McMurtry's modest essays on Hollywood screenwriting and films generally are among the most literate and absorbing in recent memory, especially when set beside William Goldman's Adventures in the Screen Trade. McMurtry does share one quality in common with Goldman in that neither writer much likes to read his own books. McMurty is even harsher on himself than Goldman, who is merely bored by his own novels. McMurtry takes an active hatchet to Horseman, Pass By (filmed as Hud, a movie McMurty thinks far superior to the novel), The Last Picture Show, and Leaving Cheyenne (filmed indifferently as Lovin 'Molly). Unfortunately, he never gets to his present reactions to the adaptation of Terms of Endearment--filmed as a tear-jerker but quite funny and moving, in which Jack Nicholson won an Oscar for a role that wasn't even in the novel. Most of these essays appeared first in American Film, where they seemed more facile than they do now bundled together. In fact, they have hardwon ideas that no screenwriter should overlook. McMurtry refuses to read or work on any project (always a book adaptation) until the very last moment when he's literally flying to Hollywood. Hollywood being so mercurial, the producer's deal may have fallen through before McMurtry has landed. Also, he resists doing first drafts before a director has been taken on. Otherwise, all he's doing is a first reading for the director while producing a digest for the producer to shuck around--a kind of scriptwriting that is death to the soul. He shoots down All the President's Men (its Oscar-winning script was supposedly by Goldman) for reducing a crucial national event by so many dimensions that the picture is a mere doorbell beside the full orchestral tones of Lina Wertmuller's Seven Beauties (also about a social cataclysm). He also is excellent on E.L. Doctorow's anguish over the novel-into-film Ragtime (a book Doctorow must have recognized as overhyped). A top-notch collection.