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Telegraph Days

3.41 of 5 stars 3.41  ·  rating details  ·  1,688 ratings  ·  167 reviews
"Told in the voice of Nellie Courtright, a spunky, courageous, attractive young woman whose story this is in part, Telegraph Days is the big novel of the Western gunfighters that people have been hoping for years Larry McMurtry would write." "When Nellie and her brother Jackson are unexpectedly orphaned by their father's suicide on his new and unprosperous ranch, they make ...more
Hardcover, 289 pages
Published May 30th 2006 by Simon & Schuster (first published 2006)
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Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtryTrue Grit by Charles PortisBlood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West by Cormac McCarthyBury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee BrownAll the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy
Best Westerns
164th out of 644 books — 880 voters
The Gang Bust by Dorothy May MercerThe Immigrant and the Golden Coin by Dorothy May MercerDeath Comes for the Archbishop by Willa CatherThe Milagro Beanfield War by John     NicholsThe Blessing Way by Tony Hillerman
Books Set in New Mexico
109th out of 160 books — 84 voters

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Community Reviews

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This was a short novel on audio that I enjoyed listening to at times I couldn't read a "real" book.

It's a nice little picture of the old west through the eyes of Nellie Courtwright, a telegrapher and businesswoman. Along the way in her story, she meets just about all of the old west legends.

It's a little tongue-in-cheek, and a little dab into history at the same time. It has a dose of realism, showing how it wasn't all about blazing gunfights, but did show how those legends could evolve.

What I r
Nov 27, 2007 Kani rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: western history buffs, female enthusiasts
Since I listened to this book rather than read it, part of my review has to go to the reader. Annie Potts did an incredible job of making the diverse characters of the old west come alive. Especially our heroine, raised during the Civil War and come of age in the wild west of all our old favorites from Wild Bill to Buffalo Bill and everyone in between. She witnesses all the famous cowboy events of the time and does so with the perspective and demeanor of a Lady. It was so fun I didn't want it to ...more
Pound for pound, few writers can compare with Larry McMurtry. The Pulitzer Prize winner has penned several contempary classics--among them, 'Terms of Endearment', 'The Last Picture Show', and the epic 'Lonesome Dove'.

So it's beyond disappointment when a writer as talented as McMurtry spits out a contrived, one-dimensional shell of a novel. And that's being kind to TELEGRAPH DAYS, McMurtry's "alleged" spoof of the cheap dime store novels of the 19th Century. This is a Western dominated by unimag
I was surprised, when I read this book, at how truly boring it was, given the good reviews it had received. I am guessing that the reviewers were reminiscing more on the quality of McMurtry's 'Lonesome Dove' than on the quality of the writing in this particular novel.

The book began well enough, and the main character of Nellie started off full of mouth and grit. However, there was no character development, the woman's mouth and spunk became annoying over time and the character remained shallow.
Sigh. This book was so good in the beginning. I loved the spunky heroine Nellie and the writing was actually funny. I thought it was going to be a fun light-hearted western spoof. But then Nellie started sleeping with every man she met and then left town with Buffalo Bill Cody--although she didn't sleep with him. She tried though. By then the book felt rushed and churned out and just got dumb really fast. It's like McMurtry just wrote this for some fast money from his publisher.
Well, this is kind of weird. I guess it's supposed to be a comic-ish tale of life in the Old West via the narrator Nellie Courtright, but it seems weird. Like, it starts the day after her father 'suicided himself,' and she kind of doesn't give a shit about it, but does give a shit about making out with every dude she meets. Which would be funny if it were meant to be a dry commentary on what a heartless person she is. And maybe it's supposed to be, but I guess it just kind of feels more empty to ...more
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
SO MANY MEN, SO LITTLE TIME, September 1, 2008
By Bookworm (St. George Utah) - See all my reviews

Larry McMurtrys Telegraph Days give us a glimpse of the old west from a woman's perspective. The woman in question is a 22 year old Virginia native, Nellis Courtright who with her 17 year old brother, Jackson, resides in the town of Rio Blanca, a nothing little place located in an area known as "no mans land". The towns tenuous claim to fame comes f
Dang, there's such a melancholy wit in the language of the west and it's so pure in all of Larry McMurtry's novels. It's not just within the local vernacular but also in the stories that the people of the great plains find interesting enough to relate to folks who dutifully listen. I chose this book to read over the weekend because I was to spend that time very near the place where most of this book takes place and I wanted to, along with the accompanying visuals of the plains, match the cadence ...more
I was surprised, when I read this book, at how truly boring it was, given the good reviews it had received. I am guessing that the reviewers were reminiscing more on the quality of McMurtry's 'Lonesome Dove' than on the quality of the writing in this particular novel.

