Wallace Stegner was born on February 18, 1909 in Lake Mills, Iowa. Over a 60 year career he wrote 30 books. Among the novels are, The Big Rock Candy Mountain, 1943; Joe Hill, 1950; All The Little Live Things, 1967 (Commonwealth Club Gold Medal); Angle of Repose, 1972 (Pulitzer Prize); The Spectator Bird, (National Book Award), 1977; Recapitulation, 1979; Collected Stories, 1990, and Crossing to Safety, 1987. The nonfiction includes Beyond the Hundredth Meridian, 1954; Wolf Willow, (A History, A Story, and a Memory of the Last Plains Frontier), 1962; The Sound of Mountain Water, 1969; Where the Bluebird Sings to the Lemonade Springs: Living and Writing in the West, 1992, a collection of essays that earned him a nomination for the National Book Critics Circle award.
Although Wallace Stegner is called "the dean of Western writers," not all of his fiction is laid in the West. One of his most successful novels, Crossing to Safety takes place in Wisconsin and Vermont. The Spectator Bird is in California and Denmark. All The Little Live Things is pure California, not typically Western. Many of his short stories have a variety of settings: Vermont, Egypt, the South of France, as well as the American West. His non-fiction, however, and one of his most eloquent statements about the environment, The Wilderness Letter, are definitely Western. His impact, historically and environmentally, is Western.
Wallace Stegner wrote about the need to preserve the West, and he also fought for it. He became involved with the conservation movement in the 1950's while fighting the construction of dam on the Green River at Dinosaur National Monument. In 1960 he wrote his famous Wilderness Letter on the importance of federal protection of wild places. This letter was used to introduce the bill that established the National Wilderness Preservation System in 1964. Wallace Stegner also founded the Committee for the Green Foothills in Santa Clara County, California and was involved with The Sierra Club and Wilderness Society. He also served as assistant to the Secretary of the Interior, Stewart Udall, during the Kennedy administration. There, he worked on issues dealing with the expansion of National Parks. His passion about the need to protect our wild places, and his respect for our landscape are a themes that Mr. Stegner eloquently expresses in many of his books and essays.
In 1964 Stegner started the Creative Writing Program at Stanford University, where he served on the faculty until 1971. He also taught at University of Utah, University of Wisconsin, and Harvard University. His students include: Wendell Berry, Larry McMurtry, Thomas McGuane, Ernest Gaines, John Daniel, Raymond Carver, Edward Abbey, and Poet Laureate of the United States, Robert Haas. Mr. Stegner has twice been a Guggenheim Fellow and a Senior Fellow of the National Endowment for the Humanities. He was a member of the National Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the National Academy of Arts and Letters. In 1992 he turned down the National Medal for the Arts because he was "troubled" by the political controls placed upon the National Endowment for the Arts. In 1934, Stegner married Mary Stuart Page. For 59 years they shared a "personal literary partnership of singular facility," wrote Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. The dedication of Stegner's last book Where The Bluebird Sings to the Lemonade Springs, reads "For Mary...who, like Delsey has seen the first and the last, and been indispensable and inspiriting all the way." They have a son, Page Stegner who is also a writer and professor at University of California, Santa Cruz.
Mr. Stegner died at 84, on April 13, 1993 following an auto accident in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He left a legacy as writer, professor, and environmentalist that once moved Edward Abbey to pronounce him "the only living American writer worthy of the Nobel." Indeed, Stegner was one of the American West's preeminent historians and arguably the most important of its novelists
Excerpt from The Women on the Wall
Wallace Stegner's remarkable portrait of Joe Hill, the man and the legend: from his entrance into the Industrial Workers of the World union, the most militant organization in the history of American labor, to his trial, imprisonment, and final martyrdom.
A classic novel from Wallace Stegner, and the "dean of Western writers" (The New York Times) and the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Angle of Repose and Crossing to Safety--this is his the incredible, moving sequel to the bestselling Big Rock Candy Mountain.
Bo Mason, his wife, Elsa, and their two boys live a transient life of poverty and despair. Drifing from town to town and from state to state, the violent, ruthless Bo seeks outhis fortune--in the hotel business, on new farmland, and, eventually, in illegal rum-running through the threacherous back roads of the American Northwest.
A book about America by one of the greatest writers of the American West
Introduction by Terry Tempest Williams
Afterword by T. H. Watkins