I read Larry McMurtry's slim and meandering memoir LITERARY LIFE, which had some interesting anecdotes here and there, but overall I thought it was a big disappointment. I was hoping to learn a lot more about his approach to writing and the evolution his novels, many of which are among my all-time favorites. But there was one fact that he shared that I found quite surprising:
Lonesome Dove was my tenth novel, my eleventh book. I had been publishing books from the early Sixties to the mid-Eighties before producing a book that came close to selling five thousand copies, a feat nearly achieved by All My Friends Are Going To Be Strangers, which came out just in time to profit from the flare of interest produced by the popularity of The Last Picture Show. [Lee here: McMurtry is referring to the movie adaptation, not the novel]
My lack of rising sales might have been easier for Simon and Schuster to tolerate if I had, along the way, been producing exceptional reviews, but, in the main, I attracted no reviews. […] The lack of interest in my books continues to this day.
It's unbelievable to me that McMurtry's early books — classics and personal favorites like The Last Picture Show, Leaving Cheyenne, Movin' On, and Horseman Pass By (which became the movie HUD) — didn't sell anywhere near as well as, say, a men's action-adventure paperback like .357 Vigilante. That's just wrong.
When McMurtry says his books still don't inspire much interest, he seems to be referring to reviews from major publications and not sales (my guess is that his books sell well, if not spectacularly). You'd think an author who has won the Pulitizer Prize for his fiction, and an Oscar for his screenwriting, would certainly merit as much critical attention as typical Michael Connelly book receives. But apparently McMurtry doesn't…and I sure don't know why. Do you?