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Telegraph Days

3.47  ·  Rating details ·  2,396 ratings  ·  244 reviews
I've come to think that in times of crisis human beings don't have it in them to be rational. The Yazee gang was riding down upon us, six abreast. We all ran outside and confirmed that fact. The sensible thing would have been to run and hide -- but did we? Not at all.

The narrator of Larry McMurtry's newest book is spunky Nellie Courtright, twenty-two years old and already
Hardcover, 289 pages
Published May 30th 2006 by Simon & Schuster (first published 2006)
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Average rating 3.47  · 
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 ·  2,396 ratings  ·  244 reviews

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Joe Valdez
Aug 02, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: western
I should cut Telegraph Days some slack. This is not a novel that aspires for greatness nor one I wanted to read. I picked it off the library shelf for lack of the Larry McMurtry that I did want to read: Texasville. Published in 2006, this amiable western is the first person account of Marie Antoinette Courtright, commonly known as Nellie, who for a time runs the telegraph office in the town of Rita Blanca in 1876. Rather than tell her story, McMurtry trots in every legend of the era--Buffalo ...more
May 20, 2009 rated it did not like it
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
Nov 27, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 11, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
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
Apr 25, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017
About halfway through, this good story with a strong young heroine turned into a kind of western soft porn. I was disappointed. Three stars for the first half.
Aug 02, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Sep 01, 2013 rated it did not like it
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.
Jun 29, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
Sep 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mcmurtry
Howdy pardner. Reckon y'all wonderin' if this here book was any good. Well, dadgumit if this ain't one of the finest western books I ever listened to. And if you ain't in cahoots with the Earp brothers, you'll probably like it too. Mr. McMurtry has written hisself another rootin' tootin' shoot 'em up. This time with a lady narrator. I know what you're thinkin'. What? A lady narrator? What in tarnation does a lady know about the ol' west? Well, this one, read by Miss Annie Potts, knows quite a ...more
Aug 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 01, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Paul Parsons
Jul 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
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.
Aug 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
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 rated it liked it
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".
Sep 20, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Apr 13, 2008 rated it liked it
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
Feb 06, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: couldntfinish
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
Oct 22, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
This started off over the top, and by the end I was wishing it stayed at that level throughout the book. Instead, it veers into Western sexcapade territory. How to describe....I think it's best described by movies. Take as a base "The Unsinkable Molly Brown" mixed liberally with "Forrest Gump". Give it the style of Seth MacFarlane's "A Million Ways to Die in the West". And aim toward the young adult/teen demographic by including a lot of humor and cartoonish sex, while aiming at a PG rating. And ...more
Oct 03, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, western, 1-star
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
John Strohm
Mar 05, 2012 rated it it was ok

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
Seth Kolloen
Jan 09, 2014 rated it did not like it
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
Feb 25, 2008 rated it liked it
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.
Terry Cornell
Aug 27, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: western
Not one of McMurtry's best written books, but still enjoyable. Written from the point of view of a woman who becomes a telegraph operator in the waning days of the wild west. Reminds me a little of Thomas Berger's 'Little Big Man' in that this fictional character meets several historic figures of the time. I really like the story line, and how McMurtry ended the story. Overall an entertaining read.
Nov 30, 2013 rated it it was ok
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.

Jun 22, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Elizabeth Dart
Mar 19, 2019 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this book, though I'll admit that it was marketed incorrectly. As opposed to the tale of a shootout, it was more the fictional biography of Nellie Courtright. Putting aside McMurtry's occupation with copulation, the book contained some pretty amusing dialogue. Is it McMurtry's best work? Does it compare to the great Lonesome Dove? Not in the least. And a novel much less in the way of plot, for sure... but McMurtry still creates a likable character and humorous prose.
Sep 17, 2017 rated it liked it
Barely 3 stars... Listened to Annie Potts read this audio book which made the experience better than the book actually was... If I had a dollar for every time the word "copulating" or "stiffy" was used... I could go out and buy a nice steak dinner.
James Wethington
I believe this novel was a retelling of Blanche Devereaux during the Wild, Wild West! It did not flow at all and every encounter Nellie had with famous individuals from that time period seemed forced or coincidental. I have heard McMurty is a great author but this book was a major dud.
Mar 26, 2018 rated it it was ok
Thomas Holbrook
Mar 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
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Larry McMurtry was born in Wichita Falls, Texas on June 3, 1936. He is the author of twenty-nine novels, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning Lonesome Dove, three memoirs, two essay collections, and more than thirty screenplays.

His first published book, Horseman, Pass By, was adapted into the film "Hud." A number of his other novels also were adapted into movies as well as a television
“If you want to be part of a human community you have to suffer fools—patiently, if not gladly—and you must practice civility as best you can.” 0 likes
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