Buffalo Girls

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Overview

Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Larry McMurtry rediscovered the myth of the Old West and gave it new life in books such as LONESOME DOVE and ANYTHING FOR BILLY. McMurtry once again looks to the Old West and brings to life the legendary Calamity Jane in BUFFALO GIRLS.

Calamity Jane is the West -- a larger than life figure, living in her friend Dora's cathouse in Miles City. Grown old and reclusive, she is content remembering the excitement of her past and relating it in letters to...

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Buffalo Girls

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Overview

Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Larry McMurtry rediscovered the myth of the Old West and gave it new life in books such as LONESOME DOVE and ANYTHING FOR BILLY. McMurtry once again looks to the Old West and brings to life the legendary Calamity Jane in BUFFALO GIRLS.

Calamity Jane is the West -- a larger than life figure, living in her friend Dora's cathouse in Miles City. Grown old and reclusive, she is content remembering the excitement of her past and relating it in letters to her daughter -- until old friend Buffalo Bill Cody and his Wild West Show come to town. Buffalo Bill makes Calamity an offer that she can't refuse -- a chance to relive her glory days.

"Calamity Jane is as real and as moving a heroine as Larry McMurtry has ever created." Publisher's Source

Pulitzer prize-winning author Larry McMurtry returns to the territory of his masterwork, Lonesome Dove, to sing the song of Calamity Jane's last ride. The CBS miniseries starring Angelica Huston and Melanie Griffith will air during May sweeps period. Previously published.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Yearning for the excitement and good hunting of the pk Wild West, two mountain men and an old Indian scout dejectedly roam the prairie; an aging Calamity Jane composes brooding letters to her daughter; a madam closes her bordello to run a respectable hotel, symbolically ending the era. According to PW , ``McMurtry's genius with language always enchants, but this tale's charm is muffled by sadness.'' (Oct.)
Library Journal
McMurtry, a prolific mythologizer/demythologizer of the Old West, here takes on Calamity Jane (Martha Jane Canary, 1852?-1903)--who confesses in a series of letters to being a drunken hell-raiser but never an outlaw--and sundry larger-than-life cohorts. The author's talent for characterizations and storytelling shines as he depicts gritty events and relationships in the life of fur trappers and Indians who, along with Calamity Jane, must resort to performing in Bill Cody's Wild West show in order to survive. They exploit and are exploited by their frontier lifestyle before being defeated by it in the end. A spellbinding saga with a surprise ending. Highly recommended. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/15/90.-- Will Hepfer, SUNY at Buffalo Libs.
From the Publisher
Houston Chronicle Not since Lonesome Dove has [Larry McMurtry] written so movingly about the disappearance of the West.

The New York Times A wonderfully warm and touching elegy to the passing of the frontier...a salute to the dying West, as rendered through McMurtry's wonderfully quirky characters.

Newsday Buffalo Girls is as pure and sweet as a waltz played on a cold night. You'll love it.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780671536152
  • Publisher: Pocket Books
  • Publication date: 9/15/1991
  • Series: Silhouette Special Edition Series
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 345
  • Product dimensions: 4.19 (w) x 6.76 (h) x 0.96 (d)

Meet the Author

Larry McMurtry

Larry McMurtry is the author of twenty-nine novels, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning Lonesome Dove, three memoirs, two collections of essays, and more than thirty screenplays. He lives in Archer City, Texas.

Biography

Back in the late 60s, the fact that Larry McMurtry was not a household name was really a thorn in the side of the writer. To illustrate his dissatisfaction with his status, he would go around wearing a T-shirt that read "Minor Regional Novelist." Well, more than thirty books, two Oscar-winning screenplays, and a Pulitzer Prize later, McMurtry is anything but a minor regional novelist.

Having worked on his father's Texas cattle ranch for a great deal of his early life, McMurtry had an inborn fascination with the West, both its fabled history and current state. However, he never saw himself as a life-long rancher and aspired to a more creative career. He achieved this at the age of 25 when he published his first novel. Horseman, Pass By was a wholly original take on the classic western. Humorous, heartbreaking, and utterly human, this story of a hedonistic cowboy in contemporary Texas was a huge hit for the young author and even spawned a major motion picture starring Paul Newman called Hud just two years after its 1961 publication. Extraordinarily, McMurtry was even allowed to write the script, a rare honor for such a novice.

With such an auspicious debut, it is hard to believe that McMurtry ever felt as though he'd been slighted by the public or marginalized as a minor talent. While all of his books may not have received equal attention, he did have a number of astounding successes early in his career. His third novel The Last Picture Show, a coming-of-age-in-the-southwest story, became a genuine classic, drawing comparisons to J. D. Salinger and James Jones. In 1971, Peter Bogdonovich's screen adaptation of the novel would score McMurtry his first Academy award for his screenplay. Three years later, he published Terms of Endearment, a critically lauded urban family drama that would become a hit movie starring Jack Nicholson and Shirley MacLaine in 1985.

