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Telegraph Days

Telegraph Days

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by Larry McMurtry
     
 

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From the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Lonesome Dove comes a big, brilliant, unputdownable saga of the Old West, told in the spunky courageous voice of a young woman named Nellie Courtright.

When twenty-two-year-old Nellie Courtright and her teenage brother Jackson are unexpectedly orphaned by their father’s suicide on his new and unprosperous

Overview

From the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Lonesome Dove comes a big, brilliant, unputdownable saga of the Old West, told in the spunky courageous voice of a young woman named Nellie Courtright.

When twenty-two-year-old Nellie Courtright and her teenage brother Jackson are unexpectedly orphaned by their father’s suicide on his new and unprosperous ranch, they make their way to the nearby town of Rita Blanca, where Jackson manages to secure a job as a sheriff's deputy, while Nellie, ever resourceful, becomes the town’s telegrapher.

Together, they inadvertently put Rita Blanca on the map when young Jackson succeeds in shooting down all six of the ferocious Yazee brothers in a gunfight that brings him lifelong fame but which he can never repeat because his success came purely out of luck.

Propelled by her own energy and commonsense approach to life, Nellie meets and almost conquers the heart of Buffalo Bill, the man she will love most in her long life, and goes on to meet, and witness the exploits of, Billy the Kid, the Earp brothers, and Doc Holliday. She even gets a ringside seat at the Battle at the O.K. Corral, the most famous gunfight in Western history, and eventually lives long enough to see the West and its gunfighters turned into movies.

Full of life, love, shootouts, real Western heroes and villains, Telegraph Days is Larry McMurtry at his epic best.

Editorial Reviews

Sandra Dallas
In Telegraph Days, McMurtry puts aside the history of greed and conquest to recreate the West of the dime novels and Wild West shows, the land of bigger-than-life characters -- an era more Cat Ballou than Clint Eastwood.
— The Washington Post
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 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Once considered minor gentry in Virginia, 22-year-old Nellie Courtright and her brother, Jackson, are now all that remain of their family after an ill-fated journey out West. A dusty town on the plains called Rita Blanca becomes the Courtrights' new home. Nellie takes a job as a lickety-split telegraph operator, and her brother becomes the sheriff's deputy. When he single-handedly takes down the notorious Yazee gang, Nellie scribbles a booklet about the gunfight, becoming an author. Soon she meets Buffalo Bill Cody, and because Nellie strikes him as organized, he offers her a job overseeing his many businesses while he runs around the country producing his Wild West Show. Nellie's amorous adventures are many, and the novel is peppered with sudden couplings. Sassing her way through a series of sometimes improbable adventures that just happen to put her in the middle of famous moments in history, Nellie proves herself irresistible. Although not as epic as Lonesome Dove, Telegraph Days surely seems of the same vintage-good news for the legions of McMurtry fans. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 2/15/06.]-Keddy Ann Outlaw, Harris Cty. P.L., Houston Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
McMurtry delivers more laughs and a lot more sex than usual as he chronicles the transition from the waning days of the Old West gunfighters through the rise of Buffalo Bill's Wild West. It's hard to imagine how a novel beginning with a father's suicide by hanging, leaving the narrator and her brother as orphans, should quickly turn into a comic romp. It does so through the eyes, voice and gallows humor of Marie Antoinette Courtright, known as Nellie, the latest in the prolific McMurtry's seemingly inexhaustible supply of feisty frontier damsels. Few men can resist Nellie's saucy charm, and fewer still are worthy of her, though she's willing to settle for less whenever the frequent desire for copulation strikes her. And she's not all that particular as to where it strikes, taking her sexual pleasure in a jail cell, a hayloft, whatever's convenient. Almost every man who meets Nellie either courts her or proposes to her, thus giving McMurtry (The Colonel and Little Missie, 2005) plenty of chances to namedrop the likes of "Georgie" Custer, "Billy" Hickok and the irascible brothers Earp. Her allure also sets in motion the minimal plot, as she convinces a smalltown sheriff, one of her many fiances, to hire her teenage brother, Jackson, as his deputy. When Jackson single-handedly guns down a gang of outlaws, the episode attracts plenty of notice to this frontier outpost, and Nellie's account of her brother's exploits gives her quick success as a writer (thus allowing McMurtry the opportunity for droll commentary on the author's lot and the mixture of fact and fiction that popularly defines the Old West). It also brings her to the attention of Buffalo Bill Cody, whom she comes to adore above allothers, but who is the one man who can resist her charms (not that he's oblivious to them). Though the novel ultimately covers a lot of territory, this isn't a return to the Oscar-winner's epic sweep of Lonesome Dove, but it's an easy, breezy read.
From the Publisher
"Entertaining." — The Washington Post

