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The Last Kind Words Saloon: A Novel Hardcover – May 7, 2014

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Liveright; 1St Edition edition (May 7, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0871407868
  • ISBN-13: 978-0871407863
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 0.9 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (449 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #58,437 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

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. --John Mort


“Larry McMurtry possesses one of the most engaging, tempting-to-imitate voices in contemporary American fiction, a voice so smooth and mellow you can almost hear the ice clink against the glass as he talks.” (Max Byrd - New York Times Book Review)

“By turns droll, stark, wry, or raunchy, this peripatetic novel…will satisfy many readers who long for more from literary icon McMurtry.” (Keddy Ann Outlaw - Library Journal)

“[The Last Kind Words Saloon] is never dull, and it’s also very funny. As always, McMurtry’s characters are plain-spoken but subtle and full of dry humor… Moseying along with McMurtry is always worthwhile.” (Adam Wong - Seattle Times)

The Last Kind Words Saloon is a beautiful, dreamy, deeply melancholy book, connecting legend and disparate threads of history in a seamless pastiche of tall tales drawn against the context of their real circumstances.” (Nathan Pensky - The Onion)

“In this ‘ballad in prose,’ as McMurtry describes his latest book, he paints the familiar historical characters in unfamiliar ways… lovely.” (Richard Eisenberg - People)

“A deftly narrated, often comically subversive work of fiction… If Lonesome Dove is a chronicle of the cattle-driving West that contains within its vast, broad ranges a small but heartrending intimate tragedy of paternal neglect, The Last Kind Words Saloon is a dark postmodernist modernist comedy.” (Joyce Carol Oates - New York Review of Books)

“Those who enjoy McMurtry’s rueful humor and understated tone of elegiac melancholy will devour the book in one setting.” (Michael Lindgren - Washington Post)

“[A] wildly worthy addition to the best art books of 2014… 33 Artists in 3 Acts is a superb read…” (Maria Popova - Brain Pickings)

Customer Reviews

Worst McMurtry book I ever read.
Pork Chop
It seemed like a pointless story with very few real characters.
Janice Kuzlik
Very little story, very few pages, very few words.
Amy E. Heeter

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

89 of 95 people found the following review helpful By professor on May 7, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Wow. Been a McMurtry fan a long time, even before Lonesome Dove when I read Horseman Pass By in grad school. His first work, it read well, but nothing like the later referenced Lonesome Dove. As a Texas writer/teacher, I wanted more - a lot more than a rehashing of some of the same tales of Doc and Wyatt that have been told a hundred times. I am disappointed with this book, have been with the move away from what he does so well to some of the stranger books he's written and co-written, and will not be a follower of future books. Lonesome Dove was as good as he gets and proliferation doesn't trump quality. Better to write well than to write a lot.
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46 of 48 people found the following review helpful By C.R. Hurst TOP 500 REVIEWER on May 7, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Many years have passed since I read Larry McMurtry's Lonesome Dove, though I remember how impressed I was with its authenticity of setting, story, and characters. In it McMurtry creates his own ballad of the American West where a hard people live hard lives in a harsh land. In The Last Kind Words Saloon he once again creates an authentic West, but like the faint impressions from a worn etching I thought the story and characters too spare.

In the novel McMurtry follows the friendship of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday in the days before the gunfight at OK Corral. Throughout we meet other legends of the Old West such as Buffalo Bill Cody and Quanah Parker, and recurring characters from McMurtry's other novels such as Nellie Courtwright and Charlie Goodnight. We witness cattle stampedes, sand storms, and Indian raids. And although the skillful simplicity and earthy humor of the author's style are still evident, the stories never really develop and before we know it The Last Kind Words Saloon has ended. I wish there had been more.
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46 of 50 people found the following review helpful By M.Jacobsen TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 8, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Like many readers, I have long been a fan of McMurtry and count his epic Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Lonesome Dove, among my favorite novels of all time. So when he releases a new novel set in the American West, I sit up and take notice. Such is the case this week with the release of THE LAST KIND WORDS SALOON, a novel about the last days of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday - an infamous duo if ever there were.

IMPORTANT: Those looking for an epic read along the lines of Lonesome Dove will be disappointed. McMurtry instead chose to pursue realism in his portrait of the most famous of the Earp brothers and his erstwhile, alcoholic friend Holliday. Doing so required sparseness, as indeed there little of note to either man's life, despite the legends that later grew up around them. As McMurtry noted in a recent interview:

"Wyatt didn't do much of anything except drink and pester his wife and run around," he says. "He didn't do anything remarkable his whole life, ever."

And The Last Kind Words Saloon goes to great pains to convey this in it's very brevity. Still, McMurtry can't conceal his trademark wit which usually has a way of showing up in dialog ("I need to travel with someone better educated," Wyatt said. "There are few subjects you can even discuss intelligently.") when you least expect it. While his characters may have acerbic banter, their actions are considerably less humorous. Earp regularly beats his wife, while Holliday fares slightly better if only because he doesn't drag another human being down with him. (“Nine out of ten statements Doc made were nonsense, but it was dangerous to stop listening because the tenth statement might be really smart.
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Brian Baker VINE VOICE on May 25, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
I love a good Western. I've thoroughly enjoyed everything I've read that was written by McMurtry.

Right up until now. This book's an unparalleled disaster.

First of all, as I alluded in the title, this isn't a full-blown book. It's a sketch, at best. What can you say about a book full of page-and-a-half "chapters"? There's very little actual "story" line, as it's more a series of vignettes. The characters aren't at all fully developed; they're pretty two-dimensional.

This in itself raises another problem. If you're going to center your book on characters that aren't well developed, don't use major historical (of that era) figures about whom much is already known, then have them act contrary to their known characteristics. This problem is most obvious when it comes to Wyatt Earp.

The Earp of this book is a drunk who beats his (fictional composite) wife regularly. There's absolutely no historical evidence to support such a characterization. In fact, his contemporaries to a man characterized him as a dour man who rarely if ever drank at all.

He met Doc Holliday in 1878, so this story took place after that, as they're already good friends in this story. So why the heck are they in "Long Grass, Texas", a whistle-stop tank town, when in real life Earp was always traveling from boom town to boom town chasing the action, the Old West equivalent of what we now call an "entrepreneur"? Why would he have EVER wasted time in a town where a big event is watching some guy's hat blow down the street?

This is revisionism of the worst - and most boring - kind.
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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.

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The Last Kind Words Saloon: A Novel
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