No more novels for Larry McMurtry?

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Larry McMurtry's 30th novel ("Rhino Ranch") will be released on Aug. 11, but it will probably be his last, according to an interview published in the Dallas Morning News. "I'm about at the end of [novel writing]," he said. "I can write certain things. I don't think I can write fiction any more."

It's an age thing, McMurtry, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his 1985 novel "Lonesome Dove." "Most great novels are written by people between 40 and 60, or 35 and 60. Not too many great novels are written by people over 75. Hardly any. Maybe Tolstoy."

But Tolstoy is not alone in being the exception to that rule. Booker Prize-winner Penelope Fitzgerald, for instance, published her first book at 58 and her masterpiece, "The Blue Flower," at the age of 79. And if you check the "late bloomer" listing in Wikipedia, you will find that Laura Ingalls Wilder, Harriet Doerr, Kenneth Grahame, Charles Bukowski, Henry Miller, Raymond Chandler, and Wallace Stevens are among the writers who succeeded despite starting to write later in life.

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Although, admittedly, most did their best writing before the age of 70, and many, in fact were in that zone cited by McMurtry – somewhere between 35 to 40 and 60.

John Updike once argued that fiction writing was game played best by the young. When you are young, he said, “You are full of material – your family, your friends, your region of the country, your generation – when it is fresh and seems urgently worth communicating to readers. No amount of learned skills can substitute for the feeling of having a lot to say, of bringing news.”

However, Updike too noted a couple of exceptions to his rule:  “Elmore Leonard and P.D. James continue, into their 80s, to produce best-selling thrillers."

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