That year, McMurtry published what many believe to be his definitive novel. An expansive epic sweeping through all the legends and characters that inhabited the old west, Lonesome Dove was a masterpiece. All of the elements that made McMurtry's writing so distinguished -- his skillful dialogue, richly drawn characters, and uncanny ability to establish a fully-realized setting -- convened in this Pulitzer winning story of two retired Texas rangers who venture from Texas to Montana. The novel was a tremendous critical and commercial favorite, and became a popular miniseries in 1989.

Following the massive success of Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry's prolificacy grew. He would publish at least one book nearly every year for the next twenty years, including Texasville, a gut-wrenching yet hilarious sequel to The Last Picture Show, Buffalo Girls, a fictionalized account of the later days of Calamity Jane, and several non-fiction titles, such as Crazy Horse.

Interestingly, McMurtry would receive his greatest notoriety in his late 60s as the co-screenwriter of Ang Lee's controversial film Brokeback Mountain. The movie would score the writer another Oscar and become one of the most critically heralded films of 2005. The following year he published his latest novel. Telegraph Days is a freewheeling comedic run-through of western folklore and surely one of McMurtry's most inventive stories and enjoyable reads. Not bad for a "minor regional novelist."

Good To Know

A miniseries based on McMurtry's novel Comanche Moon is currently in production. McMurtry co-wrote the script.

The first-printing of McMurtry's novel In a Narrow Grave is one of his most obscure for a rather obscure reason. The book was withdrawn because the word "skyscrapers" was misspelled as "skycrappers" on page 105.

McMurtry comes from a long line of farmers and ranchers. His father and eight of his uncles were all in the profession.

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    1. Hometown:
      Archer City, Texas
    1. Date of Birth:
      June 3, 1936
    2. Place of Birth:
      Wichita Falls, Texas
    1. Education:
      B.A., North Texas State University, 1958; M.A., Rice University, 1960. Also studied at Stanford University.

Read an Excerpt

From Chapter One

Jim Ragg was skinning a prairie dog, wondering if the fire would last until he got it skinned. A Wind River breeze -- a gale, by most standards -- surged down the gray canyons and sucked at the fire.

"Let's go somewhere else," Bartle Bone suggested.

"Right in the middle of supper?" Jim asked.

"No, I just meant eventually," Bartle said. "There's grit and then there's Wind River grit. I prefer the first kind."

"I think this prairie dog might have been sick," Jim said. "It moved kind of sluggish, like you do when you're sick."

"Well, if it was sick I'd prefer to go hungry," Bartle said. "I'm not up to digesting a diseased animal tonight."

Bartle was combing his fine beard. Among his few treasures was a fragment of comb he had snitched from a whore in Cheyenne. His beard was another treasure, at least in his view. Many western beards were filled with dirt, grease, and bits of debris, but he strove to keep his immaculate -- no easy task in a rough, often waterless, land.

Bartle was determined, though. He also possessed a fragment of mirror, which he had taken from a dead Sioux after the Custer battle. He and his friend Jim had been in the Sioux camp only the day before the battle, and soon heard of it; they had been among the first to observe the carnage. Bartle had taken nothing but the fragment of mirror, though the battlefield was strewn with the valuables of dead men.

All around them, as they stood stunned amid the bodies, Sioux and Cheyenne, Arapaho and Ree were carrying off their dead, singing as they lashed corpses to horses. Bartle had heard much Indian singing, but there was no precedent for the Custer battle, and the death songs that day were of a different timbre, one he had never heard before and would never hear again.

The singing mingled with the wind as the grass waved over the dead. One of the dead Sioux had a piece of mirror in his hand. Bartle saw the flash of sunlight on the shard of glass and, thinking it curious that an Indian had gone into battle holding a mirror, and then died holding it, had stopped and taken the glass. Then he went on walking among the twisted dead.

"I might be the only one who profited from the Custer fight," he said. "I got this mirror and look what a difference it made to my beard.

"Maybe the man who had it was responsible for flashing signals," he added. After much reflection, he had decided that best explained the mirror.

"That's just a guess," Jim said. "I don't see no reason to move just because you don't approve of Wyoming sand. Or are you telling me that you're ready to adopt the settled life?"

"I sure don't want to adopt it until we get someplace where there's something better to eat than sick prairie dogs," Bartle said, watching critically as his friend fixed the prairie dog to a spit.

Jim didn't answer. He squatted by the campfire and stared into space -- the darkening, howling space of the Wind River valley.

Bartle put his comb and mirror away -- barbering was a chancy affair, given the poor light and strong wind. The wind from the west howled around them. It whined, it keened, it sang, so strong at times that it was necessary to turn one's back to it in order to breathe satisfactorily.

"This country ain't so bad," Jim said. "The Shoshone like it."

"They may like the country but they don't like us," Bartle replied.

"Why, I never had a hostile word from a Shoshone," Jim said, somewhat startled by his friend's remark. "What makes you think they don't like us?"

