by Jackson J. Benson
University of Nevada Press, 2006
Cloth: 978-0-87417-589-9 | eISBN: 978-0-87417-635-3
Library of Congress Classification PS3505.L376Z56 2004
Dewey Decimal Classification 813.52


Walter Van Tilburg Clark, author of the classic novel The Ox-Bow Incident, was one of the West’s most important literary figures, a writer who contributed mightily to the tradition of viewing the West realistically and not through the veil of myth and romance. As a comparatively young man, he published three novels and a collection of short stories, then remained almost silent for the rest of his life, the victim of a paralyzing case of writer’s block. Now Jackson J. Benson, one of the country’s foremost literary biographers, has produced the first full-length biography of this brilliant, enigmatic, and ultimately tragic figure. Based on widely scattered sources—personal papers and correspondence; interviews with family members, friends, and others; and Clark’s unpublished stories and poems—Benson’s biography focuses on Clark’s intellectual and literary life as a writer, teacher, and westerner. Benson masterfully balances his engaging account of the experiences, people, and settings of Clark’s life with a penetrating examination of his complex psyche and the crippling perfectionism that virtually ended Clark’s career, as well as offering up a thoughtful assessment of Clark’s place in Western writing. In these pages, Clark lives again, a warm, complex, and ultimately anguished human being. Benson’s remarkably astute and sensitive biography is destined to be the book that readers and researchers consult first for information about this major western writer.