<b>More from McMurtry's Wild West</b>Larry McMurtry's humorous take on the realities of life in the often-glamorized Old West is in high gear in his latest novel, <b>Telegraph Days</b>, a rollicking odyssey bounding from the Oklahoma panhandle in the 1870s all the way to California and the early days of Hollywood.
Nellie Courtright and her brother Jackson hail from Virginia, but suddenly find themselves orphaned near the small town of Rio Blanca, in Oklahoma Territory. Nellie, as spunky and amorous as any of McMurtry's previous heroines, talks the sheriff into hiring Jackson as his deputy, while she takes over the recently vacated job as the town telegrapher. Barely a week after their arrival, neophyte deputy Jackson manages to kill all six members of the notorious Yazee Gang with a series of extremely lucky shots.
This is the catalyst that sets Nellie moving she writes a pamphlet about the shootings that soon draws the attention of Buffalo Bill, who hires her to run his affairs in Nebraska while he's off organizing his Wild West Show. Nellie sticks it out as Buffalo Bill's majordomo for four years, but then decides to return to Rio Blanca. On the way, Nellie, the Forrest Gump of McMurty's Wild West, is almost robbed by Jesse James, and meets Billy the Kid shortly before he's shot. Six months later she and her beau, Zenas, arrive in Tombstone just as the shootout at the O.K. Corral breaks out. She writes up that story, too, contributing to her rapidly rising fame; when Tombstone turns into a ghost town at the end of the silver boom, she and Zenas head to California. There, Nellie throws herself into the movie business, where she meets scores of Hollywood notables. Lillian Gish plays the role of Nellie in <i>The Telegraph Lady</i>, but Nellie never goes to see it, because once is enough to live your life. <b>Telegraph Days</b> is McMurtry at his best a uniquely personal vision of the West, full of non-stereotypical characters and understated, wry humor. <i>Deborah Donovan writes from La Veta, Colorado, a small town with Old West roots.</i>