Larry McMurtry, who is known primarily as the author of a number of elegiac, Texas-sized novels about his native Lone Star state, has also had something of a second career as a writer of movies, and (briefly) a third career as a writer of articles and columns based on his experiences as a writer of movies. His unpleasantly titled new collection, Film Flam—what a tongue twister!—consists of twenty-one opinionated pieces, most of them originally published in the magazine American Film, that render a writer’s-eye view of what folks in Los Angeles like to refer to as “the industry” (a locution which, for me, always brings to mind images of Jane Fonda and Robert Redford sweating it out on an assembly line).

Among the subjects that McMurtry treats in these essays are the problems of adapting one’s own novel for the movies, the advantages of writing...


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