“When I find an author I truly adore, an author who makes my gutstrings vibrate, I will read everything they have written.”
— Austin Kleon, 33 Thoughts on Reading
Great concept, Austin — but 2 of my favorite authors constantly vex me on this count: Walter Mosley and Larry McMurtry.
I first encountered Walter Mosley when my brother gave me A Little Yellow Dog, one of the early Easy Rawlins novels. I don’t generally read crime, murder or mystery novels, but I do listen to my brother’s recommendations. That book opened up Mosley’s world to me — or should I say worlds? Defying genre typical genre boundaries, he has created not just Easy Rawlins but Socrates Fortlow (Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned) and Leonid McGill as well (All I Did Was Shoot My Man). There are speculative fiction pieces like The Man in My Basement and the science fiction books (Blue Wave) as well as metaphysical wonderings such as the Tempest Tales. And then there is his non-fiction, including This is the Year You Write Your Novel, which provides one of the best expositions about story and story structure available to aspiring writers. Mosley’s ever-expanding catalog keeps me busy with new books and I may never finish the ones I missed or skipped along the way.
However, Larry McMurtry is my true nemesis as a would-be completist. Right now, I can see 3 of his books I have not yet read on a bookshelf near my desk. And that’s just in my office. There are more unread McMurtry volumes throughout the house and then there are all the unbought books. See, I started reading McMurtry when he had published just 3 novels, and bought his fourth, All My Friends are Going to be Strangers, at the time of release. That one remains a solid favorite for me — just love that title! Not content to flood my shelves with fiction, McMurtry also essays on life in various smaller volumes from In a Narrow Grave to Roads to Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen. Since he seems to write quicker than I read his output, I know I will never finish reading his catalog.
Part of the attraction of both of these storytellers is the continuity of the characters they create. McMurtry introduced us to several young Texas teenagers growing up in the tiny town of Thalia in his early novel, The Last Picture Show. Ostensibly, the main character was Sonny, and Duane was his buddy. McMurtry revisited the town of Thalia and Sonny and Duane and Jacy and several others to update our teenagers in Texasville, but it was Duane who returned repeatedly in later life, from Duane’s Depressed to When the Light Fades to Rhino Ranch for a closing curtain call.
Mosley killed off his first serial detective, Easy Rawlins, after 10 novels, but eventually, he pulled an Arthur Conan Doyle-Sherlock Holmes-style resurrection, and now Easy’s back in business. In fact, I have to buy the latest, Rose Gold, so I can continue to follow Easy on the streets of 60s L.A.
In some ways, it almost feels reassuring to know I will never finish walking through the world of words with my friends Walter and Larry.