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Meet Nellie Courtright, the resourceful, charming, and enthusiastically copulating protagonist of LARRY MCMURTRY’s Wild West saga TELEGRAPH DAYS. Her father has just “suicided himself,” leaving the 22-year-old and her teenage brother, Jackson, to fend for themselves in the barren no-man’s-land north of Texas. But Nellie goes one better and acquires some measure of fortune and fame. McMurtry writes her life as a parallel of the frontier’s rapid-fire metamorphosis in the 1870’s and 1880’s: She makes the push west, finds boomtown prosperity in untamed places like Tombstone, works for a spell with Buffalo Bill Cody’s shows exhibiting an already disappearing Wild West to the world, and eventually lands in Hollywood writing “scenarios” for the big screen and immortalizing shoot-outs and outlaws. Telegraph Days is vintage McMurtry in a fine new bottle—filled with telling historical detail and atmospheric with choking dust and whiskey-breathed cowhands. Simon & Schuster, $25