The book began well enough, and the main character of Nellie started off full of mouth and grit. However, there was no character development, the woman's mouth and spunk became annoying over time and the character remained shallow.
In "Telegraph Days," Larry McMurtry combines something of a tall tale with a revisionist Western, producing a quick, enjoyable read in the process. The tall-tale aspect of the novel comes from the narrator, Nellie Courtright, crossing paths with almost every signficiant real-life Western figure -- Doc Holliday, Billy the Kid, Buffalo Bill Cody, Jesse James, Wild Bill Hickock, and Wyatt Earp and his brothers among them -- as well as being an eyewitness to the shootout at the OK Corral.

The book's
John Strohm

This book started with great potential; a young man and woman who descended from minor gentry in Virginia find themselves alone in the West. The first few chapters are pretty entertaining, although you get a nagging worry as Nellie keeps mentioning famous historical figures who she dated. You think, "Oh, that'll probably go away" and keep reading.

But nope, the last two thirds of the book is an endless procession of celebrity cameos; many of them pointless. For example, she's on a train with a ra
Read any of the other 1-star reviews to see what the many problems are with this book. No need to repeat them here, since all the reviews say basically the same thing. Nellie Courtright is basically the Forrest Gump of the Old West -- if Forrest was intelligent, a woman, and a complete slut.

Packed with way too many characters -- "look, there's General Sherman for two pages serving no purpose whatsoever!" -- there is surprisingly little real plot past the first couple of chapters, when a potenti
Seth Kolloen
I only give this one star to warn you off it—it's not as bad as all that, but you should really pick up a different McMurtry book. I've probably read 20 of his, he's one of my two or three favorite authors, and this is by *far* the weakest.

Telegraph Days has a fascinating main character, but that's as far as he got. There's really no story, just a bunch of different incidents that don't tie together much at all. More like notes for a novel than a fully-fleshed work. If I started to give you a li
This is my first book by this author. For reasons able-y elaborated in the other recent 1-star reviews, I feel gypped when I encounter a book such as this from a famous writer. It seems a lack of integrity from publishers to cash in on the public's trust in an author's name and give something this substandard in return.

I am now hesitant to read other books by this author, because I expect to care about the protagonist, and I expect the various events to have some kind of meaning and tie into th
In the beginning of Telegraph Days, Nellie Courtright and her brother Jackson shake up the sleepy old west town of Rita Blanca. I would have been happy if the story stayed right there. But in further adventures, Nellie drifts around the country, meeting up with figures from western history and lore. I loved McMurtry's dialogue and the main characters in this story but disliked the drifting plot and lack of cohesion. Best -- I listened to it on cd, and the reader, Annie Potts, was pitch-perfect.
A spunky woman goes around the American West, meets all the famous people of the time, enjoys "vigorous copulation" with most of the men,and participates in the marketing of her era.

Problem is, she's two-dimensional, impervious, and improbable. So her journey from event to event doesn't do anything to change her, and it begins to feel like a clever catalog of who was who in the Wild West, with an unconvincing lesson at the end, a bunch of witty dialogue and tons of unsexy sex.

Paul Parsons
A quick, entertaining read of the Wild West as only McMurtry can tell it. The heroine is a little like Forrest Gump and just happens to be witness to all the old characters and events that have come to be memorialized about those days in the late 1800s. I admitted to even getting a little emotional as her story wraps up and the characters die or fade away. Not the Lonesome Dove it was touted to be on the inside cover, but still very worthwhile.
We listened to Annie Potts read this novel, and her voice brought Nellie Courtright to life in such a way that we started talking to each other with a twang. McMurty peppers this novel with the legends we boomers grew up thinking were heroes, but the real heroes were people like Nellie and her little brother, Jackson. A great introduction to "the old west" and McMurtry's love and respect for the people who settled there.
Sep 09, 2007 Robert rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: cowgirls
One of McMurtry's most entertaining books, if smaller in scale than the "Lonesome Dove" series. The heroine is a gutsy telegraph operator whose job puts her in contact with Buffalo Bill and other western legends.I don't know if the prolific McMurtry plans any sequels, but as a light-hearted look at Western myth-making, this makes a wonderful companion to "Buffalo Girls".
Jason Caldwell
Nellie is a very intelligent young woman transplanted from Virginia to the middle of nowhere when her father was seduced west by the claims of cheap land and rolling plains. However life on the frontier is not easy and every member of her family, with the exception her younger brother, suffers a premature death in this harsh land. Although Nellie has many bright ideas nobody is interested in any other assets she may possess other than her willingness to kiss and copulate with the any cowboy that ...more
Fluff, and not in a particularly good way. I'd call it a slutty 19th century Forrest Gump, but that's an insult to sluts, the 19th century, and Forrest Gump. I only gave this one star because goodreads won't let you rate a book 0 stars.
Lynn Pribus
While I think McMurtry is an amazing writer, some of his books and characters just don't engage me. The Berrybender series was like that. And so is this. I checked it out because a sequel has just come out, but I only lasted a little way into the second CD.