"A darn good read: an entertaining spoof about the Wild West that brings alive the romance of outlaws, gunfighters and shootouts.... McMurtry has created a modern-day dime novel, a romantic knock-up of the West — proof that an old-fashioned oater can be as much fun to read as a literary work." — The Washington Post

"Sassing her way through a series of sometimes improbable adventures that just happen to put her in the middle of famous moments in history, Nellie proves herself irresistible." — Library Journal

"This rollicking epic is filled with excitement and humor, tinged with sadness and a longing for the past." — Booklist

"Most readers won't be able to help cracking a smile.... As purposely over-the-top as an episode of South Park." — Publishers Weekly

"More laughs and a lot more sex.... An easy, breezy read." — Kirkus Reviews

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781594132100
Publisher:
Large Print Distribution
Publication date:
05/09/2007
Series:
Thorndike Paperback Bestsellers Series
Edition description:
Large Print Edition
Pages:
545
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.80(d)

Read an Excerpt

Telegraph Days

A Novel
By Larry McMurtry

Pocket Star

Copyright © 2007 Larry McMurtry
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780743476911

1

"I hope you're carpenter enough to build an honest coffin," I told Jackson, my younger brother. About an hour ago, I would guess, our father, Perceval Staunton Courtright, had foolishly hung himself from a rafter in the barn.

From the rope burns on his hands, it seemed likely that Father changed his mind at the last minute and tried to claw his way back up to the rafter, where he might have rid himself of the inconvenient noose -- last-minute mind changes were a lifelong practice of Father's. In this case, though, the mind change had come too late, meaning that Jackson and I were faced with the necessity of burying Father in windy No Man's Land, a grassy part of the American West that, for the moment, no state claimed.

My younger brother, Jackson, was just seventeen. Here we were, the two surviving Courtrights, having already, in the course of our westering progress, buried two little brothers, three little sisters, an older sister, three darkies, our mother, and now look! Father's tongue was black as a boot.

"I'm a fair carpenter, but where will I get the lumber?" Jackson asked, surveying the vast grassy prairie. We were just south of the Cimarron River, in a part of the plains populated by no one, other than Jackson and myself -- and I, for one, didn'tplan to stay.

"Use some of this worthless barn," I told my brother. "It's only half a barn anyway, and we won't be needing it now." Father had first supposed that the prairies beside the Cimarron might be a good place to start a Virginia-style plantation, but he wisely discarded that notion while the barn was just half built. Now, with Father dead, we were down to Percy, our strong-minded mule, and a flea-filled cabin with glass windows. Ma had insisted on the glass windows -- it was her last request. But she was dead and so was our gentle, feckless father. We had no reason to linger on the Black Mesa Ranch -- the name Father had rather grandly bestowed on our empty acres.

I was twenty-two, kissable, and of an independent disposition. My full name was Marie Antoinette Courtright, but everyone called me Nellie. Mother told me I got named after Marie Antoinette because Father happened to be reading about the French Revolution the night I was born -- my own view is that he anticipated my yappiness and was secretly hoping the people would rise up and cut off my head.

Jackson began to rip boards off the barn. He handed me a pick and a spade, implements I accepted reluctantly.

"Being a lady, I try to avoid picks and spades," I mentioned.

"I guess you've kissed too many fellows to be calling yourself a lady," Jackson remarked, picking up a crowbar -- or half a crowbar. At some point, mysteriously, our family crowbar got broken in two; this setback annoyed Father so much that he threw the other half in the Missouri River.

