He wrote his first novel, Blood Reckoning (1962), about the Comanche’s final battle against the United States Army and followed up with But Not For Love, published in 1964, which looked at the post-war generation. In 1964, Shrake moved to New York City to join the staff of Sports Illustrated, where he was often allowed to write long feature stories, sometimes barely related to sports. He returned to Texas in 1968 and continued his association with Sports Illustrated until 1979, while also writing novels and screenplays. His 1968 book Blessed McGill, set during Reconstruction, is often cited as a classic of Texas fiction, as is his 1972 novel Strange Peaches. In 1969, Shrake wrote what is perhaps his best-known article, Land of the Permanent Wave, about a trip to the Big Thicket in East Texas. He intended the article for publication in Sports Illustrated, but it was rejected and instead published in the February 1970 issue of Harper's Magazine.
He became involved with Hollywood in the early 70s as a screenwriter and occasional actor. Shrake's screenplays include Kid Blue (1973), Nightwing (1979), the Steve McQueen western Tom Horn (1980), and Songwriter (1984), which starred his friend Willie Nelson. He had a small part in the TV movie Lonesome Dove and wrote his last screenplay in 1991 for the TV movie Another Pair of Aces: Three of a Kind, a sequel to his 1990 movie Pair of Aces. Night Never Falls, the only one of his novels not set in Texas, was published in 1987, and became his favorite of his novels.
He was twice married to and twice divorced from Joyce Shrake, with whom he had two sons; his marriage to Doatsy Shrake also ended in divorce. From then on he acted as Texas Governor Ann Richards' companion for 17 years, escorting her to her inaugural ball and other social events until her death in 2006. He suffered from both prostate cancer and lung cancer in his final years, and on May 8, 2009, died at St. David's Hospital in Austin, of complications from lung cancer. He is buried next to Ann Richards in the Texas State Cemetery.
30° 15.934, -097° 43.614
Texas State Cemetery