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The Last Kind Words Saloon

The Last Kind Words Saloon

1.9 25
by Larry McMurtry

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


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

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
McMurtry of Lonesome Dove fame returns to fiction (after Custer) with this uneven portrayal of the frontier friendship between Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday. McMurtry is a master of colorful character development and snappy dialogue, both nicely showcased here as Wyatt and Doc meander through Texas and Colorado to Arizona, drinking, gambling, whoring, and debating whether or not they ought to shoot folks who annoy them. As these two lethal saddle pals wander the West, McMurtry introduces other real-life figures in side-plots—cattleman Charlie Goodnight; Quanah, the Comanche chief; Satanta, the Kiowa chief; and Buffalo Bill, whose adventures provide some action and humor, but add little to the Earp-Holliday story. McMurtry portrays Doc as a cuddly, funny drunk, but Wyatt is handled much differently. Here Wyatt is depicted as a moody, jealous wife beater, short-tempered and itching to pick a fight with anybody—especially Old Man Clanton and his cattle-thieving family in Tombstone, Ariz. When Wyatt stirs up a fight with the Clantons, an ambush, murder, and a challenge result in deadly powder burning at the O.K. Corral. This whole choppy story leads up to the predictable shoot-out, but McMurtry’s treatment of the Old West’s most famous gunfight is abrupt and unconvincing, taking just eight uninspired sentences to describe. This revisionist western plays loose with historical facts, and is a disappointing effort from a Pulitzer Prize–winning author. (May)
Adam Wong - Seattle Times
“[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.”
Nathan Pensky - The Onion
“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.”
Richard Eisenberg - People
“In this ‘ballad in prose,’ as McMurtry describes his latest book, he paints the familiar historical characters in unfamiliar ways… lovely.”
Joyce Carol Oates - New York Review of Books
“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.”
Michael Lindgren - Washington Post
“Those who enjoy McMurtry’s rueful humor and understated tone of elegiac melancholy will devour the book in one setting.”
Max Byrd - New York Times Book Review
“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.”
Maria Popova - Brain Pickings
“[A] wildly worthy addition to the best art books of 2014… 33 Artists in 3 Acts is a superb read…”
Kirkus Reviews
Prolific novelist and pop historian McMurtry (Custer, 2012, etc.) offers another pleasing yarn for fans of the Old West, none of whom will hanker for a trip to the dentist after reading it. It was a just a matter of time before McMurtry returned to Lonesome Dove territory and, having written about Calamity Jane, Billy the Kid and other such epic characters, turned to perhaps the most famous of all, Wyatt Earp and company. His newest oater brings Dove background character Charles Goodnight to the fore. Hard-living but oddly retiring, he and his dusty-chapped cowpokes are in their element in the country into which Earp and Doc Holliday have newly ridden, embarking on a cowcentric career that, by book's end, will take them to destiny in Tombstone, where the inhabitants endure the job of trying to "meet the tower of dust created by nine hundred cattle as they passed through a town that was dusty anyway." McMurtry's tale is short, but he packs a terrific lot of action into his pages; in between gunfights and extractions, the constant bantering between Earp and Holliday echoes that of Gus McCrae and Woodrow Call ("Irascible, clean out your damn ears"). A nicely turned running joke has Holliday and Earp never quite certain of just where they are; as Wyatt says, "[t]his is Long Grass, which is nearly in Kansas, but not quite. It's nearly in New Mexico, too, but not quite. Some have even suggested that we might be in Texas." If they are, it's the Texas of McMurtry's imagination, a place full of tough outlaws and tougher Comanches and, refreshingly, a place where the women are just as strong as the men and just as involved in the story. A nice touch, too, is the subtle frame provided by an object that, like the clan that made it, staggered out of the High Plains and Tombstone into Hollywood, with plenty of dents and dings to show for it. Not quite in the class of Lonesome Dove, The Last Picture Show, or other top-shelf McMurtry, but still a lot of fun.

Product Details

Liveright Publishing Corporation
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author

Born and raised in Texas, Larry McMurtry is an award-winning novelist, essayist, Oscar-winning screenwriter, and avid book collector. His novels include The Last Picture Show, Terms of
Endearment, and Lonesome Dove. He lives in Archer City, Texas.