"It's not my fault you're off to a slow start in the kissing derby," I told him.

"Where would I get a girl to try and kiss, living way out here?" he asked.

For once Jackson had a point. My various cowboys could always slip away from their herds long enough to provide me with a spot of romance, but very few young ladies showed up on the Cimarron's shores.

"I expect you'll get your chance once we get settled in Rita Blanca," I assured him.

Jackson looked a little droopy as he laid out Father's coffin. We Courtrights are, in the main, not a very sentimental lot. But burying brother after brother, sister after sister, and now parent after parent, as Jackson had been required to do, was the kind of work that didn't put one in the whistling mood. I marched over and gave my brother a big hug -- he didn't sob aloud but he did tear up.

"I expect I'll miss Pa more than you will," he said, with a catch in his voice. "Pa, he always had a story."

"It's just as well he didn't hear you call him Pa," I reminded Jackson.

Father had no patience with abbreviation, localisms, or any deviation from pure plantation English; but Jackson was right. Father always had a story.

When we were at home, he was always reading stories to the little ones, but once we left Virginia and headed west, the little ones soon commenced dying -- a common thing, of course, for westering families, but a heavy grief nonetheless. It broke our mother's heart. All along the Western trails, in the years after the Civil War, families that got caught up in westering died like gnats or flies. Santa Fe Trail, Oregon Trail, California Trail -- it didn't matter. The going was deadly. The brochures the land agents put out made westering seem easy -- sparkling water holes every few miles, abundant game, healthy prairie climate with frequent breezes -- but in truth, there were no easy roads. Death traveled in every wagon, on every boat. Westering made many orphans, and picked many parents clean.

Jackson and I were young and healthy -- that was our good fortune. Neither of us shied from hard work. I set aside being a lady and had the grave half dug by the time Jackson finished the coffin. We buried Father in a buffalo robe he had bought from an old Osage man. Then we rolled him in the coffin and eased the coffin into the earth. Dust was on its way to dust.

"We ought to sing a hymn at least," Jackson suggested.

Hymn singing makes me mopey -- I have a good voice but a poor memory for the words of songs. Since Jackson and I had not been churchly people we could not quite string together a whole hymn, but we did sing a verse or two of "Amazing Grace," and then we sang "Lorena," in memory of the thousands of fallen heroes of the South. Since our vocal chords were warmed up we finished with a rousing version of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." It was a Yankee hymn, of course -- Father, who fought with Lee at the Wilderness and elsewhere, might not have approved, but Father was dead and his fight was over. Maybe it was time to let bygones be bygones -- singing one another's songs was a start.

Across the Cimarron, to the northwest, the July sun was shining hard on Black Mesa, the only hill anywhere around. Rita Blanca, the little town we had decided to head for, was more than thirty miles away. Percy, our strong-minded mule, hated long stretches of travel and would balk and sulk most of the way. But Percy would just have to put up with a lengthy travel, since neither Jackson nor I felt like spending another night in the flea-filled cabin.

"Let's go partway and camp," Jackson suggested. "It's a full moon. It'll stay light till almost morning."

Having no one to keep us, or say us nay, that is exactly what we did.

Copyright © 2006 by Larry McMurtry



Continues...


Excerpted from Telegraph Days by Larry McMurtry Copyright © 2007 by Larry McMurtry. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"Entertaining." — The Washington Post

"A darn good read: an entertaining spoof about the Wild West that brings alive the romance of outlaws, gunfighters and shootouts.... McMurtry has created a modern-day dime novel, a romantic knock-up of the West — proof that an old-fashioned oater can be as much fun to read as a literary work." — The Washington Post

"Sassing her way through a series of sometimes improbable adventures that just happen to put her in the middle of famous moments in history, Nellie proves herself irresistible." — Library Journal

"This rollicking epic is filled with excitement and humor, tinged with sadness and a longing for the past." — Booklist

"Most readers won't be able to help cracking a smile.... As purposely over-the-top as an episode of South Park." — Publishers Weekly

"More laughs and a lot more sex.... An easy, breezy read." — Kirkus Reviews

Meet the Author

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.

