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Author of The Big Sky series, The Way West, and the screenplay for the classic film Shane, among other timeless stories of frontier mountain men, icon of Western literature A. B. “Bud” Guthrie Jr. brought blazing realism to the story of the West. That realism, which astounded and even shocked some readers, came out of the depth of Guthrie’s historical research and an acuity that had seldom been seen in the work of Western novelists. In Under the Big Sky Jackson J. Benson details the life and work of this true giant on the Western literary landscape.
Benson illuminates the critical details of Guthrie’s upbringing and education, the influence his intellectually inclined father had on him, his work as a newspaperman in Kentucky, and his time at Harvard University. Animated by the observations of friends, family, and fellow authors, this intimate account offers rare insight into the life and work of a remarkable writer and into the making of the literary West.
“A thorough, well-written, lively, and authoritative account of A. B. Guthrie Jr.’s life.”—Richard W. Etulain, Oregon Historical Quarterly
— Richard W. Etulain
-William Kittredge, author of Hole in the Sky and The Willow Field
-Page Stegner, author of Adios Amigos: Tales of Sustenance and Purification in the American West
“Author of The Big Sky and the screenplay for Shane, Bud Guthrie was one of the giants of Western American storytelling. Under the Big Sky, Guthrie''s biography by Jackson Benson, tells another fascinating story, that of Guthrie''s life and the passions that drove him.”—William Kittredge, author of Hole in the Sky and The Willow Field
"[Under the Big Sky] is a good picture of the man overall, one whose brother Chick described as 'a smart aleck and a wise guy.' But one who gave us all an enduring history of the West through fiction."—Pete Warzel, Montana Quarterly
— Pete Warzel
"One measure of a writer's biography is the degree to which it expands one's appreciation of the author's work and increases the pleasure of reading it. Good biographies should also give readers insight into the people being written about: why they were who they were, why they became who they became. Under the Big Sky succeeds on all counts."
— Richard W. Etulain, Oregon Historical Quarterly
Alfred Bertram "Bud" Guthrie Jr. (1901–91) may not be a household name, but his novels The Big Sky and the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Way West and his screenplay for Shane are notable achievements, each resulting, in part, from Guthrie's enormous passion for the history of the West. Benson (The True Adventures of John Steinbeck, Writer; Wallace Stegner) relays Guthrie's birth in Bedford, IN, and his childhood in Choteau, MT, where he developed a love of nature, which influenced Guthrie's later activism on behalf of the environment. Guthrie had a natural tendency for hard work and a steely determination; these characteristics coupled with his tough-minded reporting experience and a decided taste for realism were major contributions to his depiction of the West and his popularity. Guthrie drank too much, was considered by some to be a womanizer, married twice, and experienced family problems—none of which diminished his reputation as a great talent. VERDICT The impact of Guthrie's view of the frontier cannot be underestimated. This biography is recommended for fans of Guthrie's books, Western enthusiasts, and literature scholars.—Robert Kelly, Fort Wayne Community Schs., IN