Literary Texas: Larry McMurtry, Part 2

The main building of McMurtry’s famous bookstore Booked Up.

Who would think that Larry McMurtry’s world and that of Chip Gaines’ (former star of HGTV’s Fixer Upper) would ever collide? But as of December 2022, it has. More about that later.

Larry McMurtry left Houston and Texas in 1969. By this time, he had published three novels (Horseman Pass By, Leaving Cheyenne, and The Last Picture Show), a book of essays (In a Narrow Grave: Essays on Texas), and had his first novel adapted into a movie (Hud). Additionally, he had taught at Texas Christian University and Rice University. He left to teach at George Mason University in Virginia and from there on to American University in Washington D.C. While living in Washington D.C., he opened a bookstore he called Booked Up, another in Phoenix, Arizona, and still later, moved his Booked Up empire to his hometown of Archer City, Texas. His stores sold used, rare, and antiquarian books.

McMurtry was to become nearly as well-known as a bookseller as he was as a writer. In Archer City the store became the largest used bookstore in Texas and one of the largest in the United States. It took up six buildings and sported over a half million books.

So it was that the celebrated author of more than thirty novels, a dozen or so nonfiction books, numerous screenplays, and many teleplays often seemed as happy with his book business as with his other work. By the late 80s, he had bought a large, old mansion in Archer City, and lived much of his life there with his writing and loved ones near his beloved Booked Up. By the 2,000s, the Pulitzer Prize winner spent considerable time working in and on his huge book business.

In 2012, however, with his health failing, McMurtry decided to sell off a vast number of his books. He had an auction in Archer City, worried that his books would be a burden to his heirs. The sell was a great success, even though he kept around 30,000 books for his personal use and kept many more in some of his buildings.

Larry McMurtry died in March of 2021. Then in December of 2022, Chip Gaines was sighted on the streets of Archer City. According to Amanda O’Donnel’s article in Texas Monthly titled “Chip Gaines Bought Larry McMurtry’s Historic Texas Bookstore. Bring on the Shiplap?”, the Fixer Upper star has bought Booked Up. The article reveals that both Chip Gaines’ parents and grandparents were from Archer City. It may seem fitting to many that another well-known Texan with familial connections to Archer City has bought the bookstore and that its possible reopening is the talk around town.

Various scenes from Archer City, Texas, where Larry McMurtry grew up and returned to live after becoming a critically acclaimed writer. The city sign; The Royal (Last Picture Show); pictures of his beloved Booked Up; Anarene, a ghost town that was the name of the town in Last Picture Show; and a picture of a street in Archer City.


Dunlap, Robert J. “McMurtry, Larry Jeff (1936 – 2021). TSHA, Texas State Historical Association. Accessed 24 Feb. 2023.

Jones, Malcolm. “The Poet Lariat.” Newsweek, no.2, 11 Jan. 1999, p. 62. Gale General OneFile, Accessed 22 Feb. 2023.

“Larry McMurtry, author of ‘Lonesome Dove’ and other novels, dies at age 84.” CNN Wire, 27 Mar. 2021, p. NA. Gale General OneFile, Accessed 22 Feb. 2023.

“Larry McMurtry; Chronicler of the West noted for books and films including Lonesome Dove and Brokeback Mountain.” Daily Telegraph [London, England], 30 Mar. 2021, p.27. Gale General OneFile, Accessed 22 Feb. 2023.

“McMurtry, Larry.” Encyclopedia of World Biography, edited by James Craddock, 2nd. ed., vol. 34, Gale, 2014, pp. 259-261. Gale General OneFile,*xid=618d5249. Accessed 22 Feb. 2023.

“McMurtry’s ‘Literary Life’: Not Simple, But Practical.” Morning Edition, 23 Dec. 2009. Gale General OneFile,;txshrpub100443&sid=bookmark-ITOF&xid=d3chaO**. Accessed 22 Feb. 2023.

O’Donnel, Amanda. “Chip Gaines Bought Larry McMurtry’s Historic Texas Bookstore. Bring on the Shiplap?” Texas Monthly, 24 February 2023.

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