Books: The Terms Of Fatal Endearment

ANYTHING FOR BILLY

by Larry McMurtry

Simon & Schuster; 382 pages; $18.95

By all accounts, Billy the Kid was nothing more than Charles Manson in cowboy boots. Still, history has never fared well against legend, which not only alters facts but also stages the conversions in a nostalgic half-light. Larry McMurtry has become a master of this illusion, partly because he continues to sharpen his gifts for narrative and character, but mainly because his themes belong to our cultural gene pool. Lonesome Dove (1985), a long, winding fable packed with salty old coots and ferocious Indians, camped on the best-seller lists...

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