cowboys flirt with her. When he does, there is trouble, not for the cowboys but for Jessie. The most violent part of the novel is that famous gunfight but when Wyatt strikes Jessie. She takes it as a sign that he really does love her.

Most of the novel's characters were real people, not just Doc, the Earps and the Clantons, but also Buffalo Bill, cattle baron Charlie Goodnight, reporter Nellie Courtright (featured in McMurtry's "Telegraph Days") and others. The brutal Indian warriors Satanta and Satank are here, too, though they are dealt with so quickly that one wonders why McMurtry bothered. Probably just to stretch the novel to 196 pages. ( )
  hardlyhardy | Feb 6, 2017 |
Listened through Chapter 5. It's just not my type of book. I'm not really interested in the old West or these characters. I thought I'd give it a try since I have heard good things about this author.
  ajlewis2 | Feb 24, 2016 |
Not really sure what to think of this mess. Just a lazily cobbled together hodgepodge of assorted paragraphs he had laying around. Like watching a movie trailer.......but there's no movie. You really expect a lot more effort from the guy who wrote The epic Lonesome Dove. ( )
  CharlesHornaday | Jan 18, 2016 |
[Many famous western characters make cameos in McMurtry’s first novel in five years, which continues in the farcical vein of the Berrybender series. An English lord, accompanied by his beautiful mistress, teams up with Charles Goodnight to found a vast cattle ranch near Palo Duro Canyon, Texas—and fails. Observing Goodnight from the sidelines are two wisecracking ne’er-do-wells, Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday, who, after a brief stint with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, drift down to Tombstone, where Wyatt’s brothers, Virgil and Warren, have taken up the law and saloon-keeping, respectively. Other than Goodnight, Wyatt is the only developed character: he’s a wife beater and alcoholic with a quick temper. He picks a fight with the Clantons, an ignorant but mostly harmless bunch, and kills them in a paragraph. The famous O.K. Corral fight is rendered as a heartless parody. Maybe McMurtry’s version is truer than all the romanticized ones, but Gus McCrae from Lonesome Dove will roll in his grave.} ( )
  maryreinert | Dec 1, 2015 |
A short, sharp, bitter and somewhat backhanded treatment of a collection of western legends. McMurtry's pungent, punchy, no-nonsense style of storytelling works to remarkable effect in these brief chapters recounting episodes from the lives of Wyatt Earp and Do Holliday and Charlie Goodnight and a few others as the wander across the western plains, blundering and blustering their way doggedly into the stories that would make them legends. ( )
  Nigel_Quinlan | Oct 21, 2015 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0871407868, Hardcover)

The triumphant return of Larry McMurtry with this ballad in prose: his heartfelt tribute to a bygone era of the American West.

A fictional retelling of Wyatt Earp’s and Doc Holliday’s remarkable friendship, The Last Kind Words Saloon is a loving tribute to the Old West. Tracing their rich, varied lives from the town of Long Grass to Buffalo Bill’s show in Denver, then from Mobetie, Texas, to Tombstone, Arizona, where the story dramatically culminates in the famed gunfight at the OK Corral, Larry McMurtry’s first novel in five years is a vivid pastiche that echoes many of his earlier works, including his Pulitzer Prize–winning Lonesome Dove. The men—legendary gunslingers, cattle ranchers, Indians, even an English baron—are especially potent, while the women are both fiery and long-suffering, running brothels, counting cattle, and breaking horses with the best of them. Together they tell the story of forging a new civilization where only lawlessness had prevailed. By turns hilarious, captivating, and ultimately tragic, The Last Kind Words Saloon celebrates the genius of one of our most original American writers.

“McMurtry is an alchemist who converts the basest materials to gold.”—New York Times Book Review “McMurtry can transform ordinary words into highly lyrical, poetic passages. He presents human dramas with sympathy and compassion that make us care about his characters in ways that most novelists can’t.”—Los Angeles Times

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:42 -0400)

Traces the rich and varied friendship of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holiday from the town of Long Grass to Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show in Denver, then to Mobetie, Texas, and finally to Tombstone, Arizona, culminating with the famed gunfight at the O.K. Corral.… (more)

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