Writer Larry McMurtry auctions most of 450,000-book collection

Sat Aug 11, 2012 12:13pm EDT
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By Judy Wiley

ARCHER CITY, Tx. (Reuters) - Hipsters, booksellers and fans from across the country converged on the town where "The Last Picture Show" was filmed to buy a few books - or a truckload - at "The Last Book Sale," writer Larry McMurtry's once-in-a-lifetime auction.

McMurtry amassed 450,000 volumes in his used and rare book business called Booked Up, whose four buildings dominate the tiny municipality. At 76, the famed author said he decided to sell 300,000 volumes at a two-day auction that concludes on Saturday because they would be "a huge burden" for his heirs.

With the auction underway, McMurtry, who wrote "Terms of Endearment," "The Last Picture Show" and more than 20 other novels plus major screenplays such as "Brokeback Mountain" and many works of nonfiction, said he's finished writing fiction.

"I think I had about 20 good years," said the winner of a Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1986 for "Lonesome Dove." "Writers don't get better as they get older, they get worse. Fifty is usually the stopping point."

As the crowd gathered for the start of the auction on Friday, Eric Papenfuse, who with his wife Catherine Lawrence owns Midtown Scholar Bookstore in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, said he planned to rent a tractor-trailer, if necessary, to get their load back home from this tiny outpost about 140 miles northwest of Dallas.

"It's all the talk in the world of antique books," said Papenfuse.

Among the items up for auction was "the McMurtry 101," books or works the author considered special for reasons of his own — not necessarily because they were any more rare or valuable than others.

McMurtry was disappointed to hear that one of them, "The Bounty Hunter," went for only $850. McMurtry said he paid $1,200 for it.   Continued...

Larry McMurtry, one of the screenwriters of the film 'Brokeback Mountain', poses at the Critics' Choice Awards in Santa Monica, California January 9, 2006. REUTERS/Fred Prouser