"They're Indians," Bartle reminded him. "No Indians like us. The rich Indians don't and the poor Indians don't. The young Indians don't and the old Indians don't. The men Indians don't and the lady Indians don't."

"That's putting it pretty strong," Jim said.

"Even if the Shoshone liked us there would be no reason to stay," Bartle said. "There's no beaver in the river anyway. I doubt one has been here for a hundred years. It ain't the kind of river beavers like."

"There's creeks in those mountains though," Jim said, gesturing to the north. He sniffed at the prairie dog, which so far did not smell rotten. "If we do find beaver it'll be in the mountains, not out here on the flats."

Bartle said nothing. Lately, to Jim's distress, he had become more and more reluctant to talk about beaver.

"I mean to examine ever creek in the west before I give up on beaver," Jim said, as he had many times.

Bartle Bone, usually cheerful, felt a wearying sadness in his breast. The subject of beaver was a sore one, and had been for years. To Jim Ragg, it was a religion. Bartle had once felt the same, but his faith had long since been lost; now and again, though, he felt the sadness of the faithless.

As young men he and Jim had enjoyed three splendid years as beavermen, and several more that were passable, if not exactly splendid. But a quarter of a century had passed since those years. Other beavermen, friends of their youth, had long since died, been killed, or departed to safer lives. Few of the few who were left had any brains to speak of, any memory. Their talk, when they were sober enough to talk, was of the Custer battle, or else of Black Hills gold. Hardly a one could remember back twenty-five years to a time when millions of beaver still splashed in the cool streams of the west.

Jim Ragg was one of the few. He remembered every river, from the Oregon gorge to the headwaters of the Rio Grande. He remembered the cold ponds, the traps, the pelts. Of all the mountain men left, Jim Ragg was the only one -- as far as Bartle knew -- whose imagination hearkened only to beaver.

Gold didn't interest Jim, silver bored him, cattle disgusted him. Indian fighting gave him no pleasure, gambling made him restless, even his whoring was brief. Beaver meant more to Jim than women, cards, fortune, or anything else the Wild West had to offer.

But there were no beaver, as there were no buffalo, which meant for a true beaverman such as Jim Ragg that there was really no longer a West. In the flash of their own lives, a flash already dimming, it had been used up. It was a peculiar situation, and a sad one, Bartle felt. The snows still lay on the mountains, the grass still waved on the plains, the sky was still blue and deep as time; only a few details had actually changed -- the beaver gone, the buffalo gone, the Indians whipped -- and yet, when those things went the glory went also. The last time the two of them had straggled into Denver a bartender had shown them a poster of Billy Cody's Wild West show. Jim Ragg sneered -- he had never had any use for Billy Cody -- but Bartle had felt rather queer, and retired to a corner to drink a brandy. Halfway through the bottle he figured out what was queer.

"What Wild West?" he said, to a little blonde whore who stopped to tease him. "What Wild West? If Billy Cody can make a poster about it then there ain't no Wild West." At that point the whore skedaddled -- she hadn't liked his mood.

Since then Bartle Bone had felt a little lonely, even in company of lifelong friends such as Jim Ragg or Calamity Jane, the problem being that he nursed a truth he knew neither of his lifelong friends could stand to hear. There was no Wild West -- that was the truth -- but suggest as much to Jim Ragg and there'd be a fistfight; mention it to Calamity and a gun battle might ensue.

Not being able to discuss the matter with his true companions left Bartle feeling a little sad, but on the whole a little sadness was preferable to fistfights and gun battles, two sports he had lost his taste for.

"I wish you really liked to talk," he said to Jim. "I could improve your education considerable, if you really liked to talk."

"I don't mind talk," Jim said, though in fact an excess of talk did make him nervous.

"I didn't say you minded it, I just said I wished you liked it," Bartle replied. "But you don't, so I give up. Is that rodent cooked yet?"

"I'm doing the best I can," Jim said. "It's a small fire."

"I guess we oughta go look up Calamity," Bartle said. "She'll know the news. Calamity always knows the news."

"She might be too drunk to remember it, though," Jim said. "She needs to wean herself from all that drinking."

The prairie dog looked so unappetizing that he regretted he had even bothered to shoot it, much less cook it.

"There could be a passel of news," Bartle said. "We could be at war with China for all you know. The Chinamen could have captured San Francisco by now, or even Texas."

"I've never been to San Francisco, let 'em have it," Jim Ragg said. Texas was another matter, but it seemed unlikely to him that the Chinese had captured Texas. If there was war in Texas, half the old men of the west would have rushed to the fight.

"Even if there ain't no news I miss Calamity, and I have seen enough of the Wind River to last me awhile," Bartle said. "What's your mood?"

"Hungry, mainly," Jim said.

Copyright © 1990 by Larry McMurtry

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 1, 2005

    CAMARADERIE,EPISODES AND ADVENTURES OF THE OLD WEST

    CAMARADERIE IN A CHANGING WEST FORCING ITS PEOPLE TO CHANGE WITH IT......A QUITE SURPRISING ENDING........

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