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Reviews 385 Maverick Writers. By S. Jean Mead. (Caldwell, Idaho: The Caxton Printers, 1989. 271 pages, $14.95.) Although not a sub-title, “Candid Comments by fifty-two of the Best” appears on the cover of Mead’s book as though it were part of the title. It is, in effect, only a brief description of the contents, and it prompts an obvious question: fifty-two of the best of what? Mead’s one-page Foreword immedi­ ately associates maverick with trail riders, unbranded calves, and then western writers. Furthermore, these mavericks are western writers “whose work has been branded third rate literature and traditionally scorned by the literary community.” Finally Mead answers our question by describing her book as a “collection of interviews with some of the West’s most talented authors.” To expect fifty-two interviews, or fifty-two of the best western writers, is to be disappointed. A. B. Guthrie, Jr. and Frank Waters are there, but so are Janet Dailey and a fairly large group of romancers whose fictional environ­ ments only occasionally drift into the West. Interviews that look like interviews are scarce. Guthrie’s is exceptionally good; Will Henry (Henry Allen) con­ ducts his own, providing both questions and answers; Don Balluck and Ron Bishop, interviewed briefly, are primarily screenwriters. The other forty-eight people are “profiled,” with an occasional quoted statement. It is impossible to tell whether the information in the profiles was the result of interviews or whether it came from other sources. Granted that many of these writers are associated with scripting, popular history, and several kinds of non-fiction rather than with the writing of novels; yet, I was disconcerted to find that the only major writers in this book were Guthrie and Waters, that I had read only fifteen of the others,* had heard of but not read eleven more, and had no inkling whatsoever of the existence of the remaining twenty-four, the latter number constituting almost half of the profiles. One of the intentions of the author seems to be to provide fledgling writers with intimate looks at the private working lives of more or less successful “wordsmiths,” including working hours, methods of overcoming writer’s block, opinions of publishers and editors, and types of equipment used in writing. (The best writers seem to stay with the manual typewriter.) All of this can be interesting, even helpful in some cases, if no judgment is made on the work produced by most of these profiled writers. * Louis L’Amour, Will Henry, Gordon Shirreffs, Fred Grove, Benjamin Capps, Peggy Simson Curry, Thomas Thompson, Nelson C. Nye, Bill Gulick, Brian Garfield, William Kittredge, Wayne Overholser, C. L. Sonnichsen, Steve Frazee, William R. Cox. JOHN MILTON University of South Dakota ...


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