A Used Bookstore Encounter

As I was wrapping up the final semester of university coursework to satisfy my chosen degree plan in computer science and mathematics, a trip to a neighborhood used bookstore one cold winter evening led to an encounter with a famous author. Relaxed and lanky, he watched me peruse the shelves for a while then asked me what kind of book I was looking for. I told him something in science fiction. Something engaging enough to take my mind off of differential equations. He grimaced and nodded empathically then recommended a story published in 1957 by Arthur C. Clarke titled The Deep Range and showed me where it was on the shelves—a lime green hardback first edition in fair condition going for $2.80.


I didn’t know who the friendly tall fellow was until he had exited the bookstore and the owner asked if I knew who I had just talked with. Shaking my head I admitted I did not. He informed me I had just spoken with none other than Larry McMurtry before launching into an animate diatribe about how the town was way too overloaded with churches and cancer treatment hospitals.


I had recently read Lonesome Dove while working in northwestern Colorado and had thoroughly enjoyed it. Playing it cool, I resisted the urge to run outside to try to reconnect with the famous author before he could drive away into the night. Smiling amiably at the bookstore owner as he ranted on, I paid $2.80 plus tax for the book and wished him a pleasant evening. 

The Deep Range did the trick, taking my thoughts far away from mind numbing complexities of partial derivatives. A few years later I spent a lot of hours looking for reading material gems in Mr. McMurty’s bookstores a few dozen miles south and west of that little college town bookstore, hoping to run into him there and thank him for the reading recommendation that chilly winter evening long ago. I never saw him again.