Synopses & Reviews
Not since the publication of his own beloved classic Lonesome Dove
has there been a novel like this one another big, brilliant, unputdownable saga of the West from Larry McMurtry. Telegraph Days
is at once a major work of literature and a completely absorbing read, not just great fiction, but fiction on a great scale, encompassing many years, many characters, real and fictional, and the whole vast landscape of place, time, life, and heart, which has served for more than one hundred thirty years as the background for the Western in fiction and on the screen. Nobody writes, or has ever written, better about the West than Larry McMurtry, and nobody has caught better in words its myths, its often brutal reality, its overwhelming size, and the way it captured both the imagination and the hopes of those who settled there, only, as was so often the case, to dash those hopes.
Told in the voice of Nellie Courtright, a spunky, courageous, attractive young woman whose story this is in part, Telegraph Days is the big novel of the Western gunfighters that people have been hoping for years Larry McMurtry would write.
When Nellie and her brother Jackson are unexpectedly orphaned by their father's suicide on his new and unprosperous ranch, they make their way to the nearby town of Rita Blanca, where Jackson manages to secure a job as a sheriff's deputy, while Nellie, ever resourceful, becomes the town's telegrapher.
Together, they inadvertently put Rita Blanca on the map when young Jackson succeeds in shooting down all six of the ferocious Yazee brothers in a gunfight that brings him lifelong fame but which he can never repeat because his success came purely out of luck.
Propelled by her own energy and commonsense approach to life, Nellie meets and almost conquers the heart of Buffalo Bill, the man she will love most in her long life, and goes on to meet, and witness the exploits of, Billy the Kid, the Earp brothers, and Doc Holliday. She even gets a ringside seat at the Battle at the O.K. Corral, the most famous gunfight in Western history, and eventually lives long enough to see the West and its gunfighters turned into movies.
Full of life, love, shootings, real Western heroes and villains, Telegraph Days is Larry McMurtry at his epic best, in his most ambitious Western novel since Lonesome Dove.
"McMurtry's latest skips through western lore with a wry smile. Marie Antoinette 'Nellie' Courtright and her brother, Jackson, bereft of family after their Virginia clan dies off one by one, arrive in Rita Blanca in 1876, in what would become the Oklahoma Panhandle, to remake themselves. Jackson is made a deputy sheriff and Nellie takes over the telegraph office. In short order, Jackson shoots down an entire gang of outlaws, and Nellie promptly writes it up to launch a lucrative literary career. Other adventures await: she becomes manager of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, boldly faces down Jesse James's attempt to rob her and witnesses the gunfight at the O.K. Corral. She becomes mayor of Rita Blanca, a mother of six and, later, friends with Lillian Gish and William B. Mayer. Beautiful and sexually insatiable, Nellie is a witty, sophisticated, accomplished, cunning, impudent and highly improbable woman more than a match for any man she meets, which isn't saying much, since they're all idiots. She also is little more than a reworking of several previous McMurtry heroines, especially The Berrybender Narratives' Tasmin. This tale is contrived, episodic and lacks cohesion, and its constant comedy is self-conscious. But most readers won't be able to help cracking a smile over McMurtry's 38th book, as purposely over-the-top as an episode of South Park. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"This rollicking epic is filled with excitement and humor, tinged with sadness and a longing for the past. In his striving to demythologize the West, McMurtry's vision of the reality is compelling." Booklist
"Although not as epic as Lonesome Dove, Telegraph Days surely seems of the same vintage good news for the legions of McMurtry fans." Library Journal
"Though the novel ultimately covers a lot of territory, this isn't a return to the Oscar-winner's epic sweep of Lonesome Dove, but it's an easy, breezy read." Kirkus Reviews
"[A] darn good read....McMurtry has created a modern-day dime novel, a romantic knock-up of the West proof that an old-fashioned oater can be as much fun to read as a literary work." Washington Post
"With Telegraph Days...[McMurtry] returns to form with his best work since Anything for Billy..." Christian Science Monitor
"Telegraph Days...rises as a fresh and invigorating story." San Antonio Express-News
"Telegraph Days is an entertaining read and perhaps the most endearing of his minor Western-myth-busting romps..." Dallas Morning News
I've come to think that in times of crisis human beings don't have it in them to be rational. The Yazee gang was riding down upon us, six abreast. We all ran outside and confirmed that fact. The sensible thing would have been to run and hide -- but did we? Not at all.
The narrator of Larry McMurtry's newest book is spunky Nellie Courtright, twenty-two years old and already wrapping every man in the West around her little finger. When she and her teenage brother Jackson are orphaned, she sweet-talks the local sheriff into hiring Jackson as a deputy, while she takes over the vacant job of town telegrapher. When, by pure blind luck, Jackson shoots down the entire Yazee gang, Nellie is quick to capitalize on his new notoriety by selling reviews to reporters. It seems wherever Nellie is, action is sure to happen, from a love affair with Buffalo Bill to a ringside seat at the O.K. Corral gunfight. Told with charm, humor, and an unparalleled zest for life, Nellie's story is the story of how the West was won.
About the Author
Larry McMurtry is the author of twenty-eight novels, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning Lonesome Dove. His other works include two collections of essays, three memoirs, and more than thirty screenplays, including the coauthorship of Brokeback Mountain, for which he received the Academy Award. He lives in Archer City, Texas.
Table of Contents
YAZEE DAYS 1
TELEGRAPH DAYS 95
WILD WEST DAYS 187
TOMBSTONE DAYS 301
CALIFORNIA DAYS 389