Being there . . . . to hail with an expression of reverent salutation, i.e., exclamation, salute, or
familiar greeting, your affectionate appreciation, fondness, and, indeed, gentle love for 21
American western novelists, while being introduced to numerous others. And darn if
incomparable McFarland Publishing, and one of her foremost literary pioneers, Stephen J. May,
haven’t combined to provide us bibliophiles with an early summer gift, “WRITING THE WILD
FRONTIER – 200 Years of the Best Western Writers and Their Novels”. Even this reviewer’s
favorite blood and guts hardened World War II buffs will relish relaxing a spell by reading how
for 200 years the western fiction, mostly historical drama in one form or another, chronicled
accurately the dangerous experiences of genuine visionary early settlers and colonists versus
those of the money-grubbers, especially the gold driven “Go West” fanatics. And may God Bless
Stephen who wrote, “Writing the Wild Frontier”, for the general reader interested in the
literature, history, and culture of the American West. Exploring primarily those novels that have
achieved a high level of acclaim, author May surveys and pays earnest homage to the frontier’s
lasting works, detailing for us both the writers’ lives and their fictional creations. In short,
Stephen’s splendid treatise traces the development of the Western novel through biography,
anecdote, summary, analysis, and informed criticism, revealing the struggles and triumphs of
the genre’s 21 authors found here, their changing standards of the frontier stories and the
lasting effects on each of their region’s “magisterial landscape”. Yes, and, if this wanna-be
western writer is permitted, he would suggest changing “magisterial” to an unidentified phrase
jotted down from who-knows-who and where two-thirds of a century ago, “biological
landscapes of variation and magnificence” . . . .
LONG AGO, CHARLOTTE BRONTE SPOKE FOR MANY OF US, “I AM GOING TO WRITE BECAUSE I
CANNOT HELP IT.” MARK TWAIN ECHOED, “WRITER, THROW OFF THE BOWLINES, SAIL AWAY
FROM THE SAFE HARBOW. NEVER FEAR CATCHING THE TRADE WINDS IN YOUR SAILS”.
Reviewed and Highly, Highly Recommended by Don DeNevi
“WRITING THE WILD FRONTIER – – 200 Years of the Best Western Writers and Their Novels”, by
Stephen J. May. McFARLAND & COMPANY, INC., PUBLISHERS: 2023, a book that has undergone
peer review, 259 pages, softcover, 7” x 10”, $39.95. Visit, www.mcfarlandpub.com.
In Stephen’s helpful Index, good friend Zane Grey is listed 11 times for a total 16 pages. No
other Western writer is afforded that much attention, not even beloved (YES!!) Willa Cather.
Only James Fenimore Cooper, Bret Harte, and Mark Twain excel with 10 times each. Theodore
Roosevelt and Owen Jay Wister almost tie at nine. Stephen’s Bibliography, Timeline of the
Western Novel and Other Notable Works of the Frontier, and Chapter Notes are each worth a
ton of gold for both fledgling and veteran authors. In short, Stephen J. May deserves the
highest possible nonmilitary medal America has.
Like “Trigger” a few days ago, this “writer” in darn near a tear or two thinking how fortunate
we are as readers to have had, and yet to come, literary storytellers who have long since rid
themselves of shopworn formulas and adopted what their hearts dictate rather than what
critics insist upon, the so-called “modern approaches”. Make us cry, Cormac McCarthy, James
A. Michener, Larry McMurtry (thanks, Larry, I’ve watcher “Lonesome Dove” 14,952 times thus
far, and will do so again after tennis this morning), Wallace Stenger, Charles Portis, Edward
Abbey, Jack Schaefer, A.B. Guthrie, Walter Van Tilburg Clark, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Edna Ferber,
Luke Short, Max Brand, Zane Grey (I always bow my head a second driving past your old home
in Altadena, up the avenues a few blocks from Pasadena, California, on my way to the
Huntington Library in San Marino), Willa Cather (wish I had met you in college because you
would not have had a choice!), Jack London, Andy Adams, Owen Wister, Mark Twain, Bret
Harte, and James Fenimore Cooper. All of you, make us cry, and cry hard, to truly feel alive to
reach the highest, and, even then, higher and higher, as your heroes insist.