Beginning Aug. 10, more than 300,000 books from the store’s four buildings will find new homes when McMurtry hosts a two-day auction for two-thirds of his inventory.
“It seems like the right time. I’m 76 years old; my heirs are literate, but they aren’t book people. This would be a dreadful burden to my heirs,” McMurtry said.
The auction, called The Last Book Sale, a play on McMurtry’s book-turned-film The Last Picture Show, will be under the direction of Addison & Sarova Auctioneers, of Macon, Ga.
It will be one of the largest book auctions to date, and McMurtry said he’s received an enthusiastic response from people in the book business.
McMurtry said a similar sale of about 1 million books will take place on the West Coast in about a year.
“But that just illustrates the changing times. With the West Coast sale, everything is online. Here it’s all visual,” McMurtry said.
The stores will be locked until one week before the sale. Then potential buyers will have the week to preview books before the auction.
Books will be sold in about 1,500 lots of 200 books each.
A selection hand-picked by the author called the “McMurtry 100” will be auctioned off individually. A list of these 100 books is available on the auction house website. A few other single-item lots will be available, including the well-known Goodspeed’s sign.
McMurtry emphasized that he is not getting completely out of the book business, but it was just time to downsize.
The remaining 125,000 books will be housed in Booked Up No. 1, the original store just off the town square. McMurtry will also retain about 28,000 for his personal library.
McMurtry owns stores No. 1 and 2 and his son, James owns buildings 3 and 4. He said they have not yet decided what to do with the buildings in the future.
Born in Wichita Falls, June 3, 1936, McMurtry was raised in Archer City and set many of his novels and subsequent movies in the town.
McMurtry is best known for his novels Lonesome Dove, which earned him a Pulitzer Prize, the Last Picture Show, and Terms of Endearment, all of which have movie adaptations. He also cowrote the screenplay for the Oscar-winning Brokeback Mountain, based on a short story by E. Annie Proulx.
“I’ve had three careers: as a novelist, I’ve written 42 books, I’ve helped make good movies and I’ve owned a book store. I’ve been fortunate and they’re all important to me,” said McMurtry.
He said his love of books began in 1942, when his cousin, Robert Hilburn, left him with large box of books before going off to fight in World War II. He read the first book, Sergeant Silk, Prairie Scout, and continued reading through the entire box.
His journey as a bookstore owner began 41 years ago at a rare book sale in Washington. McMurtry has since amassed nearly half a million books from more than 1,000 secondhand bookstores.
Now McMurtry says he feels it’s time to put his books back out into the great river of books.
“This might give some young book seller in the next generation a good start,” said McMurtry.
Archer City Library Director Cheryl Beesinger said McMurtry has had a very positive effect on the town.
“Seeing all those books at the forefront has helped with the culture of Archer City. It’s given it identity,” she said.
One of the best things McMurtry has done for the town, Beesinger said, is that he’s brought people into the community from all over the world, as far away as Israel and Australia.
“I can say we’re not excited about losing the stores, but there is a lot of excitement around the event,” Beesinger said.
Kim Whitsitt, city secretary, said the town will be forever grateful to McMurtry, and they are proud to claim him as their own.
“Archer City benefited tremendously when Larry purchased vacant buildings on the square to expand Booked Up, bringing in the new identity of a ‘book town’ of which we are very proud. Larry’s legacy will continue as people will continue to come to Archer City to visit the bookstore and because this is Larry’s hometown,” said Whitsitt.
The Last Picture Show, will be presented Aug. 9 at the Royal Theatre, the night before the auction. McMurtry’s son, James, a singer-songwriter and guitarist, will hold a concert one of the nights of the auctions.
“It’s not painful to me at all,” McMurtry said about the auction. “I’ve had lots of books for a long time. It’s not like I’m stripping myself bare and I’m not going to miss the ones that are going. I’ve had a lot of books go across that counter in a lot of different ways. And I can always buy more if I need to,” he said.
While many brick-and-mortar book stores may be hurting because of technology such as Amazon and e-readers, McMurtry said he isn’t worried that the age of books is over.
“There is a genuine, long-lasting love for books spanning over 500 years. People like to hold them, they like the physical book. I think bookstores will be here for a long time to come,” McMurtry said.
McMurtry said he’s recently finished a biography of Gen. George Custer, which should be available in December.
He also is working on a book about his personal library of books, which is a sequel to Books: A Memoir.
Information from: Wichita Falls Times Record News.
Copyright 2012 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
ADDITIONAL IMAGE OF NOTE