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Telegraph Days: A Novel Paperback – June 17, 2008


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

In his latest novel, McMurtry returns to his familiar theme of the mythology versus the reality of the West. Here the closing decades of the western frontier are viewed through the eyes of Nellie Courtright, who is likely to endure as one of McMurtry's most memorable and endearing heroines. As a young, orphaned girl in her early twenties, Nellie finds work as a telegraph operator in the tiny town of Rita Blanca, situated in the "no man's land" that eventually became Oklahoma. She witnesses a gunfight in which her younger brother, by pure luck, wipes out a gang of notorious outlaws. When she decides to pen a dime novel recounting the event, it launches an odyssey during which she encounters many of the icons of frontier lore. She carries on a decades-long platonic relationship with Buffalo Bill. She has repeated encounters with a surly Wyatt Earp, and she witnesses the gunfight at the OK Corral. When the frontier closes, she carves out a new life as owner of a California newspaper. 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. Jay Freeman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (June 17, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743250931
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743250931
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (131 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #346,943 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Larry McMurtry is the author of twenty-nine 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 an Academy Award. His most recent novel, When the Light Goes, is available from Simon & Schuster. He lives in Archer City, Texas.

Customer Reviews

After another thirty pages I stopped reading, though I did pause to read the ending.
Diana Wilder
Reading McMurtry is like hearing a yarn on the back porch of a western ranch-house by a master story teller.
Roy G. Ashley
My main complaint is that much of the time it seems really contrived, and it became annoying at times.
blackmamba

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Rick Mitchell VINE VOICE on June 12, 2008
Format: Paperback
It is always dangerous for a man to write in the voice of a woman, and this is an exhibit of those dangers. The main charactger and narrator is Nellie. Her voice did not come off as genuine. Her entire personality seemed to be what a man would like to see in a woman - an aggressive woman who loves men. This was true for her entire personality, not just her admitted obsession with "copulation" (the frequent references became dull).

The fictitious supporting characters in the book were interesting and the best part of the book. They were actually more interesting than the narrator. The famous supporting cast included Wild Bill Hickcock and Buffalo Bill, with a cameo by Billy the Kid. They seemed contrived. It was the unknown fictitious characters that gave any genuine western flavor to the book.

There was some good humor and spoofing of the old western novels, but all in all, the plot lacked depth and at times approached tedium. Although the book was not awful, there was little to recommend it. Nellie has an interesting life, but it did not seem the author was that invested in it. Therefore neither is the reader.

A quick light read, but nothing great.
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22 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Douglas S. Wood on June 3, 2006
Format: Hardcover
A slightly absurdist romp through the Old West. Nellie and Jackson Courtright are orphaned when their Virginia-gentry father "suicides himself" in Rita Blanca, No Man's Land. Jackson soon becomes accidentally famous when he guns down 6 desperadoes - "beginner's luck" - it later becomes clear he can't hit the broad side of a barn with his pistol. Deputy Jackson never moves much beyond that episode, but sister Nellie, the main narrator, "organizes" and "copulates" (her phrase) her way across the West. She goes to work for Buffalo Bill Cody and also meets the Earps, Clantons, Billy the Kid, Doc Holliday, William Tecumseh Sherman and Lillian Gish who all make at least cameo appearances. And mostly they all already know of Nellie before they meet her because of her work with Buffalo Bill and her own famous writing. A cross between Kurt Vonnegut and his own Lonesome Dove, in Telegraph Days McMurtry delivers a wild, sometimes ribald tale that witnesses the translation of the real life in the American West into the mythological Old West.

Highly recommended because it's funny and still gives a good feel for the Old West.
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23 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Richard Cumming on June 7, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Larry McMurtry is a legend. Can he afford to coast? With that Oscar for the screenplay to Brokeback Mountain joining the Pulitzer for Lonesome Dove in his trophy case can McMurtry afford to write a complete dud? I guess so. Telegraph Days is a yawner. His protagonist, Nellie is a one-dimensional nymphomaniac who never lets us know what she really thinks. Just sex...all the time...sex...every guy she meets is a potential bedmate. McMurtry tosses in famous names like so many Madison Avenue product placements. General Custer wants her. Wild Bill Hickock wants her. Buffalo Bill doesn't want her enough, and so on. The book seems to think itself a comedy. More like a sedative. So lame. So effortlessly mundane. McMurtry is on automatic pilot here. He can do better.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Deborah on June 6, 2006
Format: Hardcover
It started a little slow, but quickly pulled me into the story. In short order, I had a connection with the characters. The writing is detailed enough to make you feel like you are there, but isn't so heavy that it distracts from the story line. It was no Louis L'Amour, but Telegraph Days belongs on anyone's "must read" list. A great read!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By C. Winicki on September 26, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I am a first-time reader of Larry McMurtry and can't wait to read another one of his novels. Telegraph Days has wonderfully entertaining and I thoroughly enjoyed all of the characters, especially the narrator, Nellie Cartwright. If you don't have a sense of humor and don't like to laugh, this book is not for you. I would also recommend listening to this book on tape. The performance by Annie Potts really brings the characters to life.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Kerry Sullivan on July 4, 2007
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is a fun and breezy summer read. I had sworn off Larry McMurty the last few years because his books seemed to have become less and less fun and endearing and more and more depressing and sad. With this one, the fun and endearing parts dominate. It's lot's of fun and an easy read.

Actually, I listened to the unabridged audio edition narrated by Annie Potts. She was truly splendid in the role of the brassy heroine.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Reading Maven on June 17, 2008
Format: Hardcover
If you want an accurate historical account of the west than this is probably not the book for you.

However, if you desire a decidedly fictional account of the events of the west and a wonderful heroine, Nellie Courtwright, then you should find Telegraph Days a joy to read. Pure entertainment!

I listened to the audiobook read by Annie Potts - she was a perfect choice for the voice of Nellie.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Red Rock Bookworm TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 1, 2008
Format: Paperback
Larry McMurtrys Telegraph Days give us a glimpse of the old west from a woman's perspective. The woman in question is a 22 year old Virginia native, Nellis Courtright who with her 17 year old brother, Jackson, resides in the town of Rio Blanca, a nothing little place located in an area known as "no mans land". The towns tenuous claim to fame comes from a gunfight in which Jackson, through sheer luck, kills six members of the infamous Yazee Gang.

Nellie is a self-sufficient, unique and assertive women who captializes on her brothers feat by writing a pamphlet describing the event and selling it for 25 cents a copy. This is the beginning of an adventure that takes the reader from the dusty streets of the Oklahoma panhandle in the mid 1870's to the early days of Hollywood.

Nellie is an amorous gal but lacks a discriminating eye when it comes to the opposite sex. She finds herself attracted to any number of gents, some of whom are legends of the untamed old west. McMurtry manages to deftly weave actual historical figures like George Custer, Bill Hickock, Billy the Kid, Virgil Earp, Buffalo Bill Cody, and Jesse James into the various threads of Nellies life as she pursues fame and fortune in various careers ranging from telegraph operator to secretary/manager for Buffalo Bills Nebraska holdings to storyteller/author and finally to Hollywood screenwriter.

Larry McMurtry obviously loves the character and flavor of the old west and is able to realistically convey it's sights, sounds and smells. He seems to be particularly fascinated by its women. In this book, as in Buffalo Girls, his female characters are rarely run of the mill. Instead he chooses to portray them as "a hardy breed of survivors - - strong, organized, in control and rarely repentent. This latest heroine, Nellie Courtright, a "ladylike" pipe smoker could easily be the poster child for a group called "The Society of Willful Western Women".
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