CBR13Bingo – Free! (Taking full advantage of the library system to get audiobooks of mediocre books by a writer I like!)
Telegraph Days – 3/5 Stars
Another of McMurty’s novels that takes on real figures and writes a novel around them. Nellie Courtwright and her brother Jackson have moved to the town of Rio Blanca (near, but not too near Dodge City Kansas) after finding their father dead from an apparent suicide. She’s 22 and her brother is just 17 and they’re the last two remaining of a larger family and its ill-considered move out west from Waynesboro, VA. It’s the 1870s and well, things didn’t always go right. We learn very quickly that Nellie is resourceful and popular, having among previous suitors as George Custer, and future suitors as half the Earp brothers, Bills (Wild and Buffalo) and plenty of others. She takes up the job as town telegraph operator and her brother becomes a sheriff’s deputy. When word that a notorious gang is bent on coming to town, Nellie and her brother join the town’s defenses. When the moment arrives, Jackson freezes, and Nellie alerts him to danger and in the next moment, Jackson has killed all six gang members almost instantly. Nellie quickly writes a narrative of the shooting, prints it up before journalists can descend on the town, and then becomes the center of many attentions.
The novel, like other McMurty novels gives a voice and character to the myths and legends of the Old West moving on toward the days of early Hollywood. The novel is funny and charming throughout, told from Nellie’s voice, and the life McMurtry wants to breathe into legends comes through, but the results are limited.
Loop Group – 2/5 Stars
I guess people just know what a loop group is. Do you? I didn’t. I made it about halfway through this novel before looking it up and well, it’s a group of voice actors who get hired in a group to provide ADR, etc to final productions. I didn’t know, and Larry McMurty doesn’t really tell you. Also this book isn’t really about a loop group. There’s one in this novel, but it doesn’t do much. Instead, the book is about Maggie, head of our loop group, a woman of about 60 who’s just had a hysterectomy and has feelings about it. She’s in her “despair” as she calls it, and is trying to make sense of her new reality. She’s got three daughters, all in their 20s and 30s, each on their own fraught journey; she’s got a best friends on her own fraught journey; and she’s in charge of the finances and booking for the loop group, peopled by those actors each on their own fraught journey. This novel is Larry McMurtry at his indulgent worst. Well, there’s three Larry McMurtys really: the old western novelist, the contemporary novelist, and the nonfiction writer. He’s written truly very good (and even great) books in each of those fields, and then he’s written some truly bad ones as well. This one is pretty weak. He’s not really sure what to do with older women, and he’s thinking through a lot about sex and aging (he was also about 60 with this novel) but something fails him here.