Excited to have Jim Wilsky here today, whose story at All Due Respect is kinda legendary. He also has a novel coming out TODAY from Snubnose Press. It's called Blood on Blood and is co-written with Frank Zafiro. You can find out more at their blog, Harboiled Partners in Crime.
First and foremost, I want to thank Chris for letting me do a guest post on Death by Killing. I consider it an honor to be here. I was going to try and write something clever and witty or maybe write a barely disguised attempt to push my new book - but then the other day, I read one of the saddest quotes I think I’ve ever come across. So here is something else, a tribute maybe or,
We all have our favorite authors and I’m betting that some of them don’t necessarily write in the same crime fiction genre that a lot us do. My own personal favorite really has nothing to do with what I try to write, or the sandbox I play in. But he loves writing and books, books of all kinds.
My guy is Larry Jeff McMurtry. Born 1936, in Archer City Texas. Son of a rancher and his wife. That’s about all you need me to say because it isn’t like I’m talking about a guy that you don’t know much about. Anybody who can write, with such excellence, in such a range from Lonesome Dove to Terms of Endearment doesn’t need much of an introduction. Just a little side trivia: his novel Horsemen, Ride By inspired a little movie called Hud starring some goof named Paul Newman. His hometown of Archer City was the model setting for his novel and resulting movie, The Last Picture Show. Anyway, there you go. He had game.
He said this back in 2005, "The world we created that book shop for is gone. It doesn't exist anymore. I will soon enter my seventieth year and would like to travel a bit before I become too decrepit. The books will stay right where they are -- they can slumber in their majesty until the next turn of the wheel." And if you have any emotion in you, any at all, you have to love those beautiful sad words.
The books he was speaking of then were housed in his four Booked Up bookstores and buildings. He had a dream of opening up used book stores in several cities around the U.S. including Arizona, Chicago and D.C. as well as his home base of Archer City. He did exactly that, fulfilling his dream in the late 80’s and 90’s. Hundreds of thousands of books were stacked on unending shelves. He wanted the book to survive, the bookstore in general, to survive. And not the chain stores that have racks and racks of the latest bestsellers in maybe 8 or 10 sections, but a real honest to God bookstore with the most unbelievable collection you could ever imagine.
By the time he made the statement above they were all closed except Archer City and it was going away too.
Did he originally do it for money? Of course not. Did he decide to open it in his hometown because of the demographics and predicted explosion of growth of the Archer City population….at under 2,000 people and a stop off on the way to nowhere, probably not huh? No, he did it because he loved books.
Then, later in 2005, he reconsidered and decided to stay open. The decision to keep things going was driven purely by the heart and by an outpouring of public support. In what used to be 4 buildings, all Booked Up in tiny Archer City is now boiling down to one and they are having a public auction (August 10th and 11th in fact). McMurtry has an unbelievable book collection spanning across vast sections of art, children's literature, collecting and crafts, fiction, military history, poetry, science fiction, 18th and 19th century books, classical studies, fiction before 1925, foreign books and pamphlets, ancient history and mythology. Some 450,000 books that will go down to around 150K.
McMurtry isn’t just a great author and my personal favorite because of his tremendous string of award winning novels and movies adapted from those novels, or his numerous screenplays. Not just for his Guggenheim grants, Stanford fellowships, Pulitzer Prize and Academy Awards. In my mind, it’s also because he loves the written word. Loves the pure art that represents. Larry McMurtry is a romantic at heart. His books are like videos to me and they have come with a built in soundtrack that I can hear. Yes, he’s a romantic and I would argue that all great writers share that trait, among others.
If you are close enough and if you have the means I would encourage the trip to Archer City. If not now, make that trip someday. It will be worth it.
Just remember, “The books will stay right where they are -- they can slumber in their majesty until the next turn of the wheel."
I hope I can write a sentence like that someday.