The fifth (loosely) of the Houston Series (this one is partly set there) which forms the last section of my Larry McMurtry 2022 Re-reading Project. In this one, we find that McMurtry cannot leave Danny Deck, last seen or heard of drowning his second novel, and possibly himself, alone, for here he is again.

I acquired this copy in October 2004 via BookCrossing (I swapped it with someone in Georgia for a Barbara Kingsolver) and sent it to Canada for a journey before it came home again. Amusingly, it was away while I moved to my current house, as I mentioned I had saved a space for it on my new bookshelves. No review on here but I do have my review from my BookCrossing journal entry: “

This was brilliant – classic, vintage McMurtry. I particularly liked the way that they went into Thalia a few times, Cadillac Jack and Duane from the Last Picture Show trilogy popped up in the story incidentally, and Emma Horton was mentioned too – makes it all seem more real!”

Larry McMurtry – “Some Can Whistle”

(15 October 2004, BookCrossing)

But my daughter, an evidently healthy young woman who had two small children and worked at a Mr. Burger, might well not see it that way. To her I might just seem like an aging freak, slopping around my house in caftans, not leaving my hill for months on end, watching horrible European policier videos half the night, and talking on the phone hour after hour to a kind of aural harem of beautiful women scattered all over the world, most of whom i only saw for maybe an hour or two a year. (p. 32)

This one lacked the preface others have had and I missed getting McMurtry’s thoughts on it. However, he obviously couldn’t leave Danny Deck along and here he is with a whole book of his own. It opens strongly with a woman calling Deck at his California designer adobe residence, shared with the fairly disgusting old English professor, Godwin, and his housekeeper, Gladys and asking if he’s her father. And there T.R. is, 22, with two small children, bursting into his life with a crowd of extras and turning it upside-down. Previously, Deck had lived a quiet life with only a series of phone calls and voice mails with several women friends to keep him occupied. He’s made his fortune writing a wildly popular sitcom, and indeed one of his women friends starred in it: after deciding he didn’t want to drown himself in the Rio Grande, he worked his way into the TV industry, although he’s always looking for the perfect first line for another novel.

T.R. is enchanting and frustrating and roars through the novel. But the father of her oldest child is a constant background threat, and although Deck hires a bodyguard for her, you get the feeling her fate might come for her. But surely not to such a whirlwind of power and fearlessness? Times around the pool with a set of family and chosen family remind us of the Duane novels, and indeed Duane makes a short appearance, as does Cadillac Jack from his eponymous novel (I feel like I’m not finished with McMurtry and might polish off some standalones early next year), which is lovely. Less lovely is hearing about Jill Peel’s sad fate, Joe having died at the end of the last novel, and what happened to her after that. This does set the stage for McMurtry making you care about his characters and then turning the screw at the end (this has happened in a couple of reads recently, also notably Jonathan Coe’s very different novel, “Bournville”.

The novel also has a lot to say about the fate of women in the TV and film industry as they age, with incisive commentaries from the narrator, Deck, about the career trajectories of his friends. His harem of women friends remind me of Charles Arrowby in “The Sea, The Sea,” and indeed there is a mention of Iris Murdoch appearing at the end of Deck’s graduate studies in English (this book was published a decade after “The Sea, The Sea” and I really must research IM’s influence on LM!

The lives of happy people ar dense with their own doings – crowded, active, thick – urban, I would almost say.

But the sorrowing are nomads, on a plain with few landmarks and no boundaries; sorrow’s horizons are vague and its demands few. Jeanie and I had not become strangers; it was just that she lived in the city and I lived on the plains. (p. 368)

Funny but ultimately touching and a meditation on sorrow and grief, the work of a master hidden in the covers of a potboiler!

Are you doing the project with me? Are you planning to read this one / this series? If you’re doing “Lonesome Dove” or any of the others, how are you getting along?