Three years after taking the canoe ride, "Goodbye to a River" was published.
"He was a master stylist. People who know his work can read a paragraph of his and say, 'Oh, that's John Graves' the same way you could do with a Hemingway or a Faulkner," Busby said.
"His prose seemed to reflect the state of Texas and its roots," Stratton said. "It was a marvelous prose style that no one else could match."
Graves was born in Fort Worth on Aug. 6, 1920. He studied literature at Rice University and was drafted into the military soon after graduating. He lost sight in one eye during battle and returned home to try his hand at fiction, but never felt like he was good enough at it, said Mark Busby, a professor at Texas State University who wrote a 2007 book about Graves.