The reader was perfect for the part with a twang and attitude, but the plot and characters -- yeh.

McMurtry has ranged from TERMS OF ENDEARMENT to LONESOME DOVE. Probably time to reread L.D., although it makes any other book pretty lame for th
Love Annie Potts reading. Love Larry's Old West characters, especially his women. I expected to google Marie Antoinette Courtwright Clarke & find she was a real historical figure.
Larry McMurtry, great story teller. Telegraph Days starts out pretty well and character development is up to the usual standard. A bit of comedy thrown in and McMurtry is on a roll.

This is a story that might have happened in the Old West and there is enough name dropping (Buffalo Bill Cody, Wyatt Earp, Billy the Kid, Annie Oakley, etc.) to ensure interest. But the story goes astray when the main character and moderator, Nellie Courtright, becomes obsessed with "copulation". Come on, even te
Very typical Larry McMurtry book with strong opinionated female character. Lots of death, but overall so far a good read.
While I can't imagine Mr. McMurtry writing anything to match his magnum opus "Lonesome Dove", Telegraph Days is a fine addition to his canon of the old west.
Nellie Courtwright narrates the story of her life on the frontier as she encounters the famous figures of the era from Buffalo Bill Cody and the Earp Bros. to Billy the Kid and many others. She at once de-mythologizes AND adds to the legends of the time.
With all of the interesting characters she meets, perhaps the most compelling character
This was a very entertaining book to read, but had one weaknesses. The novel is not plot driven. There is action is several chapters, but there is no on going quest or peril. I will admit I am not being fair to "Telegraph Days" for judging it like this. I've read many books that were more character driven and loved them, but with this being only the second western I've read, I was expecting more. However, the book still had many strengths. Nellie was easy to listen too, and the characters were b ...more
Two and a half, kids. This needs two and a half stars. I'm a big McMurtry fan because (1) he wrote Lonesome Dove, which is a goddamn masterpiece, (2) his plots usually revolve around either the Wild West-era days or bumfuck Texas, both of which are near and dear to my heart, and (3) only McCarthy can beat his writing voice, which is always simple and spare and very true to the language of his setting. This book was no exception: the only flaws I had with it were plot-wise. Overall, the book was ...more
Thomas Holbrook
Someday Larry McMurtry will no longer write books. That day the literary world will grow significantly darker. This author’s writing ability continues to be a delight in style, subject, observation and context. While this book is no Lonesome Dove (there is at least one major omission in this novel) it is one of Mr. McMurtry’s better efforts. I read this novel six and a half years ago, listening to it read to me made a well written, funny, and likable novel all the more fun.
The novel is set in wh
One thing I will say for this book: it does a pretty good job of mirroring, in novel form, Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West shows. There's a little bit of everything, none of it quite fully polished. Among the cast of characters are Buffalo Bill, Jesse James, Doc Holliday, Wyatt Earp, General George Custer, all of whom are involved, at some point or another, in the requisite gun fights. And Nellie Courtright's narration of all of these characters, and events like the shootout at O.K. Corral, lend a ...more
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Larry McMurtry is the author of twenty-nine novels, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning Lonesome Dove, three memoirs, two collections of essays, and more than thirty screenplays.

Among many other accolades he was the co-winner of an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for Brokeback Mountain in 2006.

Larry McMurty was born in Wichita Falls Texas in 1936. His first published book Horseman, Pass By was
More about Larry McMurtry...
Lonesome Dove Terms of Endearment The Last Picture Show Streets of Laredo Comanche Moon

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