Brief Biography

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

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Telegraph Days 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 23 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Funny, I couldn't even begin to read Lonesome Dove, so I have nothing to compare this book to except Zeke and Ned, which I absoltely loved. This book was a whole lot of fun, mind candy. The characters were bigger than life, over-whelming the time frame of the book, actually kind of blurring the time frame, but after realizing it is just-for-fun, the reader can get over how McMurtry changes the well-known characters into real-life people. The Earp's weren't nice, Bill Cody was vain...it was just fun.
Guest More than 1 year ago
After reading almost 30 of Larry McMurtry's books, I suppose I read them now more by reflex than out of curiosity. It dawned on me during 'Telegraph Days' that the author quit really writing novels somewhere in the Late Child-Comanche Moon-Duane's Depressed era. It seems this gifted story-teller doesn't want the bother of a fully developed novel. Rather than the overland route, he prefers the helicopter ride above it all. He becomes more the arrogant essayist than the great teller of stories. In Telegraph Days, it is hard to guage what is more preposterous - the many events that just happen as Nellie arrives, or the way the rough and uncouth cower before her. Finally, the gratuitousness of the near non-stop prurience of the heroine - a late-McMurtry staple - is somewhere between a distraction and an irritant.
srgwriter More than 1 year ago
Perhaps because I loved the entire Lonesome Dove series, Dead Man's Walk to Streets of Loredo, I was expecting something else. This book is definitely not along the lines of those hardened western stories. There is little intensity, and I had trouble finishing it for lack of interest.
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Lori-from-Iowa More than 1 year ago
Another job well done by Larry. I think he depicts the times realisticly.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I didn't enjoy the story or the characters so much, but I didn't put it down. I kept picking it up and even finished it because I still wanted to know what came next and how it ended. As we all know, McMurtry is a master story teller . . . His stories grip me even when I don't particularly like them.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Lonesome Dove is one of my favorite books of all time, maybe my favorite, and I have read all of Mr. McMurtry's work. Since Lonesome Dove, his work has steadily gone downhill. For the first time ever, I was not able to finish one of his books. The cover of the book says there has never been a book like this since Lonesome Dove. The two should never be mentioned together. Dull, dull, dull.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have an hour commute to and from work and was looking for my first 'book on cd' to listen to in the car. I picked this book because I like Annie Potts and historical fiction. Listening to this made the drive go much faster, and I fell in love with every character. This was my first experience reading Larry McMurty and I will definintely look for him in the future. This story just flowed effortlessly and had my attention the entire time. I also loved Annie Potts for the narrator, she did an excellent job. I couldn't imagine a better Nellie!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Larry McMurtry writes, not from a woman's point of view, but what a man wishes was a woman's point of view. His heroine has the depth of a gnat and is more than willing to screw around indiscriminately with anyone, anywhere. This should be billed as a comedy. Mr. McMurtry should have quit with Lonesome Dove. This would have received 0 stars but that was not an option.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In Telegraph Days, McMurtry creates history's horniest heroine! This once upon a time Southern belle has definitely strayed far from her well-bred roots. But, she is great fun to read about. McMurtry portrays a side of the Earps that is at variance with that of Hollywood legend, but he does include a multitude of Old West characters. As much fun as this book is, it is NO Lonesome Dove!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I kept waiting for something exciting to happen which only happened once in this book. It was well written but the story had no purpose. This book is nothing like Lonesome Dove that was filled with excitement.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am a Lonesome Dove fan and have been waiting for Mcmurtry to write something close, well he has. I really enjoyed this book, a mix of fiction with real west people, go out buy this and get back to the west.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Marie is funny and her adventures west with brother Jackson will pass the time easily. Also recommend Boone's Lick.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was one of the quickest reads for me in a long time. Its summer, so I appreciated the light and airy writing. I was reading that some of you are irritated that it was no lonesome dove, and I agree, but lighten up. McMurtry is a well respected author so why don't we let him have a little fun for once.