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  • Writer's pictureMarc Johnson

A Giant of Western Storytelling

“Every story is the story of a man or a woman or a small group of people.”A.B. Guthrie, Jr. – A Field Guide to Writing Fiction

A.B. “Bud” Guthrie, Jr. deserves a place in the front ranks of American writers. A new biography of Guthrie, published earlier this year, should help cement the Pulitzer Prize winners place among the best who have ever written about the West. I hope, as well, that it might renew an interest in Guthrie’s amazing body of work.

The book – Under the Big Sky – A Biography of A.B. Guthrie, Jr. – by Jackson J. Benson was published by the University of Nebraska Press. Benson has also written fine biographies of Wallace Stegner and John Steinbeck.

Guthrie was a successful newspaper editor in Kentucky when he was awarded a Neiman Fellowship at Harvard and while studying there he finished his first novel – The Big Sky – published in 1947. He followed with The Way West and was awarded the Pulitzer in 1950.

There followed many other works of fiction, including some great mystery stories, two memorable screenplays – Shane in 1953 and the Kentuckian in 1955 – as well as magazine pieces and non-fiction.

After moving permanently to Montana in 1956, Guthrie became a more outspoken conservationist and, to some, a bit of a crank. I think his personality was in keeping with the western characters he created – independent, pithy and always in touch with the land.

If you are in the market for a great late summer read, go search out Benson’s fine new biography or one of the Guthrie titles. You won’t be disappointed.

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