I knew Larry McMurtry, slightly and briefly. We were both Washington-area booksellers in the 70s--which is much like saying Greg Norman and I were both American golfers in the 80s. Larry was in Georgetown selling first editions and choice Americana; I was out in the burbs, making the rent (or not) on estate-sale books and half-price paperbacks--most of them, it seemed, Harlequin Romances.
Before the internet (back in my day, sonny), you carried your expertise in your head. There were reference books--big, heavy reference books--but you couldn't haul them to a yard sale or a church bazaar. There were "book scouts" who traveled around buying unrecognized rarities cheap, and selling them to established dealers. They were a romantic breed, in a nerdish sort of way, at least to book people. McMurtry was a scout for a couple of years, before opening his store.
One of the best ways to buy stock was at the big annual charity book sales, and the biggest and best was that of the Vassar Alumnae Association. Larry was traditionally first in line at the Vassar Sale. He'd show up before dawn with a sleeping bag, a big East Texas cotton-picking sack, and a couple of minions. As soon as the doors opened, he would dash for the Rare Books section, and his minions would fan out over the floor. Anything that looked at all promising would go in the big sack. After the first rush was over, they would gather in a quiet corner to inspect their books, decide which ones to keep, and pile the rest on the nearest table. A dick move for sure, but he was royalty in that little world, and no one called him on it.
Larry wrote somewhere that the three great loves of his life were women, books and the road. He had plenty of all three. His wives and girlfriends were an A-List of beauty and celebrity; his store in Archer City had, at one time, close to half a million volumes. And he really, really loved to drive. Not quaint back roads either, but the Interstates. Once, when I mentioned to him that my folks had retired to West Texas, he got a dreamy look in his eyes and talked for a while about the long straight highways, the little towns, the empty spaces.
He was, among many other things, an academic's academic, as comfortable discussing Mme DeStael and Pirandello and Russian cinema as the Old West. But he will be remembered for Gus McCrae and Woodrow Call, and that's right and proper.