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The Last Kind Words Saloon
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Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday move across the frontier from Long Grass, Texas, to Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show in Denver in the latest novel by the acclaimed author of The Last Picture Show and Lonesome Dove. 30,000 first printing. - (Baker & Taylor)

Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday move across the frontier from Long Grass, Texas, to Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show in Denver. - (Baker & Taylor)

Larry McMurtry has done more than any other living writer to shape our literary imagination of the American West. With The Last Kind Words Saloon he returns again to the vivid and unsparing portrait of the nineteenth-century and cowboy lifestyle made so memorable in his classic Lonesome Dove. Evoking the greatest characters and legends of the Old Wild West, here McMurtry tells the story of the closing of the American frontier through the travails of two of its most immortal figures: Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday.Opening in the settlement of Long Grass, Texas—not quite in Kansas, and nearly New Mexico—we encounter the taciturn Wyatt, whiling away his time in between bottles, and the dentist-turned-gunslinger Doc, more adept at poker than extracting teeth. Now hailed as heroes for their days of subduing drunks in Abilene and Dodge—more often with a mean look than a pistol—Wyatt and Doc are living out the last days of a way of life that is passing into history, two men never more aware of the growing distance between their lives and their legends.Along with Wyatt's wife, Jessie, who runs the titular saloon, we meet Lord Ernle, an English baron; the exotic courtesan San Saba, "the most beautiful whore on the plains"; Charlie Goodnight, the Texas Ranger turned cattle driver last seen in McMurtry's Comanche Moon, and Nellie Courtright, the witty and irrepressible heroine of Telegraph Days.McMurtry traces the rich and varied friendship of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holiday from the town of Long Grass to Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show in Denver, then to Mobetie, Texas, and finally to Tombstone, Arizona, culminating with the famed gunfight at the O.K. Corral, rendered here in McMurtry's stark and peerless prose.With the buffalo herds gone, the Comanche defeated, and vast swaths of the Great Plains being enclosed by cattle ranches, Wyatt and Doc live on, even as the storied West that forged their myths disappears. As harsh and beautiful, and as brutal and captivating as the open range it depicts, The Last Kind Words Saloon celebrates the genius of one of our most original American writers. - (WW Norton)

A Seattle Times Best Book of 2014The triumphant return of Larry McMurtry with this ballad in prose: his heartfelt tribute to a bygone era of the American West. - (WW Norton)

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Booklist Reviews

Many famous western characters make cameos in McMurtry's first novel in five years, which continues in the farcical vein of the Berrybender series. An English lord, accompanied by his beautiful mistress, teams up with Charles Goodnight to found a vast cattle ranch near Palo Duro Canyon, Texas—and fails. Observing Goodnight from the sidelines are two wisecracking ne'er-do-wells, Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday, who, after a brief stint with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, drift down to Tombstone, where Wyatt's brothers, Virgil and Warren, have taken up the law and saloon-keeping, respectively. Other than Goodnight, Wyatt is the only developed character: he's a wife beater and alcoholic with a quick temper. He picks a fight with the Clantons, an ignorant but mostly harmless bunch, and kills them in a paragraph. The famous O.K. Corral fight is rendered as a heartless parody. Maybe McMurtry's version is truer than all the romanticized ones, but Gus McCrae from Lonesome Dove will roll in his grave. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: This might not be exactly what Lonesome Dove fans would like, but the first novel from McMurtry in five years will have his audience eager for anything. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.

Library Journal Reviews

The big news here? McMurtry jumps ship, joining Norton's Liveright imprint to publish his first novel in five years. This fictionalized account of the friendship between Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday moves from Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show in Denver to Tombstone, AZ, and the famed shootout at the OK Corral, with characters ranging from ranchers and gunslingers to tough women who run brothels or break horses. In other words, classic McMurtry.

[Page 71]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Library Journal Reviews

In the waning days of the Old West, lawman Wyatt Earp, his sidekick Doc Holliday, and big-time rancher Charles Goodnight often cross paths, sometimes not even knowing what state or territory they are in. Cowboys fight over cattle, the few remaining Kiowa Indians commit brutal murders, and prostitutes outnumber wives. Wyatt and Doc gain employment with Buffalo Bill's Wild West show, but when that shuts down, they end up in Tombstone, AZ. Wyatt opens the Last Kind Words Saloon and installs his wife, Jessie, as bartender but gets jealous when she pays attention to the male customers. In brief, scattershot chapters, McMurtry (Lonesome Dove) portrays nearly all his characters as cantankerous, fed up, or lovelorn. "Life was a peril, purely a peril," summarizes Goodnight when three unrelated herds of cattle intermingle, bringing his operations to a halt. Earlier in the novel, his outlandish partnership with an English lord evaporates when the aristocrat plummets off a cliff on a thoroughbred horse. VERDICT By turns droll, stark, wry, or raunchy, this peripatetic novel is a bit sketchy at times. The infamous gunfight at the OK Corral brings the novel to a dramatic end and will satisfy many readers who long for more from literary icon McMurtry. [See Prepub Alert, 12/16/13.]—Keddy Ann Outlaw, Houston

[Page 98]. (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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