Natives and Newcomers
Although there are writers scattered across the expanse of Montana, a principality of established authors has grown up around the town of Livingston, north of Yellowstone National Park. Thomas McGuane’s novels, including Keep the Change, are Westerns filled with modern neuroses. McGuane lives in the area, as has Richard Ford (Rock Springs). Ford’s Wildlife is set in Great Falls, and many of his stories are set in small Montana towns. Richard Brautigan, famous for Trout Fishing in America, was also a resident. Jamie Harrison writes Montana-based detective novels (Going Local, Unfortunate Prairie Occurrence) from her Livingston home.
In the Internet age, writers can live just about anywhere, and Rick Bass’s book Winter: Notes from Montana chronicles the author’s first winter in remote northwestern Montana. Bass has also written The Ninemile Wolves, a passionate book about wolves reestablishing themselves in Montana.
Not all Montana authors are imported. Joseph Kinsey Howard, a journalist and lightning rod for progressive politics in the 1940s, wrote a classic Montana history in Montana: High, Wide and Handsome. Ivan Doig’s memoirs of his Montana boyhood (This House of Sky) and his fictional trilogy about Scottish ranchers in Montana (Dancing at the Rascal Fair, English Creek, and Ride with Me Mariah Montana) have garnered a wide readership.
Wallace Stegner, although not strictly a Montana writer, spent part of his boyhood in Montana and has written Western novels and memoirs such as Big Rock Candy Mountain. Wally McRae, eastern Montana rancher and conservationist, is admired on the cowboy-poet circuit. Another rancher-writer was Spike Van Cleve, who wrote with wit of the changing West in A Day Late and a Dollar Short.
To catch the latest-breaking literary movements in Montana, check out Cutbank at www.cutbankonline.org.
© W.C. McRae & Judy Jewell from Moon Montana, 7th Edition