Sunday, July 10, 2016

The Last Kind Words Saloon (and why Larry McMurtry is an amazing author)


"Whoever ordered that lotion probably got snake-bit and expired soon after," Doc said.
     Wyatt didn't answer. Nine out of ten statements Doc made were nonsense, but it was dangerous to stop listening because the tenth statement might be really smart.


     Ah, Larry McMurtry, I have missed your voice!

     Here is one reason why I love Larry McMurtry's books: he has such a way of creating a scene, so vividly, that you never doubt the sincerity of his characters and place. Here's another reason: he knows how to drive a story, and doesn't waste time with the unimportant stuff. And another: HIS DIALOGUE. Man alive, his dialogue. How. Does. He. Do. It.

     Another reason? He's just plain hilarious.

     Prior to this I'd read Telegraph Days and Lonesome Dove and loved both, so when a friend lent me this, McMurtry's latest, I knew I would gobble it up, and I did.

     For me, having read TD and LD, The Last Kind Words is like a visit back into an old familiar world. Characters such as Charlie Goodnight and Nellie Courtwright make appearances, while the main story revolves around none other but Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday. This is Larry McMurtry's own sardonic take on the two's friendship, and some of the events leading up to the O.K. Corrall.

     Now, I love Wyatt Earp and Doc. Anything written about them, I'm gonna like. And if Larry McMurtry's doing the writing, all the better. I will say, he does have a tendency to make characters sarcastic and haplessly indifferent to life in general (which, now that I think about it, is a trademark of lots of western characters...) Wyatt is lazy and Doc is a motormouth, almost comparable to Gus McCrae. I liked Doc Holliday better than Wyatt; McMurtry's version of Wyatt isn't very nice at all. (My Wyatt Earp will always be Kevin Costner, and don't try to mess with that.) But I still loved the book, because this is the author's version of the legendary characters. This is his take. And I really cannot resist getting sucked into anything he writes!

     It's a short little book, not a ton of action, with a tone at once bleak and humorous. (Someone said it very eloquently in a review on the cover of the book...oh look, it was the Washington Post...."rueful humor and understated tone of elegiac melancholy"...pretty much.) The characters are as full of spunk and spitfire as any western characters should be. And I cannot praise the dialogue enough; after reading this, I'm more inspired to pick up my pen and try being an actual writer again. McMurtry makes it look easy; what's more, he makes it look fun, and it is. In short: I loved this odd little book, and now I feel like going back to Rita Blanca and seeing what fresh news Nellie Courtwright has discovered to write an article about. :-)


(I read most of this book while walking back and forth on the street from my house to our farm. Folks, don't do that. It's a street. There will be cars.)


  1. *perks up at the word dialogue*

    You know, I absolutely LOVE dialogue. It's my favourite thing to read in a story. It's my favourite thing to write in a story. I just have a thing for good dialogue. (And a thing for bad dialogue. I'm quite picky, really.) I love Doc's sarcastic lines. Just for that, I may consider picking that book up, if I get the opportunity. :D (I just checked and my library has more than one copy of it!)

    (Is there any bad language or indecent stuff in it?)

    ~Miss Meg

    1. Larry McMurtry is the MASTER of dialogue. While I'm not too crazy about his Wyatt Earp, I love the way he handles Doc Holliday. I can just picture Val Kilmer spouting off these lines.

      There is a fair sprinkling of profanity, and some sexual/inappropriate references, like all of McMurtry's books (unfortunately). I'd certainly recommend discretion. It's not too explicit...but it would depend on your own standards.

  2. Adding to my to-be-read-pile! Great review.

    1. Rebecca, if you like westerns or a simple, salty writing style, I think you'll find this amusing. ;-)

  3. The first bit of story that you included made me interested to read the rest of your review. This certainly sounds like a delightful book. And I do love westerns....I just haven't read that many. :P
    I echo Miss Meg's question above about the language or indecency. :)

    1. It is a little bleak, but even so his writing and characters and dialogue make me smile so much. :-) (And ditto what I said in response to Miss Meg's comment.)

    2. Thanks so much! I'll hold off reading it, but I did enjoy that little snippet of dialogue all the same. :)

      ps. Your new header!!! I love it.

  4. And thanks to your review, I have put a hold on this book at the library. Hoping to get it soon! Cuz... Wyatt and Doc fascinate me.

    BTW, have you ever considered doing another western movie week of some sort?

    1. Cool! I hope you like it. If you've never read anything by McMurtry it may take some getting used to....but I think you'll get into it. :-)

      I'm so glad you asked...actually, Olivia and I are preparing just that. An announcement will be out very soon!

    2. I read Dead Man's Walk long ago, so it won't be my first, but it'll be my first in quite a while, let's say that.

      Oh good! I hope it's not one of the weeks I'll be super busy, because I have a fun giveaway in mind for it.

  5. Ach, I need to read McCurtry some day. I mean, if he's a master of dialogue AND knows how to drive a story "without wasting time on unimportant stuff," methinks I'd like him ;D

  6. OH I do so love Larry McMurtry's way of writing as well. Like a lot a lot. I'm glad you can relate. He is indeed so very funny.
    Loved this post, by the way.



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