Larry McMurtry’s Booked Up
In 1988, Pulitzer Prize winning author Larry McMurtry returned to his hometown of Archer City, Texas with the dream of transforming it into a book-themed town. He even took out ads in literary magazines proclaiming, “Miraculous birth! Visit the newly born book town of Archer City, Texas, and help the endless migration of good books continue.”
For those who can’t quite place the name, Larry McMurtry has written dozens of novels, several of which have been turned into movies, including the Oscar-winning “Terms of Endearment” and “Brokeback Mountain.” Even if his name is not familiar, you may have heard of his book “Lonesome Dove” which was also a hit TV miniseries back in 1989. If Texas ever implements a citizenship test, it will certainly have a section dedicated to McMurty and “Lonesome Dove.”
While “Texasville” and “The Last Picture Show” (more movies based on McMurtry novels) were filmed on the streets of Archer City, McMurtry’s “book town” never quite came to fruition. Booked Up spread through several city blocks, but the rest of the town couldn’t keep up. Over the past thirty years, other bookstores and book-themed bed and breakfast inns came along, but failed to thrive. In August 2012, worried that Booked Up might burden his heirs, McMurtry downsized his stock from some 450,000 books to a more manageable – but still huge – stock of around 200,000.
I visited Booked Up after this auction and still managed to get lost for several hours in the stacks. When you first walk into Building 1 (there are 4 all together) it feels like you’ve stepped into a farm house owned by a rancher who likes to read. The décor is homey, with well-worn furniture, mounted deer heads, and knick-knacks. I found several interesting books in this first room, but they were pricey; we’re talking $200 and up. Luckily, other rooms had books in my price range and I came home with a couple of treasures.
Despite the massive downsizing, Booked Up’s stock still fills an entire city block, and you can feel that it is a labor of love. Homemade signs throughout the labyrinthine shop are part of the fun. Most are collages made from old magazines and say things like, “If you are unable to locate an employee in this building, please feel free to wander about yelling ‘yoo-hoo’ and peering into storage rooms until completely frustrated. Then proceed to building one where you will find patronizing employees busy at work or sitting around drinking coffee, laughing at you. Thank you.”
In 2011, the long-divorced McMurtry got re-married. His new spouse is Norma Faye Kesey (widow of the author, Ken Kesey.) The newlyweds live down the street from Booked Up, so you never know when they might pop into the store. [The previous section is an abridged excerpt from my Amazon Best Selling offbeat travel guide Unexpected Texas.]
Plan your trip to Booked Up
Address: 216 S Center St, Archer City, TX 76351
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What is the April A to Z Blog Challenge?
Each April, people from all over the world participate in the April A to Z blog challenge, and you can too. It’s a lot of fun and it’s a great way to meet other bloggers. To play along, all you do is make a blog post for each letter of the alphabet during April, then use the blog hop linky to visit as many other bloggers as you can.
My A to Z Inspired Book: Unexpected Texas
I’d like to thank everyone who commented on my blog during the A to Z Challenge last year, because it convinced me to take the self-publishing plunge. On March 2, 2014, I released Unexpected Texas as a paperback and eBook and it quickly became an Amazon Best Seller!