This book is just…not great. The issue comes from the fact that while Larry McMurtry knows a lot, and knows how to tell a great story, he’s not a scholar, not a historian, and gives way to a reproduction to cheap short cuts in his nonfiction too often.
He tells you in no uncertain terms that a better, more fully realized, and more accurate and better researched book already exists: Son of the Morning Star by Evan Connell. I can’t speak to that book yet, as I own it, but haven’t read it yet. But that a writer can look at a much better book, admit as much, and then proceed to state that what I am doing is better BECAUSE is remarkable.
This book suffers from what a lot of Larry McMurtry nonfiction suffers from, a desire to tell a more compelling story than popular histories that already exist tell. So while I am sure plenty of this history is perfectly well researched, it’s all based on secondary sources already, and those sources are better, and I fully expect, better in a lot of ways. Because not only is this book poor history in execution, it’s also only 100 pages of history. Evan Connell took almost 500 pages, and other historians realize this book must take plenty more. And yet, here we are. We also can’t escape from Larry McMurtry’s little autobiographical tendencies that can add to analysis, but detract from a history. Also, we get lots of little sidesteps and digressions that further remind us better books exist. It reminds me a LOT of his final novel (final as of now), The Last Kind Words Saloon, which cannot justify its own existence by argument or by execution.