A CONVERSATION WITH THOMAS MCGUANE
The prolific writer and sportsman published his 17th book this past spring, the latest achievement in a career that started with doing brake jobs in Wyoming and guiding in Key West. By CALLAN WINK
Since publishing his first novel in the late 1960s, Thomas Mcguane has gone on to create a large body of work — novels, screenplays, short fiction and essays — beloved by sportsmen and literary critics alike. Mcguane is the only individual to be an inductee into the Fly Fishing Hall of Fame, the National Cutting Horse Association Hall of Fame and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. While novels such as Ninety-two in the Shade and Nobody’s Angel established him as a true literary talent, Mcguane’s most recent book, Cloudbursts, cements his legacy as one of the foremost practitioners of the short-story form.
We caught up with the longtime resident of southwest Montana at his winter residence in Florida. He was kind enough to take a break from tarpon fishing to talk with us about, among other things, the good old days in Key West, the changes he sees coming to Montana and his long friendship with Jim Harrison, who died in March 2016.
This past March you published your latest book, Cloudbursts. According to my count, this is your 17th. As a prolific writer with a well-documented love for the outdoors, do you ever feel as if you should have gone fishing, or hunting, or riding more, and written less?
I feel that all the time. In fact, at this elevated age, I look back and think, Oh my God. All the time I was trying to write and a lot of times it went nowhere. I had thousands, millions of hours produce nothing. I always remember, it was a beautiful day in July, and the PMDS were hatching on the spring creeks in Paradise Valley. I was in my little office hunched over trying to blacken a page, and Russ Chatham came by and said, “I just can’t believe how great the fishing is down at Nelson’s. Let’s go down there.” And I said, “No, man. I’m trying to write.” He started to leave, and then he turned back and looked me in the eye and he said, “I couldn’t live like that.” I’ve never forgotten it. It was — what you call in literature — a stinging rebuke.
The writer reflects on fishing, the old days and his work.