Small Town News


Guthrie, a classic read for the summer

Silver State Post of Deer Lodge, Montana

- Advertisement -

By the Book

This is the time of year when the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and dailies like the Mis-soulian recommend summer reading material. The books are usually fiction, preppy and set in Cape Cod, Nag's Head or some other kick - back resort destination.

Montanans enjoy a rich history of writers; poets, literary critics, novelists and historians. Their works are available at libraries, second hand and independent book stores. There is no better literature, no more creative writing than that of those authors who either were Montanans, or who wrote about this great state and its peoples.

A.B. Guthrie, Jr. is a writer's writer. His style is impeccable; his tales without equal. "The Big Sky" was published in 1947, an epic novel about frontiersmen and traders from St. Louis to the northwestern lands that were to become Montana. The book is great stuff for the cabin, sitting on the front porch, or just plain hanging out on a lazy afternoon. It is an appropriate family book about those men who dared to venture into the land of roaring rivers and uncharted trails. Guthrie writes with clarity and beauty about a very different time.

"The Big Sky" was a bestseller, but it was his second novel, "The Way West," often called the second of a trilogy, which won Guthrie the Pulitzer Prize for Literature. An excerpt from the books illustrates Guthrie's beauty of style when writing of men and women making their way to the West.

"No air stirred, not a breath. The fire they had built grayed with ash, just the heart of it alive. And no noise sounded except the tiny hum of mosquito wings and the lazy words they spoke. The children were abed, and the women waited with their men and the dogs were quiet, and the wolves and the coyotes not yet tuning up..."

The third book in the series, "These Thousand Hills," was published in 1956.

Guthrie started out as a newspaperman. His father came to Montana Territory as its first high school principal. Young Guthrie left Montana as a rookie reporter and went to work for the Lexington Kentucky Leader. He was awarded a Nieman Fellowship to Harvard while in Lexington, and it was during that time he became a serious novelist. He wrote the screenplay for "Shane." "The Big Sky," "The Way West," and "The Kentuckian," were all made into movies His western mysteries featured Sheriff Chick Charles and include such titles as "The Genuine Article," "No Second Wind," and "Playing Catch-Up."

He also authored a children's edition of "The Big Sky," and "Once Upon a Pond."

Guthrie returned to Montana after the publication of "The Way West." In a biographical article he said Montana was his "point of outlook on the universe."

His yarns are about the landscapes familiar those of us lucky enough to live here; they are about those men and women who came before us-their grit and toughness.

Guthrie isn't a summer read, Guthrie is a great read. Enjoy.

Copyright 2011 Silver State Post, Deer Lodge, Montana. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: July 6, 2011

More from Silver State Post