Brief Biography

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

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The Last Kind Words Saloon 1.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 25 reviews.
cherokee-shawnee More than 1 year ago
What a ripoff!!  Book shown as 224 pp. but it is only 94 pp. on my Nook!!  Not worth the money!!
2351 More than 1 year ago
Waste of money for short story!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not worth the bucks for three hourr read!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved Lonesome Dove. This one was phoned in. Writing is monotonous and the ending anticlimatic
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have always been a fan of true to life westerns but this one is a shame. Does not compare with previous books. Too sad.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read a lot and don't expect all bookd to be nobel prize quality. That said this book was a huge disappointment. It was very superficial in covering Earp and Holiday. Also it is very very short - just 93 pages. Compared to "Gunfight at the OK Corral" this was like an abridged cliffs notes.
crossword69 More than 1 year ago
This is actually my first McMurtry read.  I'm hoping that the previous acclaims for Lonesome Dove and others are more indicative of his talent as an author.  This was virtually a non-existent, forgettable book.  
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Read another book. It's a short story not worth the money.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a lousy read and I could give it 1/10 star if I could.  Don't waste your money.  McMurtry hit his apex with Lonesome Dove.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is really BAD and they sell it to you as a book with only 97 pages for Money
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have every book Larry McMurtry has published and have greatly enjoyed them all...until this one. I had to make myself finish it because it cost so much but also because I kept waiting for it to get better. It never did. I feel cheated. Don't waste your money on this piece of drivel. I hope he gets his talent back if he ever tries to write again.
storyman41 More than 1 year ago
My first McMurtry book. Unbelievably poor value. Not worth the money. No socially-redeeming value. No plot. Just a sad rendition of several iconic historical characters for no reason.
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rhigg50890 More than 1 year ago
A fun read, story is rather broad, a very short book.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a short but clever tale, but I wanted MORE. Larry McMurtry writes with short clever sentences like short bangs of information. Most readers know the story of Wyatt Earp; however, this short novel will keep your attention. It is funny at times, shocking at times, and informative throughout. Another great historical novel on the NOOK is "The Partisan" by William Jarvis. This is also based on actual events but written in a different, more descriptive style. Both books deserve A+++++++
YoyoMitch More than 1 year ago
Larry McMurtry returns to the literary place and time that made him famous – the West as it was becoming not so “old” – in this novel of cattle drives, gunslingers and strong women.  Instead of introducing new main characters in this journey into a past that never was, he reinvents two historical characters, Wyatt Earp and Doc Holiday, as two Palookas who like to drink, do not like the sight (or thought) of spilled blood (Wyatt) and is not certain that gun play should always be the first response but is often the first consideration (Doc). After reading this novel, the reader will not see the “fight” at the O.K. Corral in the same light. The setting of this book is not specified, the action occurring between near the end of “the Indian Wars” and the turn of the 20th Century.  The location of the events are largely likewise nonspecific, as the town most often sited, Long Grass, could be in Texas, Oklahoma or New Mexico. The lack of specificity grants the story a framework of timeless as the characters may be speaking of cattle, ranching and “creating the largest ranch in the world,” but the language they use would have been familiar in a contemporary corporate board room. Life is cheap and perilous “on the Baldies;” random outlaws, angry cattle barons, warring Kiowa Indians, Prairie Dog towns, massive stampedes, unseen precipices and a multitude of other dangers await to shorten one’s days upon the Earth for the participant of life in this timeless era. It is in its timelessness that the book becomes a modern metaphor – dangers abound, decisions are made, what is left are the relationships formed in the facing those dangers and living through those decisions. Some of those relationships last longer than our memories.  Mr. McMurtry borrows characters from his, and others, earlier works to people this very fine, well-paced and written narrative. These know individuals help to shorten the novel (one of the author’s shortest) without sacrificing content or plot complexity. Nellie Courtwright (from Telegraph Days) continues to flirt with the men who strike her fancy; Charles Goodnight  is building the ranch for which he later became famous (Lonesome Dove, et. al.), even Katie Elder is part of the created history contained in this work.  Returning to these “old friends” is a good thing, as it is nice to stay in contact with old friends. How many more books does Larry McMurtry have in him? The number has to be small.  If those few are as good as The Last Kind Words Saloon, they will be welcomed when they arrive and cherished in their being.