Horseman, Pass By was McMurtry’s first novel. It was the basis for Hud, the classic movie from 1963 about a small Texas cattle ranch facing a crisis.
The screenplay didn’t change the setting or plot, but several improvements were made. Some unnecessary characters (a grandmother, some ranch hands) were eliminated. The role of Hud was greatly expanded (the horseman in the novel’s title refers to Hud’s father, not Hud). The black housekeeper Almea became the white housekeeper Alma.
That last change was an improvement because it resulted in a more interesting, less predatory relationship between Hud and the housekeeper, a deeper relationship that doesn’t seem possible in the book, partly because of the way McMurtry writes what Almea says (“dese”, “dat”, “I needs to be leavin'” etc.).
This is one of those cases in which the film version is better than the original material. (8/17/12)