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The Imprint of Alan Swallow

Quality Publishing in the West

W. Dale Nelson

Publication Year: 2010

Born and raised on the windswept prairies of northwest Wyoming, Alan Swallow (1915–1966) nurtured a passion for literature and poetry at an early age. Quickly realizing he was not suited to a life of farming and ranching, Swallow entered the University of Wyoming to study literature and earned a fellowship to further his studies at Louisiana State University. It was there, under the influence of Robert Penn Warren and Cleanth Brooks, that Swallow began his almost three-decade-long career as a publisher, teacher, and poet. This outstanding biography is the first to explore the fascinating life of Alan Swallow, a pioneering western publisher whose authors included such literary luminaries as Anaïs Nin, Allen Tate, and Yvor Winters. Moving to Colorado, Swallow founded the Swallow Press and dedicated himself to bringing literary authors, both regionally and nationally recognized, to print in high-quality yet affordable books. Swallow’s tireless work as an editor and innovative publisher gave him much integrity. He became a revered literary figure of his day, while rumors of his marital infidelities and his fondness for fast cars earned him a different notoriety. Nelson brings this forgotten episode of publishing history vividly back to life, shining a bright light on the rich literary legacy of the West.

Published by: Syracuse University Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. iii-v


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pp. ix


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pp. xi-xii

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pp. xiii-xix

Tom Auer, my brother and the founder/publisher of The Bloomsbury Review, was an avid book lover from the beginning of his life, as are all the members of our family. That love remains ever present in our lives. ...

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pp. xxi-xxii

"Save for Tom Auer," said the quick handwritten note that fl uttered onto my bedside table as I opened one of the scores of scholarly books the late Thomas M. Auer had gathered in decades of research on the life of Alan Swallow. It was yet another reminder of the tremendous debt I owed to a man whose untimely death came before he could write the book he had labored on for so long. ...

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1 A Bookish Youngster

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pp. 1-23

As a guard and detective for the Leadville, Colorado and Southern Railroad, Edgar Swallow was encountering tough duty. The trains took a wearying nine and a half hours to cover the 150 miles of narrow gauge track between the turn-of-the-century boom town of Denver and the red brick and sandstone station at the mining town of Leadville, also flourishing with the silver found in the black sand known as carbonate of lead. ...

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2 Big Man on Campus

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pp. 24-40

Some aspects of the University of Wyoming's "definite philosophy" did not please Alan Swallow after he reached the campus. In an unpublished essay written during his first days at the university, he began, "A student goes to college. He is burning with the desire to study literature, to take journalism and to practice writing. ...

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3 Down Altitudes of Air

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pp. 41-59

In a collection of essays, I'll Take My Stand, published in 1930, Robert Penn Warren and eleven other young writers embraced to varying degrees the heritage of the Confederacy and denounced with equal fervor both American industrialism and Soviet communism. They marched under the banner of the Southern Agrarians, although one poet and critic who was also a part-time farmer derided them as agrarians who knew nothing about farming. ...

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4 Stern Critic

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pp. 60-80

The Swallows drove to Powell for the summer of 1940, taking with them in the car the printing equipment, the new type, and Alan's plans for the Fitzell book. Arriving in Albuquerque in the fall, he discovered Hazel Dreis, who was enjoying a growing reputation as a bookbinder from her studio in Santa Fe. ...

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5 The Biggest City Around

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pp. 81-101

Despite Alan's hesitations, his sister Vera believed he had always wanted to make his life and career in Denver. It was a reasonable assumption. An ambitious boy from the Flat would very likely aim at the big city, and Denver, although still called by one writer "a good cow town," was the biggest city around...

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6 Alan Swallow, Publisher

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pp. 102-138

Alan Swallow's venture into full-time publishing was a gamble. After thirteen years of combining publishing with either teaching or army service, his press was earning a little money that he could draw on, and he decided to "let it have a full chance for a time, to see what would happen."1 Gross income for 1960 was about $100,000 and payments to authors were close to $20,000. ...

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7 Alan Swallow and His Authors

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pp. 114-122

As an editor, Alan Swallow worked slowly and carefully, spoke briefly and bluntly, and was, in words of poet Vi Gale, "very adamant about what he would tolerate and what he wouldn't." He edited word by word, comma by comma, scribbling marginal notes that were so hard to read that Gale thought he must have hurt his hand in his motorcycle accident. 1 ...

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8 Vardis

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pp. 123-130

Alan Swallow rejected the first manuscript Vardis Fisher offered him, without even seeing it. Meeting Fisher for the first time at a University of Denver writers' conference, he told him he could accept no prose books of any length as long as he was limited to doing his own printing.1 Fisher was to become Alan's best friend among all his authors. They disagreed over matters large and small, but were bound together in part by childhoods spent in barren patches of western land and by struggles to overcome resulting shyness and perhaps well-concealed feelings of inferiority. ...

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9 Expansion and Collapse

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pp. 131-154

When Alan Swallow's publishing enterprise reached its twenty-first anniversary in 1961, he was publishing about thirty volumes a year and one of them, the Collected Poems of Yvor Winters, had just won the $2,500 Bollingen Prize. The Denver Public Library marked the occasion with a display of several dozen of the more than 250 books Swallow had published.1 ...

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10 Postmortem

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pp. 155-169

Mae called her mother in Powell as the Elders were getting ready to go out to a family Thanksgiving dinner. At two pm her father, Ralph Elder, sat down and wrote to her in his meticulous longhand that Alan "evidently went the way he would have wished to (at work)." ...


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pp. 173-196


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pp. 197-202


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pp. 203-208

E-ISBN-13: 9780815651536
E-ISBN-10: 0815651538
Print-ISBN-13: 9780815609520
Print-ISBN-10: 0815609523

Page Count: 112
Illustrations: 30 black and white illustrations
Publication Year: 2010